Honest time: What no one tells you about having a kid

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Kelly B.
"Babies Suck" cross stitch from Etsy seller LivCreatively

I had it all figured out.

I had nannied… Twins, overnights, special needs… I knew babies.

I'd read the books and the blogs, from the humorous to the medical. Talked to parents. Formed opinions. I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

Then, I had a child, and it all went to hell.

I should have known I was in trouble during labor. After three days of a hospital induction the baby still wasn't coming, so we were sent home. We got there and my water promptly broke, thick with meconium. With that, my med-free water birth went out the window as I was hooked to monitors and planted in a bed. This baby was literally shitting on my plans before I had even seen her face.

In the coming days, and weeks other dominoes fell. My vows against co-sleeping lost out to my desire for two hours of uninterrupted rest. Exclusively breastfeeding wasn't as important as supplementing formula to get my skinny girl to grow.

All of this in the midst of accommodating the overwhelming needs of the tiny dictator.

"How is the… adjustment going?" one mom friend asked, with a knowing look on her face. "I remember thinking it was hell on earth," the dad of a two-year-old told me. "Welcome to the secret society," my aunt said, "You can't understand it until you've done it."

I may not have been able to understand, but I would have liked a warning!

Because while babies are adorable, the stress of having a newborn is unlike anything I could have possibly imagined. The mundane, like tackling the next feeding, meets the massive, like wondering how to protect this perfect being in this imperfect world. The result is a perfect storm of exhaustion and emotion.

Recently NPR asked "Why are new parents depressed?" The segment focused on men and women, and asked if as a society we were even willing to talk about the unpleasant sides of bringing home a new baby, or if it is still too taboo.

Maybe it's silly to mention. Maybe "they" are right, and those who haven't experienced it won't understand, and those who have been there will just smile knowingly. But it seems important to at least start the conversation.

I'm tempted to write, "but one smile from the baby makes it worth it," or to clarify that while the last six weeks have been intense as can be, I'm definitely not depressed, just reeling from the new experience. And while both of those are true, those disclaimers play into the stigma, as I attempt to distance myself from people with the "real" problems.

Instead, I'll ask, what were your expectations of bringing home a baby, and what was the reality? Whether you've reproduced or not, do you think this is something that is discussed openly enough?

  1. I expected to be exhausted, overwhelmed, and confused…and had no clue how drastically I would be all of those things at once, 24/7. Some people are lucky to have family or friends who can help out so they can do simple things like grocery shop, clean, shower, nap, etc… but I didn't realize that without that help, NOTHING got done. That is also TOTALLY OKAY! No one told me that I would be okay with eating three day old pasta out of a drinking glass while wearing my laundry day underwear for the third day in a row…but that stuff just doesn't matter when you need to focus on keeping a tiny human alive and happy. Besides, I feel like most parents would seriously mourn missing a great snuggle nap, but who looks back ten years later and regrets missing an afternoon of laundry?

    I also assumed (for some stupid reason) that simply having those people to help meant that my husband and I could sneak away for a date every now and then, but our twins just wouldn't let us go (between cluster-feeding, weird sleep needs, and occasional bouts of hating everyone but me). Sometimes you are truly, genuinely trapped by your baby…but it eventually ends! Everything ends, actually. That first round of horrifying nipple soreness, those first scary baby head colds, the sleepless nights…it's all transient. Our kids won't go to college with colic, counting on me to wipe their boogers.

    I wish someone had told me that the transience is part of the beauty. Our kids won't wake up every two hours for their whole lives, but they also won't burst into joyful grins every time I enter a room forever. Holding on to little joys is just as important as accepting the big challenges.

  2. As someone who does not (and doesn't plan to) have kids, I believe the reality of having and making children is not talked about enough. It can be a horrible and emotional process. And going through it can be unbearably isolating if everyone you know has had the opposite experience.

    Knowledge is power.

    • Cheers to this. As a child-free-by-choice person, part of the reason I made that choice is the feeling of distrust in the process. I feel as if people who have raised kids weren't being honest about the true experience. Because here's the deal: I WAS A KID. I did fucked up shit. I was an asshole. I made my parents upset. I negatively affected their lives. I cost them a lot of fucking money. But when you ask them, all they talk about is how wonderful it is. Look, I'm sure it's wonderful, but I know FOR A FACT that, for a while there, it was mostly NOT wonderful. Therefor, I know for a fact that there are a LOT of things parents aren't talking about. So yay for this discussion. 😉

      • My sister and several friends all know that I had already planned never to have children, so they didn't hold back when telling me pregnancy, childbirth, and infant horror stories. I have a million reasons not to have kids already, but MAN stories about pregnancy reaffirm that decision.

        • This is interesting. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but I seem to have no shortage of people complaining about the hardships of childrearing. After an hour or two of whining, they usually ask when we're having babies…
          We're childfree for many, complicated reasons. But I have told one obnoxious pair that I have listened to them, and, umm, no, never am I having babies.That was probably mean, but also very much the way I felt in that moment.

          So it baffles me that this could be a conversation not had, so far, all I got was warnings, and I am grateful, in a way. Made my decision not to put my body through any extra stress and possible complications much easier. Warnings all the way!

          • I'm a little curious about all the missing "warnings" too… for me, it felt like everyone had a horror story about pregnancy/birth AND taking care of a newborn. It's like parents try to one-up one another with the most ridiculous, gory terrible things you could imagine. Why? To make themselves into martyrs and gain respect and awe? For comic relief? Just to get out what they're going through and see some appreciative nods? It's like no one in their right minds would ever want to be a parent, and even though we hear all the caveats "oh but it's all worth it…" if you don't have kids you just smile obligingly without really believing the hell you've just heard described could be worth anything.

            But the thing is… it's true. It's hard and messy and exhausting and gross, and you'll very likely do things you never thought you'd do, but it is absolutely all worth it. Which is simply something that you really can't believe until you experience it yourself. (For those without kids, I'm trying not to sound condescending here, really). There are plenty of warnings out there, along with rose-colored stories looking back on how wonderful it all is. You take it all in, maybe gloss over what you don't want to hear & retain the things that resonate with you a little more… but when it comes down to it, nothing can really prepare you for being a parent, except being a parent.

      • I think a major issue is that these stories are shared in hushed voices when asked from birth mothers to birth mothers. That men are totally left out of it, even if they ask directly. Men can adopt, men can suffer the loss of a spouse in childbirth why the hell are people glazing over these important subjects with them? If you would tell a woman who is adopting, or a women who is not carrying a child (as in their SO is) then how would you not share that with the other parent? (I just mean all the nitty and gritty of pregnancy is less immediate for those not being pregnant.)

        I REALLY want kids, like always have and I although we don't have them yet I've already scarified some career and location choices that I started on and enjoyed but wouldn't work for the life I want to have with kids. And I don't regret anything. That's really the big thing PRIORITIES. I know in my heart of hearts my number one priority is actually to have a stellar family life, I didn't really realize that was at the core of everything until I hit my early twenties and that's okay. It's awesome that many people don't have that priority that they want to run a bank and have boatloads of cash and as long as we all find our true priorities we should all be able to fess up to their realities.

      • THIS SO MUCH. I was a kid. I was a GOOD kid. And I was still pretty much a terrible person for 18 years.

        Any time someone says about childrearing, "it's terrible but it's worth it," all I can think is, "I'm seeing cognitive dissonance work in real time."

        My partner and I adopted an 8 month old puppy this past summer. We've had a few jokes about how it's preparation for children. For me, it reinforced my decision to NOT have children. I'm *barely* okay with the degree of attention this animal needs, and I can put him in a cage for 8 hours a day without anyone calling the cops. How could I possibly be happy with children?

    • Agreed! I am also a child-free-by-choice woman married to a man who also felt this same way, with these decisions independently made prior to meeting. We had our deal-breaker conversation very very early in the formation of our relationship to confirm we were on the same page voluntarily.

      There are a lot of people who cannot believe this is a decision I am making. I have been approached many times by colleagues, acquaintances, random people at the store about why I do not have kids. I usually get the arguments of "Just have one!" or "What will you do when you're older?" or "Who will take care of you?". All ridiculous arguments to such a huge, life-changing decision. I just offer that it isn't for me, and leave it at that.

      Child bearing should not be an expectation or requirement of being an adult, with child-free living the negative, unrealistic alternative. There is so much more to life than reproduction. I love my friends kids. I love being an auntie. I also have no interest in having my own children. This should be a perfectly reasonable choice for any individual!

      • I'm currently pregnant with my third (and last) baby. I can't imagine not being a mom since I've wanted to be one for as long as I can remember. I also can't wrap my head around why it's so hard for some people to grasp the idea that not everyone feels the same way.

  3. I read a lot of parenting blogs (even though I'm probably a couple years away from parenthood myself), so I've heard a lot about the negatives and the difficulties of the newborn stage (and beyond). I know you can't *know* until you've been there, but I'm hoping if I assume it's just going to be horrendous that I'll be (maybe only slightly) pleasantly surprised.

  4. I had no expectations, but I was terrified. Everyone I knew was hyping up the birth!

    "Oh it'll be the most painful thing ever!"
    "Are you nervous about giving birth? I was so terrified!"
    "Why are you so calm, THIS IS HAPPENING SOON!"

    I was completely calm about the birth. I knew, one way or the other, my baby would be born (luckily my whole "birth plan" went off without a hitch and was pretty quick too) so who cared really?

    I was terrified about what came AFTER. There would be a tiny human who would not be able to communicate (beyond crying) that I would have to take care of…and I had to keep it alive! Plus, I was never much of a baby person before (you couldn't force me to hold a baby), and poop made me gag, blood made me light-headed…and I was a mess.

    My husband and I worked out a routine pretty quick, which just fell into place out of necessity and wasn't planned on our part. And there were lots of nights and days of me crying because baby was crying and WHY WASN'T HE SLEEPING?

    I wish someone had told me more about napping and getting a baby to sleep. More suggestions early on would've been helpful instead of just saying, "Oh you just do whatever works" Yeah, that's great and all, but I've been trying things and nothing works SO HELP ME.

    I agree upon the sentiment that you can definitely feel trapped by the baby. I remember being terrified to leave the house for more than 1 or 2 hours at a time because what if the baby cried? What if I needed to feed him (I had an early paranoia of breastfeeding in public which I got over within a couple of weeks)? WHAT IF HE POOPED? I was so worried about being judged in public.

    And no one told you how much longer it takes to get out of the house to go anywhere. It's like you're packing for a long weekend getaway! The first few times it took us 30min to leave the house. Now we're down to 5-15min depending if a diaper change needs to happen, and if it's a poop or not.

    Now that baby is 1 year now, I feel less trapped, but you still need to really plan around naps and meals, etc.

    • "What if he pooped?" This reminded me of a funny story: When our first little was pretty small we decided take him to the zoo. He mostly slept as we walked around, but he did wake up long enough do a massive poop. Like poopocalypse. Rather than take him to the bathroom to clean him up we decided to use a bench. While we're changing him he starts pooping more and its getting everywhere. My husband was freaking the fuck out while I'm laughing my ass off. We ended up having to throw away the outfit he was in. People must have thought we were crazy 🙂

    • Don't have kids yet, but I'm in the same boat as you on the labor part. Might hurt like shit, might not go as I planned, but the only option for the little fucker is to come out.

      • Seriously just knowing that made everything so much better. I remember being in the bed in transition out of my fucking mind, literally not even acknowledging anything outside of my body and hospital bed thinking "It has to come out. It has to come out. It can't stay in. There will be a point in the future where this is no longer happening." That realization alone made birth bearable for me.

  5. What I think is never discussed is how scary it can be. Here's this little human who depends on you for everything and you are exhausted. We have too kids, we were both only children with no baby experience under our belts, let alone sibling experience. The baby phase will pass, but the next 18 years are like a thrill ride with no chicken exit.

  6. The best parenting advice I have ever received came from my supervisor fresh off his paternity leave. I was newly pregnant with twins and asked him if he had any advice.

    His response:

    "Dude, baby's are jerks. And it's at least 3 months before you see a return on your investment." (he was referring to that first smile)

    • The best advice I got was from my midwife at the 24hr post-baby visit: Sleep deprivation is a real torture device.

      What she meant was, thats how important sleep is to us humans. That in some parts of the world people are tortured for whatever reason by depriving a person from sleeping. (Therefore, sleep mucho important post-baby). This hit home for me way more than "sleep when the baby sleeps". Bleh.. even now when I hear or say that I roll my eyes and shut my ears. Some advice is said too much it gets annoying!

      • This, so much this. My son didn't sleep through the night until almost a year and sleep deprivation turned me into a raving beast. And I'd have no idea how bad it was, I just was convinced I was a terrible person and mother until I got a longer stretch of sleep and realized how much better it felt.

  7. I really don't think the negatives are discussed enough. Like the actual physical trauma of expelling a child. The bloody, yucky, reality of it. I had NO CLUE until I was gone 3 months pregnant. The after-effects of that and the painkillers that you have to take not to wince with every step (at least I did) but you don't want to take too many of because you have this tiny new person that you need to be on the ball for. And you can't bear to sleep and miss one tiny little breath. Then after about a week they become more awake and more aware and your chance for sleep is shot for….ever.

    The absolute relentless tiredness. Like, I'd totally been tired. Tired after being up all night and all day and all night again. Sure I had! But then there's the 3rd night. The fourth. Fifth. Twentieth night with no more than a couple hours at once. Some radical groups/nations use that as a form of torture… why not add in a small creature biting on your nipples every time they wake you up?

    Then I fell asleep sat upright in my bed with wee one still attached and feeding. I woke up maybe 10 minutes later and beat myself up about it for months. What if I had rolled over and squashed him?! I didn't. But that's….

    The guilt. I stopped feeling guilty about bottles and napping and not doing chores and sometimes just plonking the baby in my partners arms the minute he walked in, eventually. Now I feel guilty about the odd swear word my son has picked up (yes, from me, yes, he's 3, and yes if he says one in the supermarket queue I will ignore it and any disapproving looks because I KNOW that is the only way he will stop saying it. And I still feel guilty!) and that he watches hours of cartoons a day and that he has no interest in letters yet and that he is afraid of public toilets and therefore I don't take him out to as much 'fun stuff' as the average Perfect Mum does with her kids. And I hear later on when I stop feeling guilty about that a whole host of other stuff will come up instead… My mum still feels guilty about forgetting to pack my lunch on my first day of school! I wish someone had told me the amount of guilt I was signing up for…

    • OMG the guilt! I had no idea it was even possible to feel guilty about absolutely EVERYTHING. My baby just hit 3 months, and I still feel totally guilty if I spend an extra 10 minutes away from the house to get a coffee… even though I was told that was totally fine and ok! I feel guilty about not having been able to breastfeed – even though the research shows the benefits are pretty hyped up and formula is fine and I have a perfect, happy baby. I feel guilty if I leave her to play with herself in her crib for a few minutes and don't spend every waking moment trying to teach her something. I feel guilty because my libido isn't where it was and I worry my partner isn't getting HIS needs met. I even feel guilty (and a bit smug. and then guilty again) because my baby sleeps through the night and is totally chill and relaxed, and other people struggle. Etc. etc…

      Being a new momma = learning ways to feel guilty you never knew existed.

  8. …and people think I'm nuts for not having a kid.

    People who haven't done it may not be able to TRULY understand it… but we can understand it well enough to know we want nothing to do with it ;-P I've seen peoples' lives and sanity fall apart over a kid they weren't ready for (and watched other friends, who WERE ready, do slightly better but still struggle.) I feel like there is this weird stigma where it's totally okay to say how hard it is, as long as you then clarify that "it's all TOTALLY worth it though, yeah, no, it's fine, it's wonderful, it's magical."

    Like we really just can't admit that for some people, it probably isn't worth it, because we take that to mean that they don't LOVE THEIR CHILDREN ABOVE ALL ELSE OMG (which is not what it means.) It wouldn't be worth it for me, and I'm really glad I figured that out before giving it a whirl.

    There's this thing in psychology that has to do with resolving cognitive dissonance… I think it's called the effort justification paradigm but maybe there's a specific name when it has to do with people. In any case… when someone goes through a lot of trouble to get something or to help someone, their brains inflate the worth of the thing or affection towards that person in order to justify the amount of trouble they've gone through. So for example: If you agree to help someone move (say, a friendly acquaintance), you'll start thinking of that person as more of a friend, because you wouldn't help someone you weren't that fond of move, right?

    Likewise I sort of wonder if the complete abject helplessness of babies acts the same way- they put you through hell, and you love them more as a result, because no way would you go through that for anything or anyone you didn't love a heckuva lot. Do we power through the trials of parenthood because parenthood is worth it, or does parenthood feel worth it *because* it's so tough? I suppose it doesn't really matter as long as the people who do it feel are glad they did, but I don't think everyone always is, and it's gotta be hard that it's not okay to even consider admitting that.

    • A friend posted an article recently about parenting and how children have become sacred cows to the point that it's REALLY hard to admit that parenting is hard. http://qz.com/273255/how-american-parenting-is-killing-the-american-marriage/

      "…It has become totally unacceptable in our culture to say anything bad about our children, let alone admit that we don't like them all of the time. We are allowed to say bad things about our spouses, our parents, our aunts and uncles, but try saying, "My kid doesn't have a lot of friends because she's not a super likable person," and see how fast you get dropped from the PTA."

      I'm not a parent myself, but I do think it's okay – and not contradictory – to love someone but not like them ALL the time. I have friends who annoy me and make me roll my eyes or put my head in my hands sometimes, but I still love 'em and choose to hang around them.

      I think the coworker quoted above had it right. "Babies are jerks."

      • And if you look back through history, even just 50-100 years ago, this was not as much the case — because (a) children were reared by inter-generational groups &/or servants more often than 1-2 people [because almost everyone lived either with their extended family for much of their life or they had servants or both, bec. that's simply the way the economy worked in most parts of the world], (b) frankly, infant mortality was high, so the chances of any one baby living to adulthood was low, leading to (c) childhood wasn't revered as some sacred precious time where babies were coddled & treated as the be-all & end-all of the world. People took good care of babies, but the world did not revolve around them on the whole. That was the exception, not the rule.

        Read accounts of family life in the early 20th century & 19th century in the U.S., going back to the 18th, 16th centuries in Western Europe, baby-raising is a very matter-of-fact thing, attended to by mom, grandmom, aunts, sisters, maids, nurses, a virtual army of women (yeah, always women, but at least a lot of 'em!), in between all the other household chores.

        • I think, though, that the early seeds of this are sown in the Cult of True Womanhood — the idea that a woman goes through her ultimate apotheosis to wife and mother, and that is when she has obtained the ultimate pinnacle of her life. So her devotion to hearth and home must be unquestionable, her devotion to her husband and children unshakable, and as the Angel in the House, the moral lynchpin of the family, she must be pure, loving, tender, moral, upright, pious, self-sacrificing, and ultimately, perfection. The 19th century was full of infant mortality, but it was also a time in which childhood as we know it started to emerge, and children were romanticised into the chubby-cheeked angelic portraits of children that are knee-jerk synonymous with the period. The Victorians didn't give us the cult of childrearing, but they gave us the vision of the Ideal Mother who tended to those angelic children, and they very much gave us the consequences for failing to live up to that. The reality was, of course, just as you said — but the ideal vision of it, presented in art and media and from the pulpits, was one of perfect, serene motherhood, fully devoted and fully sacrificial.

          I'm pretty sure, just from my sense of the changes in American cultural and religious life, that the cult of childrearing comes out of the 1950s with its neo-Victorian exultation of the home, the fixation on the baby boomers as a generation, and the emphasis on women's role as ultimate mother. But it is definitely neo-Victorian, and as a culture, mainstream America is still struggling with so much Victorian baggage, it's a wonder we aren't drowning in carpetbags.

          • Huh? Can't a woman strive to be a good mother because it is the right thing to do? Is that baggage? Children thrive when they have loving, devoted, moral parents. Parents should do their best to be that for their kids. I have three young kids (I'm 28) and it definitely has forced me to become less selfish and my life revolves around these three little people that don't always appreciate me. An idea that seems to repulse many on here. Yes, it is hard. Yes, it is worth it. I love my kids more than I could ever say. I hope and pray that I get to watch them grow and develop into good people. I could tell horror/gore stories about all night puking extravangazas, exhaustion, ripping 'lady parts', diaper explosions and that is a part of it of course, but parenting- on the whole- transcends all that to become nothing short of spiritual and beautiful. I know many women on here would recoil at the thought of finding their 'purpose' in motherhood but I believe there is nothing wrong with that and it is very fulfilling.

  9. Yeah, our infant was a peach. We did have the problem of basically having to shut down any life we had to make the energy/time-space to care for her, but it was OK. Toddlerhood, on the other hand….. I have a newfound appreciation for the book _Go the F*ck to Sleep_. She bucked evening schedules hard. It didn't help that my mom went into a nursing home when she was 3, and I'm trying to do the principled thing and visit her thrice a week too. Finally, at 4 and a half, we feel like we can do a divide and conquer — we can each get out of the house to go on a date, we just only have been on a date with each other when my mother-in-law can take her. I'm getting a babysitter, though, which should help occasionally. I was pretty good on babies — but somebody should have warned me about toddlers!

  10. Basically, as far as baby stuff goes, I knew it would suck and be hard and exhausting in the beginning, possibly forever. And it was basically as I imagined.

    BUT What no one told me was that I would mourn for pre-baby life just a little and that didn't make me a bad mom.

    I remember when everyone left and my husband had to go back to work and it was just be me and the baby, (and google. I googled so much–one of my searches I'll always remember: "is it normal if my baby coughs once?" hahaha) Anyway, my husband came home from work that first day and I handed him the baby and curled up into his lap and silently cried because I missed our old life so much. I wanted to go back to sleeping in on the weekends, going out to the movies whenever we wanted, just hanging out all the time like two BFFs with not a care in the world except where to eat for dinner. But then I felt so incredibly guilty for desiring non baby life, so I felt worse. But I think it's NORMAL (I hope it is) I think you can still love your baby with the fire of a million exploding suns, but still feel nostalgic for your baby-free days. My baby is almost one and sometimes I still fantasize about when I would get off work (nannying) and go straight to the beach and read a book while laying on my beach chair for hours, because nobody relied on me for anything.

    I know it's cliche, but I really do love being a mom though. I miss my old life but not as much as I love my baby. So it's fine now.

    • Yes. I still mourn my pre-baby life 22 months later. Maybe not mourn anymore. But certainly miss it from time to time. It gets easier as they get older. At least for me it did. I've starting to have goals of my own again and have voiced that I need more help from my husband when it comes to parenting. It's a journey.

      For me I always knew I wanted to be a mother and have a large family. I grew up an only child. Some days I don't know how I would handle more than the one I have, and others I can see us having 3 or more.

      To comment on the original article. Yes. having a baby totally sucks at times. It really does. And yes we need to talk about it more. That is where the key lies to it not sucking. Education. Building your "village" early on. I wanted to parent ideally on my own with help from no one. As my daughter grows, I have become more laxed with her care. So what if Noni gave her some strawberry ice cream with a crap ton of sugar….. I got an overnight with my husband and got to sleep in for the first time in ages. Can we say 7 consecutive hours of sleep anyone???!!! Yeah…

      And I admire the people posting who know they do not want children. I often wonder if I hadn't settled down at an early age, if I too would have changed my mind about having a family.

    • Oh yeah. I mourned HARD for my pre-baby life.

      One time my husband came home, and I was in tears over it. I had to try explain to him, while I didn't (and still don't) EVER regret having our son…sometimes I do.

      Especially when you see your childless friends jetting off places (and you can't afford it), or are going to adult-only events (wine festivals, dinner events, etc). And you just sit there staring at their Instagram and Facebook with a bit of sadness and jealousy in the pit of your stomach.

  11. Am I really the only person who had a parade of fear-mongering friends when I was pregnant? How does anyone think having a baby is anything other than awful?

    I prepared for having a baby like you would prepare for a natural disaster. After 5 years of infertility hell; several years of following a blogger who had post-partum depression so severe that she was committed to a mental ward; and being warned by friends that I would NEVER SLEEP AGAIN ETC ETC ETC, I was seriously ready for having a baby to be the worst, most awful, most life-devastating situation ever.

    I would never sleep again, never have sex again, never be able to pee normally again, might not actually love my baby for months, never lose the baby weight, be crippled by depression for months (at least), and should just do my best to make the best of what would doubtless be the most difficult experience of my life.

    Seriously: this is what my friends prepared me for.

    Instead, I birthed a larva that mostly slept all day and lived on the boob the rest of the time.
    My c-section healed normally.
    I strapped the larva on and did laundry.
    I laid him on a lambskin and took showers.
    I had way more time than I expected to read.
    I slept at very weird times, but I slept.
    Basically, while life was completely different… it went on.

    …Yes, I seriously lucked out by having a non-collicky baby, family support, and no post-partum mental or physical health complications… but I think the partial moral of the story is to prepare for the absolute WORST. Set your expectations really low, and then maybe you'll be pleasantly surprised.

    I guess I'm also somewhat surprised that not everyone hears horror stories about babies all the time. I feel like fear-mongering was so prevalent was I was pregnant that it was almost oppressive… for me, it was more like, "Can anyone tell me something about having a baby that DOESN'T suck?!" Maybe I'm so generally optimistic that everyone around me felt the need to bum me out?

    • Ariel, I instantly thought of your "You'll Seeee!" Post from Offbeat Families (which I've had bookmarked for years) when I saw the headline for this post. :-/ We were childfree by choice for the first 11 years of marriage because of all the fear-mongering! Then our son arrived and… we lucked out with a healthy and easygoing baby, sure, but even the hardest parts just weren't the absolute hell I felt we'd been conditioned to expect. It doesn't have to be. You find ways to work around or through the difficult stuff. And you're capable of far more than you realize once you're actually doing it. I wish it hadn't been touted as such a life-wrecking experience from the get-go. That said, much love to the childfree by choice homies. I just hope the fear-mongering isn't the only reason you avoid having a kiddo.

    • Yep, this is kinda how I feel, too. People give me side eye when I say I have showered and put on mascara and relatively clean clothes since kiddo was born. I was already wearing relatively clean clothes before his birth, so that wasn't a big change.

    • This, so much this!!! I just had my baby a few days ago, and I feel like the hardest part of pregnancy was not getting depressed prematurely just from hearing about how terribly depressing having a child is. I have heard almost nothing but horror stories of pregnancy, birth and childrearing, especially from my own family. I think the only possible upside to this is, as you say, that I might end up pleasantly surprised if life doesn't end up sucking from here on out. It worked out that way with pregnancy and birth, as even though things definitely didn't always go as planned, it all worked out fine in the end and I was able to enjoy myself along the way despite the difficulties that arose. I feel like life is way too short to dread the future every step of the way. I get that for some people, the misery of pregnancy/birth/parenthood is a truth for them, but I really wish it didn't translate so often into presumptive, ostensibly well-meaning "advice"–"You're going to feel so X," "Better stock up on Y because birth is disgusting," "You'll miss doing X so much!"–that often ended up seeming either hyperbolic or maybe just not particularly relevant to my own experience in hindsight. Like, I get that life is hard, but I'd like to experience that in my own way and make up my own mind how I feel about it, and I would feel ridiculous trying to tell someone else that they will feel a certain way about something, even in the exact same situation I'd been in.

    • I've found that when it comes to both marriage and babies, society wants to scold us either way. Doing it? "Be prepared to have your life ruined! No more sex, no more fun, no more freedom!" Don't plan on doing it? "How can you not want to? You're just selfish and immature! It'll be great!"

    • There has been a steady parade of women in my office telling me nothing but horror stories of babies and birth. One of my favorites was "You won't ever want your husband to touch you ever again!" I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration. I am sure I will encounter my own difficulties when my little one comes in February, but until then everybody can really tone it down with the doom and gloom dude.

    • This kind of happened to me too. I mean, there were no fear-mongering friends, but I talked to people and read and read and read, and it all helped prepare me for the idea that having a baby would be soooooo hard. And then it wasn't. While the actual childbirth process didn't go terribly smoothly and nursing was painful for a long time, the actual baby was really very gentle on her new parents' frazzled brains. At one point I actually turned to my husband and said, "Everyone says this is supposed to be hard. When does it get hard?"

      (It got hard when she stopped sleeping around 4 months. But that's an entire newborn stage that wasn't hard!!! How did I get so lucky?)

    • I was wondering about the same thing.
      I understand if you are very young, and nobody around you had kids before, but I have only a couple of kids in my circle, and man, the stories they tell every time you meet them.
      I also did not expect pregnancy to a walk in the park, after seeing my two colleagues look like Zombies for most of it. Non of the "pregnant glow". Now I am in the early stages, let me tell you it sucks.
      I don't quite know about writing "honest parenting blogs" under your real name though, makes me feel uncomfortable for the kids to hear how Jeremy shit all over the stairs and landing, but hey, they do exist and if all you have been told is cute stories, find them.
      I also recommend the "Bringing up Baby" Series and not judging mothers, because you never know what you might end up doing and saying. Don't judge others and don't judge yourself.

    • I also have fear mongering over sharing friends who last night were saying I'd someday know the relief of a hot shower on milk-full boobs. So maybe you're not alone

    • You're not the only one! I can't comment on the reality because I'm not due until January, but yeah pretty much it's been nothing but "You'll never sleep again!" "Say goodbye to your hobbies!" etc. It also didn't help that my parents never seemed that thrilled about having kids.

    • Oh thank you for this. Seriously, reading this thread was about to make me (37 weeks pregnant) have a slight emotional breakdown.

      All my mom friends seem to have this weird mommy martyr thing going on "Well I haven't had clean clothes in X days!" "Well I can't poop alone!" etc

  12. I just got married and I can almost feel the eyes burning holes in my skull wanting us to have kids like…NOW! And yes, many years ago, I had that desire to have kids one day but as I got older, the idea of having kids was truly terrifying. I come from a family that ALWAYS had either babies or little kids running around. I've been babysitting since I was in junior high school and I'm now in my late 20's. I've seen my nephews go from squishy little babies in onesies to teenagers who are constantly on their phones or have headphones on.

    I've also seen what comes with it, I know the stages, the struggles, the stress. I know that a little baby will eventually grow into an toddler, a pre-teen, a teen and an adult. I know that tiny mistakes as parents can effect their personality the rest of their lives! And there is just this HUGE stigma around not wanting kids and it's a bit unfair.

    All I hear is "your baby will be so cute!" "aww I can't wait till you have your own baby!" Babies, I can handle, it's when they grow up that I'm terrified of. My husband and I have had many many discussions on the subject and thank god we are on the exact same page about it. Neither of us is ready to take that on yet, we are a united front on this.

    But yes, one thing most people never talk about when it comes to having babies is when they grow past that stage. And THAT is when shit gets real.

  13. I'm 28 and my husband is 31. We're well aware that we should start having kids if we want kids. I want a family when I'm older…like 50. I see the fun my parents now have with us grown kids, and the support we all have for each other and just how full life can be. But the HAVING kids is what turns me off to the idea. I'm not afraid of the birthing or pain or whatever…just the different life that we'd lead.

    I'm wondering when we'll know 'the time is right'. Right now we have a super fun life and play music and are in bands and record and have a crazy fun lifestyle, and don't you fu(king say I can't still have that when I have a baby. People do it all the time. I follow blogs of touring musicians that just strap their kid along for the ride and live life how they always lived life. So I guess I know I can have both…a kid and the music.

    BUT – BUTTTT – here's where I'm terrified — Do people feel a 'void' in their life? Like they need a kid to fill that void? Cuz lemme tell ya, I have no void. I'm perfectly content with life right now. But like I said, I am confident I will regret not having kids when I'm retirement age. How do you know it's time to make a kid? What am I supposed to feel? Halp??

    • I don't think there is a right or wrong time or any time at all for that matter. I'm in the same boat. I love my life! I have a great job, me and my husband love going out to dinner, going to movies, spending the day at disneyland, taking trips to visit family and friends across the country, we love our freedom! The only thing that "holds us down" sometimes is our dogs and they have each other and if we have to leave them with sitters they most we have to do is say "just make sure they have food and walk them a few times a day". Super easy.

      I think, when you have a genuine desire to have a kid is when you should start considering it. If you bring a baby into the world with this expectation that they are going to fix something that is missing, there's just already pressure on them to make whatever is wrong better, and that's not fair and may not even work out the way you thought.

      Think of having a kid like when you buy an expansion pack for a game (sorry, I'm a giant nerd). The game was great and challenging on its own but now you have the option see all these new tougher levels and challenges and especially a new never-before-seen character.

      I'm at the point where I'm happy with all the different challenges and levels my life is already offering and I don't think I can handle a whole bunch of new ones haha

      • I totally love the expansion pack analogy 😛 When/if I have children in the future, they are totally being nicknamed that.

    • I've been thinking about this too– I don't feel a void in my life; if anything I feel excess, all the time! There are so many more things and people and activities and commitments that I would like to give my time to than I actually have time and energy for. I am not bored. I do not lack for fulfilling projects. My sense of connectedness to other humans totally exists. I don't feel like my family is incomplete or would be incomplete if my wife and I never had kids.

      We still want to have them, and for various reasons the time is basically upon us.

      So I'm with you. No void, no ABSOLUTE NEED, but a strong, curious, conflicted, excited, mysterious inclination that yes, this is the thing we are going to try to do.

    • Now, I can give you my perspective on why the time was right for us.
      Because we had already settled, and had had all of our "wild year"-adventures by the time we met.
      Because every time I talked about having kids, people would tell me: "Oh, but you will never be able to go anywhere spontaneously/travel/eat out/meet non-parent friends/whatever EVER AGAIN", we were either not doing these things anymore or were bored of it (all night benders, going out to eat etc.), we felt they were minor sacrifices (not traveling spontaneously, hanging out with single friends, see clubbing) or were not true (not travel, not work, not have sex, not have fun).
      Because I felt the activities we did have on the weekends that we enjoyed most (hiking, traveling to friends, sightseeing, gardening, crafting) might just as well include kids with only a bit more hassle.
      SUMMARY: We were already boring-ass grownups. Hope the long comment helps.

  14. Babies can cry for literally no reason. They can do this for a while…hours, if they want to.

    Attempting to find a reason, trying to make sense out of why the baby is a screaming monster for an hour and a half then suddenly stops will make you crazy. Try to chart it and you'll end up covering your wall with pieces of paper connected by red string (…just me?).

    Accepting that once you've eliminated the known (Baby, are you hungry, gassy, in need of a change, etc.) that this is just one of those times is -flipping hard.- This website (http://purplecrying.info/) the hospital told me about helped.

    On the other hand, I was told over and over again that no matter how hard you try to be "equal partners" at parenting, that those plans fall by the wayside once the baby arrives (that biology, cultural expectations and circumstances will conspire to make me the more nurturing, present parent- the Mom). That hasn't happened to us, and I feel bad saying that because I don't want to devalue the experiences of other people who have had equal partner parenting plans fall apart, but also… it hasn't happened to us. Ed is the nurturer of the two of us, he's better at most of the technical stuff (swaddling, burping, changing diapers), he got the "mother ears" (baby starts to fuss and he instantly wakes out of a dead sleep), and he runs the night shift while I sleep (I run the morning shift while he sleeps). I guess this was an instance of "you'll see" that just hasn't been applicable to us.

  15. The exhaustion was relentless, no question. But the thing that was hardest for me was not the baby, but all the people swooping in on my newborn. I had a friend who warned me beforehand "there's going to be a lot of people who want time with the baby, and it's going to be your job to manage that. Just remember IT'S OK TO SAY NO. You are well within your rights to pick up your baby, say "we're taking a nap," and shut the bedroom door, no matter who is sitting in your living room expecting to be entertained." But I had no idea how hard and exhausting managing everyone's expectations would be. Grandparents demanding 24/7 access, yelling in the baby's face to wake her up because they continually insisted on visiting during naptime, my own mother not-so-subtly implying she thought I was selfish for breastfeeding, childless relatives telling me I was doing it wrong, whole days where the only time I held my own infant was when I pried her from the perfume-and-cigarette scented arms of someone else while I repeated "she's screaming because she hasn't eaten in six hours while you passed her around, she is not screaming because she's allergic to my milk." People coming to 'help out' who just sat on my couch and expected me to hobble around feeding & entertaining them. I resented the hell out of all of them. I just wanted quiet time alone with my baby, and everyone from the grandparents to the baby books made me feel guilty for wanting to tell them all to shut up and go away because I was "turning down help" and "she's our baby too." With our first, we said yes to everyone and that made it SO HARD to get used to having the baby there and impossible for us to get the hang of it and establish a routine. With our second, we laid down the law and held everyone off for several weeks. It was SO much less stressful.

  16. I do not have a child of my own…yet. (We're working on it!) I have a huge fear of being a parent and having children. Therapy has helped. I'm absolutely fucking terrified but I have recognized that I do want to be a mother.
    I am extremely close with my sister and her three children (all under 7!) and have watched her go through some crazy challenges: a colicky newborn while her husband was fighting in Iraq, a preemie that we almost lost three times in the fist day and had to spend weeks in neonatal unit, an unplanned (but welcomed) third pregnancy while already having two toddlers and a husband who works full time and goes to school full time, one child that requires a special diet and medications for epilepsy and another with a learning disability. I have seen first hand how difficult being a parent is, which is why I never wanted any until Hubby changed his mind and started begging for one.
    Since Sis was raised by the same shitty parents as I was, she is really the only person who can truly understand my issues with parenthood. When I called her mid panic attack because Hubby blindsided me one day with his babyfever, she gave me some of the best advice I've ever heard, and hopefully it will help those of you in the baby trenches:

    'They never said it would be easy, they said it would be worth it"

  17. The adrenaline and love (okay, okay, oxytocin) fueled me for the first 6 weeks postpartum. I felt empowered, on top of the world, though I cried all the time over 'silly' things like Hallmark commercials. I was the most tender I've ever been. Nobody prepared me for that rush of love I felt. But I was overwhelmed by it all. I felt like I had prepared for the first few months, or year, to be a rough transition….

    But what I was blindsided by was the early toddlerhood. Oh my God I felt like I was losing my mind. The sprint of sleep deprived infancy had turned into a marathon, and it felt like I had been tricked. Like starting a new relationship where there's adjustment, but then being like 'oh shit this is for real." 15-20 months were some of the hardest for me because a) he was mobile, b) zero attention span c) sucky sleeper. I wasn't prepared for that. And it's part of my hesitation about having another kid…not the infancy period, but the early toddlerhood. Oh God it was rough.

  18. Both of my brothers are older than me – one by 10 years, one by 6 years. Between them they have 6 kids. They made it look pretty easy, the whole child-rearing process…I watch them raise all these children who are totally different, with different personalities and challenges. I've watched my sister-in-laws go through what seemed to be straightforward pregnancies and uncomplicated births. I saw all this and thought 'yeah, it'll be ok.'

    Then 3 years ago, my best friend announced that she was pregnant. I watched her go through a pregnancy full of pain and problems, I saw her go through a very traumatic birth which resulted in an emergency c-section and more pain and problems to follow. I heard her speak of her experiencing a level of tiredness that she had never known before. Watched her fiance help her as best as he could, but they were both new to this, both exhausted and emotional, so argued often. They didn't sleep, or eat a proper meal or even leave the house for weeks. Her mother swept in and saw they were not coping, and did their washing, shopping and cooking for them. I heard my best friend tell me how she had struggled to breastfeed her baby, and sobbed because she felt like a failure. She suffered very badly with PND and I felt a great sadness for her. Although she loved her little boy more than anything in the world (and still does), her whole life had turned upside down. This opened my eyes, truly, to the side of having a baby that is not talked about so often.

    I have since watched another of my friends go through the joy of announcing her pregnancy, only to suffer for months with severe hyperemesis gravidarum, which resulted in hospitalisation and, tragically, the loss of her baby. To watch our friends go through this was utterly heartbreaking. Months later, she got pregnant again, and this time they found a treatment for her which allowed her to successfully carry the baby to term. She too had a traumatic birth, but had a beautiful baby girl, who came with a new set of challenges. Their baby had severe reflux and brought up every feed. Baby struggled to breastfeed and cried constantly with hunger and discomfort. They put her on a formula designed to help the reflux, but this made her constipated and did not stop the reflux. Baby screamed if you put her down, she was constantly hungry and in severe discomfort, she only settled when she was in constant motion (e.g. being rocked). They tried elevating one side of her moses basket, no dice. They tried putting her in a little swing, did not work. When I saw them 3 weeks after baby was born, both parents were utterly exhausted. They did not know what to do, they too had no sleep, or proper meals, or time outside of the house, for weeks after baby was born. Our friend, the new dad, looked at me with tears prickling in his eyes and said "I knew this was going to be hard, but I didn't realise just HOW hard it would be." I spent that weekend we visited just holding the baby and rocking her and feeding her to give them a bit of a break, and my heart really went out to them.

    The thing is, both of these friends lived in the same city as their families. My husband and I live 50 miles from our families and from almost all of our friends. I am truly terrified of how we will cope when our time comes, if we are blessed with a child. I am 30 next year and the ol' biological clock enjoys poking me whenever I see a pregnant woman, or cuddle a baby or child, especially whenever I imagine the places I go with my children, the things I will teach them and the fun we will have.

    And then I remember all of the tears, the pain, the heartbreak, the worry, the depression, the fear, the anxiety – the pure exhaustion I have watched my friends go through, and I am happy to wait just a little while longer. Of course, they all tell me 'that first smile, though…' and I'm sure it is a beautiful feeling, but for now, I am happy to just imagine it.

  19. The only warning I feel you can possibly give is "you have no idea what's going to happen, but it's gonna be pretty crazy." Every single time an infant comes home it's so different! The most I tell someone who's expecting is, "whatever happens, be gentle and forgiving with yourself." Because seriously, practically anything could happen and there's no way to warn them!

  20. I am a single mom by choice. I say I didn't meet Mr Right so I went ahead without him. My daughter has severe GERD–gastroesophageal reflux. She was diagnosed with failure to thrive at 12 weeks. In her first year, I had to deny a feeding tube 3x because she was so underweight. My breast milk was low fat, I was pumping, dumping the early stuff, hoping to enrich the fat content, and she was still underweight. I was adding caloric supplements and formula powder to increase the caloric content. I finally weaned and went to formula at 6 months, and she gained a whopping 1 pound in a month. I thought we were over the hump. Then she got her first ear infection. Blammo. GERD regression, eating regression, my life turned upside down. A major depression for myself (no one warns you of the possibility when you wean!). She lost weight 2 of the next 6 months, struggling with repeat ear infections until she gained enough weight that the premier children's hospital in the world would finally put ear tubes in. By that point, she wouldn't touch food. I set an alarm for every 3 hours and got up and dream fed her a bottle supplemented with a non-nutritionally complete supplement for cancer patients, all through the night, for over a year.

    It took another 13 months for me to actually see my daughter eat a piece of food; she was 25 months old. She needed a year of OT and 6 months of speech therapy to get to that point. Despite having a great paying job, I had to apply for Medicaid to help for health costs–it was a decision I resisted but don't regret.

    Her first 18 months are the principal reason she will be an only. Yet, I wouldn't change it for the world. It was stressful, and the nights were rough, but I know that there could have been worse illnesses. We still struggle to this day with the behavioral fall out of chronic GERD–critically under-diagnosed and under-appreciated by many pediatricians. I mourn the fact that my 4-year old does not have pleasant associations with food. She's never eaten one of her birthday cupcakes, but has recently started eating icing, so I'm hopeful for age 5!

    Becoming a parent is life-changing. I don't have regrets, and only rarely wish for my single days. More like a couple of quiet hours to read without a million questions! The joy of introducing the world to another mind far outweighs the inconveniences (and I didn't even go into my own infertility and pregnancy-related issues!).

    Among the few things I learned, would change, or wish from my experiences:
    1) I wish someone had told me to stop breast feeding sooner. I was a massive over-producer (easily pumped 50 oz a day), but it was skim milk. I was literally contributing to my daughter's failure to thrive because of the low caloric content of my milk. Yet among all the specialists we saw, no one bothered to suggest, "why don't you just switch to formula?" Or at least had suggested we test the caloric content of my breast milk–which would have given immediate rationale for weaning. My biggest regret was the pressure to continue breast feeding in the face of mounting evidence that it was not what was best for my daughter.

    2) Doctors are not law. I turned down a feeding tube 3x. I was told it wouldn't be best, but I also knew that once intubated, the odds that my daughter would ever eat normally were slim to none. It was brutal setting the alarms for dream feeding, but I bucked the system and managed to do it. Yet, if she had needed it, if my work hadn't turned the tide, I would have gone for it and dealt with the consequences later. You do things you wouldn't think you could do for your kids.

    3) Find a group–online, in-person, on the phone. Due to her GERD and feeding issues, my daughter most closely resembles those of micro-preemies, even though she was full-term. So, I have bonded with a special group of special needs parents of micro-preemies with feeding difficulties. Those are the parents who told me about the different supplements, mailed me samples so I didn't have to shell out enormous bucks online to try them, and helped me brainstorm feeding options unique to my kid. We only know each other online, but celebrate each milestone as happily as if it were in person.

    4) Find me time. FIND IT! I paid big bucks for a special needs babysitter who wouldn't freak out when my daughter inevitably threw up half her lunch, just so I could get out for 3 hours on my own without a phone call. Worth every penny, even if I inevitably window-shopped.

  21. I find it both far easier and far tougher than I as warned. I honestly don't know how I feel from day to day. I have a just-turned-two-year-old and another on the way in April. Another?! I ask myself. ANOTHER!?!? Because sometimes my son is awesome and this is exciting and he's adorable and helpful and turning into this amazing, smart, creative person every day. And sometimes he's pooping on my living room chair (on accident, in all fairness) and dumping milk all over and hitting and laughing about hitting and whining and I take twenty minutes to cry into my cold cup of tea.

    But it's also tough to know how much of this stress is 'parenting' and how much is being a stay-at-home mom, since I got pregnant so young that I don't have a career and so going back to work between babies wasn't financially feasible (all income would have gone to daycare. All.). So is it tough to be a mom? Or is it tough for me to make waaaaaay less than my husband, to not feel like I'm improving the world, to not spend enough time with adults, to put unfair pressure on myself to do all of the housekeeping/parenting/cooking plus freelance editing/crafting/writing/feeling like I'm capable of non-June-Cleaver-ness?

    A community makes a huge difference. While I KNEW moms when I had him and I've loved my mothering.com due date club, I didn't really get close to two in-real-life friends until this last spring, and having a weekly dinner with them and their toddlers and husbands plus a pretty regular coffee date while toddlers run around and eat snacks has been a lifeline.

    I feel like I won't know if this was certainly the best decision for another thirty years, which is partially terrifying but partially leaves me, you know, thirty years to make the most of it.

  22. I absolutely don't think it is discussed enough. I don't have biological children yet, but my husband and I have full custody of his daughter and have since she was four. It was a huge adjustment going from single person to wife and mother of a special needs child. I know it's not quite the same as the shock of having an infant, but I thought after ten years of nanny experience with kids of all ages (and twin infants too…so sweet!), I'd have a better handle on it. Two years in, it's still quite difficult sometimes. There are weeks where she's nearly perfect and giving me stickers for being the "best mom ever" and others where I seriously contemplate just leaving her on the playground for someone to be deceived by her cuteness and take her home before she reveals her true nature.

    It's terribly sad that people feel the need to portray life and parenthood as perfect all the time. I also think (on a relatedish note) that we don't talk enough about what is involved in the process of making a baby. I'm adopted and my mom went through several years of infertility prior to my adoption, so I knew it didn't happen immediately for everyone, but nobody warned me about how soul-sucking the process of desperately wanting something that you can't seem to produce despite so many others doing it every day is. Two and a halfish years in, we're out of options. We can't afford fertility treatments or adoption and we're just stuck until we can. I would have liked a better heads-up that that could happen instead of having my concerns belittled by, "Oh, you can always adopt/Science can do amazing things!"

    • I've known I've wanted kids since I was in high school, and also known that it's not going to be easy, being queer I can't just skip birth control and suddenly get pregnant. Your description of "how soul-sucking the process of desperately wanting something you can't seem to produce despite so many others doing it every day is" perfectly describes how I feel. There is no such thing as "just adopt!" (it took my aunt years to adopt my cousin) and, as Ariel wonderfully detailed in her post about having Tavi, fertility treatments are neither easy nor affordable for many people. I wish you good luck and as much patience as possible with your daughter (having been a rather hellish child myself).

    • I think this is something that isn't talked about nearly enough. Rarely is becoming a "blended" family a celebrated process. There are no showers, no people bringing you dinners, no family/friends coming over, no time off work to help with the adjustment, etc. and folks are expected to become insta-parents to little ones who may have varying degrees of even wanting this family configuration. I had lived on my own for 10 years, and then, boom! I was living with 3 other people…everything about my home-life changed and there was little support in my friend/family community (I'm guessing because no one else in that group was a step-parent).

  23. Oh I so agree! Definitely NOT talked about enough. I fully expected to be exhausted and overwhelmed when I had my son but there is no way, ever, you can prepare for the sheer exhaustion and emotional roller coaster that is parenthood. I tell anyone that asks the TRUTH about bringing home a new baby…it sucks. And it's the hardest thing you will ever do. But, here I am with a 22 month old and I will say this…all of those cliches that people say…"it's SO worth it!" are cliches for a reason. Because as time goes on, it's true. As I reflect on WHY it's true I think it's because with time these crazy little humans that start out as strangers become completely woven into your family thread. So much so that you cannot imagine life without them. It's true. But that only happens with time. I certainly did not feel that way for the first several months. Now, does it get easier? No. Things change. As they grow, sleep gets better, they can communicate, tell you they love you…but they throw tantrums, destroy your house, and put themselves in perilous situations every chance they get. So it's always hard. But it's an ever-evolving hard. Ah, parenthood…harder than you could ever prepare for and more amazing than you could ever imagine.

  24. I'm at that point in my life where a good deal of my biologically-able and willing-to-do-it friends are having babies. I can see the strain in their faces some days when they're just trying to keep it all together.

    Babies are hard-ass work and I think it's infantalizing to new parents to make them feel like they're doing it wrong trying to figure what's going on with a being who's sole way of communicating is screaming until it's need is met.

    That shit is hard, and you should feel overwhelmed.

    When one of my friends had their now-two year old, we went to visit soon after his birth. I was holding him and he just started SCREAMING. I had no idea what was going on. I checked to see if he was wet. I did the vampire finger test to see if he was hungry. I did everything I could think of and I was *panicking* thinking I did something.

    Turns out he just wanted to be held by mom and was done with me.

    and he wasn't even my child. I can only imagine enduring that stress all day, every day, until language skills develop.

  25. as the mother of a 7wk old yes to all of this! I also nannied, expected the worse and was still blindsided by the whole experience of taking care of a baby. I hadn't heard any of the downsides except for in passing. I've been trying to find mom groups this week and as soon as I mention my issues they're all like, yes! this is also my war story and so on. The only reason I haven't gone insane is because my husband took 1 month paternity leave.

  26. As someone who really wants kids (and so does her partner) but isn't ready yet, can I just express my appreciation for everyone who's willing to honestly share their experience. I have no idea what our experience will be like, but I'm so grateful that there's a range out there.

  27. We have 3 neices all 3 and younger.
    We've aided in-laws as they adjust to newborn life, and have seen the ups and downs they've gone through (including a 3 hour, none stop crying babysitting session), and, as a bonus, I work in a toy store.

    After 2 years of trying to have a kid of our own, even knowing how horrible the first months will be… I think I will be so happy just knowing that hey, we made a miracle. We made life! … I will be very happy to put up with the crappiness to get the tiny person we want so much.

  28. I expected it to be pretty rough – but that was because, as a bipolar person, I already knew that I was going to have hand off a lot of stuff. Bipolar people, even more then regular people, desperately need routine. We need 8-10 hours of good sleep a night and to keep ourselves healthy and relatively stress-free. I knew with a baby that was never going to be totally possibly, but I could get as close as I could. Rule 1 was that my husband did the night feedings. Under no non-emergency circumstances does Mommy wake up. Daddy can feed baby just as well. And you know what? At first I felt really selfish for that, but I got over it quick.

    But overall, I have to say the biggest real talk I can impart is this: It is OK to sometimes hate your baby. Not hate in the evil sense, but really, really, dislike them in the present moment. I remember one day on a weekend when she just would not stop crying when I was alone with her. I was getting more and more pissed and anxious and (given that I have a history of acute episodes that come on pretty rapidly) I was starting to get scared that I would lose some control. I got so angry that I held her up to face me, just looked at her screaming and said, "You know what? Fuck you, kid." Then I put her in the Amby and left the room. I went back in around 10 minutes later when she had stopped screaming, picked her up, and just picked up where we left off. And you know what? It felt good.

    Babies ARE jerks – they're demanding, temperamental and clingy. If those characteristics existed in an adult, you'd probably dislike them. But we don't live in a cultural that acknowledges that one can feel negativity towards a "sweet little innocent baby." (Frankly, I start to doubt the innocent part). Sometimes they will push you to the absolute edge, and when that happens, I think it's cool to rant at them, bitch them out or whatever else you have to say (they don't understand it, it's cool). Maybe I wouldn't do it with an older child, but by that time, maybe there are better options.

    I think that the relationship you have with your kid is very much the relationships you have with anyone else. There will be wonderful days filled with love, and there will be days you can't stand to be in their presence. It's okay to have those days, it's okay to have negative feelings towards anyone, even kids and even cute babies. Once I stopped holding myself to that impossible "forever loving mother" standard, I got a lot better at it.

  29. I thought I would love her immediately, that I would take to parenting like a fish to water. My husband did, I didn't. Thank goodness for him. I thought I would have no problem breast feeding, reality was me struggling, dealing with the fact that I could not produce enough milk. I didn't really feel a connection with her until I went back to work – it was when I relaxed and let my husband handle most things. My daughter is two years old – it's hit and miss for both of us. To all the single parents out there – my hat is off to you. I don't know if I could do it without the husband.

  30. I had visions of a med free birth, where afterwards i would be handed a screaming ball of baby and experience that magical moment you hear about. We'd go home, she'd be exclusively breast fed, we wouldn't use a soother. I expected lack of sleep, i expected an adjustment of sorts but i still was blind sided.

    I ended up with an emergency section a week late after she went into distress. I didn't even get a glimpse of her in the OR before she was whisked away. I hemorrhaged. It was four hours before i finally convinced a nurse I NEEDED to at least lay eyes on her. The NICU nurses helped hubby and I navigate all my IVs and lines and coordinate them with her monitors, cpap, IV, gastric tube. And as much i loved to see that pudgy 11lb baby there was no magical moment from us. Breastfeeding was delayed and a disaster. Between the delay, my not so awesome physical state and me having to spend another three days in hospital just before she turned a month old for another unexpected surgery, my supply sucked. so we supplemented. And NICU had given her a soother.

    Exhausted doesn't come close to describing how i felt. I was a zombie.and serves me right for declining a blood transfusion. I'm a nurse and know exactly how bad my lab work was and i declined anyway. That was a mistake.

    I had constant feelings of guilt that my body had failed in being able to birth her "properly" and now my body couldn't feed her either. And i felt no special bond. Of course i cared about her but also part of me felt like she could have been any body's baby. She ate, she pooped, she fussed, she slept. Repeat. I was plagued by shame for not feeling that magical bond society says you should have.

    I went from working full time out in a busy high paced line of work to being trapped in a two bedroom apartment in the middle of the Canadian winter with a newborn. Hubby is military and left for several months when she was two months old. I will be honest and say yes, absolutely i was depressed and anxious. I constantly worried thst i wasn't doing enough for her, that I wasn't a good enough mother. And I felt guilty that i missed my work. I graduated four long years of university and only worked six months before going on maternity leave. i felt guilty for saying i enjoyed my work and missed it especially when I felt like inaudible worked so hard to get my degree.

    It took a long time for me to work thru the feelings of confusion, guilt, shame and anger that i had, particularly towards myself. Now number two is due to arrive. Two weeks after we take possession of our newly purchased house. With hubby scheduled to leave for 12-14 months when number two is just 5 months old. This time i am going in with the only expectation being it will not be what i expect lol. I realize i habe no idea what to expect as we add another member to the family. I have no idea how my toddler will handle it. I have no idea how I'll manage two on my own lol. So now I'm just hanging on for the ride.

  31. My second baby cried for 2 hours before bed EVERY NIGHT for her first 15 months. In 15 months she never slept longer than 3 hours in a row. At 21 months, she is still the most intense baby I know of. I had an easy first baby, and for that I'm so grateful. He was my cuddly, thoughtful baby.

    However, I am also grateful for my yelling daughter. She is sparkly, and a brilliant talker.

    The reason why people say having children was the most amazing thing they ever did, is because it's true. Before kids we had our graduate school degrees, our amazing jobs, travel, sports. But it doesn't compare to watching my son figuring out that 4 x 4 =16, and having my daughter tell me that she wants the blue crayon. It's crazy, but true. I guess that's how hormones work!

  32. No one prepared me for the horror of other people. "eww natural birth, yeah right!" Seriously, 'can I hold him so you can ___?", " do you want us to ___ for you?" "can we help?" "can we come over and ___?" 'you know____ right?" NO!!!!!

    Not only were everyone's horror stories about natural birth and breastfeeding wrong and completely caked in nothing but fear mongering, but everything else they spewed and offered as 'well meant advice' was awful.

    The babe slept and breastfed VERY well. I was incredibly shocked because everyone tried to make having a newborn seem like the WORSE THING THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN. They were very very wrong. Yes I understand everyone/every baby is different, but I felt like it was pretty easy.

    The horror in the newborn phase was everyone but my husband and the baby. The phone never quits ringing, the cell phone never quit with the dang notifications, our computers beeped and dinged with even more notifications. Lord forbid we didn't call someone right back, right then and there. They would only leave more and more messages wondering if we were ok. Because obviously something horrible was why we didn't respond to their calls ASAP. Explaining that you just want peace and quiet really, and I mean REALLY ticks family off. They acted like they were being kept away from 'their' precious sacred baby. Like you hated them. It was awful. Everyone assumed I would need them to run to my aid and save me from the baby. I hated it. The constant badgering made us wait a full week after the birth to let ANYONE come over. That full week of no visits was incredible. Nothing but rest and bonding. Amazing.

    And even now that my son is 2&1/2, the hell in parenting for me is other people. My son has a speech delay and the questions range from flat out accusatory (yep, It's my fault, beat the babe so hard he doesn't want to speak) to over worry. Any time any family member finds out that my son has been to his therapy sessions they act like it was the most life changing thing ever, and now he will suddenly speak fluently like an English professor. They ask millions of questions when really, it was just another session. No Big Deal.

    The advice never ends. Sorry, not sorry, don't want your advice, don't want your help, don't need it, please go away.

    Now at baby showers when the host asks for advice for the parents-to-be, I always write that the trouble will be other people, and saying No to them. That it is more than ok to just say NO, and even tho the 'helpful' person will be offended, you just have to do what you have to do to stay sane.

  33. I'm currently expecting our first and, honestly, while I am mostly enjoying the experience this child is already making its presence known in a negative way. The sudden stabbing pain through my cervix for example. It made me panic that something was wrong, but no, my midwife assured me that it is only baby kicking my cervix. Oh joy! People have told me that feeling baby kick for the first time is a 'lovely' feeling or 'feels like popping bubbles'. Well, so far my experience is more along the lines of 'ow, that f***ing hurt!' I'm sure that we will be fine, but I have no doubt whatsoever that I will have moments of wishing that we were still child free because I have those feelings already. The decision to have children is an emotional one and not a rational one. When I think about it rationally I think 'what the hell am I doing?' But when my emotions take over I absolutely know that this is what I want.

  34. I have a 3 year old. Recently, I had an epiphany that I am just not the mothering type. This has become a hard realization to face. I feel a ton of guilt for not being the mom my child deserves. No one ever talks about this. However, since accepting this, my life is slowly becoming easier. Instead of wallowing in what life could have been, I am accepting what it is. I make a conscious effort to try to be better for my son. He didn't choose to have a mom who is bad at this. And of course, I love him and want what's best for him. Sometimes, he is awful, and sometimes so am I. I think parenting is a journey that is different for everyone. I wish people were more honest about what it's like.

    • I think that this is really good to admit. I am not the mothering type, either. I hate the label 'mom,' and yet…I really like getting to know this little person that's in my life. When I've taken a step back from the whole MOTHERING thing, I get along quite well with having a child living with me. My heart even starts to beat a little faster now when he calls me mommy, and I'm even thinking of having another child. I'm not sure I'll ever really be the mothering type, but I do love my kiddo and looking at it like this mysterious experience where I get to see a baby grow up to be a little person, is magical. And then he poops and smears it on the wall and I think, 'seriously? why am I not childfree?'

  35. Okay I'm going to put this out there. The reality is that yes, babies suck. There are paybacks that make it worth it. Those who are parents do understand that in ways that those who are not parents really can't.

    What we are dealing with here is a little thing that Anthropologists (those who study why people do what they do, and in which I have an MS) call enculturation. Enculturation is that set of beliefs and practices that a culture puts together and believe/teaches are normal and natural.

    However, I guarantee that for everything that you believe to be normal and natural there is a culture on this planet that believes the exact opposite just as deeply and truly as you do. The idea that motherhood is the most natural instinctive and enjoyable of experiences is enculturated in Americans and much of western culture. It is why we feel guilty when we do things that we believe we "shouldn't" take time for ourselves? OMG say it's not so what kind of a mother am I?!?!?!? Not believe that this is the most wonderful time ever? yeah that is enculturated too.

    In reality parenthood is not instinctual, motherhood is not instinctive (yes I can give academic proofs if you like) . What it is, is an incredibly difficult/steep learning curve that we have to do while sleep deprived at levels that are tortuous. Looking at how prepared you were before this all happened, you were as ready as you could be. And honestly had anyone come up to you and told you the truth you would have thought they were crazy. You would have poo pooed our, "NO really when they say that parenthood is the toughest job you'll ever love they aren't joking! and the beginning sucks!" You would think that we had not been prepared, we had not read enough, we just were bad at it but that you'd be fine. These are all normal reactions when our enculturated beliefs are challenged.

    There are some South American cultures that encourage things during labor that actually make it more dangerous and painful. But if you were to try to tell a pregnant woman not to do those things they would violently disagree with you. The point I'm trying to make here is that we could try to warn people of the suckage of those first few years of parenthood, but we would not be believed and if we push that idea too hard we could lose friends over it.

    Believe me I've seen people (women) almost come to blows in a college classroom because we were doing a cross cultural examination of ways of giving birth and showed how some of the pretty standard Western ideas were false and people started losing their shit.

    • Great comment! See also beliefs about childhood, such as:

      1. Children are innocent.
      2. Children are naturally creative.
      3. Children are naturally little savages who need to learn to become civilized.
      4. Children are priceless (see sociologist Viviana Zelizer's fascinating work on the shift from very small awards to parents in wrongful death cases to very large awards. In the late 19th/early 20th century U.S., the dollar amount would often be calculated by adding up the amount of money the child would have earned for the family over x number of years as a child laborer. The idea that a child's life is irreplaceable is a very recent idea in our culture.)

  36. Finally, a place where I can ask for honesty! It is so hard to ask parents and child-free people whether they regret their choices, because if they do, who would want to admit it?
    For those of you who are child-free and past the time you could biologically have children if you wanted them "naturally" (I am adopted, so that term always seems weird to me but I can't think of another right now!), do you ever regret your choice to remain child-free?
    For those of you who did decide to have children, do you ever regret it? Do you ever wish you had the freedom of a child-free lifestyle?

  37. I miss the first 3 weeks of my sons life- it was the only time that he was easy to handle! He nursed well, he slept, I slept, I got things done…then when he hit four weeks old the colic kicked in and him and I would curl up and cry together. For hours. Nothing I did could stop the crying. Combine this with living with my father who would freak out over crying babies and boom! There goes my milk supply because of the stress. Literally every time my sone cried I would tense up because my dad would give me a look that made me feel like a terrible mother because I couldn't get my son to calm down.
    If your able, my advice would be do not, I repeat, do NOT live with your parents or in laws and start a family. Mine was an oops otherwise believe me, I would've held off until we were living in our own place. We have our own place now and even though my son is still extremely stressful (to be blunt- I love my son, really I do, but quite frankly he is an asshole 90% of the time). I guarantee it is far less stressful since only my husband and I have to deal with it.

    • I would second this. My son was an accident as well, so my husband and I are living with my mother-in-law. Do not recommend. Would not repeat the experience. =x= My 16 month son still takes a bottle and doesn't sleep through the night because he sleeps with her husband, who spoils him rotten. I've finally stopped working second shift, so I can be home with him at bedtime, so I'm crossing my fingers that things will get a little better soon.

  38. Also, I think an important part of what you said, being a nanny taking care of other people children – is completely different from having your own. I was a pre school teacher before being a stay at home mom, and I thought, I can handle 10 , 2year olds by myself, and 3 babies in the nursery… how hard can one infant be? Very hard. It's completely different when you are the one responsible 24 hours a day of taking a care of a new life. The demand for one on one attention is much harder than dividing your time between multiple children ( who have other kids their age to engage them, play with them) it really shocked me and I felt like a terrible mother, why can't I make my child happy when every other child loves me, why is my child screaming and crying when I sing him a lullaby and another baby goes right to sleep in my arms. It was a very difficult transition, but I learned, my child is a unique individual with different needs and I had to learn how to respond differently to him ( also he is a dictator, I had to learn this and not give in to every demand) but for me it really has been the most incredible experience, even through all the difficult times, because he is my family, and … Ohana

    • I remembering talking to a mom at a park while I was babysitting once. She asked which kids were mine and I said, "Those two, but I'm just the babysitter." She replied wistfully, "Oh, that must be nice. You get to go home at the end of the day." She immediately added, "I mean, I love my kids, of course." I don't have kids yet, but I do want them, and I sometimes think of her comment. I'm glad I've been around babies and kids of all ages my whole life, and I work with preschoolers, because I hope it means I won't be completely blindsided. But, getting to go home at the end of the day is not an option when they are your own kids!

  39. I lost my shit about a week into the process. I had an emergency C-section after my son decided to kick his way out, foot forward. I had been committed to exclusive breastfeeding, but he was jaundiced (an incredibly common condition for infants) and the hospital suggested supplementing. I was having a hard time remembering to take the pain medicine they had prescribed to me, so I was hurting, -bad.- And my son was an easy baby. I'm pretty sure of that. No colic, grew quickly and normally, got past the jaundice pretty quickly. But the stress of it all got to me for awhile. I found that keeping a chart of feedings, diaper changes, and when I had taken my medicines helped me out. Just a quickly jotted line in a spiral notebook while he was eating anyways. It helped me turn this crazy hectic 'what the fuck is even going on here' into a routine, as well as keep me from wondering, constantly "When was the last time he ate?!?" It helped me wean him from the supplement bottle, too. I stopped charting after the first month, but it saved me from insanity for that first little bit.

  40. I hear and read a lot about birth stress and how it is extremely tiring and confusing (although wonderful) because you want to do the right thing and there is no right answer to "why is he crying?" (at least no simple answer that works all the time).

    But it is the first time I've read about the fear of being in charge of a kid in this world, although I have often wondered. It feels like something really huge and overwhelming. I can only hope that having two cats will at least soothe my anxieties about the smaller issues – how to handle the poop and the pain and so on.
    Thanks for writing this.

  41. This is great. It's made me realise two things. Firstly, that having children, just like any other major life transition, should always be a conscious choice, not just an unavoidable "something people do".

    But secondly, rather than be put off by all this, I need to see it as just another major life transition (should I choose it). The kind of transition where a lot of the really shitty stuff sounds a lot shittier when you put it all in a big list. Now I'm just hypothesising here as I'm not a parent, so please don't assume I think everyone who's having a tough time parenting is just making it up; that's not what I think at all! I think it probably sucks a lot of the time, but it's just the new normal and each time you get covered in poop you may not be thinking "Well this is just great. Why did I have children? I hate my life!" You're thinking "Well, I'd better clean up this poop" and get on with it. Rinse and repeat. Parents please correct me if I'm wrong. I'm just trying to rationalise it all in my own messed up wants-kids-but-also-after-reading-shit-like-this-kinda-doesn't-want-kids brain…

    But maybe It's just like waking up at 5am in the middle of winter to do a 2 hour commute in the rain. TOTALLY SUCKS, but my partner and my mother and so many more people do it every single day – hating it of course – but that's just their normality and they don't have time to hate it every morning; they are too busy just doing the thing, not analysing how rubbish it is.

    If someone was laying out the pros and cons of getting a full-time job in a stressful environment (or any environment), I wouldn't fucking do it. Hell no! I'd live with my parents forever! I'm a teacher, and if someone actually laid out all the shitty bits of teaching out in front of me and asked me whether I'd like to be a teacher or not work at all, there is NO WAY IN HELL I would choose teaching. Nope. Parents' basement forever, cheers.

    I guess my personal conclusion is twofold: Firstly, that I shouldn't read all the hard parts of parenting in one long list. That will just make me assume it's just going to be me thrown into a Saw movie, fending for myself in the darkness, and then I'll decide that wanting to have kids is dumb and why did I ever want them GAHD. Having kids has to be nice at least some of the time, otherwise all the nice quiet, lovely children I have ever encountered must just have been holograms or robots…

    But secondly that if all the cons of parenting (much like the cons of being a nurse or teacher or lawyer or high rise window cleaner or simply working full time) still make me never even want to go there, then that is my right to choose not to do it, much like choosing to stay the fuck away from the aforementioned professions despise them being someone else's passion.

    Essay over.

  42. I wasn't really surprised by any of it. I have a toddler and an infant, and the newborn period was pretty much what I expected. If there was anything that was unexpectedly difficult, it was the numerous appointments for blood draws (to check bilirubin) and weight checks (mine were both early, sleepy, and jaundiced — but perfectly healthy). Driving into the center of the city, parallel parking at a meter, and hauling yourself and teeny baby through an enormous hospital, is not really something you want to have to do a few days postpartum 🙂 Nor is visiting the pediatrician every few days for weeks.(That said, it mostly just distracted from the happy sleepy daze we had going on at home).

    It is EXHAUSTING. Like, you want to laugh at your college self and friends for thinking they were getting by on "little sleep." My first was born around the time Marshall and Lily has their baby on How I Met Your Mother, and we *loved* the episode where they hear everything through a fish tank. It's shockingly accurate. I was tired like I actually walked into the wall and hurt myself and almost the baby tired.

    BUT I expected that. I totally expected it. I actually expected to have a lot more trouble nursing than we did. I expected it to be hard and wonderful and it was. I absolutely understand and respect that not everybody has the same experience and/or take on it, but that was mine. It was pretty close to the magazine photos/commercials (except for the unspeakable quantities of bodily fluids, his and mine, all over the place. But I already knew that I never looked like the models on the fashion magazines sans baby, so I didn't expect to look like a new mother model, either.)

    I am wondering, though — how much experience most people have before they have a baby? I can't remember a time I wasn't around babies. I helped several people as a "baby maid" when I was a teen, going to their house and running the household for them while they rested, so I was around newborns. I have lots of younger siblings and cousins. So I wonder if that's why I wasn't surprised?

    I actually feel like there's a lot of honesty out there. One of the best books I read was "New Mom's Guide to Your Body After Baby" by Susan Wallace. (Disclaimer: It might be Christian, I don't remember. If it was, it was pretty mild and marginal.) But it was super honest and realistic and I might have been more surprised if it weren't for reading that book!

    What I do feel like deserves more attention is Post Partum Depression. That is something that I think needs to be checked on more thoroughly. And I think the US healthcare system needs to be way more practical and helpful to post-partum parents. I almost cried watching "Call the Midwife" in the weeks after my second baby, thinking just how heavenly if would be if someone would just come to the house and weigh the baby, instead of making me get 3 people ready to go out, load up the baby and toddler in the car, drive 30 mins, and wrangle both kids in a cold office for up to an hour while I waited for the dr, and then get them back home!

  43. Could this discussion be expanded to include pregnancy? I am currently trying to conceive and feel like the true horrors of pregnancy are being hidden from me until it's too late to do anything about it. I have asked friends/family who are mothers to fill me in but I don't seem to get very honest answers. I mostly get "It's not so bad and you get a baby when you are done!" and "No need to scare yourself, once you are pregnant you'll find out."
    Maybe they are afraid that if they are honest I will change my mind? I won't change my mind, but would like some honesty regarding pregnancy.

    • I have a 10 week old, so while my memory of pregnancy is recent, it's foggy. But here goes:

      People will ask you how the baby is doing. And really, you don't know. You can't see it, and every time someone asks it makes you feel powerless. No matter you're taking your prenatals, exercising, going to your appointments, counting kicks, eating well–there's only so much you can do to ensure the baby is okay.

      Morning sickness is not limited to morning. Some people get hospitalized because of it. Some people, myself included, had to take medication normally given to cancer patients to stop the vomiting. And reflux. It felt for months like was crawling right back up my throat, and it often did. Realizing that was different from morning sickness was enlightening. Having to switch reflux meds every month to find one that still worked was not.

      Try to avoid getting sick. Back to back sinus infections. A bladder infection that came on so suddenly I felt fine at 6pm on a Saturday; the following morning at 7am I was in the ER getting IV antibiotics and fluids. Gatorade is your friend.

      Getting gestational diabetes. Checking your blood sugar 4 times a day, and having to completely change your diet. Then trying to go out to eat and find something that wouldn't screw up your glucose levels. Or going to visit family and having to bring your own food for dinner because they just don't get what a big deal eating white bread is.

      Premature labor, and walking on eggshells for weeks after hoping it's not the real deal so you give your baby more time to "cook" as they say. I fucking hate that term. Then going past your due date and having to get all sorts of tests done to make sure said gestational diabetes isn't going to cause you to lose the baby. And hoping that it goes away after the baby comes (for me, it did thankfully–but my lifelong risk for type 2 is higher now). Follow that up with getting induced because of preeclampsia at 41 weeks, having the first induction fail, and doing it again the next night–and by some grace of the cosmos it works and I got the pain med free, 6 hour labor I dreamed of.

      But with all that, feeling the baby move, hearing her heartbeat, seeing her on the ultrasound and holding her after she was born was so amazing there's no words to describe it. It was a rough ride (with a brief reprieve in the second trimester) but I wouldn't change it for the world.

    • The experience is very different for everyone. Some women embrace the physical changes, others wish they weren't happening. Some women have x symptom, while others don't. I think a woman's attitude to it all is very important in shaping her individual experience.

    • I hated being pregnant. I really, absolutely hated it. I was nauseous, tired and uncomfortable practically from day 1. I miscarried my first pregnancy so I spent the first four or five months of my second waiting for it to happen again.

      You are public property. Your body is not yours any more. Everyone gets in your business all the time. People constantly tell you that you look big/small/tired/ill. They constantly ask you personal questions that no one would ever ask a non pregnant woman. Are you sleeping? Are you eating? Should you be eating that? How much weight have you gained? My mother in law (who is really nice and utterly well meaning) switched from asking me "how are you" to "how are you *feeling*" until I wanted to kill her. Everyone I worked with told me how huge I looked from about week 22. Cheers, guys, that really makes me feel better. You're not allowed to tell them all to fuck off.

      All of your emotions will be dismissed as "pregnancy hormones". The number of times I wanted to say "I'm not hormonal, you are annoying" was ridiculous.

      I didn't vomit much, but I did feel nauseous every single day for about four months. I went to sleep feeling nauseous and woke up feeling nauseous and while I'm sure vomiting constantly is worse, after a while I was desperate to just actually be sick.

      Sleep. You can't. And everyone will tell you to "sleep while you can". Again, well meaning, but by the seventh month I was so big and so uncomfortable and so heartburny that I couldn't sleep anyway, and having people tell me to sleep was just incredibly annoying.

      Unsolicited advice. A lot. And in my case, my mother repeatedly telling me how much she loved being pregnant. Because, why didn't I?

      Being afraid all the time. You can't see the baby, you can't check it's ok, so every time you don't feel it move for a while you panic (if you're me. YMMV.). You worry about everything you do and eat. You worry about everything the midwives tell you. You spend a lot of time on the "what ifs".

      I could go on with this for a while, regarding all the unexpected symptoms, the sheer epic suckage of labour and delivery, and the total lack of pregnancy "glow" (I delivered at 38 weeks, and I still wonder if I would have started glowing in week 39) but I won't. What I will say is that my son is nearly four weeks old, and while those weeks have been hard, the sheer relief of not being pregnant any more has made all the difference.

      It's not easy, not always, not for everyone, but for me, it was worth it.

    • I'm currently 22 weeks pregnant with my first baby, so obviously I can't tell you about the whole 9 months, but I can tell you right now what it's been like for me so far.

      I'm told that the severity of symptoms can be somewhat (but not completely) predicted by the severity of how you react to your period, how severe your biological mother's pregnancy symptoms were, and your general state of health going into the pregnancy.

      I was irregular, a very light flow when I had my periods, and I had no PMS/cramps/bloating/anything. My mom had super heavy periods and emotional PMS, but she doesn't recall anything beyond some light nausea from her two pregnancies. I started my pregnancy overweight but otherwise completely healthy, so I do not have to gain a lot of weight. So it shouldn't be a surprise that my midwife says I'm her luckiest patient.

      Pre-pregnancy, I would get cravings. Never for cake or junk food. It was always for healthy things, like cucumbers, broccoli, etc. Pregnancy took my cravings to a whole other level: not only did I get specific cravings, I also got specific avoidance control (my baby does NOT like animal fat, so no bacon, ribeye steaks, chicken thighs, etc.), and portion control (I suddenly got a signal to STOP eating). Honestly, I eat far less while pregnant than pre-pregnancy. So I guess I know why I was overweight despite eating healthily!

      In my first trimester, I might have had a mild bout of nausea a little less than about a dozen times total. Usually they were triggered by me trying to eat something I knew the baby didn't want – like a bite of a steak, or when I was feeling super tired (which is a normal trigger for me to feel nauseous so I don't even know if that was pregnancy related). Cabbage kimchi was an instant nausea cure for me. If I couldn't get kimchi, then anything ginger, peppermint, or cinnamon flavored would help. I never threw up.

      The first month or so, my nipples were sore. Then they were fine. I used to sleep through the night, but I had to get up to pee a few times every night. That continued into my fourth month. Tags in my clothes started bothering me, so I had to cut them out. My husband started nesting (and is continuing to do so).

      In either my second or third month, the prenatal vitamins started giving me horrible stomaches. My midwife doesn't actually recommend prenatal vitamins – she prefers that we get all our vitamins through food. I know my body doesn't process B12 from food and was worried about other vitamins. So I switched to what I was doing pre-pregnancy that worked. Liquid folic acid, chewable B12, and regular adult gummy vitamins.

      About three months in, my jeans were too tight and I had to get maternity jeans.

      My thyroid tests came out borderline for needing medication. My thyroid was struggling to keep up with the extra demand. My doctor told me to eat more (iodized) salt and low-mercury seafood. I also stopped eat raw leafy greens, besides lettuce, to avoid goitrogens. The next blood test was good.

      At four months, I had to change my sleeping position. I was a stomach sleeper but it was too uncomfortable. I started sleeping on my side (with a body pillow and a side sleeping pillow) and developed a horrible pain from my left hand all the way up to my shoulder. Because there was no numbness or tingles, and working at my computer 8 hours at work had no effect on the pain, it took me a few days to realize it was carpal tunnel. If you include the word "pregnant" in your google search, you will receive no results on sleeping being the cause. Take out the word "pregnant," and it turns out that there was a study that showed women (not men) are more likely to have carpal tunnel if they sleep on their sides. I went down to Walgreens and bought a wrist splint. I wore it for a few hours for a few days while sleeping to train my wrist. After that, I haven't had any more problems with carpal tunnel.

      Also in my fourth month, I had to box up about 3/4 of my wardrobe and start buying new clothes. I'm following recommendations I've seen online to only buy a few pieces a month.

      In my fourth and fifth (current) months, I've had some off and on pain in my left hip. I'm trying to find time to do some exercises that should help. The pain isn't too bad, I just want to take care of it before it becomes more of a problem. I've also become more prone to acid reflux, but eating alkalizing foods fix that pretty quickly.

      In my fifth and current month, I'm finally finding a little relief from the exhaustion. Part of it probably is because my schedule doesn't allow me to sleep more than 6 hours on work nights, so I find myself taking lots of naps pregnant. It may be better for someone who has more time at night for sleeping. My belly is taking off and the only pre-pregnancy pants I can keep wearing now are my yoga pants. I finally gained my first pound. I can also feel the baby! I thought it would totally freak me out, but it's actually really neat and makes me laugh sometimes.

      Other than the monthly breakdowns, I've also had to deal with eczema flare ups. I ordered organic aloe vera from Amazon (it's like 99% pure), and that's been keeping it under control enough I haven't had to use my prescription lotions. I also clearly have a weakened immune system because I've gotten some kind of cold like virus twice now since becoming pregnant, and both lasted over a week. Pre-pregnancy I would only get sick maybe once every two years and get over it in a couple of days.

      If you want to know about symptoms you could get, you can go through week by week on Baby Center and look under Body Changes. http://www.babycenter.com/6_your-pregnancy-22-weeks_1111.bc

  44. I just had a baby. He's now 13 days old. I can honestly say I never sat & deliberated all the pros and cons of having children; we just knew we wanted them. That said, I was not at all pprepared for the struggle that breastfeeding has been so far. When I was pregnant everyone went on about sleepless nights, dirty diapers, never having another minute alone with my husband, etc… nobody mentioned that feeding problems would leave me sore and bleeding and feeling guilty about giving my kid some formula just so he could eat. The sleepless nights are nothing compared to this feeling of failure and despondency

  45. I know it's really hard the first year of having a baby and I know it's all worth it when you get through that time. But it seems that it is not allowed for me to choose not to want that tough year. No, when I don't get kids I'll end up alone later on, my life won't be complete. It's heavy, kudos to you if you want it, but don't look at me funny because I think it's a big decision that you shouldn't take lightly and that also means that some people choose not to want that.
    The mothers who are having troubles maintaining the "everything is okay" image, are yelling the loudest that everyone should start on kids. Because it is not done to feel overwhelmed by your own creations. There is good reason for that: Kids who feel like their parents have regrets usually don't end up very well. So, in the end. Yes, we should prepare new parents for what it to come. But not at the cost of the psyches of the kids that are already there.

  46. I had a friend tell me when I was preggo that despite the fact that I was one of the kindest, happiest, most generous people she know, that I was going to turn into an awful person once I had my baby. That I was going to become mean and selfish, that I was going to treat other mothers terribly, that I was going to be petty and horrible to other people because I'd want *my* daughter to be first/better/whathaveyou. I cried for about an hour when she left my house. I didn't want to be that person – that I realized *she* was (she told me stories about things she did to other mother's things, like leaving another person's stroller with all their things in it in the pouring rain because she blocked HER stroller with it. In a stroller bank. Where everyone's stroller is blocking everyone else's.) It was awful.

    And then, I didn't turn into that person. I did the opposite. I totally get why other parents stand in the middle of the aisle at the store, totally oblivious. I totally get why parents are always apologizing when they realized they've spaced on what they're doing. I *get* it, and I don't hate them, and I don't want to do mean things to them. Instead I want to sit and have a laugh with all of them. I do run into a few 'grumpy' moms, who *did* turn into that kind of person (they seem to think me smiling and saying hi at a class or storytime means they have to glare at me and say nothing), but I shrug them off and focus on more fun people.

    All the other stuff…yeah it can suck. It *is* exhausting. It totally changes your life – I can't remember the lat time my husband and I got to go out to a movie. You have to account for friends who are kid-phobic (really). In our group of friends, half the couples aren't having any – which is fine, but it means they don't remember that we *do* have one, so they are always planning things for everyone – and then half of us can't go because it's not something kids can really do easily, or it's super expensive, or something like that (y'know, like go to a bar. Or a theme park.). I used to drink a lot, now I hardly ever do. My sleep schedule has completely changed. A year later I *still* don't fit into most of my old clothes – mostly because I'm shaped differently now.

    But I stay flexible. Not everything is going to go as planned, and that's okay. I let myself change and adapt. Temper tantrums happen. Kids fall and bump their heads. Kids have days where all they need is your attention all the time and you won't get anything else done that day. My daughter developed eczema – that throws in another routine, another thing to think about. But it's all OKAY. There's so much I love about her that the stressful tiresome stuff is totally okay. And it does become routine.

    I had pretty much NO experience with kids, other than with my little brother and sister years ago. I knew I wanted them, but they kind of terrified me. But once I had my daughter, I was amazed at the stuff I just *did*, like it was old hat to me. I never took classes or anything, I did some internet reading, but that was about it. Apparently I just have one heck of a mothering instinct. Even my own mother was amazed.

    And to make a long post even longer…pregnancy sucked ass. I had severe back pain, gestational diabetes, several UTI's, some pretty hefty nausea for the first three months, extreme changes in how some foods tasted, and some serious moodiness. I didn't feel like I was glowing, she got her foot stuck under my ribs all the time so I couldn't sit back up again if I was lying down, I had to go on a special diet, I couldn't do anything around the house (despite trying because I had super messy roommates at the time who would do things like leave broken GLASS on the floor), had super sensitive smelling, and I cried at everything. EVERYTHING.

    But it was all totally worth it, and I can't wait to do it again.

  47. I am currently 6 weeks pregnant. And honestly I'm terrified. I wanted this, we both did, I know that I have always wanted a family. But still, the idea of actually being a parent is terrifying. I am already mourning pre-baby life and worried we will lose ourselves and not be 'us' anymore. I know really that the definition of 'us' will just be changing and we will adapt.

    I have little experience with small babies beyond the odd feed. I have never changed one (by choice – I'm stubborn and refused when pushed by my niece's parents). My BF has helped babysit his nephews since he was 15 and is a natural with them. I have no idea what I am doing or how hard it will be… but I'm comforted by knowing that every person, no matter how well read or advised they are, are basically winging it.

  48. Oh Lord… We have 6 week old twins and we were so not prepared for a number of things that have gone down since that positive EPT.
    To start with, we weren't prepared for twins…..

    We weren't prepared for a 10 day hospital stay after their birth. I feel like I was broken in hard early on because I had to learn to be a mom with my babies hooked up to a zillion wires. Diaper changes, feeding, figuring out why they were crying…. all while trying to keep that damn heart monitor on them and the pulse ox on their feet, never mind trying to make sure the feeding tube stayed down.

    My husband was already back at work by the time they came home. I have been taking care of two and the house by my self ever since.

    I have a love hate relationship with breastfeeding. I am having to pump and supplement.
    They eat every three-four hours and you may think that is a long time and enough time to get something, ANYTHING, done but alas I have learned the hard way just how short that amount of time can be. Its even shorter when you are trying to get any amount of sleep that is decent.
    I have woken up so sleepy I couldn't see straight while I have two babies crying because they think they are starving to death and OMG WHY WONT MOM FEED ME. I have walked into doors, tripped over things, fell while holding one of them and hurt my back.
    I have fallen asleep sitting cross legged in the floor while holding bottles in their mouths.
    I have at one point been pretty sure they were each possessed by the devil himself.

    Constipation, spit up, explosive poops, pacifiers EVERYWHERE and then suddenly you can't find a damn one, praying they sleep just one more hour….

    No one is prepared for babies when they bring them home. You learn to adapt and try to handle it gracefully for your own sake and thats all you can do.
    To hell with what strangers think.

    Twin Comments from Strangers
    "Are they twins??!!"
    "OMG Theres two!!"
    "I bet you have your hands full."
    "Better you than me."

    To which I lovingly say "Piss off"

  49. Half my friends seem to be going the opposite direction and telling me every horror story they can think of. Anything and everything from childbirth to sleeplessness to breastfeeding to SIDS has been discussed in horrifying detail over the past 20-ish weeks of my pregnancy (I'm 24 1/2 weeks with my first and probably only at the moment). Most of the time I didn't even go looking for advice. They just offered it up without prompting. So I'm at the point now where some one like my mom will ask me if I'm getting excited and I'm just like "N-not really…"

  50. I like this article a lot, I want children and my husband keeps telling me "its not the right time" or lets wait a little longer till we are in a better situation. and i get what he means. right now we are not so well off financially and we live in a small apartment.But i feel like the more we wait, the more likely we will be child free and not by choice. it would be because of fear. i suffer from some anxiety issues and i have a few phobia's . needless to say i do let fear control my life a little. and i want kids i really do. but the longer i wait the more research i do, and i the more horror stories i find. and i am really concerned about post partum because of the anxiety problems i already have. i believe my husband is the same way. we have discussed it and we definitely want children. and i think it might just be to scarred

  51. I have a five-and-a-half-week-old in my lap right now. It really is tough, especially if you are breastfeeding. I am the only person who can feed her – either I have to feed her directly, or I have to pump so someone else can feed her. It's so overwhelming and I'm so tired.

    I think that one reason people aren't "honest" is because you can't communicate a feeling. I knew that labor is tough and passing a baby hurts, I knew that I'd be feeding every 2-3 hours around the clock. Knowing that doesn't prepare you for what it actually feels like when you've been sleep deprived consistently for more than a month.

    Also, different people handle different things differently. The sleep deprivation is really getting to me, but I don't mind never leaving the house. Other people are more adaptable and not petrified by "what if the baby gets hungry while I'm out? what if the baby cries?" Some need less sleep. Other people are very sensitive to crying. I'm better with tolerating crying than my husband, for example. And since every baby is different… it's hard to predict what the experience will even be.

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