Seven Things They Don’t Tell You About New Motherhood

Mothers have collective amnesia. Huge, common experiences (both the good and the bad) are not discussed, probably because the brain can’t form memories on so little sleep. Here are seven things I wish I’d known before I had a kid. But, um, there are definitely more than seven.

This is not what motherhood looks like.

1) You will become post-sleep, and you won’t even know it because you’re so, so, so tired.

Here’s the thing: It’s not sleep deprivation that will get you when you first have a kid. You’ll probably still get a seemingly functional number of hours a day if you make it a priority and go to bed when your kid does (which, yes, sometimes means 7 p.m.). What will get you is being deprived of a certain number of hours in a row. So it’s not necessarily a lower quantity of sleep that kills you. Oh no.

After you’re over the shock to life and system that having a baby is, you’ll realize that even when you do sleep for more than two hours in a row, it’s also of worse quality. You may not dream for months. Or, when you do, they will be horrible ones of your teeth falling out and needing to save your baby from zombies or attacking vegetables with your friend Gumby and a friendly talking spaceship while pumas jump out of the soil like groundhogs (my brain is a strange place).

After you realize you hardly get any sleep and what you do get is shit, you no longer care. You will look older than you’ve ever looked and no product will disguise it. You will splash water on your face, pour another cup of coffee and face the day blankly, like a robot. But you will still find a way to smile at and laugh with your kid. Can a robot do that?

2) You will develop an iron stomach.

I am not going to elaborate, but among the poo and snot and barf, all of which you will catch in your hands, you will no longer understand the meaning of gross.

3) You will become physically strong.

If you didn’t know you were a powerful beast through pregnancy and birth, you will definitely get the message when you look at your arms after about six months of carrying around a progressively wigglier and heavier small human. “The beach is that-a-way,” you will say as you flex your biceps.

4) You will rarely eat.

Unless you have progressive parental leave laws in your country that allow two parents to stay home for a significant period of time, thereby allowing one take over cooking duties, you will eat shitty food like chicken fingers and baby carrots because you will have no time. After about six months, you’ll be able to prepare healthy food again.

5) If you’re breastfeeding, your newborn will always want to eat.

Seven to nine feedings per day my ass. Which leads me to number six,

6) Breastfeeding is confusing, uncomfortable and exhausting the first few months.

Fuck those idyllic photos of preciousness latched on perfectly while nodding off. Breastfeeding is all-encompassing and complicated at first. It hurts. It’s not easy at all. It becomes easier (and even really awesome) after the first couple of months, but even still… just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s great. You know what else is natural? Cancer. Arsenic. Radon.

7) Your kid will be a jerk and you will wish they’d never been born.

It’s true. You will want to put them back. Hit undo. Drop your kid off at the fire station. You will want more than just one measly beer. But then they’ll do something, the little manipulators of our heart strings, and you’ll be smitten again.

And then you’ll forget. All of it.

By jennyroseryan

Jenny Rose Ryan is a DIY junkie and a self-professed grandma. (In the sense that she likes to say things like, "Back in my day..." and enjoys doilies, blue hair and making things from scratch.) A frequent contributor to BUST Magazine, Jenny Rose also contributed heavily to the BUST DIY Guide to Life (while 9 months pregnant -- the ultimate do-it-yourself experience), and is an avid runner and marathon-fiend. When not carin' for the grumpy babe, writing or running, you can find her listening to new metal (as opposed to nu metal) and being so horrified by American politics that she bakes instead.

19 replies on “Seven Things They Don’t Tell You About New Motherhood”

Iron stomach indeed!  Unfortunately, that iron-stomach thing didn’t extend to my husband. The kids’ poo and vomit always made him throw up.  In fact, one time when I was very sick with strep and resting in bed, our new dog deposited a steaming pile of poo in our dining room.  My husband, wanting very badly not to disturb me, tried to clean it up. He threw up on the steaming pile of poo.  Then, still wanting very badly not to disturb me, he solicited our daughter (then 12) to clean it up. SHE threw up on top of the vomit-dog poo conglomerate.  Guess who got to come down in her nightie running 102 degree fever to clean up the vomit-poo delight?

Guess who DID NOT throw up on top of the now gigantic mess?

Ahhh, the iron stomach of motherhood.

3) You will become physically strong.

If you didn’t know you were a powerful beast through pregnancy and birth, you will definitely get the message when you look at your arms after about six months of carrying around a progressively wigglier and heavier small human. “The beach is that-a-way,” you will say as you flex your biceps.

After a year or so, have someone measure the length of your arms. The side of my body I mostly carried Mini on (the right) was measurably different from the left. I was also much stronger in my right arm than my left. My gym trainer at the time was shocked. Obviously because she hadn’t spent a year carrying a baby around on her hip.

Babies: the most lovable assholes you’ll ever have the misfortune of expelling from your body.

I spend 60% of my time with Gabe fishing him out of FASCINATING situations that could lead to him getting a tetanus shot (the recycling bin, the dog’s bone, the door hinges, the stapler, the hole punch, and my lecture notes are all things I have fished out of my kid’s grasp today).

FWIW, the one thing that’s helped with Gabe’s month-long love affair with waking every 90 minutes is not feeding him solids after 4pm.  New and future moms, take note of that one.  I wish I’d thought of it before, you know, I got four hours of sleep in seven hours (but I got in three hours of crying in the dark while nursing, so every cloud has a sleep-deprived and depressed lining).

This is where I have the urge to run upstairs and give our sleeping preschooler a cuddle. We somehow avoided all the sleep deprivation of being (new) parents; in part I think this might be because of co-sleeping but in part because Juniper Junior is an awesome sleeper like me. Major admiration for you guys who have gone (or are going) without enough sleep.

I’m glad it’s getting better. I’ve seen friends go through (and are still going through) horrible times with their little ones but the general consensus is that it gets better with time. Also very much an instance of every little one being different. Some friends of ours in particular, with three children, have co-slept with all three and have had utterly different experiences each time.

Co-sleeping was such an awful, awful, awful thing for us.  AWFUL.  Sofia would kick and scream unless she was latched on ~non-stop~ for the entire night.  Thank God we’ve finally passed that, and we can sleep together more or less normally.  A month or so ago, I was despondent.  We’re finally moving past that, though.

My son is now four and I can say today, now, finally that he was kind of a jerk when he was tiny.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t love him, or didn’t love him when he was a wee one.  It takes a huge amount of courage as a woman to admit that motherhood is not the greatest thing in the world.  Not like a nice MLT, mutton, lettuce and tomato when the mutton is nice and lean  . . . but I digress.

Thanks for confirming that it is ok to admit that motherhood is hard.  I love being a mommy.  My kid is the coolest thing on earth.  But breastfeeding was hard, not sleeping sucked, I was sex-deprived for EVAR, and I swear if I ever see another Baby Einstein video ever ever again I will put my fist through the television.

But I’m going to hug the shit out of my kid when I pick him up from Pre School today.

And then you’ll forget. All of it.

I think that’s the most important line here, because it is so true.  I mean, you remember but you don’t remember.

And that goes for the good and the bad.  I remember rocking my son to sleep when he was about two (he’s 25 now) and sobbing – SOBBING – because I couldn’t remember every moment of his infancy, that those moments were gone and I couldn’t recall everything in exact detail.  I wanted to be able to stop and rewind at will and relive everything.

The saddest thing about time is the most wonderful thing about time – it just keeps passing by.



That is something that makes me really, really sad. My son is now two and a half, and when I try to think back to the early days of his life, I can’t remember anything. I don’t remember what he felt like in my arms, what he smelled like or even looked like. I have a couple of vague memories of a sleeping newborn, waking up every two hours, and the discomfort of breastfeeding, but that’s all I remember. I don’t remember the faces he made or him crying or anything, really. It does make me sad. And while I don’t plan to have any more children at this stage, I can see why some women do want to have more, just to recapture those first few weeks with a new baby that we all seem to forget.

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