There is, of course, no way to prepare, fully, for having a child. There are innumerable cliches about your world/life/everything changing, about precious moments, about blessings from [Insert Deity Here], and on and on. And yet, all of that is the grandest perpetuation of a lie that mankind has ever told.
The truth is, having a child, particularly a baby, is awful. No one enjoys it, and anyone who says he does is a lying liar. Yes, there are sweet moments and sporadic feelings of whatever hormones and endorphins get released by being around your newborn progeny, but these are but punctuation marks to the dark, run-on sentence that is life with a newborn. The old you, the you that used to have fun and enjoy life, now reads on Facebook or Twitter at 3:00 am about other people having fun because you’re still awake and, damnit, at least somebody should be having fun. And woe be to you if you should utter the profane truth around other parents. Disdain and scorn will be heaped upon you with withering abandon until you rue the very moment your lips parted to speak your mind.
The lies we tell are necessary, unfortunately. For if the truth were more greatly known, the species would end. No one would voluntarily choose that hell. And so, humanity persists, but does so under the veil of deceit. Well, pfft, I say. Pfft. Let humanity end. Here’s the truth, in handy-dandy bullet points.
- You have never, ever known tired like you will know tired. From the time your child comes screaming into the light of day, you will be awake every two hours for the next six weeks, at a minimum. In order to secure your guest spot on The Walking Dead, you need only show up on set as you are. And then, after a while, your child will sucker you into thinking he’s sleeping through the night. Don’t believe him, and don’t count on it being consistent any time soon. That one night he sleeps for more than four hours is an aberration. It won’t happen again for another week. Or more. You will spend the first six weeks (or more!) being woken up every two hours by someone screaming at you in a foreign language, and who won’t stop until you have met the demand(s) that he cannot articulate in a way you understand.
- Baby’s cries have evolved to be un-ignorable. They are grating, loud, piercing, shrill, and… moist. While you will eventually learn to recognize a few of them and to anticipate your kid’s needs pre-emptively, sometimes your kid will just cry for no reason at all. And, due to Mother Nature’s unflinching cruelty, not only can you not ignore these cries, but they will raise your stress level to something akin to trying to juggle, naked, in front of a large crowd while someone sets off a smoke alarm in your face. You will live this way for weeks.
- You will not shower for days at a time. The number of priorities which leapfrog over your personal hygiene is daunting to consider. Just depressing really. You will remember through a nostalgic fog the time in your life when you cleaned yourself — get this! — every day. That is a thing of the past.
- You will, at some point, decide to wear the same clothes for more than one day. Your rationale will go something like this: “Well, I’m not going to leave the house today, and there’s no point putting on clean clothes that will just get spat up on and have to be washed again.” It will make sense to you at the time. It may also be more than one day. You will resemble a hobo and you won’t really care.
- Your house’s cleanliness will mirror your own. And you won’t really care.
- You will make charts, spreadsheets, notes, or lists of how often your child poops. You will devote a disproportionate quantity of brain cells to this information and you will keep it LONG after it’s relevant or useful in the least. After moving to our new house, I discovered the journal we kept of Joshua’s feedings and bowel movements two and a half YEARS prior. Oddly, I still didn’t throw it away and I can’t really explain why. Moreover, when in the company of other parents of babies, you will spend a similarly disproportionate amount of adult conversation discussing poop. In the scant (scat?) minutes you have with your significant other, this topic will come up. You just won’t be able to help yourself.
- You will have murderous or otherwise violent thoughts about your bundle of joy. You won’t act on them, of course, but at least once, you will consider what you’d tell people afterward and whether or not you could dodge a jail sentence. Alternately, or possibly also, you’ll think about leaving your child at the local firehouse or church. You’ll feel terrible and full of shame for having these thoughts, but have them you will.
- You will have terrible nightmares about your child dying, getting sick, hurt, lost, and various combinations of the above. That’s right. Even though you barely sleep, when you do, you’ll be scared awake.
- Something you own that is dear to you will be broken or otherwise ruined. So long favorite shirt. Nice knowing you, beloved first edition book. Your child will be an indefatigable fountain of spit up, poop, and pee, and, like Old Faithful, it will come out all day and all night. Inevitably, something you really, really like will be like the tourist nearby who gets a faceful of mist. This analogy is getting away from me.
- Once he starts teething, anything and everything he can lift will go into his mouth and you can’t always intercept it. My son ate bird poop while I was standing less than ten feet away. It happens. Don’t judge me.
- Even though you own lots of nice, comfortable furniture, you will sit on the floor. A lot. Your furniture will mock you with its cries of, “Look how cozy I am!” or “Bet you don’t like your hardwood floors so much now.”
- There will be times when the only thing that keeps your child from crying is holding him. He’ll be dry, clean, fed, warm, swaddled, and contentedly asleep in your arms. And yet, should you decide to put him down, his eyes will pop open like one of those damn sleeping dolls and he will be very upset that You’ve Abandoned Him. The things you will be able to accomplish with one hand will surprise you.
- Last one. All of this will go on for weeks and months, maybe longer. God help you if your kid has colic. Then all of this is just worse because there’s inconsolable screaming to go with it. But the thing is, at some point, it will stop. Not all at once, and usually when you don’t realize it’s happening. Conditions will improve. And before long, your sleep-deprived brain will have blocked out much of this so that you only remember that cherubic face peacefully dozing away as if that’s all that happened for months. And finally, after enough time has passed, you will, inexplicably, want to go through it all again.