When my son Josh was born a few years ago, I had no idea how ill prepared I was for motherhood. Sure, I'd read the books and listened to my friends with kids, but much like the first year of Josh's life, I was in a mental daze throughout my pregnancy - operating at half capacity. The main things that occupied my mind were keeping food down and my feet up, rubbing my ever-growing belly and stroking my newly luscious hair.
I'd smile blankly as my friends warned me about the endless diaper changes, laundry and holding I'd be doing. I realize now that for all their good intentions, their attempts to educate me were futile. It's only when I experienced a few 24/7 cycles of sleep deprivation, 3 a.m. feedings, 4 a.m. diaper changes, and 5 a.m. sheet changes that their words started resonating.
And then there are the things they didn't tell me. It's all part of the strategy to get more women to jump on the motherhood train. There's strength in numbers and the feeling must be that if more women join, it will lessen the burden.
Here are 4 things you don't find out about motherhood until you become a mom:
The fine art of breastfeeding may take some time
Hah! No amount of information, advice or instructions beforehand can remotely begin to convey how difficult breastfeeding was for me. I recall the first week when Josh and I embarked on our battle of the breast. I can still see us in bed (where we spent about 20 hours each day), lying in small puddles of breast milk, urine and sweat. Let's just say one breast continually leaked, Josh would spit up the dribbles of milk he got from the other one, his diapers fit like they were designed for a rapper, it was summer, the air conditioner was broken, my hormones were in overdrive, and I was a little anxious. Not exactly a winning combination. Just put a white nightgown and a long wig on me and start shooting the cameras for Hollywood's next horror movie.
Go with the flow!
If this doesn't become your motto for living, you're in for a rude awakening. I used to make plans. I still do, but I've just built in a three-hour window on either side. I still try to squeeze in some mommy time between the diaper changes, the feeding, the singing and the playing. I'm still optimistic but I know that after a few trips to the mall or out for lunch with girlfriends, if Josh would rather have a temper tantrum in the parking lot, we have to work with that too. Lesson learned - abort the mission and attempt another day.
I recall a conversation with a girlfriend a couple years ago just after she had her baby. She would go on and on about his daily routine - when he slept, what he ate, the sounds he made, the clothes he wore! I would try to feign excitement. "Fascinating! He slept three hours in a row you say! Unbelievable! And you were actually able to have a shower? That's great! Wow, don't stop there. I want to hear how the rest of your day went! Oh me, not much, just flew to New York for a meeting, had lunch at the Ritz, drinks at Sardi's, saw a show, you know the usual!
How things change! Now, not only do this girlfriend and I spend hours talking about our sons' nap schedules, but I'll happily talk about my neighbor's son's nap schedule, the baby down the street, the baby at the drop-in center, the baby in line with her mother at the grocery store, etc.
The euphoria of new motherhood will pass
They don't tell you that the day will come when buying those adorable little designer baby clothes with the cashmere cuffs and the 25 buttons just doesn't seem practical. You'll no longer be excited that he's jumped a diaper size as you realize it just means you get fewer diapers for more money. The way he reaches up to you to be held isn't as cute now that he weighs close to 30 pounds. They don't tell you that eventually the euphoria of becoming a mother will wear off and the routine of it will start to sink in.
I'm trying to teach myself to slow down, live in the moment and savor each experience. And for the most part I do. And if I meet another woman who is thinking of having a baby and asks me what it's like, I'll tell her to go ahead, it's a wonderful experience. And I'll smile to myself - another one about to join the ranks! I better call the national membership committee to tell them we have a live one!