A dear friend of mine recently had her first baby (little Orli Rose, in fact, whose name was inspired by a Kveller contest!), and we were commiserating about the indignities of giving birth and the immediate aftermath. It seems as though everyone talks about what to expect when you’re, well, expecting, but we both felt ill-prepared for the changes that happen after you’ve actually had the baby. I honestly thought I would just push the little munchkin out, walk right out of the labor & delivery room and get myself a pizza. Everything else, from nursing to losing weight, would just magically fall into place, because having babies is a natural process, right?
I had no idea that I would need stitches, or that my first post-delivery trip to the bathroom (and I’m not talking about urinating here, people) would be a terrifying experience (and not so different from childbirth itself), or that my boobs would not only explode to a size that Dolly Parton would be proud of, but that they would leak. Um, yuck? (Truth be told, it seemed like every part of me was leaking, but I’ll spare you those details.) No one warned me about the freaky hospital-issued mesh underwear designed to hold maxi-pads the size of mattresses, or the nurse who would shamelessly pinch my nipple as we tried to get my daughter latched on. And most of all, I was totally ill-prepared for the intrusive questions and irritating clichés that would come my way from friends, family, and even strangers.
That may have been one of the hardest parts of being a brand-new mother. I didn’t want to share my “birth story” while I was waiting in line at the grocery store. I was exhausted and overwhelmed, and annoyed when people kept imploring me to “enjoy every precious moment.” I was trying to enjoy them, and I certainly succeeded some of the time, but it was hard when I was covered in poop at 3 am, or trying desperately to get the baby to latch on to my cracked nipple. I was shell-shocked and confused, and I just wanted someone to be honest with me about what to expect.
I’m almost three years and two babies removed from that experience, and I’ve got a little more perspective on it. As a result, I’ve started being honest with my friends who have new babies. An old friend recently announced the birth of his second daughter on Facebook. This was my comment: “Mazel Tov! Sisters are the best. Although two kids can be kind of a sh*tshow. But fun. Until it sucks. But then it’s good again. And eventually they move out, right? Good luck!”
At first I regretted my words, and worried that perhaps I had been too honest, but my friend quickly responded with “Carla, thanks for sending along what I know are the first truly honest reflections over the past 24 hours. The well wishes and congrats are lovely and heartfelt, but bottom line, it’s gonna be a sh*tshow.”
To be honest, I wish I had heard such comments from my friends who had kids when I was a new parent. I’d like to think I wouldn’t have felt so alone. I supposed that’s one reason why Go The F*ck to Sleep has been such a success—parenting is wonderful, but incredibly hard, and maybe we aren’t talking about the hard stuff enough. So, in the spirit of camaraderie that Debbie Kolben recently wrote about, let’s share the whole story. If you know someone who is a new or expecting parent, offer to talk to them about the pain and the soreness and the leakage and the poop and the spit-up and the exhaustion and fatigue. Don’t ask about the birth story—if she’s ready to talk about it, she will. Don’t comment on the joys of motherhood, and please, whatever you, don’t tell her to sleep when the baby sleeps or enjoy these precious moments. Just be real with her. And let her know that it’s ok if there are times when she just wants the baby to go the f*ck to sleep.