(WARNING: Please be advised there may be content in here that would leave you squeamish or ultimately run for a package of birth control pills... Take it or leave it... This is reality. Its a messy subject.. and i write it how i see it.)
I would love to write a book that would be gifted to every expectant mother the day she found out she was going to have a baby. There are a lot of good ones out there, but I haven't found one that really tells you 'what to expect' yet. The truth is, you cannot write a marketable book about what to really expect, because it's so horrifying that no sane person would want to have a baby after reading it.
Every pregnancy is different. There are no two people who have the same pregnancy. I know a few women who claim to "LOVE being pregnant". But somehow, I can't help but think they are telling the truth. Sure, there are plenty of things to love. Mainly the idea you are going to get a beautiful tiny person when you are through cooking them in your oven. But if you are anything like me, you wonder if your baby will actually be beautiful. I had plenty of nights tossing and turning over the idea my baby would be born with a giant birthmark across their face and the whole oven notion? Its more like a furnace. Babies create an inferno on your insides that all but make you want to strip naked in public to try to find relief from the heat.
What you can really expect is that unless God gave you AMAZING amounts of elastin in your skin, and your child weighs over 8lbs there isn't a coco-butter lather in this universe that can save you from stretch marks. There is also no cure for stretch marks once you have them no matter what those magazine ads try to tell you. What you can really expect is hemorrhoids, embarrassing pee your pants accidents in public situations, and heartburn after drinking water,let alone any sort of food with flavor.
You can expect other mothers to yell at you for drinking a cup of coffee. My own OBGYN gave me FULL PERMISSION do do so. Thank you want-to-be doctor mom's, but if I don't have a cup of coffee to start my day- with caffeine, I promise you- You will NOT want to be around me. People will yell at you and make you feel guilty for eating tuna, for eating a candy bar.. and everyone will ask you if you are eating well. My first pregnancy was so traumatizing to my body I thought for sure I was dying. I had morning-noon-and night sickness for MONTHS. I couldn't keep anything down. To this day, eight and a half years later, I still cannot stomach the thought of saltine crackers and if I even see a TUMS bottle I wretch. Once I could eat, all I could eat was ice cream. It became my own personal 'breakfast of champions', as I found ONE THING I could actually keep down. Ice cream made me feel like a champion. It occurred to me more than once that my body was trying to turn itself inside out while in the bathroom, hours each day. I thought for sure, that my baby was trying to kill me.
What you can expect ? In real life while pregnant is to learn how to share. You wouldn't believe how selfish you are until you are pregnant. NOTHING highlights your selfishness like having a baby. Everything you thought was yours, and yours alone...is shared. Before the baby is born, pregnancy preps you for sharing in ways you never thought you could or would. There isn't anything about this in the books. You share all your organs, your food, and your BODY with another person.... intimately. Babies play with your bladder on your insides like its a new shiny soccer ball, and your ribcage becomes some kind of kick-boxing bag. There was a poster on the back of the door in my doctors office... An internal side view of a woman pregnant with a baby at about 7 months gestation. Given the fact that i was in that office about 45 times over the course of three children in utero. I saw this poster enough times I memorized it. Your organs in your body move to places they just shouldn't be. Your stomach ends up so squashed and close to your face its no wonder why a pregnant person has to eat tiny meals all day long. There's no way you can possibly eat a full meal. If you saw this poster before, you know what I'm talking about. Its crazy.
What you can really expect for a delivery is that there are no certainties. I have heard a million stories about labor, and not one of them is the same. If you thought you'd give birth in a nice soothing tub with candles, you probably ended up with a completely different scenario. My sister just had her third baby all natural- and she said "I was actually screaming..." Knowing her- this is not what she thought was going to happen. You can expect that even the MOST modest woman will become the LEAST modest very quickly. I was shocked at by the time it was 'showtime' to have the baby how little I cared who saw my "hoo hoos". I guess that's all part of the sharing concept. You are about to share all of yourself with a room full of people in the the most beautiful and disturbing way possible. Because I had c-sections, I was very aware that behind my little blue curtain, I was in my "all-togethers" with the entire staff of surgeons, pediatrics, anesthesiologists and nurses and students, didn't bother me in the slightest. I made a lot of jokes in surgery. They told me to stop talking and laughing a bunch of times. I'm sure everyone wished I wasn't awake. I would just like to say that c-sections are not so bad.
I am all for breastfeeding. Its truly the best choice you can make nutrition wise for your baby... but those pamphlets and books they gave me did not at all prepare me for how difficult a time I would have with that. They had beautiful photos of mothers smiling happily with practically a halo around their heads, nursing a perfectly perfect baby who was latched on to their breast in a perfectly perfect way. With my firstborn I had such a different experience, Disheveled and hooked up to the automatic pain med box after my c-section I was passed this amazing little creature with a perfectly round head. Delighted that although, I had major surgery to bring him into the world, his giant noggin was out sans cone head - and undoubtedly far less trauma to my body than the c-section made. He was so cute and visibly hungry. I got comfortable and he latched on "perfectly" as the nurse said. His first feeding was something like 35 minutes long... He ate like a champion.
It was pretty great. I felt like a champion. My baby was healthy and happy, and he was eating. Somewhere in the midst of visitors, and diaper changes, and feedings.. I began to be very sore. By the first night- I was literally bawling my eyes out. The nurse came in and asked me if i was alright, and I could barely even speak through the tears. She said something about hormones and let down after having a baby which she assured me was normal-- and I insisted, "NO!"- I then ripped off my hospital nightgown and showed her the horrible truth... My beautiful baby had all but sucked the skin off both my nipples, I was BLEEDING. I was in so much pain i wanted to throw up. That gorgeous child was a cannibal, I was sure of it. I was convinced that the amount of blood he was consuming he would be a monster. I was on so much pain medication at that time, I thought I shouldn't have been able to feel ANYTHING. The c-section was nothing. The best part of this traumatic breastfeeding day- was when the lactation specialist came in soon after that nurse left saying "That baby could suck wallpaper off a wall..."
The lactation nurse came in and basically told me that if i opted to give my son a bottle, that i was a terrible mother. All hormones and pain meds, I wanted to rip her face off. I showed her my swollen chest,bleeding and raw and screamed something about the lies in that beautiful brochure,how my baby was a vampire and how if she was in my shoes, if she would let ANYTHING come near her breasts. She insisted over and over about the bonding, and priceless moments. I'm sorry, I couldn't jump on board that train. I wanted so badly to succeed at it,I wanted so badly to be a good mom. I let a nice nurse bring my baby a bottle with formula. Is it terrible I was PRAYING for "nipple confusion"? After realizing it was MY choice to supplement formula.. I was able to make breastfeeding successful. I nursed him for 11 months. You never saw a more roly poly happy baby in your life. And I am happy to report, he didn't grow a set of fangs.
Sharing your breasts with a small person for feeding is just the beginning. Although they no longer share your insides, you realize how much more difficult it is having them on the outside.You have two arms, and even if you are some ambidextrous prodigy, you will have to learn how do do everything with only one hand. Amazing the skills are of a seasoned mother. No really, I believe with all my heart there should be a job for people with this specially acquired skill. I have seen moms change a diaper of a 7 month old baby, on their lap with one hand. If you have any idea about how wiggly and large a 7 month old is, this is nothing short of amazing. Your lap, as a mommy, is no longer yours. It belongs to boogers, spit up, and leaks. It belongs to your baby's rear-end until they can tell you they are too old to sit on your lap, and my aunt will tell you her 18 yr old daughter still comes to sit on hers.
You will share your bed. You will share a bath. You will share spit. You will share tears. Often, you will feel like your baby is the only friend you have left- and i promise you will share your deepest thoughts- out loud, to your baby out of desperation for conversation. When you have friends over, they no longer come to see you, they come for the baby. You share your friends. You can expect to share countless wee-hours with your baby. This will still happen often even when they grow older. Those are the worst though- as it usually has to do with vomit. I despise doing laundry at 2am. You will also share that stomach bug too. Somewhere in doing that disgusting load of sheets, your child will share the virus with you. Kids are awesome at sharing germs, viruses and flu's.
What you can expect is for a sudden urge to post your status updates about "how amazing" your kid is, about a hiccup, about poop and pee, and about 10 billion photos. Deep in your heart, you will desperately wish people would respond to your updates- but after your first 400, you will realize nobody except for your own mother cares. You can expect some level of depression to hit you. You can expect a million people to ask you about it. You will deny it all the million times, and until your husband looks at you and demands to know where "the person he married went"- you won't tell your doctor.
*PLEASE go to the doctor and tell them you are suffering depression. They can and will help you. There is no shame in that. Everyone who's ever had a baby and is honest can tell you it's normal. Do not wait to go to the doctor.*
You can expect that somewhere in the midst of all this craziness, that you will change into a completely different person. You will be given super powers... Super sense of hearing, smell, and you will learn how to do everything with just one hand like a freak circus performer. You will be able to carry twice your weight in anything- strategically hung from every limb, finger and crease of your body. You will learn how to function on zero sleep. You will learn how to sleep sitting up. You will undoubtedly become a much less selfish person. You will learn to speak another language, TODDLER. You will become amazingly knowledgeable about laundry detergents, foods, coupons, SOCKS, sizes of everything, soap, diaper rash treatments, vaccinations, diseases, nutrition, and recycling.
You can expect this will be the best thing that ever happened to you that you won't make a dime doing. You can expect nobody to give you a Doctorate, although you definitely should get one with all that you will learn. You can expect to wonder how you will pay for shoes, never mind college.
To all the mothers out there- I salute you. Please feel free to add your own "you can expect_____" in the comment section below. It should be a real hoot.