What No One Tells You About Parenthood…
Throughout my pregnancy, I spoke with many people about the adventure of parenthood. From those experiences, I concluded that the trauma of parenting must automatically morph mommies and daddies into people with split personalities. At the mention of the word ‘parenthood’, they immediately armed themselves with every horror story in their arsenal: Sleeping merely 2-3 hours every night, wanting to throw your colic-y baby down the stairs, cleaning up vomit from your eyelashes. Then, without skipping a beat, every single one of them ended with, “…but it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever experience.”
After hearing all the terrible things that parents go through, I was perplexed as to how this could be an enjoyable experience. So, naturally, I began dreading the imminent and eternal journey of mommyhood. However, Marie just turned one month old and I have already discovered some of the unwritten and unspoken truths of parenthood, and throughout the next week I plan on sharing them with you. Join me each day to discover a new, previously untold fact of parenting.
1. There’s no such thing as maternal instinct. At least not the way people describe it. During pregnancy, I confided in several close friends. Somehow, despite all the differences in my good gal pals, the conversation always turned out the same:
“I have no idea know how to be a mom,” I’d confess, exasperated. Like a bomb, tiny ticks counted down to the due date of my impending doom. Panic emerged in my voice. It didn’t matter if my confidant was single and childless or middle-aged with grown children, their response was always the same.
“Oh, don’t worry, your maternal instincts will kick in and you’ll know just what to do.” At the time, that bit of advice seemed naive, like a means of procrastination. But I convinced myself to believe it. I had to believe it, if only to calm myself from the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy and incompetence. Yet, no amount of instinct could change the fact that I had zero experience with babies and thus didn’t know how to change her diaper. Or how to bathe her. Or how to hold her without breaking her. The list could go on and on.
Then, when Marie came into the world, I learned something: I still didn’t know how to change a diaper, bathe her, or hold her without breaking her. I did, however, have the desire to do those things. Whereas in the past, poopy diapers would make me gag and leave the room, I now wanted to be first on the front lines. I wanted to clean her up simply because it would make her feel better. Dirty diapers were also a reason to celebrate – they meant she was hydrated and well-fed, both of which could relieve the maternal art of worrying.
Anne Lamott once wrote, “I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”
That’s maternal instinct.