(I suppose a disclaimer is apropos in that I actually do like babies and think folks who want babies should get to have babies. After all, babies are great. But. And, of course, the story is in the but.)
Back when I was a high school English teacher, I experienced many things in addition to a paycheck. Of course there were the ubiquitous papers to grade and facial tissues to dole out during cold and flu season. But I also got to distill some advice upon the hapless ears of my students. Sometimes that advice focused on the dire effects of poor comma placement. But sometimes it was along the lines of babies and reality.
I had the great honor of being pregnant three times while in the classroom (I lost a pregnancy between Biggest and Middlest). So not only did my students make assumptions about my sexual history, they also got to watch me go through the gamut of pregnancy related issues: nausea, exhaustion, protruding body parts, cankles. It was great fun. And an even more enjoyable part of pregnancy and motherhood was fielding young women’s questions. On one hand, I was honored that these girls felt they could come to me and ask me questions. On the other hand, I sure didn’t want to know more about my students’ sex lives than I already did. So I decided to approach it as my chance to do a little PSA. It often went like this:
“Oh, you’re having a baby!?! I want to have a baby!” the 15 year old would gush.
“Yes, yes I am” I would say from about three feet from my desk – or about the depth of my 1st trimester pregnant belly. (I don’t do pregnancy very cutely. Unless you think immense is cute. If so, I make a damn cute pregnant lady. Damn cute.)
“Oh yes. I just can’t wait! I think it will be so exciting!” she would continue to gush.
So, after I confirmed that the child wasn’t currently expecting this exciting little being, I would happily share all my knowledge of all-things-baby with the student. Here are just a few things from my list all those years ago. Or not. You be the judge.
1. I think it really helps to be older before becoming a mom. Those extra years help you build up the emotional skills to keep from turning into a puddle of goo when your adorable baby screams for five hours straight. Every night. And the doctors tell you it’s “just colic”. Which is a 5-letter word for “we have no freaking idea – good luck with that”.
2. Delivering a baby is one of the most amazing diets I’ve ever tried. Between vomiting and pooping in front of folks, you only get ice chips for the duration of your labor. Talk about calorie control.
3. Speaking of delivery, who knew three hours of pushing could practically push out your internal organs but NOT a baby! Wow, nothing like being a maternity ward celebrity due to the size of your hemorrhoids.
4. Those early days are so filled with “firsts” – the first time you’ve been peed on, the first time the baby poop squirts all over you and leaves the diaper pristine, the first time you go to the store with baby spit-up in your hair and all the way down your back. Enjoy those milestones!
5. And breast-feeding, what a joy. Cracked nipples, milk leaking all over the place, and the wonder of having someone learning how to “latch on” to a most sensitive part. Don’t worry, Lansinoh comes in economic gallon tubs.
But, because babies are like worries – they grow if you feed them, here’s some things I would add to my PSA if I could:
1. That baby carrier you lug around, wacking the back of you leg with every step? Try to enjoy it. Because one day very soon you will have a pre-toddler who won’t want to be carried and will do a very realistic impression of a limp noodle when you want him/her to walk while holding your hand.
2. That feeling of needing to pack everything you own in order to take baby to the store to pick up the three items on your shopping list? Get used to it, because you will be packing like this for about 18 years as near as I can tell.
3. As much as you think you’ll love the freedom of diapers and can’t wait for potty training, you will actually find the potty chair to be a torture device. This is true if the child insists on bringing the potty chair into the kitchen in order to achieve his/her daily institutional, every time you have to clean it out, or just how many hours you will sit beside it reading the same books over and over to your “should be pooping but isn’t” child. Oh, and there will be accidents.
4. Dressing your wriggling baby with all those ridiculous snaps and closures is actually fun compared to taking your “yep, I picked out this outfit all by myself!” child to say church or a wedding.
5. There will be many times when your child will ask you to do something. Which you will do. And it will be wrong. For example, it is possible to be asked to cut a child’s pancakes into pieces no larger than 1.5×1.5 inches. And yet, when the pancakes are cut into 1.5×1.5 squares, they should be more like 2×2.5 rectangles. This will happen before the coffee has perked and when you are also making school lunches for your other children.
6. No matter how much you loose your mind mothering a tiny person, it is possible to find it again. Usually when said person is sleeping. Just remember that your mind, much like the shape of your hips and boobs, will not be quite the same ever again. It will also be widened, and stretched. And it will be forever be improved for having done it.
Just not until you’re older. And graduated from high school at least.