When I was pregnant with Punkin, I read 12 books on pregnancy and infancy. You read that correctly – a dozen books on the same topic. For fun. And thank God I did. Because once your little bambino enters the world, the only thing you’ll be reading is the ingredient list on the generic baby food jar to see if it’s the same as the fancy brand that costs $47 more.
If you’ve had one or more children already, you can read this while
ignoring your kids taking a few minutes for yourself and thinking about how different things used to be.
If you’re pregnant, or thinking that someday you might reproduce, I’m going to tell it like it is: all the stuff they don’t put in the What To Expect books.
- You’ll feel guilty. Pretty much all the time. For wanting to, or actually, screaming and crying because you forgot eggs at the store. That happens when you’ve only slept 3 hours. In four days. Or for begging and pleading with God to just make the baby get one little hive so you can justify giving her Benadryl. I used to joke with the Nerd in our sleep-deprivation days that the sleepless culprit looked “itchy.” (Side note – when I say, “sleep deprivation,” I pretty much mean not sleeping. If you have a baby, you may never sleep through the night again, even if they do. Because they’ll sigh in their sleep and you’ll be programmed to bound out of bed like a tornado siren just went off.) Once your second (or third, or fourth, or fifth, or twenty-seventh if you’re the Duggars) comes along, you’ll feel guilty for not having enough one-on-one time with each kid, for having to stretch the budget even further, for yelling when you swore you wouldn’t, for not being able to make the boo boo go away, or checking the clock at 10:00 AM to see if it’s bedtime yet because you. are. so. done.
- Diapers can sometimes be pointless. Why? Because they amount of poop that one tiny human being can produce is near ungodly. We’ve had to take scissors to onesies because there was no way to get them off the baby without covering their face in poop. I’m fairly certain that diaper companies do this on purpose, so that you have no choice but to go through 487,000 diapers a week. A very good friend of mine did cloth diapers. Rock on, girlfriend. But for me, once I’ve wiped that butt, it’s straight to the garbage. I already do eleventy billion loads of laundry a week. I don’t need to add another 62.
- All those people that I wanted to punch in the throat during pregnancy? They’re just as rude with regard to your baby. They will tell you your baby is too big, or too small, or too chubby, or too skinny, or not walking early enough, or walking too early and will inevitably be a force of terror. They’re wrong. All of them. Your baby is perfect. I don’t mean ten toes and ten fingers. I mean that whatever your baby looks like, talks like, grows like, sounds like – he or she is perfect. And all those people are wrong.
- There are an alarming number of people in the world with exactly zero understanding of personal space. So that beautiful, sweet baby who needs lots of immune system help and has never come in contact with a virus? They’re going to want to touch him. And it’s totally okay to say, “No.” Because he’s yours.
- You will worry. About how much they’re eating. About when to take away the pacifier. About why the book said they should be walking but they aren’t. About the weird rash on their tummy. About their language development. About their teeth crowding. And sweetie, this is all before their first birthday. When Punkin was a newborn, I worried about why she wouldn’t nurse, then if she was getting enough calories once she did, about her getting enough protein, and why she didn’t have any teeth at 6 months. When Goo came along with her superventricular tachycardia, that brought worry to a whole new level of ridiculous, because her teeny, tiny heart wasn’t beating correctly. So when she slept peacefully, I checked her heart 48 times an hour with my stethoscope. You can read every freakin book on the planet about parenting. When that little baby comes home for the first time, and you realize that you are completely responsible for keeping them safe, healthy, loved, and well cared for, you will worry. Forever.
- Your heart may explode. I’m not even kidding. There’s this magical moment that occurs the first time you lay eyes on your baby when you know that if anyone, ever, in the history of the universe, does anything to hurt them, you will drop kick them to next Tuesday. The eruption of love is overwhelming. The Nerd and I have said with each pregnancy that we didn’t know how we would handle more love. There’s just so much you don’t know what to do with it all. (Actually, yes you do. You squeeze them and snuggle them and try really hard to remember those moments when you walk in and find that they just colored all over your white tablecloth in black sharpie.)
- You will make your kids unhappy. Part of being a good parent is making your kid unhappy. Because no, they can’t have cupcakes for breakfast every day. You will make them do their homework when they don’t want to, pick up their toys after 3 tantrums because cleaning to a 5-year-old is something akin to medieval torture. You will make them unhappy when you take them to get shots, if you choose to do that. Or when they have to let the doctor shove that white Q-tip from hell down their throat to check for strep. And sometimes, making them unhappy will break your heart. Sometimes you will hate time out as much as they do. Sometimes they’re sadness will be enough to make you cry. Tears from having to clean the play room, not so much. Cry me a river, sweetheart. Just do it while you’re putting the blocks away.
- You will do things you swore you’d never do, and say things you swore you’d never say. I never understood why moms would always say, “Because I said so!” Then I had Goo. Little Goo, who asks, “Why?” 487 million times when I tell her to go put her shoes on. And let me tell you, I’m all for teaching. I actually explain things to my kids. I give them the real reasons. Why do you need to put your shoes on? Because we’re leaving. Why? Because we need to go to the store and you have to wear shoes at the store. Why? Because that’s the rule the store people have. Why? Because there could be things on the floor that you could step on and they don’t want you to get hurt. Why? Because boo boos are bad. Why? Because they hurt. Why? Because that’s how your body tells you that something’s wrong. Now go. put. your. shoes. on. Why? BECAUSE I’M THE MOMMY AND I SAID SO. AND YOU HAVE TO LISTEN TO MOMMY. PERIOD. Crap. But here’s the thing: “Because I said so” is a valid reason. You’re the mom. They’re the kid, they have to respect you. It’s an important lesson. So maybe I’ll just skip that whole logic portion of the conversation and go straight for the
- You’ll be clueless, and that’s okay. I had a lot of experience volunteering with children of all ages before Punkin came along. The Nerd and I knew how we wanted to raise our kids, I knew all about nutrition and developmental milestones and anti-SIDS requirements. And then we walked through the door for the first time with that beautiful little baby and thought, “So… now what?” Something happens to your brain when there’s that much love involved. Logic sort of goes on vacation for the first year and you walk around in a confused daze wondering if it’s okay that she went a day and a half without having a green vegetable. Chin up, though. It gets better. You’re only clueless for the first 18
yearsmonths or so.
- You will overreact. You will call the poison control hotline because your one year old licked your deodorant. (Yes, I did this with Punkin. The guy on the other end audibly chuckled.)If you get a rash, you’re all, “Hey, I should put some hydrocortisone cream on that.” If your baby gets a rash, oh. dear. God. First you open the handbook from the American Academy of Pediatrics and flip to the section on skin ailments. Then you narrow it down and start internet searches on Fifth’s Disease and Excema and Roseola and sheer panic sets in because the ONLY pictures on the internet are of the worst cases ever and you now think maybe she has mumps AND hand-foot-and-mouth disease and you’d better get to the emergency room immediately. And as you wait breathless and overcome with worry, the doctor walks in and tells you it’s a mosquito bite.
- You will be okay. Parenthood is like the mother of all roller coaster rides. It’s exciting and confusing and scary and exhilarating and frustrating and terrifying. You will make awesome choices, and you will make terrible choices. But in the end, you’ll be okay. Your family will be okay. Your kids will know that they’re loved even if you yell when you didn’t want to and let them eat Oreos for breakfast because you haven’t slept through the night in 9 years and the thought of having to actually pour cereal into a bowl is just too much to handle right now. If you love your kids, everything else kind of works itself out. So relax. Have a cup of coffee. Rest assured that you are doing, or will do, a good a job. And maybe put that number for the poison control hotline up on the refrigerator. Just in case.