I call them the ‘Just You Wait’ Brigade.
“Just you wait!’ they crowed delightedly when I announced my pregnancy last year. “You’ll never sleep again! Your house will be a MESS! Your hair will fall out and your feet will be huge, and did we mention how you’ll never sleep? Because you’ll never sleep again! JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE!”
Why do people do this, I wonder? Why the constant need to take someone’s happy news and stamp all over it by telling them that, hey, they may be happy now, but HAHA, the rest of their life is going to suck SO BAD! So, so bad!
And, you know, it’s not that they’re totally wrong in the things they say, either. OK, my feet didn’t get any bigger, but yeah, I’m currently losing enough hair to be able to make myself my very own wig if I wanted one (Er, I don’t, just FYI…), my house isn’t the cleanest it’s ever been, and I may be sleeping NOW, but for the first few weeks of new parenthood, I most definitely was not.
So, my problem with the Just You Wait Brigade isn’t WHAT they have to say: it’s the fact that they feel the need to say it AT ALL. I mean, is it REALLY news to anyone that newborn babies don’t sleep all that much? Or that they’re kind of exhausting, really? Honestly, I spent most of my life being mostly oblivious to the trials of parenthood – it just wasn’t relevant to me – but even I knew that much: so why did everyone feel the need to provide me with this BRAND! NEW! INFORMATION? And why were they so very HAPPY about it, too?
The Just You Wait Brigade plagued me throughout my pregnancy. With every milestone I reached, there was apparently something awful waiting for me just around the next corner (“Oh, you’re 20 weeks? That’s the easy bit: just you wait until 30 weeks – you won’t know what hit you!” “Oh, you’re 30 weeks now? That’s nothing – just you wait until you’re full term, and you can’t even walk!”), and there was absolutely no end in sight. I’d thought – or hoped, rather – that the constant doom-mongering might stop once the baby was actually here, but HAHA, NOPE. Having spent the past 9 months constantly assuring me that having a newborn would be the worst thing that had ever happened to me, once Max was born, the JYWB suddenly revised that opinion, and started telling me that, actually, having a newborn was the EASY bit – but JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL HE CAN WALK! THEN you’ll know how hard life can be!”
It’s still going on now. The second I dare to say anything positive about parenthood, or my post-partum experience, the doom-mongers are ready to step in and bring me right back down to earth. When I mentioned how lucky I felt not to have gotten any stretchmarks, I was told to JUST WAIT, because SOMETIMES they don’t turn up until MUCH later, so I COULD still get them! I mean, sure, my midwife had told me some people don’t notice them until their belly starts to go down after the birth, but my baby was 8 weeks old at the time, and still the JYWB were insisting the dreaded stretch marks would be along any day now. JUST YOU WAIT!
There was palpable disappointment, meanwhile, when someone on Instgram asked me if my feet had gotten bigger and I replied that they hadn’t. “JUST YOU WAIT!” said the messages in my inbox. “IT COULD STILL HAPPEN! Maybe even a YEAR later!” And, I mean… OK? Something else to look forward to I guess? So, presumably my feet will magically expand at roughly the same time my baby starts rubbing poop into my white walls, stops sleeping altogether, and basically just turns into Satan himself, yes? Because these are all things the JYWB have assured me life has in store for me – and always with the same, “Bless your heart!” kind of attitude, which makes me feel like they’ll be REALLY disappointed if their prophecies don’t come to pass.
By this stage, I’d started to suspect that some people just don’t want me to be happy. They would much prefer to see me fail – and if I don’t, they’ll be more than happy to jump in and assure me that I STILL MIGHT. THERE IS TIME. JUST YOU WAIT.
It’s depressing. And strange. And kind of schadenfraude-y, really. I mean, I don’t REALLY believe that the people who say these things actively want me to be miserable, or to feel silly for enjoying some aspects of parenthood. Well, I mean, I HOPE not, anyway. I’m sure that if I asked them, they’d simply tell me they were trying to be helpful, by warning me about what’s to come, so I’ll be prepared for it. The thing is, it’s not really helpful to tell a pregnant woman that she’s effectively just ruined her life, is it? Or to tell the mother of a newborn that she might think the sleep deprivation is bad NOW, but just wait a year and THEN she’ll see what sleep deprivation is REALLY like! Seriously, though: how does that help anyone?
It doesn’t, is the answer to that. In fact, all it does is to scare the person a bit – or a bit MORE, rather. Trust me: most pregnant women are well aware that babies don’t sleep well at first. They know they’re going to gain weight, that their bodies might never be the same again, and that the house will soon be crammed full of LEGO. They know all of this – and they also know there’s not really anything much they can do about it at this point. You actually CAN’T really prepare for the sleep deprivation, say, or many of the other challenges those early weeks bring. You can’t bank sleep. You can’t just opt out of the parts of parenthood that don’t really appeal to you. Most importantly, you can’t just say, “Wait – you’re telling me this baby won’t just sleep through the night, right off the bat? Well, to hell with that: Ima just send him back, then – phew! Dodged a bullet there!”
You can’t do that – and knowing that you’re going to find something hard doesn’t actually make it any easier: all it does is make you worry more, and wonder why the people around you seem so intent on ruining every happy moment you have by assuring you there are dozens of unhappy ones right around the corner.
Are there really, though? Or is there just something about parenting that makes people want to focus on the negatives, and constantly remind each other that it’s only going to get worse? I don’t think there can be many other aspects of life that are subject to this particular brand of schadenfruade, after all. If you get a new job, say, people don’t line up to go, “Well, I know you like it NOW, but give it a year and I bet you’ll be absolutely MISERABLE!” If you buy a new house, most of your friends will be too polite to instantly start listing all of the negatives involved in moving. Because that would be weird, and kind of rude, really, wouldn’t it? So, why the rush to persuade new or expectant parents that everything about the experience is going to suck – and to respond to every single positive comment they make about it by saying, “JUST YOU WAIT!”?
That’s a real question, by the way: I genuinely want to know. Because, almost five months into parenthood, I’m still being assured by the Just You Wait Brigade that the worst is yet to come, and that my life is now on a steady downward spiral, that will continue until Max leaves home – which will be never, apparently. I’d like to think there’s a good reason for all of this doom-mongering, and that people genuinely believe they’re helping me by telling me I’m STILL going to get stretchmarks, and that, by the time he’s one, I’ll probably have given up the will to live.