When I was very pregnant everyone was determined to make sure I knew how terrible it would be to have a new baby. Forget swollen feet and heartburn that made me vomit, they all swore I didn’t know how bad it was going to be until I had a newborn around to ruin my life. As if it were a secret, they told me I would never truly sleep again, would age overnight and lose my identity, my body would sag, I would hate my husband, my marriage would transform into drudgery and red wine, with everything covered in poop.
The relentless low-grade negativity sent me running to the internet to search “best things about parenting a newborn.” The discouraging results warned me of Top Things You’ll do Wrong as a New Parent, How to Survive Having a Newborn, and Biggest Mistakes New Parents Make. Not a single one was positive, and I really needed some reassurance around then.
So here I am, safely on the other side of the first eight weeks of newborn parenting and I can proclaim that a lot of it is simply wonderful. Here’s why:
Your baby is real!
However it happened, you’ve successfully had a child. For so long you’ve been living around the idea that you might one day have a baby. It was so hard for me to feel like my baby was real before she was born. I knew every kick and roll, and I knew that she had hiccups pretty much every day, but she still felt more like a concept.
Now I don’t have to wonder what she is like. She changes every day. She still has the hiccups. She also stretches and raises her eyebrows and nods her head as she finishes eating as if to say yum yum yum. Someday she will look at pizza that way.
You are the best at everything.
The reality is that until you do it, you don’t know for sure that you can. Because babies need about six things on repeat, you get really good at everything. Within hours if not days, you will have it down. The diapers, the feeding, the tiny clothes. Most of it isn’t that hard.
The first time I got my baby to latch in the middle of the night without turning the light on, I felt like I was a superstar. When you are able to transform a primal ragged scream of hunger or discomfort into pure silence, and then your baby gives a little sigh and falls asleep on your chest, you will be the champion of parenting.
You can watch all the TV and read all the books.
You have a legitimate reason to spend hours and hours motionless on the sofa and demand that someone refills your water and brings you a snack because obviously the baby wants you to have another cookie.
Watching your partner become a parent is full of unexpectedly sweet moments.
I have so loved watching my husband become a dad. I don’t have to tell you it broke me when I came home from picking up take-out to find him tunelessly singing ’70s rock ballads while she gazed up at him adoringly. I love seeing my parents as doting grandparents who want nothing more to cuddle her and buy her things she doesn’t need. My husband said that parenting isn’t like a new chapter of a book, but like you turn the page and end up in another dimension. And I get to watch that happen.
Newborn poop doesn’t smell bad and is water-soluble.
Truly, it smells like cereal and washes out of things. Most of the time, it is contained. Parents don’t help future parents by describing that one time they got smeared with poop just before a wedding. They forget to mention the literally hundreds of times they deftly changed a diaper and walked away spotless.
Your body is yours again.
Forget all of that business about getting your “body back” in a cosmetic Instagram way, and enjoy that instead of having to lug the baby all over town inside your enormous belly. You can hand them over to someone else to carry! No one is physically pressing on your bladder, stomach, or other organs. Your body may have changed, but it is yours. What a relief.
Rest assured, babies are even cute and a little bit hilarious when they are screaming. Maybe the others weren’t all wrong when they told you how hard it would sometimes be, but they probably also spent hours making faces at their baby to see what would coax out the sweetest smile in the world. They just forgot to tell you that part, and that it will all be worth it.