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If you are a new parent, an old parent, thinking of having kids or thinking of not having kids. Read on. You can find some hard truths and soft lies about being a parent. What's surprising is your mom or the friendly aunty or your sister or your best friend who has done it before might not talk or even mention this stuff to you. Even if you are a parent you might be shocked on how little you know.
If you are willing to take the "Parenting adventure" or have already embarked on it, fret not since I am going to arm you with some hidden traps, unseen challenges and bits of knowledge that is hardly passed on. Preparation is the key. So you better stock on these bitter pills.
1. It is sometimes even hard to get pregnant.
It is not always the case that you get lucky on your first try. As opposed to my case where you are super-fertile; you might need to try twice, thrice, for days, weeks, months and sometimes even a year to get pregnant. Even though you are a healthy couple, what we were told in high school "If you have unprotected sex, you'd get pregnant (and your life is over)" does not hold true. You could spend years trying to get pregnant. As if it is not hard enough on a couple, nosy people around you are always querying you. Social gatherings have a constant questionnaire of "when are you getting pregnant?" or "Is there a problem" or "Why don't you visit my doctor, he is a specialist in this field". It's a super tough time for a couple and most often than not you suffer in silence since nobody around you tells you that it is hard, it can take time and it's really okay.
2. It is hard to stay pregnant
Sometimes nature has dark plans of its own. You might have spent months and years trying and finally the stick turns blue. You are excited and telling your family, planning a baby shower, quarrelling over names, painting the nursery, buying stuffed dinosaurs when all of a sudden... nature shoves you back to where you were. From what I have heard, it's devastating. Miscarriages are common but sadly nobody talks about it. No one will tell you that it could happen even when you are in the prime of your life. Even when you are healthy, young, even though you do not smoke or drink before or after you get pregnant. This monster can strike any day any time. To reduce your risks, maintain a healthy lifestyle. A proper diet and reduced stress can help you sail through.
3. Pregnancy can be hard and looong and messy
Having a tiny human making factory fitted inside your body is a cool thing. But what's not cool about it is that it totally changes your body. It hurts ALL. THE. TIME. It is like a full set of machines working bam bam, thud thud, twitch twitch and repeat round the clock to get that perfect little form of life out of you and how! Pregnancy can be messy, nauseating, squirmy, sweaty, heavy, tiring and might seem never ending. This is just so overwhelming cuz not only your body but your brain is all acting up. It makes you eat things that you never liked before, cooks up scary thoughts like " Will I have a baby with fangs" or "Could it be an alien living in me" or "Will I die?" Trust me, the last one comes up a lot. But nobody tells you that it is hard and uncomfortable and you might cry or be cranky all day. If they tell you "Oh it's the most wonderful time!" or "You will glow" - Don't trust them. Partners, gear up to put up with all that. After all you still get to stay human while its the lady that blows up in a living watermelon.
4. Giving birth is also hard and long and (a lot more) messy
Do not imagine the birthing process like they show in the movies. Trust me it is not even close to what you will witness. Every labour and birthing process is different. Your first time could be as long as 24 to 40 hours! Mine was 36 hours long! At the end i just wanted it to end, I was least worried about the baby! During the last stage of labour, I remember screaming hysterically at my husband "I can't take it any longer. Get it out of me, now!" You'd believe that all the motherly women in your life - your mom, aunties, sisters, cousins and friends who are moms would tell you about this to prepare you when its your turn. But no! Nobody likes to talk about it. They tell you dreamy things instead. Things like "It's when you will be re-born - as a mother!" or "It's all going to be fine when you see the baby" or "It's a beautiful thing!" And since you are totally high on the girly hormones when you are pregnant, you will believe them without batting an eyelid. Don't do that. Read up, talk to your mid-wife/doctor, be prepared for the most adventurous day of your life. You will never, ever forget this day!
5. Newborns and infants can be cruel
So finally you've given birth! Hurray! High five! You have a pretty little person that you just created. But remember it takes a while before that little person starts looking pretty and human! Nobody tells you but newborns are messy, sticky and covered with blood and gooey substances when they are born. Sometimes they come out bruised, with a badly shaped head or ears and covered with green, brown, red or purple stuff that should've stayed back in your belly. But really it's all normal. And totally worth the wait! They only start to look (almost) human shortly. But my friend, it's not the end. This is just the beginning! Even though babies look tiny, they can poop and puke like a giant alien creature from the M.I.B movies. And it ranges from all shades of green, purple, grey and yellow. Your insides have probably seen this when the baby was residing there. Hence you gain a super power of not throwing up at the mere sight of all this mess. You might just surprise your self by handling all this dirty business efficiently day after day! Again, nobody tells you this gross stuff. They pretend babies are beautiful and smiling as they come out, but now you know that's definitely untrue.
6. You will do it wrong and that's okay
On every topic that is even remotely baby-related, prepare yourself for buckets full of advice. That will be thrown your way even if you don't need it. Anything like breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, wrapping, bathing, cuddling, playing with and carrying your baby will be an area of expertise of everyone else but you. Even those without babies will serve you spoonfuls of Dos and Don'ts. It's okay that you don't know stuff and that it's your first time. Try things that you think are best for you and the baby. Try not to blindly trust all the "experts" around you. As long as you don't harm your baby and yourself, you are fine. Nobody tells you it's okay to get it wrong, you will get it right eventually. Your breasts might harden up like a pair of rocks, or worse, leak during a meeting, you might need to keep a change of clothes in the car in case the baby throws up after you've fed him. Every inch of your body might be crying out loud in pain when your baby is wailing in hunger although you just fed her. No, they don't tell you any of that. They pretend as if the 'Sound of Music' is playing in their background and their babies are smiling-little-balls-of-pink while you are literally dealing with a menacing little godzilla.
7. You might not LOVE your child straight away, and that's okay too
There will be some people who feel a bond, a connection instantly when they look or hold their newborn. This is true for a lot of parents. But for some there might be a waiting period. I remember exactly when I fell in love with my son. It was 2 days after he was born. Initially I thought this is not normal, not right. But honestly, there was a lot my body and mind was going through. And feeling love towards my own child, well it might have slipped, I guess! I have met mothers who did not feel the love for longer periods after giving birth. They were not struck by the lightning of love or hit by the speeding truck of love when they saw their little babies. Even worse what some of us, mothers felt was - nothing. Some of us were depressed and sad and crying for no reason. Postpartum depression is a reality but hardly any one talks about it. They don't tell you it's real. It could strike you when you are alone, with your baby, with your loving husband and supportive family. Beware. It could just creep in unnoticed. I could not understand this feeling when I had it. I was worried guilty thinking I shouldn't be feeling this way. And all this just 'cause nobody told me what to expect. So, be warned, this could happen to you and yes - it goes away, yes - you will love your baby later if not sooner and big YES - it is normal.
8. You will worry a lot
If you googled "family" or ever imagined the happy times a family might have after the baby arrives, you might think of parents and children that look pretty in their clean summer dresses, sun-kissed hair, smiling and playing at the beach without a worry in the world. While in reality you are worried sick you cannot fix the pram to settle your crying and always hungry baby in for a nap. And it's all because nobody told you this could happen. If you are a parent, trust me, you are a constant worry maker. You signed up for it yourself in broad daylight when you looked at the bathroom mirror and cried with joy "Wow! I am pregnant!". You will worry because the baby doesn't eat or eats a lot, doesn't sleep or sleeps a lot, doesn't cry or cries a lot, doesn't burp, fart, talks, walks, smiles, goes out with friends, has a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Well, you get the gist. You will worry until your last breath. 'Cause that's what parents do! It's our job! You might not manage to slay the worry monster but you might learn to manage it as you grow up and your child grows up. So chill, even if no one told you, we all worry. And it's okay.
9. Having kids is an option
Obviously, right? I mean it's your decision anyway. You don't need to have kids just cuz it's the right thing to do or your parents are asking you for a grand-kid to play with or you are the only non parent couple in your group of friends or now is the right age before it gets too late. If you don't want to have kids (I must say after the week I've had, it's not a bad choice!), don't have them. Sure, those without kids might think "Imagine what my life would be with kids" but every parent also thinks "Imagine what my life would have been without kids". Don't do it just to complete an unseen checklist of "things to do before you die". Nobody tells you that it's okay to not have kids and yet live happily ever after. Parenthood is really hard with all the effort, sleepless nights, expenses and challenges involved. If you don't feel like it, don't kid yourself.
10. You will change a lot
Your life will change. Your sleep habits, eating habits, T.V. habits, party habits, drinking habits - all will change. You might become boring, cry a lot ( I cried my heart out while watching an old movie scene with a mother and child which I never even cared for before), stay safe and soft-hearted and you will love it! You will become more empathetic of colleagues rushing off home from work, you will manage to make everything in your house smooth and rounded. Things that you were passionate about will take a back seat. You will learn more about germs and cleaning methods than you ever did. You will have school and daycare numbers in your phonebook instead of your favourite restaurants, pubs and movie hall. Your body will change. Weight gain, swollen feet, stretch marks, belly pouch are the things no one will tell you about. But this will co-exist with hormonal imbalance, hair loss and fatigue.
10. Your relationship will change a LOT
Lifestyle changes are inevitable once you have a child. Add to that a loss of freedom and loss of time together with your spouse is something nobody warned you about. Both of you are going to be tired, stressed, worried, sleepless and it could get overwhelming sometimes. You both might argue over the right amount of milk to feed, over the right detergent and softener for baby clothes, over whose turn it is to do the diapers, etc. etc. This could lead to less romance and more stress. In such scenarios, communication and teamwork are the two best friends you must stick with. And it's okay to ask for help from family, friends, baby nurses and daycare. You can sneak in a few hours of cuddle time while the baby is sleeping with grandma, you can catch a late night movie together while your sister is childminding, if you are lucky, you could go out on a lunch date while the child is happy and safe at a daycare facility. Nobody tells you that children can put a strain on any relationship, no matter how long or strong it has been.
So, did I scare away all parents-to-be? I hope not! 'Cause as bad as I made it sound, it's totally worth it! If you come to think of it, the real reason why nobody tells you these things is because a lot of it really doesn't matter! The smile on your baby's face when they recognise your face, the first sounds of "Mama" and "Papa" they make, the wet kisses they shower on you when you meet them after work. Their silly but marvellous giggles when you play peek-a-boo. And above all the feeling of creating a life and the power to shape it are things that really matter.
You will overcome challenges you never knew existed. You will battle tiredness, pain, worry, sleepless nights and be willing to do it all over again. The future of this world and the planet is literally in your hands! Yes, it's bloody hard and messy too. Once you commit, there's no looking back, no reset button. But if you are up for the challenge, rise to it.