Nobody told me how hard parenthood would be.
Sure, they tried on some level, but I didn’t get it — couldn’t get it. There was all the talk about being sleep deprived and begging for a shower, of course, but no one can truly understand how grueling those first few months after bringing home a newborn can be until they’ve experienced it themselves. And plenty of people gave me advice about which gear to use and when to hit up the garage sales for goods, but again, until you’ve been in the trenches, there’s no understanding just how critical getting a barely used, $45 developmental toy for $5 is.
What few, if any, people discussed, however, was how utterly heartwarming, terrifying, and gut wrenching parenting would be.
Nobody told me hearing my special needs child’s first giggles would be equivalent to the feeling of having just cured cancer.
Nobody told me conversations with my toddler would simultaneously feed my soul and drive me nuts.
Nobody told me I would cry the first time my child tried and failed at something.
Nobody told me I would want to buy and give them everything but would have to restrain myself and provide them with only what they needed.
Nobody told me I would sit awake at night, imagining with horror what it would be like if my child were in the position of others who were suffering from incurable diseases or had been the victims of senseless crime.
Nobody told me I would spend half my special needs kid’s childhood in physical, occupational, and speech therapy with him.
Nobody told me I would have to choose between buying the healthy, organic food and purchasing my kid the foot and leg orthotic he so desperately needs to walk properly.
Nobody told me I would feel a sense of helplessness when my child entered kindergarten — that point-of-no-return passage into a world of rules and conformity and social expectation.
Nobody told me about the rage and heartbreak that would fill my soul when my child was bullied for the first time.
Nobody told me how in awe I would be of my children’s ability to make friends and organize play time.
Nobody told me I would attempt to bargain with God, begging Him to let me take on all my kid’s hardship and pain in exchange for a lifetime of happiness and ease for my child.
Nobody told me how fearful I would be of letting my kids wander the neighborhood and play for the first time or how much strength it would require to let them do it anyway.
Nobody told me I would constantly second guess my parenting choices, certain that what I had thought was right in the moment was the thing that would damage their psyches permanently.
Nobody told me I would sneak into their rooms to watch them sleep at night and weep with joy, fear, and pride at all they were, are, and would become.
Nobody told me I would yell at them, say things I couldn’t take back, and make a thousand terrible mistakes in the span of just a few short years.
Nobody told me I would be overcome with a sense of love incomparable to anything I’ve ever experienced in life.
Nobody told me I would have to fight back with every ounce of willpower against the desire to swoop in and save them every time I thought they needed it.
Nobody told me I would miss them with a deep, pulsating ache whenever I was away from them for a day or more.
Nobody told me how much my confidence and resolve would be tested in the face of all the judgment and finger pointing among parents.
Nobody told me I would lock myself in the bathroom and sob, desperate for a moment alone without whining and bickering and insubordination.
Nobody told me there would be moments when I would have to walk away — when the cocktail of emotions swirling inside me would be so toxic, I would be unsure how I might react to their next act of terrorism.
Nobody told me the feeling of tiny hands around my neck and tiny noses engaged in Eskimo kisses would transform the worst day into the best one.
Nobody told me they would need so much from me — that there would never be enough time, attention, and love to go around.
Nobody told me they would steal my soul and I would happily allow it or that I would never — could never — be the same again.
Nobody told me about the guilt. The searing, debilitating, quick-to-appear guilt.
Nobody told me parenthood would cost so much financially, physically, or emotionally or that it would be the single most rewarding thing I have and will ever do in my life.
Nobody told me how hard parenthood would be. And I’m glad they didn’t. Because I’m not sure if, knowing what I know now, I would be strong enough to jump in head first again. And that would be the hardest part of everything — never having done it at all.