Everyone told me parenthood would suck. Were they right?
Around about this time last year, I wrote a post called ‘Why Are People So Negative About Parenthood?’ in which I listed some of the dire predictions people had been making about how awful my life would be post-baby, and how totally freaked out I was by the news that, lol, I’d just ruined my life, and there wasn’t a single thing I could do about it!
(It’s still happening, by the way: I call these kind folks the ‘Just You Wait Brigade’ and I wrote a post about them, too.)
Anyway, so, I listed all of the negative things people had been telling me about parenthood, and said how much I was hoping they wouldn’t all turn out to be true, and I remember someone tweeted me, and said something like, “Yeah, I thought I knew it all too before I gave birth: I’d be interested to hear your take on these things once the baby’s actually here.”
So, that person, this post is for you … even although I suspect you were sneakily trying to insult me a bit with the whole, “you think you know it all,” jibe. Here’s a recap of all of the points I listed in that post, and whether or not they turned out to be true, one year later…
The Prediction :
That I would never sleep again, ever.
THE REALITY: The good news is that yes, I have slept since Max was born. I actually think I might be sleeping NOW, actually? Kinda? Maybe? Because, honestly, one of the most surprising thing about those first few weeks with a newborn was the way I developed the ability to fall asleep instantly, and have, like the BEST! SLEEP! EVER! For, you know, about two hours at a time, mebbe.
Seriously, though, I have never in my life enjoyed sleep as much as I enjoyed those snatched hours during the newborn phase. It. Was. Delicious – like falling into a giant, fluffy cloud that would wrap you in its warm embrace, and then rock you gently to sleep. And also like being slowly tortured over a period of many long, hellish weeks, because that sleep? That beautiful, beautiful sleep? It really only happened in blocks of about two hours or so at first, and I’ll be honest, I thought it was going to kill me. Seriously, some days (er, nights) I’d wake up and just be like, “I’m dead now, surely?” And then I’d be like, “Oh, please let me be dead! Because, at least that way I wouldn’t have to get up right now…”
It was hard, is what I’m saying: harder than I’d even anticipated – and I’d anticipated it being plenty hard. I hated the night feeds with a passion that surprised even me, but, the thing is, it wasn’t actually the lack of sleep that got me – it was the loneliness of it. The being up on your own in the middle of the night, when it’s still pitch dark outside, and the rest of the world is asleep. I hated that: in fact, I would go so far as to say it made me quite depressed for a while. When I look back at those days, I feel like it was always dark, and I was always alone, and I think, “How do people have more than one baby? No, seriously, HOW?”
More good news, though: it passed. We were pretty lucky in that Max started sleeping through the night relatively early, so while it felt like the broken sleep lasted for, oh, about 110 years AT LEAST, it was actually just a few weeks, and then we were back into a routine that felt more normal to us. Of course, he’s currently going through a bit of a sleep regression, which has a real, “Shoot me now,” feel to it after months of unbroken sleep, but, like everything else, I know this too will pass. Or, at least, I hope so.
Conclusion: The prediction was wrong – yeah, you have a few weeks/months/however long of totally crappy sleep, and, if you’re anything like me, you might casually want to die during it, but it doesn’t last forever, and you WILL sleep again. Sometime.
The Prediction :
That I would never be able to wear any of my favourite clothes again, because I would never lose the baby weight, and, even if I did, my body would be so different that nothing would fit me. In fact, I’d probably just have to cut holes in my superking duvet, and wear that for the rest of my life.
Or words to that effect, anyway.
THE REALITY: It took about 5 months, but I DID lose the baby weight, and yes, I can wear all of my clothes again. There are a couple of things that still feel a bit snug on me, even although I’m currently slightly lighter than I was when I first got pregnant, and I feel I look much flabbier, so the second part of this prediction possibly has some truth to it, but I still buy the same size I always did, and, other than the huge scar on my bikini line (And, OK, the cellulite on my thighs…), I don’t really feel any different from before. So there is hope, people. There is hope.
(It’s also worth noting here that, the last time I was this weight, I was exercising regularly, and eating better, which means my muscle/fat ratio would’ve been much higher than it is now that I’m not doing any exercise AT ALL, and eating out on the regular, just as an excuse to get out of the house. So, I don’t think it’s the case that my body has changed in such a way that I could never, ever get it back, no matter what I did – it’s more that I don’t currently have the time, or, if I’m honest, the motivation, to do the necessary amounts of exercise and healthy eating.)
That my feet would change size, and I’d have to throw all of my shoes away
THE REALITY: Nope: my feet are exactly the same as always, and all of my shoes still fit me – which is a relief, because ain’t no way I could’ve afforded to replace my entire shoe collection…
I’m embarrassed to admit that, other than the obvious things, like something happening to the baby, or me dying in childbirth, this was actually my biggest fear during my pregnancy. Which brings me neatly to my next point…
That I would not care about any of this, because my personality would totally change
Again, I really worried that I was going to turn into one of those sanctimommies who go around saying things like, “Oh, I just don’t know what I DID with my time before I had a baby!” and, “I don’t care how I look now – I’ve got more important things to worry about!” I worried about it because people kept telling me it would happen, and every time I voiced a concern about how this massive life change was going to affect me, they’d just be all, “Oh, you won’t care about that any more, because you’ll have a baybeeee!” I really doubted that this would happen, but I also worried that it might, and that I’d wake up one day and not even recognise myself for the cloud of smugness hovering over my head. Scary, right?
THE REALITY: Honestly, I don’t even want to think about how much time I spent this week searching the internet for a certain polka dot midi dress that’s totally sold out, or how totally gutted I was when I couldn’t find it. So I think I’m still the same person, and that yes, it is totally possible to be a mother, but also still be a complete airhead. So, er… that’s good? I guess?
That my house would always be filthy and untidy: specifically, it would be coated in a thin crust of LEGO at all times, and the baby/toddler would draw on all of the walls. It would not be possible to control or stop this.
THE REALITY: Er, yeah. THAT.
I mean, I guess I’d say my house is surface clean, if not deep clean? Like, if you came in for a coffee, you probably wouldn’t think, “Wow, what a shithole!” but, then again, if it was your Airbnb rental, say, you might be a bit like, “Would it have killed them to buy a couple of bottles of bleach? And what’s that weird smell?”
As for the rest of the prediction, well, he’s obviously still too young for the LEGO, or the drawing-on-the-walls, but we had to buy a sideboard for the living room just to hold all of his STUFF, and as soon as we get rid of one giant piece of plastic, another one arrives to take its place. I suspect it will be like this for the foreseeable future, and honestly, it kind of kills me, because, although you wouldn’t know it to look at the place, we literally NEVER stop cleaning. NEVER. I am cleaning while I’m writing this post, actually. (No, seriously: I’ve had to stop twice now -once to wipe a layer of dust off my desk, and once to wipe a similar dusty coating from the window in front of me…)
And I honestly don’t know how one tiny person – who can’t even CRAWL yet, FFS – creates so much mess and work, but if my life were to flash in front of my eyes right now, it would basically just be a montage of me either unloading the dishwasher (HATEITHATEITHATEIT) or the washing machine. I feel like a 50s housewife, only with a dishwasher, obviously. (And without the gin. Because if Mad Men is to be believed – and I think it is – the main reason women had more than one child back then is because they were just drunk all the time, and I’m pretty sure that’s frowned upon these days, unfortunately…)
So, the Just You Wait Brigade were right about this one. May this knowledge bring them joy.
That I would never go to the bathroom alone again
THE REALITY: So, I’m guessing this one is about toddlers rather than babies, so the jury’s still out, but, if anyone’s interested, I have yet to go to the bathroom and NOT be alone, so…?
(Totally not counting that time when he was about a week old and I totally wrestled the car seat into the small downstairs bathroom with me, because he was sleeping in it, and would obviously have died if I’d just left him on the other side of the bathroom door. That didn’t happen, and if it did, it didn’t count, because nothing that happens in the first week with a new baby counts, OK?)
That, for the first year, I would never change out of my dressing gown, EVER
The reality: so, for the first few weeks, there was definitely a lot of dressing gown time, not gonna lie. In fact, there was even a few weeks when I wondered if it was feasible to just sleep in my clothes, to save some time, and mitigate the chances of visitors arriving at 3pm, and finding me still in my PJs – and honestly, I still think this sounds like a sound plan, at times.
These days I get dressed every morning, thankfully, and I’m actually dressed earlier than I used to be, purely because I get up so much earlier, too. I’ll be totally honest, though: I might be dressed, but I rarely wear makeup, my hair lives in a messy bun (And not the cute, “artfully messy” kind either – no, I’m talking about the actually messy, madwoman-in-the-attic type. GOD.), and the only reason I’m able to shower and dress myself every day is because I have Terry on hand to look after the baby while I do it. I have NO CLUE how single parents, or people who’s partners go out to work every day do this: none. And, OK, it’s easier now that he’s having regular daytime naps, but for a while there it felt like he had to be held/carried/interacted with 24/7, basically, so, yeah, solo parents are my absolute heroes, and I’m not just saying that – if I ruled the world, you guys would all get medals, seriously.
Conclusion: no, I don’t always wear my dressing gown, but if I didn’t have another parents on hand all day, I can’t imagine how I’d wear anything else?
Well, from this list, it would seem that the Just You Wait Brigade were right about some things, wrong about some things, and half-right/half wrong about others. And that, my friends, is why, now that I’m a parent myself, I do my best to just bite my tongue and resist the temptation to issue any predictions – dire ones or otherwise – about what someone else’s experience will be. Because, the fact is, we’re all different. And isn’t that a wonderful thing?