In the early 2000s, I was in the throes of full-on baby rage. My husband and I had started talking about having a baby, but admittedly, I was a little nervous. I mean, I was afraid to get a dog for fear of forgetting to feed and walk it, let alone be responsible for a real live human. I lamented to my friends that I didn’t think I had what it took to be a mother. I read parenting books and asked a million questions of my friends with kids.
And I watched ungodly amounts of TLC’s A Baby Story. You know, for research.
You’d think I’d have learned my lesson from A Wedding Story (seriously, marriage was hard work after the wedding reception was over), but as soon as I heard the familiar soothing piano music in the opening credits of A Baby Story, I couldn’t resist its charms. Combine the pretty music with the opening footage of the non-stretch-marked belly held by a mother’s perfectly manicured hands, and I was a sucker for every single episode.
A Baby Story made motherhood look wonderful! I couldn’t wait.
Much in the same vein of A Wedding Story, A Baby Story followed a couple through the journey of conception to live birth, all with two commercial interruptions. Usually, the couple had an interesting story of how they met or unusual jobs, and the cameras rolled as they told their story in their waiting nursery, in full makeup and with perfectly coiffed hair.
The mom-to-be was usually perky and super-excited about her impending motherhood and the father-to-be was involved, attentive, and hands-on. The show filmed the mother’s labor, and save for a little drama, they had a perfect bundle of joy before the closing credits rolled. The show ended with a “follow-up” interview with the parents, showing them enamored of their new miracle with nary a mess or bottle out of place.
So you can imagine my surprise when it came time to poop for the first time after a C-section, right? That moment when I saw God and all his angels kneel before me as a screamed into a pillow, hoping to dislodge the petrified piece of coal that had been locked up in that joint for nine days was surprisingly missing from A Baby Story.
WTF, A Baby Story? You lied!
Did the producers not think that moms-to-be, like me, needed to know what their boobs were actually going to look like when their milk came in? Did they not think it pertinent information to show that you have moments where you sit on the floor and cry because your baby is wailing and you can’t figure out what the fuck they need?
Where was the show that had footage of the new mother trying to change a onesie in the middle of the night only to have that bundle of joy projectile vomit on her?
I didn’t see a single episode where the mom-to-be cried in her closet because her shoes no longer fit, her one pair of maternity pants that she could still drag over her belly were ripped at the seams, and her face looked like a minefield of acne.
Where was the episode that showed the parents fighting with each other and using expletives when they tried to put their newborn into the car seat carrier on the way out of the hospital?
I’m guessing those clips are on the cutting room floor somewhere because I didn’t see a single shot of a mom losing her shit because she hadn’t slept in four days.
Of course, nothing prepares you for the fact that you will never pee alone again, but there’s no way I could have ever known just how much panic is involved when a baby is ripped out of your abdomen from watching these types of shows. As I descended into the hell of postpartum depression, I often wondered why it was that I was so unprepared for the rigors of motherhood. I cried tears of frustration when I realized that I wasn’t as excited about motherhood as the moms on A Baby Story, and I blamed myself for not feeling overwhelming joy at my son’s arrival — also, for my lack of makeup and freshly styled hair.
The sanitized, perfect portrayal of motherhood on A Baby Story set me up for unrealistic expectations. I mean, seriously, it was months before I remembered that I actually owned lipstick — or pants, come to think of it. And I didn’t have a camera crew editing out my bloopers and my “not safe for a family audience” moments and presenting me with a reel of the joyous moments of my day. Rather, I had a full on reality shitshow that no one in their right mind would watch — ever.
As I found my footing as a mother, I was grateful when I met mothers along the way who spoke the truth. Who openly admitted that there were days that they sometimes didn’t like their children. The women who were honest with me and told me that my abdominal muscles would never look the same in a bikini became my best friends. I clung to the friends who answered the phone when I would call crying from my closet. Their honesty and support was my lifeline.
And because of my experiences, I have always told a mom-to-be the real truth — the whole truth, and nothing but the underbelly of motherhood truth — because motherhood will catch you with your pants down and bitch-slap you into reality if you aren’t prepared. As much as I enjoyed watching A Baby Story back in the day, I’d be much more inclined to have an honest, forthright chat with a mom-to-be one-on-one.
And when her baby arrives, I will show up with wine, a big tray of lasagna, and give her a giant hug as she realizes that her baby books were all wrong.