The Shit They Don’t Tell You: 12 Things New Parents Need to Know

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This article is written by NF Rebel Correspondent, Dan.

New parent? Thinking of having kids? Thinking of not having kids?

Today we’re going to bring you some hard truths.

I‘ve just had my third child because I am a crazy person I love being a dad so much, and there are still things that happen each day where I think ‘huh, never knew that!’ Even though I’ve been a parent educator for years, I still get shocked about how little I know.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of expectant mothers and fathers in ante-natal classes, giving them the general rundown on pregnancy, birthing, raising kids, child development and parenting. Today you are getting the real scoop: the stuff I don’t even cover there.

The decision to go for completion of the “parenting quest” is not to be made lightly. We’re going to arm you with the knowledge of traps, bosses, and challenges that lie ahead.

Being prepared is key, so let’s stock our inventory with some rarely passed on knowledge.

Shit they don’t tell you: Pregnancy

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“It’s not that uncomfortable.”

“It’s the best time of your life.”

“You’ll be ‘glowing’.”

Wrong, wrong, and wrong.

Here’s what to really expect when you’re expecting:

1. It can be hard to even get pregnant:

We were told all through high school, if you have unprotected sex, you will definitely get pregnant (and die). Sure, it can (and in my public high school, often did) happen, but it can take months, even years, for a perfectly healthy, young couple to conceive.

At the age of 30, out of 100 couples trying to conceive naturally, only 20 will conceive within one month and around 85 will conceive within one year.

Many couples spend years doing everything they can to not get pregnant, only to then spend years trying to get pregnant. It can be a super tough time on the couple, who are often suffering in silence.

2. It can be hard to stay pregnant:

Sometimes nature is a complete asshole. You’ve spent months (or years) trying to fall pregnant and it’s finally happened. You’re so excited, you start planning names, telling family the good news, imagining the life ahead, when all of a sudden… sorry, back to the start of the first mission.

Speaking from experience, it’s impossible to describe how devastating this is.

Nobody really talks about it, but miscarriage is  very common, even if you’re in those ‘prime baby makin’ years’. To reduce your risk, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, weight and diet is the most important thing you can do (there’s a great website that can help you with all of that). If you’re having recurrent miscarriages, go see a medical professional.

Just on these first two points (which are super depressing, sorry about that), please be aware that your friends may be trying to have children with no luck, so please try and avoid the classic “Why haven’t you guys had kids yet?” question at social gatherings. We know you mean no harm by it, but it can make the couple feel a little awkward.

3. Pregnancy is long and messy:

Not surprisingly, making a human inside of another human takes a huge toll on the body. Things start moving, not working, squirting, ‘in’ things start to become ‘out things,’ and everything hurts.

Nearing the end of my wife’s first pregnancy (she gets ‘super pregnant’) she said to me “If anyone looked at my Google search history over the past 8 months, they would think I was the most disgusting human ever.”

By the end, most women can’t wait for it to be over. Be prepared to be uncomfortable, sick, and cranky. Partners, be prepared to be more supportive (and thick skinned) than you’ve ever been before.

4. The birthing process is also long and really messy:

Don’t expect it to be like the movies. Every birth and labor is different, but the whole process can take anywhere up to and over 24 hours. It can be messy, bloody, and extremely draining (both physically and emotionally) for all involved.

The good news is, a lot of that is quickly forgotten once baby arrives (who will also be messy and gross looking). Think of this like hitting your first checkpoint/save point along the quest.

You’ll be glad for the breather.

Shit they don’t tell you: Newborns

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They’re so beautiful.”

“The hard part is over now.”

“She looks just like you.”

Wrong, wrong, and I sure hope not.

5. Newborns and infants are just messy:

As mentioned above, they’re not the prettiest things when they first come out. People like to pretend they are, but they’re definitely not.

Depending on the birth, a newborn can be bruised, have a misshaped head, and be covered in a gooey substance. This is all very normal, and they start to look (almost) human shortly.

But it doesn’t end there. New parents are often shocked at how messy babies are. Babies may be small, but they can poop and puke like nobody’s business. Your stomach gains superpowers in the first few months. What you would “never” be able to handle before all just becomes part of the routine.

6. Everyone’s an expert, you’re a n00b:

Consider yourself warned: On every topic, be it feeding, sleeping, wrapping, carrying, playing, whatever… everyone else, even those without kids, is an expert and you don’t know shit about your child or parenting.

Even when you try to educate yourself a little bit, you’ll will find contradictory evidence for every side of every argument, no matter what topic you’re looking into.

My advice (for what it’s worth): try a few things and figure out what best works for your family. As long as you’re not doing your child or yourself any harm, this is usually the best way to go. Don’t always trust the ‘experts’ (this definitely DOES include me). I’ve worked with so many high ranking child and parenting specialists who I would not trust my kids with for a second.

Nobody knows your child better than yourself.

7. You may not love your child straight away, and that’s totally OK:

A lot of parents will talk about an instant and extreme bond with their newborn, and yes, this happens for a lot of parents. But for many others, there is a ‘breaking in’ period, where you’re not so sure about the little screaming alien looking thing, and you surely can’t be expected to love it, right?

You know you are supposed to love them, because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do as a parent. But deep down you know you don’t. Does this make you a horrible person? Of course not.

Think of having a newborn as the tutorial level (side note: I hate tutorial levels, Driver on the PS1 scarred me for life). It’s all new and different, and it’s probably not showcasing the features that will make it your new favorite game. It takes the time and experience, struggling and fumbling your way through things for a lot of parents to start enjoying it all – and that’s ok!

Similarly, even as they grow, there will be times where you actually dislike your children (they can be really mean) and you will feel really guilty because of this. This too is ok, and believe me, you are definitely not alone.

8. You will worry, A LOT:

Yes yes, you think, “obviously I’ll worry.”

No, you don’t understand. I’m telling you there’s a boss behind the door that you don’t know about. His name? The Worry. [Cue the dramatic music.]

The Worry is possibly the hardest and least relenting battle on the quest. The Worry got me in my early quest days, and still continues to reappear along the way.

“What if she dies?” “What if I die?” “What if my partner dies?” “I don’t make enough money and never will.” “What if they’ve got (insert any disease here)?” “What if they’re Trekkies even though I’ve raised them on Star Wars?” “Team Valor is clearly superior, but what if they choose Team Mystic when they grow up?”

All important questions, which will cause worry in any parents mind.

I’ve yet learnt how to fully slay The Worry beast, but I’ve become better at managing it. As many do with time and practice. But fact is, you will always worry, so try your best to accept and get used to it.

You will think they’re dying at least a dozen times in their first year (kids get sick all the time) and even as they grow, they’re always preoccupying your mind. They become your top priority, always.

The Other Shit They Don’t Tell You

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“It’s not really that much of a change.”

“You’ll still do all the things you used to.”

“It gets easier over time.”

Wrong, wrong, and… kinda wrong.

9. Your relationship will change, A LOT:

Lifestyle changes naturally occur with having a children. A loss of freedom and loss of time together as a couple are challenges for all parents and can be overwhelming at times.

You’re both much more tired, worried, and overwhelmed than you’ve ever been before. You realize how much better sleep is than sex, and you’re no longer each other’s top priority. Children can put a strain on any relationship, no matter how strong it is.

You’ll both start disagreeing more (please remember that with parenting there is often more than one correct way to do something), and traps will start arising in the most unlikely of places (jealous your partner goes to work where they can ‘rest’, while you have to stay at home doing a much harder job).

But if you’re lucky enough to have someone pick up the weird third party controller and make the quest multiplayer, your battles are going to be much easier. However, your communication and teamwork will always have to be top notch.

10. Having kids is totally optional:

Obvious, right? I thought so too, until I started speaking at pre-conception groups for young couples.

You don’t have to have kids because ‘it’s the right thing to do’ or you’re ‘getting to that age’ or ‘our parents want grandkids’. If you don’t want kids (I must say after the week I’ve had, totally not a bad choice, by the way), don’t have them.

Sure, those without kids may think every now and then ‘gee, I wonder what my life would have been like with kids?’, but I guarantee you every parent also thinks ‘gee, imagine what my life would have been like without kids.’

Don’t feel it’s something you need to do to simply ‘tick off the list’. It takes a lot of hard work, time, sleepless nights, and money. It’s ok to not have kids and be happy with your life. If you know it’s not for you, don’t kid yourself. This quest is optional, and not devoting an enormous part of your adult life to a single quest won’t stop you from leveling up your life. If it’s the right choice for you, it may even help.

11. You will change, A LOT:

Your sleep habits are forced to change, your lifestyle is forced to change, your finances are forced to change, and you as a person will change too.

Expect to become different. Boring, safe, sensible, tired, soft and lame…and what’s even worse is, you’ll love it. You will become way more empathetic (I got a little choked up this week by, of all things, a freaking golf store commercial!) because you’ve now got a whole new perspective on life.

Things you used to be so passionate about will take a back seat. Jerry Seinfeld put it very well when he said “Once a man has children, for the rest of his life, his attitude is, “To hell with the world, I can make my own people.”

To hell with the world indeed; my whole world is under one roof. Sure, I still view myself as a gamer, punk rocker, good husband, weekend golf pro and outright geek, but above all, I’m a dad, and will be for the rest of my days.

12. You won’t be as great of a parent as you thought you’d be:

Yep, sorry, that does even mean you rebels who are actually taking time to read parenting articles and advice.

We all start off with grand ambitions of being #1, or ‘World’s Greatest Parent‘, but when reality kicks in, a lot of days we’ll settle for ‘World’s okay-est parent.’

You’re going to mess up, you’re going to take a while to get things right, and you’re certainly going to be that parent in the store one day. I’ve yet to meet a parent who’s got it all together, all the time. Even us ‘experts’ are just making it up as we go along.

As bad as I just made it sound, it’s totally worth it.

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So, have I turned all you nerdy parents-to-be off of having children yet? I sure hope not. We need to be building a better, nerdier next generation. I don’t want the world to become (more) like ‘Idiocracy’.

In the scheme of things, the reason nobody tells you this shit is because…a lot of it doesn’t really matter.

The smile on your baby’s face when they first recognize you. The laughter and pure joy they get from rolling around on the floor with you. The wonder in their eyes as you do stupid dad magic. Their name for you being their first word. Creating and shaping a human life. THAT is the shit that really matters.

Yes, choosing to take on the parenting quest instantly increases the difficulty, but in terms of the XP and treasure you’ll gain, it’s so worth it.

You’ll rise to challenges you never thought you could defeat, you’ll battle the bosses of teething, feeding, tiredness and the dreaded Worry. You’ll constantly be switching between hero and villain, and even though you may lose a bit of your loot along the way, you’ll have the best damn sidekick to share, and conquer, the lifelong game with.

It’s messy, terrifying, and really bloody tough. It’s not for everyone, but those of us currently on the quest won’t be hitting the reset button any time soon.

You have the most important job in the world, you’re the boss of leveling up the future, leaving a legacy on this planet, and laying big plans for a better tomorrow. If you’re up to the challenge, rise to it, for them, for you, and for the future of the Rebellion.

Future parents, what else do you want to know?

Noob parents, what other shit weren’t you told about?

Leet parents, what wisdom can you bestow upon us?

Non parents, what does a hot meal taste like?

Let us know in the comments,

– Dan

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92 thoughts on “The Shit They Don’t Tell You: 12 Things New Parents Need to Know

  1. Great points mate. Could not agree with you more, your point A definitely applies to me a lot of the time.

    Thanks for reading and contributing, best of luck with the quest. Once they start walking it’s a whole new game.

  2. Thanks Sarah. If only some people thought before they spoke sometimes. Best of luck with it all.

  3. And your comment has just made my day. A lot of us are in the same (sometimes rocky) boat.

    Thanks for reading and sharing.

  4. Wow, what a story you have! You must be so proud of them. You should also be so proud pf yourself for what youve been through. All the best, thanks for reading.

  5. Seriously about the asking about when you’re gonna have kids. Because NEITHER of us wants to talk about my ovulation issues or why I fall into the loophole of medicaid that means I have no health insurance or how it was dismissively attributed to my weight when cancer was ruled out. That’s just depressing for us both. So yeah, I wish more people followed the “this can be a painful can of worms to open” rule because it’s just not appropriate for the casual I’m-out-of-weather-info sort of conversations that question comes up in. … Sorry. That apparently irks me more than I thought.

  6. Well done on going through with an adoption. Amazing stuff, but there’s certainly going to be challenges along the way for you, a lot of which will be the same as other ‘natural’ parents. Research shows there’s little to no difference in the quality of parent-child attachment between adopted children and non-adopted children, so a lot of generic parenting advice will still apply.

    However, this is a pretty good place to start regarding adoption tips, bonding and questions:
    http://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/adoption-and-foster-care

    Thanks for sharing, let me know if you have any more questions.

  7. I have four kids now and this is how I describe how loose you get after a while: “If they aren’t broken, bleeding, or on fire, I don’t worry too much about it”.

  8. This is all good advice. I often tell new fathers to be mindful that their best friend (mum)(may not have a lot of time for them any more and those emotions need to be felt.

  9. OMG so much great, true info. (Also didn’t realise you were Aussie, g’day mate!)
    I remember distinctly saying minutes after my daughter was born that I wouldn’t do that again (they call it labor for a reason!) and yet now find myself gearing up for another go.

    My two cents:
    Your kid won’t be like you were, and obviously times have changed for parenting generally since you yourself were a baby (and your partner) – don’t rely only on the advice of your older relatives. I love my mum, but she had zero experience with a baby who just would.not.sleep. and ended up making me more stressed out when we were trying to let her cry a bit (ended up going to sleep school which saved all our lives, seriously I was a wreck, so glad I didn’t wait). I remember her saying “She won’t be like this in a few years” and I said (ok, maybe screamed because I hadn’t slept in days) “I can’t do this for a few more weeks!”

    Just because someone else successfully raised a child doesn’t mean they know exactly how to raise YOUR child.

  10. To number 6. We once got two advices that really helped us out: 1) You parents (especially the mom) are the only person that really knows what your child needs! and 2) every child grows to its parents! that said: as long as yo dont do harm (and keep the worry boss in check) you can’t do wrong. no matter what. Use your instincts!

  11. I learned very quickly that “this too shall pass”. Are you in a tough time where the baby cries constantly? Insert above quote. Think to yourself, “wow, I finally know what I’m doing here!” Oh yeah? “This too shall pass!”

  12. Jennifer! I wrote my response above before reading this far down! Great minds think alike! I also hated being in the grocery store with all three boys (now 14, 13 and 10) or some other destined to fail, pull out your hair situation and someone smiles at your struggle and says, “enjoy it while you can because it will be over before you know it!” That’s the person I mentally flipped off! Now my boys are pretty self sufficient and just enough of antisocial gamers that I don’t have to worry about parties or dating. They also are great friends so we have it pretty easy right now! I know what you’re thinking, THISTOOSHALLPASS!!

  13. I’m so sorry you went through that and I totally understand your perspective. I too adore my children.

  14. Thank you! I only got there by failing at all four of these points multiple times, but with lots of help I’m getting better.

  15. My dad gave me the best parenting advice in the world when I was pregnant with #1: “Everyone will tell you how to be a parent, take what works for you and ignore the rest.”

  16. AMEN!!! I wish someone would have told me all these things at various points in the past 14 years. I love both my kids but there have been days (many–ok almost every single one) when I’ve looked at them and just thought “why didn’t you come with a manual? People should not be expected to do this on the fly!”

  17. I’m 35, without kids and never wanted any. Please don’t tell people that tell you they don’t want kids that they will change their mind. If they are like me, they won’t. It hasn’t changed since I was young and I’m confident it wont change now. I agree about the whole every once in a while a childless person will think, “I wonder what life would be like if we had kids” , but then 9:30am on a Saturday morning rolls around and I say “Yup! Still the right decision”. I do love my nephews. They go home at the end of the day! Perhaps people will think I’m selfish but really I know myself and I don’t have the patience to have a child.

  18. If you do find you’re having trouble conceiving, it’s absolutely amazing what you can learn about underlying causes of infertility by learning to track the woman’s cycle and talking to a specialist. Check out “NaPro Technology” (Natural Procreative Technology) if you’re interested. It’ll also help you know precisely when a woman is ovulating and what hormonal issues and imbalances may be present!

    This is what junior high sex ed and health class should really cover!

  19. Great article, and good timing! My firstborn was due last Sunday. One of the things no one told us about was pre-labor! It starts up just like labor, gets us all excited and worried… then goes away and leaves you feeling like – “What happened?” and you’re back to waiting all over again.

  20. Spot on totally. I’m a first time mom with a 10 week old son. I felt so guilty in the first couple weeks because I didn’t have that all-consuming love feeling towards him. It was more the “wtf have I done?” kind of feeling. Makes me feel better knowing that I’m probably normal. 🙂

  21. 40 year’s old this June, Four kids, all boys, oldest is nine. Common first query to any crisis, ‘Are you bleeding; is it broken; can you still move it?” The first two have to be no, and the third is yes, it’s still mobile, then we diagnose and get to work fixing whatever it going on this time. For my wife and I, parenting is trying to get through the haunted house with a hyper-child who’s had too much caffeine.

  22. If you are about to have kids get used to broken sleep and poos. Lots of poos. Once they start kindergarten and get exposed to other kids, get used to gastro bugs and vomits. The rest is all good, except the constant stress and lack of sleep. Sleep is good.

  23. Never got that ‘I really want kids’ feeling so I never did. It is such a commitment that I would never want to undertake that lifelong quest unless I felt it.

    I will never be a parent, but I want to be the best Auntie ever!

    Oh and my hot meal was delicious, thank you.

  24. Na mate, proud South Aussie. Ever since we got electricity back in 2008 it’s been a great place to live.

  25. Get the book of insults ready…. I’m from Canberra but now live in New Zealand!

  26. I am concerned my physical fitness will take a back seat when I have children. This is such an important, passionate part of my life, but everyone tells me once I have kids being in shape it won’t matter anymore.
    Is it as simple as setting priorities? Working out as opposed to having the cleanest house?

  27. Wow… I not only have kids, I’ve got two that are ten years apart. Yea, a teen and a toddler.

    #1, if you’re super new, never have an open mouth changing a diaper.
    #2, if you’re a mom, breastfeed if at all possible. AT ALL. Learn to nurse the baby laying down, and you’ll get plenty of sleep
    #3, sort of already covered: cosleep. I’m a doula, and I’ve looked up tons of studies on this. Your baby is 70 TIMES more at risk for SIDS alone in a crib than with mom and dad.
    #4, learn to slow cook. An enamel ‘roasting’ pan and enough water to coat the bottom, 250°F max, and almost any kind of meat you can think of. Season, shove in the oven around lunch time, and by dinner time your nose will let you know it’s done. Or get a crockpot. Either way.

  28. Oh gods, I know how you feel. My son used to like showers. Now, he ‘forgets’ and I have to make him.

  29. What an awesome post! My wife wants 8 kids, so maybe I should get her to read this sometime 🙂 great post and thanks for the hard work, Dan!

  30. Hot meals are great. It’s awesome when the food just melts inside your mouth. Seriously, though, that was a very funny, yet informative, article. Keep doing what you are doing.

  31. Hello i hope that everyone take a look on my blog there is some great informations that could help any one to reach his goal to be a great bodybuilders or a great fitness ! Thank you with all my respect this is my blog http://joseph7.blogspot.com/

  32. Number 6 is one that I wish we had taken to heart with our first. “Nobody knows your child better than yourself.” We allowed ourselves to be swayed by “experts” in the family when it came to a few areas with her and regret it to this day. We made different choices with the other three and they’re better for it.

  33. 33.. would have been open to having them between 26-28…then when 29 hit i saw all my friends from college and cousins having children and being broke, sad, and complaining on social media non-stop. They spend $800 a week in childcare because they work 2 jobs. People can’t afford homes, no more vacations ever, etc. Their children will be unable to go to college. As a woman, I can’t understand having kids when you cannot afford them. They said the most recent “cheap” cost for 18 years if you had a child today is around $250,000 (without college). I don’t have that kind of money. If I were married I STILL would not have that. I believe a child should have at least as good of a childhood as you did. I would feel bad knowing they could never have a music lesson or do sporting because I just simply had no $$$. Also the older I get the more painful birth would be for me.. (ouch). I also think of all the foster kids out there that need homes and don’t have them. I think t here are other ways to be involved with kids vs having them yourself- like volunteering and whatnot.

  34. Serious question for more experienced parents. We’ve just had our first baby, we used to be really active gamers, I used to read constantly… Now he’s in the army I’m a stay at home mom yet I have no spare time for my nerdoms when he’s not at work he’s in the office gaming and all we seem to talk about is the baby! I love my little girl so much but I am starting to feel like my life has been totally put on hold. Between starting college up again soon and the baby I’ve got no life and I honestly can’t make conversation with my partner of 7 years that doesn’t revolve around dirty diapers and what new teethers to try… So my question is what can we talk about?

  35. Mum of 3 (16,14,7)
    .You never get to poop alone again
    .Relaxing bath hah must be joking
    .Long shower – don’t swear

  36. Add your so-called friends ride-or-die friends. Yeah they will bail on you. Especially the ones that don’t have kids or have less kids than you. You essentially will have to find brand new friends or be friendless. This makes being a first parent even harder and isolating.

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