*Featured in Babble's ebook 'Parenting Uncensored: Straight Talk from Real Moms and Dads on Getting Pregnant'
A good friend of mine told me she was pregnant. I felt an enormous amount of happiness building up inside of me. I was thinking of the times when I was checking my iPhone app to see what was happening in which week of my pregnancy with Kai. I was remembering the marveling over the nature's ways. About the perfection that gets created when so many things can go wrong...and they don't. It all just falls in place, in a miraculous symphony you can only hear in the first moments of your baby's cry.
There are questions that popped in my mind immediately - how far along, are you going to find out the sex and how do you feel? She told me she felt fine and the only thing she could complain about was tiredness. I felt a sting inside of me and a slight annoyance that she, as one of my very best friends, will never understand for real how I felt when I was pregnant.
I don't wish on anybody to feel as sick as I felt when expecting. At the same time, I wish there was a person that is close to me that does, so that we can roll our eyes knowing, together, without explanations.
I also told her that if she ever needs to bitterly complain about the pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding or parenting, I am there for her with a proven record of speaking my mind loudly and clearly. She told me she is aware of that and said she only has a couple of friends with kids around and one of them loves it and sings praises and the other one struggled with depression and finds it difficult to cope. After the conversation, I wondered if maybe I come across a lot like her friend #2. I know that my own husband gets concerned at times that I will miss out on all the beautiful moments with Kai because I am so fully immersed in the challenges and complaints. Despite the fact I take about 200 pictures and videos daily of us proving the difference.
It made me realize there is one very important thing I feel I need to clear up (and I am sure that the friend #2 would agree). To put it in one (or two) sentences, I would like to borrow my 'similar-style-mommyhood' friend's words: "There is a big difference between loving your child and loving parenting. I couldn't love my children more, but I often find parenting a complete nightmare." I've said this before - a lot of parents feel the same, but find it inappropriate to say so, and if they do, then it is only in the tight circle of good friends who they know well enough to trust and not need to worry about being judged. I know that there will always be people around you who will let you know that having a baby is the most amazing thing in the Universe. I also came to understand there are very few people who will openly talk to you about the pain of it all.
I started to think about what it was that caught me off guard so much. Here are some of the things I wish I knew to expect (without the pink icing on top of it in the form of "but it is all so worth it". I know. I am not stupid.)
I wish somebody would tell me about the pregnancy related constipation, hemorrhoids, acid reflux, breathlessness, bleeding gums, pigmentation issues, varicose veins, ligament loosening, incontinence (to some degree) long after giving birth, diastema (or stomach muscle separation, which also means your abs look like they have been shaken and didn't quite fall back in its' place), and that your tiny breasts will shrink more yet after you are done breastfeeding (which is the only time in your life you can go from A cup to D cup and if you breastfeed for a year, like I did, it is extremely difficult to see them go and not even stop at a pre-pregnancy minimalism.) While we're at it, I wish people would accept that vain is a part of everybody's life and if something on you looks suddenly so completely different (and worse) post baby, it is OK to be pissed about it, instead of singing praises over how beautiful the miracle of life is and how they don't mind their sagging stomachs, pudgy fingers, bleeding, sex pain, stretch marks, leaking breasts...you name it. Do I have to love all of that to prove I love my kid? Why would I?
I wish someone would bother to explain beyond the "baby eats every 1-3 hours at first". How about mentioning that the interval counts from the beginning of the first feeding to the beginning of the next, which at a normal rate of feeding for 45-60 minutes sometimes means you have about 15 minutes left before you need to breastfeed again, day and night? I honestly believed you pop them on, they are done in 5 minutes and then you sleep for 2 hours. I wouldn't mind to know that for whatever mysterious reason the baby does not exactly know how to latch and your breasts or brain has got no idea either. I wish I was prepared for the bleeding nipples, ripping pain in my breasts and mastitis (that I had 4 times, complete with fevers I don't remember since I was 8 years old) and pain shooting down my entire arm. Does that sound like an angelic portrait of a mother bonding with her baby? Didn't think so.
I wish I knew you can have a baby that prefers not to stay in bed with you (at the age of one week...one month...one year...) and I wish I knew all they do is take...at first. That they don't hug or snuggle or laugh or kiss for a very long time (as a matter of fact, Kai only learned how to give a kiss about a month ago and he is almost 2 years old.) I think if I was aware that all of this is perfectly normal, expected and hard, I would not feel like I need to stand up and scream at the top of my lungs to make sure that other moms out there don't feel lonely, betrayed and desperate. So that they don't need to defend themselves in front of their family members who get the idea they do not appreciate their time with their baby enough.
I suppose one last thing to mention is a social isolation. We moved to a new city in a new state right before I got pregnant and we moved again when Kai was 2 months old. Coming to a place where you don't know anybody is never easy. Doing it with a newborn...that's insanity. Going from a place where you have friends and support, where you interact with people every day and almost all day long, where you have a spot in an adult world to a place where it is only you and your newborn is one of the biggest extremes you can experience. I hear that having a baby and social life don't go together no matter what. Doing it the way we did it - I would not recommend it.
I guess what I am trying to tell my friend with this is that it is OK to feel miserable when everyone expects you to be the happiest person in the world. It is OK to ask for help, to not know what to do, to take your time to figure things out and to be impatient with people who don't get it. It is OK to not look like Giselle or Heidi (bless their hearts and gorgeous bodies). It is OK to feel like this is the most important job in your life and you really suck at it. You'll love the kid. The kid will love you. That's the fact that does not need any proof.