Recently, I found out that friends of ours are expecting their first baby. And I’ve been talking, specifically to the father-to-be, about babies for years. So obviously I was super excited that I wouldn’t have to talk to him in hypotheticals anymore and could bask in my own glory of not having a newborn and feeling that pang of guilt knowing that they have no idea what’s about to hit them, while also certainly not being the one to burst that bubble. To be fair, though, I’ve basically been telling him all of the wonderful and terrifying elements of pregnancy and parenthood from the moment I got pregnant 4.5 years ago. It’s one of the perks of being my friend that I’m real share-y. So he’s fortunate in that way.
But as I laid in bed last night thinking about how exciting it is when you’re in those first few months of pregnancy, with all of the anticipation and anxiety and excitement, I thought, “There’s no way on earth that anyone would’ve been able to prepare me in any real way for this ride.”
So here’s my advice for soon-to-be and new parents:
That’s right. I’ve got none. I mean, yes, I have an entire Word document of all of the shit you should buy and all of the shit you should ignore when people tell you that you need it, but that’s just good preparation. But those people that you can count on one thousand hands who say, "Oh, sleep now, because you'll not be doing that for a while!" are not helpful. Because that's not how sleep works, guys, you can't, like, store it up for later. Trust me. I tried.
Otherwise, my experience is different than your experience, and if I tell you that I threw up for nine months, every day, at least twice a day, with my first pregnancy…would that help? Would it help if I told you that I gained forty pounds with my second pregnancy and she was only 6.5 pounds, so most of that weight was cake-based? Would it help if I told you that our first-born was super colicky and that damned Gripe Water did jack squat, so the only thing that’d keep that kid from being thrown from the 10th floor window of our apartment was my husband skipping lightly across a pitch-black room, only illuminated by a muted Mets game, and whispering, “It’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok” into her little devil baby ears for four hours every night for three months until she grew out of it?
I’m guessing no. I’m guessing that that would make you immediately reconsider your decision and also wonder why on earth our species has continued on for thousands of years if babies are basically just the worst?
Look: there’s a reason that babies are the cutest things on planet earth. Nobody would do what’s needed to keep them alive if they weren’t all chubby and big-eyed and smelling perfect until they poop. And, spoiler alert – nobody thinks your baby is as cute as you think your baby is, and that’s by design. You break it, you buy it – you made this human, now you’ve got to raise it, even when she throws herself on the floor in a fit over you asking her calmly to put on pants to go outside. Like the monster that you are.
Because parenthood, the real parts of it, are intangible. They’re the parts you try, in vain, to explain to non-parents and they rightfully role their eyes and say, “Yeah, that sounds super magical. Hey, guess what I didn’t have to do today? Wipe someone else’s butt and get up at 5:30am because someone shorter than my house plant demanded it!”
And they’d have a point. That does sound pretty glorious right about now...
But it’s also pretty glorious when your baby smiles at you for the first time or grabs your index finger with her entire tiny hand and holds onto it for an hour. Sure, you’re held literally captive by someone whose belly button just fell off into her onesie, but it’s still kind of the best.
And it’s also pretty glorious when you watch this person you made when you were drunk just being a person in the world. Like, she wasn’t here, and now she’s here! They ride bikes and they have friends and they write backwards S' and think it's right and they sing songs and love when you read them books and they pick out their own clothes and you hold your breath when they go out into the world because you're their parent.
Parenthood is comprised of all of the stuff you hear every parent complaining about, and it's also an intangible love, an intangible bond, and an intangible ability to be up for nearly 36 hours, not remember the last time you showered, be leaking onto the only clean shirt you have left, and somehow look down at this kid who’s mid-back you just cleaned poop off of and think, “I don’t want to be anywhere else in the world but here.”
Oh, and new parents? It’s also totally normal to be in that exact same scenario and think, “If I don’t get out of here right now, one of us won’t make it.” And that’s parenting, too. It’s called balance.
It's also when you hand the kid off to any other relatively tall-ish person nearby and say, “I’ll be back in an hour. Look how cute she is! Goo-goo, gah-gah, mommy out.”
Enjoy the ride!