by Heidi Cox
I recently attended a shower for my cousin’s first baby. And, as she opened gifts, all the comments began:
It’s so exciting!
What a special time of life!
There’s nothing like a newborn!
Perhaps I was having a cynical moment. Maybe I was just plain tired. But it took everything I had to hold back. I just wanted to give it to her straight and tell her all the things no one tells an expecting mom at her baby shower.
Just then, an older woman leaned over to me and whispered, “Nobody talks about how little sleep she’s going to get!” We both smiled.
Yup, I thought. Having three young children of my own, I know that sleeplessness is just one of the many sacrifices my cousin will make for her baby. Suddenly, I wanted to steal my cousin away and tell her the reality: Motherhood breaks you in ways you never could imagine! But then I took a deep breath, shoved another bite of cake into my mouth, and remembered that a baby shower isn’t the place for sharing sentiments such as those.
As I came home that afternoon, I mulled over other realities of motherhood that weren’t mentioned to my cousin. And my list of what not to talk about at a baby shower was born:
The aftermath of childbirth. The lovely healing process, with all the itching and burning and bleeding and how each trip to the bathroom is a major event.
The drama of nursing. When my milk came in, my breasts didn’t just grow two bra sizes – they took on a life of their own! And I know all the nurses say it shouldn’t hurt when you nurse correctly. I think they are lying.
Post-partum depression. When I encountered this crippling emotion, I couldn’t eat or sleep for days. I felt guilty that I wasn’t overflowing with feelings of love for my baby.
Feeling like a prisoner in your own home. Once the newness of being at home with baby wears off, you wonder if you’ll ever escape the doldrums of diapers and Desitin.
Fighting with your spouse. You and your husband will probably fight more in the first year of your child’s life than ever before. Somehow, the sleeplessness inhibits your ability to communicate in calm, respectful voices and use calm, respectful words.
Sleep deprivation. Don’t even get me started on this one. It’s one I still haven’t recovered from yet.
I planned to write down more, but … in the middle of making my list, I was interrupted by a sweet-faced toddler who just woke up from his nap, all warm and sleepy and needy. This is my firecracker-of-a-middle child who has an aversion to sitting still. Yet in this moment, he tugs on my shirt and whispers, “Hold me.”
We cuddle on the couch quietly, no need for words. He lays his head on my shoulder and I listen to his rhythmic breathing. I look at his little body all curled up against me, and it seems like only yesterday that he was my baby. Hugging him closer, I wonder how much longer he will fit in my arms. And I quietly thank God for the gift of motherhood. No one tells you about these moments at baby showers, either.
Yes, my children have stripped me of everything I thought was important. But they have also filled up the cracks and canyons in my heart that I never knew were empty. They have opened me up to the joy that comes from giving my life away. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why they don’t tell you the hard parts at a baby shower. Because as any veteran mom will tell you, every bit of sacrifice is worth it.