Becoming a mom is basically signing up for a pretty daring human experiment.
While there’s a set of broad guidelines, some basic “do’s and dont’s,” and a vague promise of life-changing rewards somewhere along the way, every iteration of this particular experiment is completely unique. So you really have no cooking clue exactly what to expect, or how it’s going to affect you, personally.
Sure, millions have done the experiment before, so we have a bunch of anecdotal info, examples and recurring themes in the parenting commons.
There’s the mood swings and morning sickness.
The emotional rollercoaster of birth.
The inhumane levels of sleep deprivation.
The rapid transformation of your home into a toxic waste disposal site.
And so on, and so forth.
But most of this is all just run of the mill stuff…child’s play. (And let’s not go into the irony of that metaphor. You know, like when you just can’t seem to get your kids to just go and play on their own for a freaking minute?)
In my experience, many of the things that will freak you out, gross you out, change your concept of yourself and reality, or bring you to the brink of emotional collapse are unfortunately left out of the fine print.
Here are 10 of my personal discoveries gleaned over 4 short years of parenting (and who knows what treasures yet await!).
1. Your pregnant body may decide you’re harbouring an alien
When I was around 7 months pregnant with my first, my body suddenly decided that it was not fully on board with the UFO (Unidentified Floating Object) kicking around in there. And it freaked out.
Yes, my friends, you can have an allergic response to your own baby — before you’ve even met him or her in person.
In response to this sudden break of biological trust, I developed something called PUPPP. And it has nothing to do with puppies or cuteness in any form. PUPPP stands for Pruritic Urticarial Papules and Plaques of Pregnancy – whoever came up with that name deserves the Awful Alliteration Award. It involves itching welts that start around the stretch marks on your well-expanded 3rd-trimester stomach and can spread to your arms, legs, back and butt.
It’s the most common kind of pregnancy skin rash, affecting about 1 in 160 to 300 pregnancies . The percentage of all moms who get it would be significantly higher but it usually only occurs in a woman’s first full-term pregnancy. And thank God for that!
All I can say is, pray you’re not one of the less fortunate number (here are some of the risk factors). While some medical website writers have described PUPPP as ‘harmless, but annoying,’ I would like to see them trying to keep their sanity in the middle of the night trying to scratch an itch all over their body that does not quit. Seriously, I would not wish this on my worst enemy.
While you can get some respite with a careful regime of steroidal creams prescribed by a dermatologist, the only real cure is giving birth to get that little alien the heck outta dodge!
2. The nature of natural birth: be ready to ‘rip a new one’
Everyone loves to gush about the miracle of birth, the overwhelming joy that subsumes all memories of pain, the heart-melting moments of baby grabbing daddy’s finger for the first time.
No one like to talk about episiotomies. Or perineal stitches. Or what happens when your usual gynaecologist happens to be on holiday when you go into labour. For me, this resulted in a douchebag stand-in doctor who rushed my delivery so I ended up with third-degree tearing.
We in the new moms club call this ‘ripping a new one.’ And boy, is this not what anyone has ever signed up for in ‘the miracle of birth.’
You won’t be able to sit with any sense of normalcy for months. You might get an infection and find yourself in the most excruciating pain you’ve ever known. (Imagine trying to walk, sit, or simply change positions after someone has shoved a few pieces of barbed wire right in your underwear). You might develop scar tissue that makes intercourse intensely painful or physically impossible, requires follow-up surgery, and might take you a full year to properly recover from.
All of these are very real possibilities.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for natural birth. All I’m saying is, there’s no shame in considering that elective C-section. Take it from a mom who’s ripped a new one and lived to tell the horrific tale…(and yes, I did take the C-section the second time around!)
3. Your newborn’s first gesture of love
You might have visions of your perfectly clean and fuzzy minutes-old baby blowing you gurgly kisses as the midwife lays her on your chest. But what you need to prepare yourself for is that your newborn will come pre-programmed with her own unique way of saying ‘I love you, Mom.’
She might drool. She might stare into your eyes without a sound.
OR… Your little bundle may decide that your first session of skin to skin is a good time to try ‘poop to skin,’ and deposit a nice little welcome package right there on your tummy. You should take this as nothing other than a deep gesture of love and affection. After all, she’s just preparing you for your new normal, where poop is never out of the equation, and always arrives at the best possible moment.
4. You will be lulled into a false sense of security
The general rap is that your first few weeks of parenthood will be a vortex of chaos driven by lack of sleep and the adjustment of being responsible 24/7 for a tiny ticking timebomb. One that may blow up at any second with poop, vomit or unrestrained screaming.
You may be surprised to find then, that your little homewrecker is not living up to the hype. In fact, he spends about 18 of every 24 hours doing nothing but sleeping.
What are all those other parents complaining about? You muse to yourself, as you lie on the couch binge-watching or casually scrolling, while baby snoozes peacefully on your chest or in his nearby nest.
Enjoy this time to the full. Make the most of every beautiful second you get breathing in the scent of newborn baby bliss. Because your time is coming, dear sweet parent.
Your time is coming.
5. You’ll go Bipolar on parenting advice
As your baby comes into her own and you are unceremoniously stripped of any former false security, you will notice the development of a bipolar-esque condition known to parents the world over.
Feelings of deep, seething hatred and betrayal, alternating with aggressive love and devotion, will be directed toward authors, bloggers and other sharers of both solicited and unsolicited parenting advice.
There seem to be consistent findings gathered from parents across the globe, according to at least one study*: 90% of all advice works only 10% of the time, while 10% of all advice works 90% of the time.
But hey, we all keep reading. Because when you find that one gem that works like a charm, it’s 110% worth it (according to same study).
*study conducted by myself over 3 years while reading countless blogs and 1.5 books and therefore I have full confidence in my own findings.
6. You’ll star in ‘Mom Zombie: The Sequel’
Okay, so you were probably well-warned about lack of sleep for the first season of Becoming a Mom. And you managed to handle it amicably enough. (Despite needing to keep yourself in check with the daily mantra, Shaking the Baby is Never Okay…Shaking the Baby is Never Okay…)
But now it’s year two or three, and still, the clouds have not parted to reveal the long-awaited dream of your newly graduated toddler sleeping through the night.
At any point of sleep disturbance between the hours of 12 and 5 am, (and let’s be honest, for most of the day), you become a seething mom zombie, alternating between semi-conscious sleepwalking and the growling, frothing rage of the undead.
You now recognise why sleep deprivation is one of the most effective ways to break a human being. And eventually one morning, you stagger to your phone and put in a desperate call to the authorities (grandparents/daycare/social services) to send in a rescue crew — STAT.
7. Your definition of a ‘good day’ will become unrecognizable
At an unspecified point on the toddler mom spectrum, you will realise that your idea of what constitutes ‘a good day’ would now be unrecognizable to your former childless self.
Your previous definition included things like ‘lunch with a role model,’ and ‘personal best marathon time.’
Now, a good day only needs to include one of the following to qualify:
- 4–5 hours uninterrupted sleep
- less than 3 disaster-level clean ups involving semi-solids
- no major injuries
- your kid miraculously falling asleep at or before planned lights out time.
Try getting under that bar.
8. You’ll become a chronic overreactor
Becoming a parent just has a way of sending us to all kinds of extremes. In particular, with one to two years of sleep deprivation and shot nerves under your belt, you’ll find yourself primed to overreact to anything and everything, both good and bad.
Your 3-year-old slammed a few keys on their toy piano while the baby was napping? Hellfire and brimstone!
Your 10-month-old clapped his hands for the first time? This clearly warrants global appreciation across ALL social media channels!
9. One day you’ll realise you’ve been hustled
There will come a day when you realise you’ve got a little con artist on your hands. And they’ve been playing the super long con.
For 3–4 years, your kid’s had you wrapped around his little finger, wiping his tiny butt, brushing his toothies, dropping 3 meals plus a gazillion snacks into his lap and lunchbox every day.
Till one day, you catch the little sneak fishing a pack of marshmallows out the snack cupboard while simultaneously running the bath and changing into his favourite superhero outfit.
Game’s up, kid.
Photo by TK on Unsplash
10. Your handle on time will be broken forever
“The days are long but the years are short”
We’ve all heard this comforting little aphorism at some point after becoming a mom. And we try to believe that, even though all we can see at any given minute is the eyeball-popping frustration of the daily battle, it’s all going to feel very different when we’re looking back on it… That we might even feel a tinge of nostalgia about being woken up at 4 am to fish our toddler’s pyjamas out the pee-filled loo.
The problem is, how do we know we’re going to have any working brain matter that still remembers things like ‘perspective’ and ‘looking back’? After all, the only question it’s been focused on for 5 years straight is ‘WHAT NOW?!’
The longer you’re a parent, the more you realise your handle on the workings of time has been fundamentally and irreversibly screwed up.
Just a few examples:
- Whether your kids are going with you or not, no matter how well you plan, no matter how far forward you turn your clocks in order to ‘trick yourself’, you will always be late for EVERYTHING.
- It doesn’t matter how much sleep you actually got or think you got — it will always feel like 3 hours too few.
- You will always believe you’re making yourself a cup of tea to drink in the next 10 minutes. Even though reality has proved time and again that you are in fact making a cup of tea that you will drink:
a) half an hour later
b) maybe sometime this evening
Becoming a Mom: Epilogue
Everyone will keep telling you that your kids will be grown up in the blink of an eye. I keep blinking, but all I get is a little finger poking me in the eyeball. Or I’ll wake from a microsleep to discover my son eating the cat food.
So for now, I’m going to try to keep my eyes open and make every unpredictable minute count — rather than counting the minutes as I wait for my daughter to put her shoes on the right way round.
After all, I do love the crap out of the little buggers.
It doesn’t matter how many horrific or happy stories you hear. You will never be remotely prepared for all the scary and wonderful surprises that come with being a parent.
Don’t worry about what you can’t possibly prepare for. Don’t worry about what you can’t control. Because the more you worry, the less you’ll be able to enjoy this crazy journey for what it is…
The greatest adventure of your life.