You knew you wouldn't get enough sleep, that you wouldn't be in public for a while, that you'd be home wearing comfy clothes and nursing bras. You knew you'd be responsible for a new baby while recovering from giving said baby life. You knew things would be different.
But, you didn't know. Because, mama: they love you. They don't want to scare you.
Because, mama: they forget.
Because, mama: they worry it was just them.
You didn't know what it really meant—what it really, truly feels like, to not get enough sleep. To find yourself swaying, even when the baby is no longer in your arms. To dread nighttime.
You didn't know that you could look at your baby and not remember her name, the name you practiced and wrote, and kept secret for so many months. You didn't know what it meant to hold a newly fed baby straight up for 15 minutes after eating, every single time, to minimize spit-up while trying desperately to stay awake—petrified you'd drop her.
You didn't know how isolating your home could be. You didn't know how much you could crave a baby, but realize that everyone in your family and all your friends, are out on a Saturday night, doing Saturday night things, while you're staring at the same walls you've stared at for the past three weeks.
You didn't know how much the living room clock would be your closest companion, watching it always and praying for it to be the right time: the time when you can finally feed your baby again, because you don't know how else to stop her from crying. The time when the baby has eaten long enough that you can breathe a sigh of relief. The time when your family visits. The time when your husband will finally come home from work.
You didn't know how it would feel when you're barely getting by, hoping to make it through the grocery store before the baby completely loses it, while wearing a shirt you didn't even realize she spit up on, and hearing a well-meaning woman tell you how much she misses these days.
You didn't know that you would ever be compelled to yell at a sweet stranger who's smiling and patting your shoulder. You didn't know how guilty you'd feel every time someone tells you to enjoy every minute.
You didn't know when you were reading all those books about nursing, what you were really getting yourself into. You didn't know that your nipples could feel like fire and look even worse, before the baby was even 24 hours old. You didn't know how long it could take for the baby to latch on, only to eat for maybe six minutes or maybe 37.
You didn't really understand the devastation of spit-up—of your baby finally latching on, eating and, then, just as you think, we're doing this, we're going to be okay, you both end up covered in milk. You didn't really know how people would look at you when you pulled out that bottle.
You don't know that one day, you will go to sleep, and then you'll wake up startled at 5 am, frightened that something terrible has happened, only to peer into your baby's bassinet to see them peacefully sleeping.
You don't know that soon, that teeny baby will seem almost too big for that tiny bassinet next to your bed. You don't know that one day—not so long from now—that baby will sleep by herself in the crib, in her room, and that you will spend your first nights of reclaimed bedroom ownership, watching the monitor, focusing on that little belly rising up and down, wondering how she's suddenly so big that she gets her own room.
You don't know that one day, you will be in the kitchen—cooking away, absentmindedly singing to yourself, with one eye on the bouncy chair beside you and you will suddenly hear a giggle — a real, honest to goodness giggle, that will really be the best noise you'll ever hear.
You don't know that you will sing that song, over and over and over, trying to recreate that little laugh. You don't know that you will have hundreds of videos of the baby doing absolutely nothing on your phone, taken with the hope of catching that moment, and others, again.
You don't know that one day the baby will be hungry, and you'll simply pull down your shirt or pull out the bottle—without thinking twice—without worrying about making it to the 15-minute mark, or watching the lines on the bottle. You don't know that you will find feeding peace, somehow, someday and that it's so much easier to ignore strangers' gazes eight months in.
You don't know that one day, you'll stare at your 1-year-old, who you once thought would never get the hang of nursing, and think, it may be time to stop, but I don't know if I'm ready.
You don't know that one day, even though you were pretty sure you could never put yourself through any of this again, you'll think about it. You'll decide that you're a cozy family of three because you love that little baby so much. Or, you'll decide that you because you love that little baby so much, you need to do it all one or two or three more times.
You don't know that one day, you'll sit in a coffee shop, so relieved to have two quiet hours to yourself to write, but instead, find yourself distracted by the milk drunk 3-month-old baby girl near you, whose dark crazy hair so closely resembles your youngest at that age, it almost makes you cry.
You don't know that you will almost tell her mom that you miss those days, before catching yourself and slipping off your rose-colored glasses.