When you announce you’re thinking about having a baby or have been trying to have a baby or are knocked up with a baby, friends and family and even strangers in the supermarket come out of the woodwork to oooh you and ahhh you and remind you for the zillionth time that you should use this brand of formula and should only offer ibuprofen to baby on Tuesdays when there’s a full moon and should probably just hibernate until baby comes ripping out of your vagina and robs you of precious eyeball closing opportunities with its sleep sucking superpowers.
But for all everyone has to say about motherhood, there sure are a lot of things they’re not saying.
Why is that? Probably because talking about things like losing sleep is like talking about the weather — it doesn’t really mean anything and is an easy way to make conversation and isn’t too real. I mean, the sleep loss is real, of course, but it isn’t real real; it isn’t something that cuts deep into the soul and leaves its mark for eternity.
The problem with this, however, is that motherhood is real. It’s more than just real. It’s soul-crushingly, mountain-movingly, universe-implodingly real. And for everything they’re telling you about motherhood, this is what they’re not:
You will never again be the same person you were before motherhood. Say goodbye to her. Her greatest successes and worst case scenarios pale in comparison to yours as a mother.
Every natural disaster and act of terror will become a what-if-that-were-my-child obsession.
You will suddenly find yourself reading every available consumer review for your single cup coffee maker in the event someone has discovered it doubles as a baby murderer.
There will always be a nagging feeling in the back of your brain — big for some; not so big for others — about letting your child play with the neighborhood kids alone for fear a predator lurks behind the merry-go-round.
If your child is born with or develops a disability or health concerns, you will spend countless hours in vain begging God to let you take his or her place.
You will encounter many instances in which you must fight with all your being against the very strong and very compelling urge to swoop in and save your child from everything.
You will think upon every fear and disappointment and emotional scar you harbor and hope to God your child never has to endure them. At the same time, you will know this is impossible, and your heart will hurt for him or her peremptorily.
You will look at bullies in public — both children and adults — and pray your child never falls victim to them or becomes one him or herself.
You will wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in your heart and tears in your eyes for your child. Other nights, your heart will swell with pride and your eyes will shine with glee at the mere thought of him or her. And there will be no identifiable reason why other than the love you share.
In a moment of weakness and delirium, you will find yourself wondering, in the midst of a four hour scream fest in which no amount of breastfeeding or diaper changing or bathing or rocking will calm your child, what made you think taking on the enormous task that is parenting was a good idea. And you will instantly hate yourself for ever even thinking something so reprehensible because you wouldn’t trade your precious bundle — every screaming square inch — for anything in the world.
There will be times when you are so tired and so dirty and so frustrated and so out of patience that you will need to simply walk away. Just walk away. And you will know when you have composed yourself enough to return.
You will feel immense guilt for anything from not breastfeeding long enough (or at all) to choosing to be a working mother. No matter what decisions you make, the guilt will try to snake its way in, for guilt does not discriminate. Eventually (hopefully), you will muster the confidence and strength to kick that guilt to the curb.
You will lock yourself in the bathroom on occasion just so you can breathe for one goddamned second.
You will spend hours staring at your child sleeping or playing because the simple act of drinking him or her in brings you indescribable joy.
You will encounter situations which cause your protective instincts to kick in without your permission. And what you are capable of doing to save your child is so primal, it will scare the living hell out of you.
You will discover you share a bond with other mothers — even those whom you’ve never met — that is so strong, you will weep when they weep and rejoice when they rejoice, for it is they alone who “get it.”
You will learn that the advice to “enjoy these years, for they don’t last forever” is doled out by people who are old enough to have forgotten that not everything about these years is enjoyable.
You will dote upon scribbles and crudely crafted finger paintings, telling your child how beautiful they are and meaning every word of it.
You will bask in the delight that is tickling tiny toes and participating in afternoon giggle fests, certain there is no sweeter way to pass time in the whole wide world.
You will believe there is nothing more divine than holding your child close and inhaling his or her honeyed scent.
You will truly understand what it means to put yourself second.
You will, for the first time, know what it’s like to love someone so much, it simultaneously hurts and overjoys, both physically and emotionally.
You will come to realize everything that matters in the world sleeps just down the hall.
You will be certain there is no greater calling on earth than that of mother.