Having worked in childcare for many years before getting pregnant with my son, I thought I had it all figured out when it came to expectations. I knew about the endless diapers full of mustardy poop and the grate-on-your-nerves cry of a colicky baby. I’d had any number of bodily fluids leaked and wiped and exploded on me. I was fluent in developmental milestones and passable in baby sign language. I’d felt a distinctly maternal surge caring for other people’s children; I knew I was ready for the overwhelming, bring-you-to-your-knees kind of love I would feel for my own. I was sure I knew exactly what I was in for.
I was wrong.
It is really true what they say about nothing being able to truly prepare you for motherhood. Not even being a mother seems to be able to prepare you for the second or third time around; every baby is different and I believe you are different for each baby. There were so many things I didn’t expect about new motherhood, but here are my top 5:
1. Babies (even your own) are sometimes really boring
I have certainly experienced boredom watching other people’s babies. Adorable as they were, sometimes they just weren’t that interesting. But I thought it would be vastly different with my own child, that I would be so endlessly fascinated by his every smile and sneeze and poop that it would quell any potential boredom. But 9 or 10 hours/day, 5 days/week of anything can get boring, especially when set to Baby Einstein music. Being with my son is my job now and I have to remind myself that every job is boring at times. Also, most of them don’t require you to pretend to be fascinated by the same thing 20 times in a row or scrub puke out of the carpet. (I said most of them.) That said, sometimes my son’s mundaneness is so interesting to me, it blows my mind. And that makes it all worth it.
2. Motherhood can be incredibly lonely
I’ve always held jobs where I could be surrounded by people and activities all day long. I like chaos and energy and movement. I enjoy being on-the-go for most of my waking hours and the feeling of total fulfillment at the end of a packed day. Then I had a baby and it felt like someone abruptly stopped the record. Suddenly, I didn’t have a built-in social outlet at work and I needed to find completely new ways to fill my days while my husband punched the proverbial clock. Easier said than done with a newborn in tow. In the beginning, I relished errands because they gave me a reason to be out in the world. The realization that we needed laundry detergent inspired excitement in me (a trip to Target!) and grocery shopping was downright thrilling. Then I started going to moms’ groups and playdates and our social calendar began to fill up as we met other new moms and babies who were just as bored as we were during the day. But, honestly, some days, it’s as lonely as ever. I don’t think that ever really goes away.
3. You really don’t get anything done with a newborn
I specifically remember being around 6 months pregnant and scoffing to my husband about women who were always complaining about never getting anything done with a new baby. “Babies sleep like, all the time,” I told him. “How could you not get a load of laundry done in the 20 hours they sleep every day?” Hey, snobby pregnant-self, payback’s a bitch, ain’t it? Yes, newborns sleep, but sometimes it’s for 10 minutes at a time. And sometimes that’s only in your arms or passed out on your chest. And mostly, laundry and dishes seem like way less of a priority when you’ve gotten 3 hours of sleep in the past two days and you can’t remember if you ate breakfast or lunch (oh yeah, that cheese stick in the back of the fridge was brunch.) And if you’re a working mom, forget it. The whole baby/domestic obligations paradox really does get better as they get older. But, some days, it feels the same as the very first week alone with a newborn. Case in point: it was supposed to be five things I didn’t expect when I was expecting, but there wasn’t enough time to get it done. So here’s three.