“So, what don’t they tell you?” said the girl from the theater, with her eyes wide-opened as she leaned closer, “What are the things no one tells you about having kids?” She was a complete stranger to me. I’d just learned she was an attorney—she was pretty, personable, and smiling like I was about to spill some hot gossip. She was the date of an acquaintance of my husband. We’d just run into them, but they were fun and nice, so we sat down for a few minutes to chat. She was on the edge of her seat, so eager to hear the real deal—she reminded me of myself a couple of years ago, when I first found out I was pregnant and asked my friends to give me the whole scoop. I couldn’t wait to tell her about the ridiculousity that my mom friends and I had stumbled through. I boiled it down to four secrets of motherhood:
- Everyone gets baby blues. In the beginning, you’re not sleeping much, you don’t know what to do when the baby cries, and you’re constantly pissed off at something—your family who’s there to “help”, your husband/partner, your dog. One of my friends actually yelled, “I want a divooorce”, at her husband, while at the hospital. She doesn’t even remember what he did. She now says that he was as helpful as possible and she was just hormonal.
- Breastfeeding is hard. If your baby doesn’t latch just right, you end up with these crazy sores on your nipples. Also, I’d never heard of plugged ducts, but I’m pretty sure everyone gets them. Your breast gets full, but the milk can’t get out. I paused before telling her about digging a fist in to “massage” it out… or about one friend who figured out she could suck out plugged ducts with her own mouth. I settled for, “Umm, google this one day, when you’re pregnant so you’ll know what to do.”
- Give your baby a bottle every day. For my friends who had succeeded in exclusively breastfeeding, which is such an important goal for new moms, their babies later wouldn’t take a bottle. One of my friends left her job because her baby wouldn’t take a bottle, so she could never leave him for more than a couple of hours. Apparently, it’s super-important to give the baby a bottle every day starting when they’re just a couple of weeks old.
- Say “thanks”. I so wish I’d done better at this. I had no idea that the stereotypical mom tries to micromanage everything and drives everyone around her crazy. Oops. Your spouse/partner is not going to kill the baby. And if he is about to, then is the right time to step in. So, when he changes a diaper or gets up to try to sooth the crying baby, say “thanks”… even if he’s missing something else he could be doing. He’s much more likely to get up to help again, if you do.
I felt like those covered the biggies. She sat back, crossed her arms, and smiled, looking satisfied. “I’m never having kids,” she said. I managed to laugh politely and make some joke about not having to worry about all of that, then. But my mind filled with thoughts of my daughter’s giant blue eyes, her squeaky laugh, her high-pitched “hi-eee”, and her playful exploration. I realized I’d left out the most important stuff—all the great parts of having kids. What I told her was wrong. What people don’t tell you is that the anger, the sores, the life changes, and the sleepless nights, all become your war stories. You share them with your closest friends, with passion and pride. Because at the end of the day, you survived all of it, you loved having kids, and you wouldn’t trade it for anything.
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