Parenting — especially in the age of social media — requires spending ample amounts of time wading through a superfluous amount of bullshit.
I’m not sure why it happens, but parents routinely lie to one another without hesitation. Perhaps it’s because we’ve all been force fed fairy tales of how happy babies should make us 100% of the time, and we feel guilty saying “truthfully, some of this really sucks.” But the fact of the matter is, some of it does suck. And in the very beginning, I’d argue MOST of it sucks.
I know you love your kids. I love my kids too. Kids really are fantastic, and in the end it’s all worth it. But it’s not all fun and much of it is really, really hard. Denizens of Facebook and Pinterest already see all the good moments (since that’s all most parents put out there) where babies fart rainbows and spit up sunshine, so here are a few distinct moments of terror most parents face but seldom discuss.
7. The Moment You Realize It’s All on You
When my oldest was born in 2008, I was over the moon. First kid, tons of excitement, the novelty of the childbirth experience — the adrenaline from all of that combined was enough to get me through the craziness of the first week. But then the nurses were gone. The family members lining up to hold the baby so you could take a nap were nowhere to be found. I distinctly remember holding Will during a crying fit late at night and not being able to calm him down, as an insane thought crept into my head — I’m in charge of his life. I know it seems like something that should already be clear, but it’s not. It doesn’t happen in the delivery room. It happens at 3 am when you’re sleep deprived and the reality that life as you know it has forever changed because every decision you make now affects another human being and it’s your job not to screw him up and parenthood is FOREVER! Eventually this is a positive turning point, but in the moment it’s a tsunami of fear and anxiety.
6. The First Time You Use Google for Medical Research
Everyone talks about how scary it is the first time your kid gets sick. That’s a no-brainer. But something that is under-discussed is how terrifying it can be if you plug your baby’s medical maladies into Google and spend the next few hours getting sucked down the hypochondriac’s rabbit hole until you’re nearly catatonic because you’re convinced your kid’s slight rash is actually lamellar ichthyosis, and he’s going to start shedding his skin like a snake at any moment unless you get to the ER, stat! If you think your kid is sick, don’t trust the yahoos answering questions on Yahoo! because you’ll make yourself crazy. Talk to your trusted friends or better yet, just call the pediatrician. They’re used to first-time parents being unsure and scared, and they’ll guide you through it.
5. The First Explosive Public Poop
June, 2008. Boston Beer Works right across the street from Fenway Park. Father’s Day. That was the first time Will had, what I now refer to as, a “World Ender.” It’s wasn’t so much that he pooped, it was that he summoned all the poop that was, is, and ever will be and released it upon the world using some sort of infant physics I’ll never understand, which allows that much shit to come out of a space so tiny. The diaper never stood a chance, and the poop went everywhere. Every. Damn. Where. As new parents, we were unprepared for the possibility our son could suddenly become a shit demon, so we didn’t bring a second outfit. Suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of a crowded bar with a baby covered in shit, carseat carrier covered in shit, clothes covered in shit, and my hands covered in shit from picking him up. I honestly can’t describe the panic in my heart having never gone through that. I looked around frantically, not knowing where to go or what to do. Panic. Pure panic. If you find yourself in such a situation, let me give you the answer — throw everything away. Well, not the baby. Keep him. But the clothes? Toss ‘em. Don’t even give it a second thought. I don’t care that it’s the special outfit your Aunt Marjorie gave the baby. Fuck Aunt Marjorie right in her face if she doesn’t understand. It’s just not worth it. Trust me.
4. The Toxic Sippy Cup/Bottle
This is similar to the poop situation, but possibly more disgusting. You see, you’re going to go through tons of bottles and then sippy cups. Some of those will inevitably turn up missing. You’ll find it eventually, because your car or house will start to smell like a skunk died in a swamp filled with rotten Indian food. Now because you’re new parents and no doubt financially strapped, you might be thinking “Well, I’ll just suck it up and wash it because I don’t want to be wasteful.” Ignore that voice. That is the voice of inexperience that has never suffered through the unimaginably putrid ordeal of unleashing that hazardous material out into the world. Throw the cup away. Or bury it. Or better yet, find that little bastard Frodo and pay him to dispose of it in the fires of Mt. Doom. And never, ever talk of it again.
3. The First Time You Drop the Baby
Sometimes it’s a drop, but not always. You might be changing her on the bed or couch and she rolls off, and you SWEAR you only turned your head for a second when — THUD! You will feel fear the likes of which you never thought possible. This is a legitimately traumatic moment because not only is your baby hurt, she’s hurt because you weren’t being careful. I get it. I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Obviously if there’s bleeding or your baby isn’t responsive, go get help immediately. But nine times out of 10, these falls are nothing. I don’t know why, but babies are like rubber. That doesn’t mean you should experiment on them or anything, but their elastic bodies are far less fragile than you think, and tougher than you can imagine. Trust me, you’re going to beat yourself up and make yourself suffer more than your baby has because of the fall.
2. The Moment You Worry Your Marriage is in Danger
There often comes a time, usually a few months after having a kid, when you will look at your partner and freak the hell out because you suddenly realize you have a roommate where a loving spouse used to be. For us, it was complicated even further by MJ’s postpartum depression, and I will NEVER forget the tidal wave of emotion as I realized this was not what I wanted in a marriage and I had no clue whether or not it would change. Parenting is an all-encompassing endeavor and it’s extraordinarily easy to focus all of our energy on the new baby while failing to attend to our partners. No one is saying you’re going to live the fancy free lifestyle you had before kids, but you do need to focus on each other after a baby — although that’s easier said than done. Give the kid to a grandparent or relative. Pay for a babysitter. But for the sake of your relationship, make some time for each other and reconnect as two people who love each other, not just two people taking care of a baby.
1. The Fleeting Moment You Realize You Genuinely Hate Your Kid
Because parents only want to talk about the good times, I had no idea it was possible to hate your kid. When that baby has kept you up for weeks on end and refuses to stop crying and is having trouble latching and never seems satisfied no matter what you do and you’re a zombie who can barely function anymore, there comes a moment when all of that anger and frustration culminates into a single moment of pure disgust — and you hate him. It doesn’t last long, but in the moment it’s real. And it’s scary as hell to have those thoughts about someone you love so much. That’s when you tap out and go get your partner. If you’re a single parent, leave the kid in the crib for a few minutes while you walk away and calm yourself down. The baby will be fine for a bit in the crib, but not if you let that feeling consume you. And also, realize it’s pretty normal. Show me a parent who says they never felt that way about their kid, and I’ll show you a liar. Just be sure not to act on those feelings, and if they don’t go away find a counselor or doctor and get the help you need.
I know these aren’t all pleasant and this stuff is often difficult to talk about. But it’s also pretty important to discuss, because too many parents (especially new parents) think they’re the only ones who feel this way. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
So, did I miss any? Leave some other suggestions in the comments.