Friday, July 23, 2010

What the experts don't tell you about motherhood

1. Being pregnant is hard.
Hormones. We're talking serious influx of hormones here. There are extra levels of everything that makes women moody. Not only that, but there are certain hormones released that make your body do weird things. Like towards the 3rd trimester your joints will ache - especially in your pelvis. It's your body's way of loosening things so a baby can squeeze out. With all the hormones, pregnancy is hard not only on the pregnant, but for everyone nearby. Watch out baby daddies! Be prepared for some serious PMS-type emotions and crankiness because everything hurts.
There is the "morning sickness" that people don't tell you can last an entire pregnancy or can hit at the most inopportune moments. It can be general nausea or it can be wretching your guts out. Add to that the heartburn and what you eat during pregnancy can become difficult. You could be one of those women who can eat nothing but one particular brand of breakfast cereal - for the entire pregnancy. It could be that favorite foods can no longer be stomached. For some (lots?) the smell of cooking meat is especially disgusting. Or maybe you do have real cravings. I have to keep a jar of green olives in the fridge just in case. And I'm susceptible to suggestion. Like if someone mentions peanut butter and jelly, I have to immediately stock my cupboards with the supplies and I'll eat them for a week or two straight.
Then there's the exhaustion. Your body is producing serious miracles of growth and it takes every ounce of energy to make them happen. You've got a parasite sucking out your nutrients (seriously, that's why you HAVE to take a multi-vitamin during pregnancy) and making you desire (no, NEED) extra sleep. Every pregnant woman I've known has needed to take naps toward the end of pregnancy. There's just no way to get all the sleep you need at night. Especially if you have other kids.
Last but not least, pregnancy can be downright painful. I'm not talking about labor and delivery. I'm talking about the pregnancy itself. Think about it. At the end, you've got a watermelon-sized thing attached to your front that can wreak serious havoc on your back. The gravity and sheer size of your parasite and its housing require that you sit differently, stand differently, walk differently, and even sleep differently. And it's not like it's something you can get used to. This thing is moving and growing constantly. Babies instinctively want to stretch out and test boundaries. I had a midwife tell me that her 5th baby kicked and punched so much that it destroyed her appendix and she had to have an emergency appendectomy during the pregnancy. I've known women who claimed to have baby feet lodged under their ribs almost to their armpit. My babies seem to take pleasure in pushing a certain balloon-type organ that needs to be emptied regularly. And don't forget the joints. Not just the pelvis loosens during pregnancy. The hormone that loosens the ligaments of the pelvis works everywhere. All joints loosen up. Thus falling as a pregnant lady is too common. Be careful.

2. Being a parent is hard. Motherhood is spectacularly interesting and boring at the same time. It's exhausting of mind and body. It's hilarious. It's heartbreaking. It's scary and thrilling.
This winter my 3-year-old split his eyelid open on a piano bench he had moved into grandma's kitchen. Serious drugs and 8 stitches later, I brought him home all covered in blood and happy as a clam. A month or two later, my 15-month-old walked through the not-quite-dead ashes of a bonfire and got serious burns on her foot. My husband and I both cried as we held her down and the doctor pealed the dead skin off so the stuff underneath could heal. It took her almost a week to be able to walk again, but now just 3 months later you can barely see the pink discoloration on her foot.
Last night my 8-year-old niece took my kid to the playground near our picnic so he could play on the slides. Hannah monkeyed around herself, but fell from the top-side of the one of the big winding slides - breaking her arm. I felt guilty in my relief that it wasn't my kid this time around.
Every morning my little girl goes to her big brother's room to wake him up so he will play with her. The glee in her voice when she sees him and tries to wake him up just makes me want to squeeze her, but she only has eyes for him. He tenderly takes her hand to walk down the too-narrow hallway or to walk to the car from the grocery store, loving to help out in keeping her safe.
My little boy tries so hard to be a good boy. To be big and helpful and strong. When he got in trouble for whining too much last night (wanted to stay at the park all night) and he cried and cried and got sent to bed without his popsicle, he tried to convince us that he should be able to stay up. This tender little boy, only 3 1/2 years old, valiantly choked back the tears and told us he was done. I believed him, and my resolve to be consistent with his punishment made me want to cry too.

These little monsters, that can mess up a room way more quickly than I can keep it clean... these huge personalities stuffed in tiny bodies... they make me laugh and cry, bring me sorrow and joy, hope and despair.
Parenthood is absolutely nothing like what I expected, but it really is everything I hoped. Better in so many ways. It is by far the most heartbreaking and rewarding thing I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.