My friend is pregnant, and all I can think is: “Welcome to the club, sucker!”
I delight in parent-to-be smugness. I was there too, I smirk. I can read you quicker than an Us Weekly. I see past your faux-pitying smiles and coquettish eye rolls. I see those complacent shakes of the head as you say: Man, that’s bonkers! Slow-clap for your postpartum BM without stool softeners! But I know what you’re really thinking: it was only hard for us because we’re pussies, but you know the secret handshake.
Just you wait, punks, I think to myself. Those babies are coming for you.
You see, everyone loves to tell a war story:
After my infant started day care, I had the stomach flu for eight months straight!
My baby and I were trapped in a Moby for three days!
My newborn sucked the nipples right off my body!
But that’s when the parents-to-be say: “And you had another child why?”
Here’s why. Memory is an asshole. It plays ruthless, nasty jokes, making us constantly relive the horrors of pregnancy and childbirth—and yet, whenever someone within a fifty-mile radius ovulates, we’re all like, “Oh I miss the smell of newborns! Knock me up, Scotty!” or “Now that I totally understand babies, it would be a shame to waste this knowledge! Another round, good fellow!”
We should be more like the Guy Pearce character in Memento, who wrote himself daily notes because he had no short-term memory.
NEVER FORGET! We should tattoo on our forearms. YOU WERE A MISERABLE BITCH!
You never slept.
You were anxious, and agitated, and your thoughts were gloomier than a Nine Inch Nails song.
You never left your house.
You sucked at breastfeeding.
You missed drinking.
You cried over spilt milk. Literally.
Infant car seats were so heavy.
But maternity jeans were so comfortable.
NO! STOP IT!
Here’s the thing: moms-to-be should roll their eyes and patronize the war veterans with phony smiles. Because the truth is that, despite the best intentions of the hospital classes, the books, and the belly-touching strangers assaulting you at Safeway, parents-to-be can never be fully prepared. Not until they know what to prepare for—the Fear.
It’s the cold, dark, deep-down fear that follows you like a slow, but dogged, stalker. It’s the fear that lets you forget how bad those early months were until the next time you conjure two pink lines out of your urine. It’s the fear that tells you: You’ve made a very big mistake. You won’t like being a parent. You won’t like your baby or what your life will become. Your marriage will tank. You might accidentally kill your baby. You might purposely kill your baby. NEVER FORGET!
I’m beginning to see the cracks in my friend’s armor as she hears more war stories and becomes less polite. I can tell she’s starting to wonder what she has done. Should she have taken a trip to Bali instead? Should she have gotten another dog? In just a few months she’ll be where the rest of us have been: awake and topless at four a.m. while a tiny stranger paws at her boobs. She’ll wonder why no one told her it was going to be this hard.
And in a year she’ll delight in scaring the mucus plugs out of her own smug pregnant friends.
What I should tell her (and all the pregnant ladies I assault at Safeway) is that the clichés are true. Parenthood is the hardest job you’ll ever have. And you can’t quit. But it’s also the most awesome thing you can imagine. Those stories are true too. There will come a point when you miss your child when he sleeps. When you’ll want to hang out with him instead of seeing a movie or trying a new restaurant. When you gleefully plunk down what you used to spend on a pair of jeans on thirty-seven Thomas & Friends trains.
So when the panic attacks come on more frequently than Keeping up with the Kardashians, and you want to sue the hospital for not showing the infant CPR video until after you were pregnant, do this: get a big stack of Post-Its and start writing yourself notes. Be honest, because the “future you” won’t have your resolve.
And when you need someone to hold your babies, hand ’em over. Because newborns really do smell good and I totally understand babies.
It would be a shame to waste this knowledge.
This original piece by Shelly Mazzanoble was written exclusively for In the Powder Room, a division of Hold My Purse Productions, LLC. Images © shmeljov and © valuavitaly via depositphotos.com.