They didn’t tell me that I would have the appetite of a teenage boy or that I would be more hungry feeding a baby than growing one. And so they didn’t tell me that I would have to acquire a new set of skills, like eating cereal with my left hand while feeding the baby on my right.
They didn’t tell me how horrified I would be the first time I dribbled a little of that cereal milk on her head or that I would get over it by the third or fourth time…or that spilling my food on the baby’s outfit would actually be a thing.
And they didn’t tell me that my baby might not look like me. Or my husband really. And that, despite our certainty that the tiny human would show up with brown eyes like ours, it might just happen that hers will turn blue. And that it’s weird and sort of wonderful how she is so incredibly and uniquely herself.
And they told me my body would never be the same afterwards, but they didn’t tell me that would be the last thing on my mind, because the first thing on my mind would be getting it to do what it needed to do.
And they told me that it might not work out, that feeding her would be painful and mind-numbing and the hardest and most time consuming commitment, but they didn’t tell me how proud I would feel when it did work. They didn’t tell me that putting her on the scale at the pediatrician’s office to find that she’s gained pound after pound and inch after inch would have me puffing out a chest that no longer fits into any of the shirts or jackets in my closet, beaming with pride to have one of those babies with rolls and squish.
No, they didn’t tell me how relieved I would feel about all that eating and pooping. And they certainly didn’t tell me how loud babies can fart.
Or how far they can shoot their puke…and that it sometimes comes out of their noses…
Yes, they told me that we would never sleep again, but they didn’t tell me what it’s like to be awake, just her and I, in the peace of the early morning when even the wild things are quiet.
And they didn’t tell me that I could be simultaneously lonesome and fulfilled. How I could cry tears of joy and frustration at the same time. How my favorite time of the day would be the first smile at 5 am.
And they should have told me not to panic if things don’t go right, because next week I would have a new set of worries and wonder. And they should have told me that so I might be prepared for how that phenomenon sends you wishing for time to speed up and stand still at the same time.
And that I would be crazy in so many different wonderful and worrisome ways.
They should have told me about the crazy. And then they should have told me that the most important thing to have on hand is not diaper cream or nasal aspirators or yoga pants, but a good dose of patience.
And then they should have told me that it wasn’t all going to be wonderful, but that it was all going to be ok…
Before Edie was born, I was the queen of reading up on what was to come, from the “Top 50 Baby Must Haves” to “Tips to Make Your Baby Smarter.” I talked to other moms, too, about what to expect when I brought my baby home. All were so willing to share tips for gas (because her baby was gassy) or information on the best diaper cream (because her baby got rashes).
But sprinkled among the overwhelming advice was the resounding declaration that “every baby is different.” Which is helpful to remember when you hear about a baby who only falls asleep after an hour drive in the car and, two years later, still wakes up every two hours. It gives you a little sliver of hope.
Yes, there are so many things they tell you, so much to learn, and while the whirlwind of Edie’s birth left me awestruck, in pain and completely in love, when my husband and I stepped foot into our house, our 8-plus-pound baby in tow, I soon realized that I could have spent a lifetime collecting advice, but in the end, just like every baby is different, so is every couple, every mother and every household.
Because I didn’t come across one article that discussed what it was like taking care of a newborn in the middle of a North Dakota winter, 30 miles away from the nearest grocery store or doctor’s office, married to a husband who had to go back to work after the first week of his new baby’s life.
Tip No. 1 should have been: With a nursing baby in one hand and your cellphone in the other, you can magically make almost anything arrive at your doorstep. Just don’t be surprised that by the time the new shelves/special diaper cream/adorable baby cardigan arrive, you likely won’t remember you bought it.
Because that whole pregnancy brain thing has nothing on the brain you receive with a newborn. Nobody talked much about that.
Perhaps they forgot. Just like I forget where I put all five of Edie’s pacifiers.
And there are plenty other things they forgot to tell me. Like, when changing a diaper, have another one ready. Which seems like a no-brainer now, except at 5 a.m. when your baby has literally pooped in your hand and you realize you don’t have a brain anyway.
That’s the other thing no one tells you — that poop-in-your hand story will suddenly become a go-to conversation starter with your mom/sister/random stranger in the grocery store.
That is, until you see your baby’s smile for the first time. I suppose no one can tell you what that’s like.
Or how you will put on a thousand miles bouncing and walking your baby around the house, and how after she finally falls asleep, you will miss her.
And everyone likes to wish you good luck with the sleepless nights, but no one told me that getting up to feed my baby at 3 a.m., in the dark and still of the early morning, would be my favorite time with her and the best moments of my life so far. Because the days are long, but the months, the years are short. That’s something everybody told me, but I wouldn’t comprehend until I packed away the newborn clothes just a few short weeks after she arrived in this world.
And until now I couldn’t possibly understand the new kind of trust I would place in my husband, or the physical toll motherhood would take on my body, or how hard but so incredibly important it is to hold on to the parts of me that are not solely mother so that I can be the best version of myself for my family.
Or how, at the end of the day, your body may be drained and your wits may be frayed, but you’ll lay down in the dark and hear your baby breathing in her crib next to you, safe and calm, and, well, that’s all I can say, because there’s no list or conversation in the world that would have prepared me for that.
And I can’t help but hope that in that way all of us could be the same.