Let's go ahead and get the preliminaries out of the way.
I love my kids.
They are the greatest thing I've ever done with my life and they bring me joy every day.
Motherhood is a beautiful, wonderful gift ... except when it's not.
I know, some of you are gasping for breath. You can't believe I'd disparage being a mom or my kids, but you know what? I'm just keeping it real here and I bet those of you not Googling the number for CPS are nodding along while reading, or possibly throwing out a "Giiiiiirrrrrl" or a "Preach it, sister!" And so here it is, the truth... as a new mom, nine out of ten days in your life will be awesome. And one day (or at least the culmination of 12 really terrible hours) will be the WORST.
I chose the title for this post because all of the baby books you read and the shows you watch while pregnant tell you what to "expect." But using the word "expect" implies that you have any clue what you're getting yourself into. You don't.
Oh sure, on some level you know that you'll have tough days and sleepless nights, but no one ever sits you down and says, "Look, this is a crapshoot at best, so gird your loins!" At least not until today... I'm giving it to you here. The worst of what to expect when you have a baby.
You're going to look and smell like a homeless yoga instructor.
I say look, because you'll basically live in any kind of workout clothing you own. On some level, putting it on will make you feel like there's a chance you'll squeeze in a workout today. But in reality, it's really just that the pants are stretchy and can accommodate that weird belly flab that still won't go away three months later. I mention smell for several reasons. The first of which is that a shower has now become a rarified privilege.
The second is that even if you DO shower, the baby WILL puke on you the second you put on clean clothes. At some point, you'll get tired of changing your clothes and will just spend the day smelling like sour milk.
You're going get to over your modesty real fast.
I used to be modest. I started to lose that characteristic the first time a labor and delivery nurse went to check my dilation and turned me into a hand puppet. The modesty got shot completely to hell two days later when the orderly in charge of the breakfast delivery walked in on me crying over a failed attempt to breastfeed with both of my ginormous, milk-engorged boobs on full display. I was so hungry I didn't even care -- I would have flashed him far more for that tray of lukewarm scrambled eggs.
The truth is, though, your body is at the disposal of another human, one that doesn't really care that you're in the middle of Target. So whip it out lady, there's no room for prudes up in here!
You're going to be emotional.
Did I say emotional? I meant emotional wreck! I meant full-on Personalities of Sybil. Between barking at your partner and yelling at your other kids and the good ole totally-defeated-cry-your-eyes-out-because-you're-a-terrible-mother-who-can't-get-this-baby-to-sleep, you're definitely going to wonder if you've lost your mind. And here's the truth, Mama: You have!
You're going to dread the nighttime.
Around 6:45 p.m., you might start to feel like you're going to be OK. Perhaps your fellow parent is home from work, perhaps you finagled some kind of dinner, perhaps you even managed a load of laundry. But as the sun starts to set, the dread sets in; it's getting dark. All around you, people start to get ready for their evening... maybe they watch TV or read books, and maybe you do those things too. But you know that eventually, it'll be bedtime and you'll start the hell-on-earth that is waking up every two hours to feed. For some reason it's not as bad during the day, but when it's dark and you know that everyone else gets to sleep while you fight baby to take the binky FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-GOD it messes with your head and your sense of what's fair.
You're going to hate baby daddy.
Not all the time, obviously. But there will be moments -- oh, sister, will there be moments. Even the most helpful dads (and in my generous moments, I'm willing to admit that I'm married to one of those) will challenge your self-control. For a lot of reasons (lack of mammary glands being one of them), you get the lion's share of newborn rearing. And that can make you feel like life isn't fair. For instance, when he talks about how he's tired. Then he'll sheepishly look at you and say something like, "Well, I mean, obviously not as tired as you are sweetie, but man, I just couldn't get into a deep sleep last night"
Oh really? YOU couldn't get a deep sleep?! What was it that kept you up? The ultra soft mattress or the extra fuzzy blankets? Perhaps it was the gentle whisper of the breeze outside the window of the GUEST ROOM??? I didn't hear the whispering breeze... nope, I was too busy listening to the dulcet tones of our screaming child to catch that one, but golly, I'm sorry you missed your REM cycle, maybe you should take a nap.
Your body is going to be destroyed.
Okay, I'll qualify this and say that it is totally possible to get your body back. I've done it twice already (and God willing, I will this time, too) but for a while at least, it's like Chernobyl. First of all, there's the weight gain. If you're like me, there's a lot of it and it's going to take a while to lose. Then once you lose it, for some reason your skin refuses to reunite with the body, as if it's mad at you and your decision to live off chicken strips for the last 9 months. It's loose and stretchy and it sways and slaps you when you try and get on the treadmill to run it off. Oh, and your boobs... Lord, what did your boobs ever do to deserve such ill-treatment?
You can't shut it off.
No, not the baby... though God, wouldn't it be amazing if they had on/off switches? What's that? You're looking for the the CPS number again? Back to my point.
You can't shut being a MOM off. In the old days, you could be all, "Man, I'm tired and it's Saturday, I think I'll sleep all day," or "Man, I'm in the mood to dance, and it's Saturday, I think I'll drink too much and make bad decisions." But now you're a mom. It doesn't matter if it's Saturday or Christmas or your sister's wedding, you've got to take care of baby first. I'll give you another example. Last week, I attended an event with my very own baby daddy. It was super fancy, black tie, cocktails... I was sitting at a table next to SJP and Kate Hudson! I had on my Spanx, my hair was blown out and I managed to make it the whole night without falling off my six-inch heels. I dare say, to the outside viewer, I was downright fabulous. And then I got home and I put on my milk-stained t-shirt and my sweatpants and I got up three times with the baby during the night to feed him. Fabulous or not, when I come home, as far as he's concerned, I'm just mommy.
So here it is, new mom, the honest truth. Some days this "job" of being a mom is going to suck. But clearly, no one would do it -- and I certainly wouldn't have done it three times -- if all the really crappy parts weren't outweighed by all the amazing stuff. Just prep yourself in advance so you know that when you have those really bad days, you're not alone. While you're crying with your new baby, I'm somewhere in California, covered in spit-up crying right along with you.