It’s about to get real

Congratulations, you’re going to have a baby! 

Whether you’re giving birth or adopting, your life is going to change in a major way with the arrival of that little bundle of magic and tears. 

Yes, that’s what everyone says; and, yes, it’s a totally boring thing to say. 

And you won’t understand the profundity of that change until there’s a new small human residing in your home. 

Does that sound patronizing? Because it is. Patronizing — but true! 

Your Hero’s Journey

When I was pregnant for the first time, I hated it when people droned on about how fundamentally my life would change after the baby finally came.

I got the impression what they really meant was that I’d suddenly transform into a beige mom-bot whose idea of a good time was a cloth-diapering-and-chardonnay workshop down at the local wooden toy shop. 

And who knows, maybe that is what they meant. But it’s not what I mean now.

When I say your life is going to change, I’m speaking in mythical terms: You’re kind of on a Hero’s Journey. You’ve received the call to adventure (getting pregnant or deciding to adopt). You may grapple with fears of the unknown. You’ll meet with a mentor who will perhaps help you prepare for the changes ahead — maybe a midwife, OB, the woman teaching your “Baby Care 101” class or What to Expect When You’re Expecting. You prepare to cross the threshold. 

This is where my sophomore-year-cultural-studies musings start to fall apart. Maybe it’s not really a Hero’s Journey; maybe it’s just plain old Having a Baby. 

This is also the point at which many parents-to-be (especially mothers-to-be) start to lose the plot. 

“Should I try hypnobirthing?” we ask ourselves. “Should I hire a doula?” 

Like a tunnel-visioned bride, we’re focusing primarily on the big event (wedding/birth) and less on the huge transformation that awaits (married life/caring for a child forever). 

So we do our best to prepare for — and purchase — the “birth experience” we’ve been told we’re entitled to; and we give nary a thought to what happens when we take the baby home. 

At least, this is how it was for me.

Devastation, anyone?

I was completely unprepared for the postpartum period. I didn’t understand how absolutely devastating this time can be. 

It’s kind of a taboo subject — admit that the postpartum weeks might be anything other than a love fest and risk stressing out pregnant women, bumming out grandparents and receiving a humiliating lack of likes on your Facebook feed.   

I used to be a militant member of the “don’t tell pregnant women anything distressing” camp. But now I have to break ranks when it comes to speaking up about postpartum realities. 

The U.S. provides a whole lot of nothing to families when it comes to maternity leave, adequate health care, affordable child care — basically anything you might need when you have a new baby.

So it’s up to us to elect lawmakers who will work to make the U.S. less punishing to parents. In the meantime, we’ll have to fend for ourselves. 

Skip the Euro high chair

Here are a few suggestions to help you face postpartum struggles: 

  1. Hire a postpartum doula or baby nurse. If there’s any way you can afford it, I urge you to hire some to help you after you bring Baby home. Someone who will care for the baby while you sleep; someone who will cook food and bring it to you; someone who will sweep the floor and take out the trash. Save the thousand dollars you would’ve spent on a European high chair and spend it on this instead. Of course, if you can convince a family member or friend to do this for free, even better! (Beware of possible attached strings.)   
  2. Round up your money. This stuff is gonna cost you! I’m not just talking about diapers and crib sheets. I’m talking about all those inscrutable bills relating to the birth. And that not-covered-by-your-insurance freak-out trip to the ER with your newborn. And the mortgage/rent that keeps demanding to be paid.
  3. Get good support. Let’s go back to those mentors from your hero’s journey — you need them now, too. Pick the best ones and kick the others to the curb. This is no time for being polite.

Shannon Keough lives in Minneapolis with her husband and two children. Send questions or comments to skeough@mnparent.com.