Motherhood: Reality verses Daydream

Confronting Parenthood MythsNewborn infant curled up asleep on mom on boppy nursing pillow

  • What: Parenting expectations verses reality
  • When: Before becoming a parent
  • Why: Recognize my misconceptions
  • Where: My home

Before I had kids of my own, I knew I wanted kids. I had some idea what my life would look like after they arrived, too. But after another Mother’s Day (much better than the first – never say I don’t learn!), I thought now might be a good time to reflect on what I thought motherhood would look like, and what actually happened.

I fantasized about lying with my newborn in a hammock on a tropical island. Don’t laugh. It’s called a babymoon. Just because I hate beaches and never went near a tropical drink much less an island during my first year of parenthood, doesn’t mean I didn’t imagine it. I can still see that picture so clearly in my mind to this day. I suppose I saw something similar in a magazine somewhere and inserted myself into the photo.

Newborn infant posed on sofa with giraffe stuffed animal screaming crying

This was the reality of my newborn son anytime he was awake.

What we got was a screaming infant who could only be calmed by lots of jiggling. And swaddling, preferably while singing to him and making sure he had at least one light source to admire at any given time.

I imagined serene car rides with my infant tucked cozily into the safest car seat money could buy. Instead I avoided the car, because he screamed so loud for the entirety of any drive. We drove not once but multiple times over the Botts’ dots (those bumps on the road to delineate lanes) in an effort to get him to stop crying. (It worked!)

I never even stopped to think how I would stay fed myself. I thought I would sti down multiple times a day to gaze into my baby’s eyes as he nursed contentedly. I knew nothing about supply issues, or stressing over every little thing you eat, wondering if it will increase or decrease your supply. I had no idea the three week growth spurt existed. In reality, I stayed chained to a chair, and luckily had visitors who literally threw packets of food at me and refilled my giant water bottle while my child nursed and screamed and nursed and screamed and nursed some more. By the time he got enough, we started all over again. We averaged 17 minutes between breastfeeding sessions for days. That measurement does not include time spent breastfeeding and switching sides and burping. He barely finished before we had to start all over again.

I imagined holding my infant in the crook of my arm while he blissfully slept, while my husband gazed down at both of us with wonder. Instead, we fought over whose turn it was to whack the bassinet with a hiking stick LINK (we were much too tired to get out of bed, even for the one foot distance between our bed and the bassinet) in the middle of the night, hopefully before he started screaming. Motion set off the white noise machine we had back during our novice parenting stage, before we invested in a white noise machine that played all the time.

I imagined making nutritious food my child would gobble up and ask for more. I got a child who vomited any rice product ever, not from an allergy but from pure dislike. Do you know how many infant cereals contain rice? Suddenly making my own baby food was no longer a choice.

I imagined a calm, peaceful home birth, and thinking what a beautiful day to meet my new child. Instead, after laboring at home for over 40 hours, I went to the hospital in rush hour traffic. I imagined I would make my own medical decisions as a team, with no stress or rush. Instead, questions came hurling at us faster than we could understand.

I imagined making rational, well-informed decisions about everything from vaccines to childcare. I had no idea so many people has so many opinions based on so-called facts, and that they all felt compelled to share them with me.

I imagined being in control. Luckily I learned that lesson fast, in the delivery room, and have never stopped learning it. More and more things fall outside my control from the moment they leave the womb. What I know now is that’s a good thing, for them, if not for my peace of mind.

Despite multiple years with in home childcare experience, I still had these pretty pictures inside my head. And yet somehow, despite all my unrealistic expectations, I still love my children more than life itself, even though the pictures in my head don’t match up with what my eyes see.

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