I was at a client meeting today and overheard a conversation between a mom that just returned from maternity leave and an expecting father.
“Oh, it’s just magical. You’re going to love it,” she raved.
Being the nosy nancy I am, I of course butted in. “Are you referring to having a newborn?” I asked her.
“Yes, it’s just so wonderful,” she gushed, smiling radiantly. Say what?
Listen, I had postpartum depression with Julia, and that’s not everyone’s experience so yeah, I am a bit jaded. Having Luca was a fabulous course correction, and I genuinely enjoyed a lot of my time with him, but let’s be real here.
Being a first time mom to a newborn is an experience that can be described as magical. But not without also caveating that it’s also many other things like terrifying and exhausting.
Moms (and dads): If you are selling the lie, you’re not just lying to yourself, you are setting our parenting culture up for failure. Dramatic of me to say? Maybe. But I literally can not count on two hands the number of women who told me that I was one of the ONLY people that warned them that those early weeks were going to at times, between gazes of love and wonder and unicorns prancing also be demoralizing, mournful, emotional, foggy, bloody (yes, bloody) and confusing.
People will make comments about how you won’t get sleep. They’ll make jokes about it. But they won’t tell you that the sleeplessness will often be accompanied by unending screams that simultaneously break your heart, hurt your ears, and feel like a condemnation of you and your failure to parent correctly. Because surely other moms can make their babies stop crying (spoiler alert: bag of nopes there).
You might hear in passing about colic. But you won’t be given the details about how colic is defined by multiple days of THREE PLUS HOURS IN A ROW of crying. That shit is hard. I did not have a colicky baby, but I remember even just average crying with my daughter and how hard it was.
Maybe, thanks to a few parenting memes going around FB, you have somehow heard about the hospital underpants. It is essentially an underwear sized maxi pad. Because if you have a vaginal birth you will BLEED. I was sent home from the hospital told not to be worried about clots unless they were LARGER THAN A TENNIS BALL. I’m not sure I’d even be able to worry at that point because I would have passed out from fright.
Let’s just take a moment to talk about breast pumps. Do you know I did it for three months before I found out about hands free pumping bras? I held those damn flange things against my boobs multiple times a day when I could have just been hanging out, still a cow but with hands free. And surely no one told you that you actually have to get the right sized flanges for your nipples. It’s not a one size fits all situation. And how weird it is to be LITERALLY milked. I never even made enough milk with Julia without supplementing with formula. For the first month, my doctor had me nurse Julia, then pump right after – including middle of the night feedings. Do you know how much it sucked to not only nurse, then pump, but then have to wash fucking pump parts in the middle of the night. I remember more than once crying in the bathroom at three in the morning as I washed and sanitized pumping supplies thinking that this will never end. Magical I tell you. Like prancing unicorns of joy.
I could make you a list more numerous than the number of pee and poop diapers you will change in those early months of other “magical” moments. Projectile poos, the fear of touching your baby’s umbilical cord before it falls off, the porn star rocks that your boobs will be when your milk comes in, reflux, baby acne, meconium. Trimming miniscule baby fingernails (without making them bleed) so they don’t scratch themselves up like Edward Scissorhands.
I named this blog Truth in Parenting for a reason ya’all. Only in sharing the truth with each other will we be able to know that parenting is two sides of a coin. In truth, we don’t have to feel shame or disappointment that our experience isn’t like others, because there’s a really good chance that it is – both good and bad.