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
“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
“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
“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.
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,