Every once in a while, a parent is blessed with the opportunity to converse with a non-parent who believes they know everything about having a child. These people are often teachers, nannies, and volunteers at local after school programs and they are totally adorable. I mean, so precious in their ignorant little bubble of bliss. Regardless of how much time they’ve spent with children, how many hours they’ve devoted to the rearing of littles, or how much they want to be right about everything, there are some things you can’t know before having a baby. There are so many things kid-free people don’t know. There are so many things it’s impossible to know before having a baby and these are usually the things you should know. Yes, that’s right: These non-parents don’t know because they haven’t done it (yet, maybe) and we parents can’t tell them because words will never be enough.
There are things non-parents should know about babies. Preferably, there are things people should know before having a baby. But, of course, they can’t. So, let me fill you in on a few of the delightful things, which won’t even remotely come close to reality because you can’t smell puke through the Internet (please, no one invent that) and this article can’t simulate sleeping every third day for a few years. But I'll do my best to give you a general idea of some of the things you simply can't know about having a baby before you actually have one.
The New Baby Smell Is A Lie
Have you ever wondered what a new baby smells like? If you’re breastfeeding, that baby will smell like breast milk. But it will be old breast milk, and it will be disgusting and probably make you want to heave. Yes, every once in a while, you’ll bathe your little and they will momentarily smell of lavender and happiness. This isn’t new baby smell; this is baby shampoo. Real babies smell like old milk and maybe poop.
You’ll Sleep Even Less Than Everyone Says
When you’re pregnant or looking to adopt, everyone will tell you to “sleep now while you still can.” Ugh. I do wish the body actually worked that way. I would have slept through all of my high school acne and enjoyed my twenties a lot more. But no, you won’t be able to store up sleep and the new-baby sleeplessness to which they’re referring is way worse than they let on.
Take Stool Softeners With You When You Go Into Labor
There Are Never Enough Swaddling Blankets
Actually, never enough. There’s nothing you can do to ensure you have enough of these thin little things. I know, they seem barely functional before you have a baby but at 2 a.m. after days without sleep and a child who doesn’t speak yet, these things are your best friend.
I mean babies bite your nipples if you're breastfeeding. Yes, even before they have teeth. It still hurts. Enjoy.
Real Parents Despise Their Kids (Sometimes)
It’s real and it’s OK. Part of loving a child with your entire being and giving them literally everything you have is a happy trigger switch of anger and hatred. It will only happen occasionally and it will pass. But don’t feel too guilty about it. It’s why moms love wine and book clubs. No one reads the books. We mostly just talk about loathing our littles (and, sure, loving them so much too).
Your Friends Don’t Care About Your Baby Photos
I know that when you first have a child, the baby photos are a thing people coo over. They do this for a little while, partially to be nice and partially because, hey, the baby is new and is cute, and it's all fun for a while. But...there's a limit. And it's good to know where that limit is. I feel like 3-6 months. After that, aggressive baby photo sharing become something your friends have to...tolerate. And yes, it's possible that if your friends really love babies or are super close to your baby or have babies of their own, that they want to see lots of photos of your kid. That's great! Go nuts! But for most people, you can just hit the highlights.
The reason you can’t know this before having a baby is that you do know this before you have a baby (your friends have had babies; you've been on the other side of this, if you think back) and then you forget or think your child is the exception. Your baby is not the exception. Put the pictures away.
You Don’t Know What Love Is
Everyone thinks they do. Every fully functioning adult, especially ones who are in love and getting ready to have a baby thinks they know what love is; they think they have a firm grasp on what love looks like and what it’s capable of. You don’t. You know what love is like without a baby. Pretty soon, you’ll find out what love is like with a baby. It’s stronger than you ever imagined. It’s braver than you ever dreamed. Love is a storm of choices reeking havoc on the soul until everything that wasn’t essential is stripped away and the only thing left is that love. It will break you and it will bring you back. And no matter how many words I use to describe it, you just can’t know until you have a baby.