Becoming a parent is fun and exciting. During pregnancy you get all kinds of advice and passed-down words of wisdom, and while there’s plenty of sound advice to be given (i.e, sleep while you can, enjoy it – it goes too fast, make time for you) there are hoards of particularly sound and practically essential advice that somehow isn’t given. I have yet to determine if the wiser, more experienced moms don’t tell us because they don’t want to scare us, if they’re just overwhelmed with excitement for us or if watching us flail is some sort of weird, bitter mom initiation. BUT whatever the reason, it’s time for a change! Let’s let other women hand down the generic words of wisdom while we hand down the real advice that will actually help our new parents-to-be prepare for the journey of parenthood – the gift that really does just keep on giving (in every possible sense of the word).
Here I’ll start with the real advice I wish I’d been given:
- Clinically diagnosed depression or not, postpartum is fucking depressing. You will stink, you will lose your hair, you will feel fat, you will feel guilty, you will feel lazy, you will feel mentally fucked, you will feel overwhelmed, you will feel underwhelmed. YOU WILL FEEL EVERYTHING and nothing will feel normal. After giving birth, I experienced so much shit that apparently everyone experiences but NO ONE – literally, not. a. single. person – warned me about. My body odor was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I would scrub my arm pits until they were raw and sore, step out of the shower, take an optimistic whiff and still stink like a teenage boy unknowingly going through puberty. It was so bad I had to carry around a clinical grade stick of deodorant just so I could pull it out and apply it whenever I thought someone could smell me, not because it worked but because at least people could see that I was trying. I also lost so much hair on the corners of my head that I had the largest widow’s peak you’ve ever seen. Because, you know, being fatter than usual, having a scar across my abdomen and being able to be identified by my body odor just wasn’t obvious enough.I cried daily, sometimes I knew why, sometimes I didn’t. I felt guilty because people told me to nap when the baby did but there was SO much stuff to be done – clean laundry to be folded, dirty laundry to be washed, clean dishes to be unpacked, dirty dishes to be washed, bottles to be washed, breastfeeding items (ALL 654 of them) to be washed, pacifiers to be boiled, nipples to be boiled, legs to be shaved, boobs to be iced or savved or bandaged or milked. Jesus Christ, I wanted to find all the people who told me to nap when he did and ask if they actually meant to say something else. There was just no way they thought that was an actual piece of helpful advice. To this day I’m honestly still confused…Was I clinically depressed? No (well, questionable) but my life was fucking depressing whether my heart was bursting at the seams or not. AND SOMEONE SHOULD HAVE WARNED ME ABOUT THAT.
- Babies are adorable and cute and sweet and everything else they told you but they’re also human blobs who can’t see you, talk to you, voluntarily smile at you, laugh at you or recognize you for the first month of their life. And while that might not seem like a long time, when you’re not sleeping, you’re losing your hair, you smell like a teenage boy, you still look pregnant even though your not and your boobs are bleeding all it takes is one rogue shit all over you to send you into a mental breakdown. Someone should have told me the biggest form of interaction I’d have with my baby for the first month and a half of his life, outside of feeding him, would be him shitting or puking on me and me jumping to clean both of us up. Someone should have told me it wouldn’t always feel like rainbows and blessings. And maybe I should have assumed that but someone could have at least tried to push the issue just in case I didn’t. Realistic mental preparation seems like something that would be extremely valuable to a new mom, right?
- Someone also should have at least mentioned that just because it’s natural and “what we’re supposed to do” doesn’t mean breastfeeding is for everyone. Breast feeding is fucking hard and anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either wildly delusional or exceptionally (and naïvely) lucky. When I was expecting, it felt like everyone asked me if I was planning to breastfeed and I’d always say something like, “Yeah, I mean, it’s free – why wouldn’t I?” I said as though people were crazy for even asking and STILL no one ever mentioned that I might not be able to. I didn’t even have ONE person irritated enough by my cavalierness to WANT to burst my bubble. Not one. No one warned me it might hurt. No one warned me I might hate it. No one warned me my body might not make enough milk. No one told me that even if my body did make enough milk, it might burn like fire and cutting knives. Lucky for me, I made just enough milk to keep my child alive but, unlucky for me, my breasts burned like fire and it felt like knives were digging into my chest every time my milk let down. I also must have fucked up nipples because I never could get our latch game on point, with my first or my second. My nipples bled and burned, they were constantly raw; there wasn’t enough lanolin in the world to make breastfeeding okay. When my babies cried because they were hungry, so did I because I didn’t want to feed them. It got to the point where I wasn’t even sleeping because I had so much anxiety about having to feed him. It took two months of sobbing during feedings and beginning to resent my son for simply being hungry for me to realize breastfeeding wasn’t for me, regardless of how much I wanted it to be or how natural it was supposed to be. I wish I would have encountered one person during my pregnancy who had the nerve to tell me breastfeeding wasn’t that big of a deal. FED IS BEST, you guys. If you believe anything, believe that. My kids are healthy and smart and rowdy and wild and they were predominantly formula fed.
- Kids are fucking disgusting so take my word for it, especially if you’re sending your baby to a child care center, stock up on all the OTC meds you can while you still have the freedom to shop alone. Before I had a baby and sent him to child care, I thought I had an impenetrable immune system. Turns out, I just lived a really sheltered life surrounded by people who actually care about their hygiene and cleanliness. As a new parent-to-be odds are you too are currently blessed to be surrounded by adults who give a fuck about their their hygiene and if not, that you have the luxury and time to care about yours. You’ve probably been enjoying a fairly clean bill of health when it comes to weird strains of influenza, pink eye, strep throat, impetigo, lice, pin worm and other random illnesses you probably forgot (or didn’t know) even existed. But that is all about to change. I can’t tell you how many times I was sick my first year as a mom. I went from someone who never – like, literally never – took over the counter meds to someone who, at any given moment, had a bottle of Nyquil, Tylenol Cold & Flu, Pepto Bismal, Theraflu and Ibuprofen on her nightstand. I went from being a fairly untidy person to the woman who shutters at the sight of tiny shoes anywhere inside her home. DO YOU KNOW WHAT KINDS OF THINGS THOSE TINY SHOES HAVE BEEN EXPOSED TO?! You don’t want to know.
- Toddlers are smart but they’re still relatively new here, so start making a list of all the little things you know how to do and take for granted. Now come up with at least 274 different ways you could teach a tiny human with a limited vocabulary, an inability to control their emotions and little-to-no patience how to do each of them. My three-year old son has no idea how to blow his nose even though I’ve tried to teach him 6,000,000 times in at least 153,000 different ways. I’ve talked him through it, I’ve patiently demonstrated, I’ve explained it this way and that way and this way again, I’ve even taken my demonstrations a step further and blown my own snot all over my own face. I’ve threatened him with the Nose Frida, I’ve pinned him down and actually used the Nose Frida while explaining through gritted teeth that if he would just blow his nose I wouldn’t have to torture him by sucking it. I’ve shown him pictures, I’ve drawn pictures, I’ve tried to make it look fun and exciting, I’ve pointed out strangers blowing their noses (like a complete creep), I’ve made my husband blow his nose, I’ve tried to convince him his little brother can do it. I’VE LITERALLY DONE EVERYTHING and he still cannot, will not, blow his nose. Will he ever figure out this isn’t Green Eggs and Ham and his name is not Sam?! PLEASE GOD, I HOPE SO. I mean, I’m also hoping he will eventually realize that just because he can’t wipe his own ass doesn’t mean he shouldn’t – but one thing at a time.I’m telling you, start stretching your creative and resourceful legs now while you have time to do it, you can thank me later.