Category Archives: Guest Bloggers

Mompetition: The Race To See Who’s A Better Mommy

*Please welcome another guest blogger to She’sWrite. The Defiant Housewife is a mom of two girls, ages 1 and 3. She used to work outside the home, but recently moved and became a SAHM. Her no-holds-barred sass is a refreshing change and makes me want to have her over for wine, even if some of the moms she encounters in her suburban neighborhood don’t appreciate it.

I can’t believe your daughter is one and only has 4 teeth! Mine had 12 by that age! Your little girl is tiny. You know, my daughter was wearing a 2T when she was one!  Let the mompetition begin! The funny thing is, no one is going to care how many teeth your child had at the age of one. And I think we can all agree that there is a point where chubby ain’t so cute anymore. So, when did being a mom become a race to be won?

I pride myself on being open and accepting of other people and different parenting styles. I love getting to know other moms because there is so much we can learn from each other. But, I didn’t know that moving to the ‘burbs flooded with stay-at-home moms would introduce me to a new breed of woman – the kind who have absolutely nothing better to do than compare kids. Don’t get me wrong. They are not all like this. There are many who have other interests and hobbies. And there are others who, well, DON’T.

The problem is, I don’t care to play these games. I am a mom of two, and I stopped checking growth charts and worrying about milestones a long time ago. You see, I realize that in the end, they all grow up. They all have teeth. They all learn to walk. They won’t be packing up their pacifier or blankie when they go to college. So, I don’t even think in terms of what everyone else’s kid is doing. I simply don’t care. My kids are normal, healthy and happy. That is all that matters to me.

I am not a typical stay-at-home mom. Both of my kids are in daycare. I am at home most days doing laundry, reading, or watching Dr. Oz. When I go out, I’m usually at the spa getting a facial, furniture shopping or having lunch with my best friends. I don’t have to work, and I can afford to send my kids to school while I do whatever I want. I believe this makes me a better mom and wife, and it helps me to get things done without distraction.

I spent the last three years of my life at a job I hated in a city more than a thousand miles away from my closest friends and family. I decided that when I moved away from that life, I would take time for me. And that is exactly what I’m doing. But everyone doesn’t understand that. In fact, I have encountered more than my fair share of haters who question why my kids don’t stay at home with me (am I just not mom enough?) or why I haven’t called them for a play date (yet another sign of my failure to participate in mommy-approved activities.)

I am an outgoing, social person, but if you want to trade cupcake recipes, I’m probably not the one to call. I do all of the typical mom stuff, but I’m more than a mom. It doesn’t consume me. I can make a mean meatloaf and Louisiana dump cake. I can tell you how to get stains out of your kids’ clothes and which baby products have been recalled. But, I get more excited about things I have accomplished in my career, going out to fabulous restaurants, sipping a great glass of wine and the latest celebrity gossip.

I love my mommy friends who can share hilarious stories about our kids and discipline ideas for our toddlers. We reminisce about the exciting lives we used to have and what we really thought about the royal wedding. (I was totally underwhelmed, but I digress…)  We are diverse – wives, mothers, entrepreneurs, businesswomen, writers, editors, doctors, and so much more. There is no need for me to compete with anyone.  The women who do so fail to realize they are exposing their own insecurities. They are talking about all of the wonderful, exciting things their children are doing because what mom is doing is not nearly as interesting. Her child may be taking his first steps, but she doesn’t know what her next step will be.

We should support each other as women because no one understands our plight quite like we do. We are sisters in this struggle who are just trying to raise our children in the best way possible. We can choose collaboration instead of competition. We can choose to be dynamic moms who work to develop ourselves as well as our children. And that would be a win-win for everyone.

Part III: A Frank Look At Living With Her Feet In Two Worlds

*Please welcome back guest blogger Polish Mama On The Prairie. She was born in Poland, but has spent most of her life in the U.S. She’s a mom of two, married to her high school sweetheart and is equally passionate about America and Poland. Here’s part III of her story:

Even though I threw myself wholeheartedly into becoming as “American” as I possibly could, there was always someone every single year who would call me a “Polack”, make fun of my name, my nose, and what I would eat.  So, I guess, no matter how hard I tried, I was still a “foreigner.” Forever. Taken away from family, lost my ancestral language, but still not allowed to wear the new identity.

Sometimes, I would tell such ignorant people that the word was a racial slur and it was as bad as the “N” word.  To which I would be told that there was a place called “Pollock Johnny” so it couldn’t be racist. After all, other “Polacks call each other that.” First, “Pollock Johnny” spells it like a fish and uses a racial slur to describe themselves, so they must be ignorant and stupid as the word means. And frankly, I blame a large amount of the unapologetic use of that nasty word on that “restaurant” and people who use it like they do.

Second, I never ate there and never will, nor do any Poles straight from Poland. Third, some Blacks call each other the “N” word, but many consider it a racial slur anyway.  And true Poles do not use that word to address one another. Honestly, if someone asks about my name and I say I am Polish, and they say “Oh, I’m a Polack, too!” or “Us stupid Polacks” or something else like that, I actually physically walk away from them. I don’t even want to discuss anything else with them. At all.

It is how the person who is the target of the word feels about it, not how you say it or mean it.  I could call someone an idiot with all the sweetness in the world behind my words, I still just called them an idiot.

Every year, on the first day of school, the teacher would call out a name and you would acknowledge it. After a few years, I got used to the same routine. A pause, a stumble on the first syllable, another pause, a weird look as though the name has the plague (of course, everyone else in the class is a John, Amy, Jamie, Michael, and other one or two syllable mainstream names) and then, some sort of remark that embarrasses me, such as “I’ll just spell it” or “Who would name their child that?!” or, rarely, a kind attempt at saying my name.

After a while, I learned to just raise my hand before the last step of the embarrassing “she’s different” routine and I would say “That would be me” with a smile. The teacher would either say “What’s a nickname I could call you?” or “What sort of name is that?” either with a genuinely curious smile or a nasty smirk (I swear, I still don’t understand how some people become teachers).

Or, once, the equally embarrassing “Excuse me!  How do you know I can’t pronounce it?  You didn’t even let me try!”  To which, I shrank back into my seat and mumbled “I’m sorry”.  Of course, that man butchered my name completely.  Then, when I corrected him, “It’s —– but you can call me —-“, he said “Why the h— would your parents name you that?  And your nickname isn’t any easier!  I’m going to call you [insert American name that is nothing at all like my real name]”.  I told him I was Polish and he said “Well, you aren’t in Poland anymore”.  Every time that man did role call for the first month, I didn’t remember that in his classroom I was not me, but some random American girl name, so I would not answer “Present” and would anger him considerably.

I don’t want people to read this and think “Oh, kids are so mean!” No, it’s not the kids.  Children don’t learn this by themselves, this is always taught by an adult. You know we all have conversations at home that end with “This conversation doesn’t leave the house.”  Mine tend to be about our finances, how dirty a person’s house was, etc.

After all, if it was children only, then why would some of those teachers I mentioned earlier behave the way they did?

Another example of what it is like to live in Two Worlds, as some people call it, would be when I would talk to some people who I think really enjoy my company and eventually, the topic of Immigration comes up. Sometimes, the comments that hurts are “All foreigners steal American jobs!” or “Foreigners need to stay in their own country!”  When I point out that I am also a foreigner, I get told “No, I don’t mean you. You aren’t a foreigner!  You [were born here, learned the language, don’t have an accent, are like us]”.  My own In-laws sometimes still say comments like that in front of me. Even my now-deceased Grandmother-in-law who was Polish by heritage would say it. It hurts but I still forgive them and love them the way they are.

And when I talk to an adult about American politics or society, if it isn’t all beams of sunshine, unicorns and roses, I get told “then go the f— back home if you hate it here so much!” The point is, I don’t hate it here in the USA. I love it. I genuinely do. Americans are very open, some of their food is amazing, there are a lot of job opportunities here, I can buy anything I want here. Heck, I would never have married an American man if I hated it here. And if I didn’t like Americans, I wouldn’t love him as much as I do.

After all, I can move back to Poland or to another country anytime I want to. I was just raised that you should be open to change, and try to make everything you can better. And in order to make something better, you have to acknowledge what needs improvement.  And everything and everyone could improve in something. This isn’t Heaven. Nowhere on Earth is Heaven. It’s Earth.

And on Earth, I feel like I don’t belong 100% in either culture. I don’t speak perfect Polish, I don’t have a Polish accent, I dress like an American, I get told that living in Poland would probably not work well for me, and why don’t my children speak better Polish? I also get told that I have a funny name, I “look Polish/foreign”, I don’t dress like an American, I should accept the fact that I am not Polish anymore and that I am American and not speak Polish or about Poland ever, and if I mention anything I wrote about earlier in this article, I am unpatriotic and un-American.

Several years ago, I started to shake loose from a gradual depression that I couldn’t talk to anyone about because nobody could relate to how I felt. I didn’t want my parents blaming themselves like they caused this feeling in me of being a ship without a harbor.

I decided to blend the two worlds together the only way I knew how. I learned Polish again. Actually, it was more like, I listened to a CD teaching Polish and started listening to Polish music and got a job dealing with people from all over the world who were well-educated. And a light bulb switched on. My Polish language skills came back.  They aren’t perfect but I can get by fairly well. I started cooking Polish foods. I started traveling to Poland every other year.

I’m much happier now.  I don’t waste time on people who say stupid comments anymore.  The funny thing is, until I started writing this, I didn’t realize how hurt I was growing up.  And when I started writing today, it all came back in a painful, drowning wave.  I had a couple of moments when I had to walk away from this just to cry. But I’m glad I did. I feel stronger. After all, I did something many people will never do. I left one world for another and never quite fit perfectly into either. And I figured out that it’s OK. Because they are both a part of me.

*This is the last of a three-part series from Polish Mama On The Prairie. The first installment is here and the second is here.*

Part II: A Frank Look At Living With Her Feet In Two Worlds

*Please welcome back guest blogger Polish Mama On The Prairie. She was born in Poland, but has spent most of her life in the U.S. She’s a mom of two, married to her high school sweetheart and is equally passionate about America and Poland. Here’s part II of her story:

I remember playing with cardboard boxes and one little doll I had as a small child. I never really thought that I didn’t have a lot. Until I went to school.

I also didn’t think I had an accent, until it was pointed out to me by several children in front of a teacher who didn’t say anything to them. It was then that I found out what “Polack” meant. It wasn’t a word in Polish. It was only a word in English and apparently there were many nasty jokes involving that word. I hated school.

I also found out what the “N” word meant. A girl, who apparently thought it was funny, told me to walk up to the black boy in our class and say “Hi, N—–!”  She told me that it meant friend.

Apparently, it did not because I got in a lot of trouble for it in school, even though I was just beginning to learn the language. And of course, the girl who told me to do so didn’t get in trouble, because, as I was told by some big angry adults (I still have no idea who they were but could you imagine being in kindergarten how big they were and small and vulnerable I felt?) that I “should have known better than to repeat everything someone tells you!” Never mind that I didn’t even know my English alphabet or colors yet and was eager to learn. The lesson I learned from that, don’t be quick to learn things from people.  Don’t trust anyone.

I started taking ESL classes to learn English. I remember getting very frustrated with the teacher at times, who only spoke English and had no idea, not even one ounce, of what I was going through. I finished it early because I wanted to fit in so desperately. While taking ESL, I was still expected to take all the other classes that the American kids were taking. There was no leniency for the fact that I didn’t speak the language which the lessons were given in. I got exceptional grades in English and Spelling. I was proud of myself for it. I, the little girl from another country, the one with the funny accent, the “stupid Polack”, was getting better grades than the American kids were. But to them, I still talked funny, and nobody discouraged their harsh words.

At first, for lunch, I brought food from home, as many kids did, but my bread was different, my sandwiches different. My mother packed, heaven forbid, vegetables in my lunch, which, heaven forbid, I ate because, heaven forbid, I liked them and grew up eating them and wanted to grow up to be big and strong. Until I noticed other kids would ask too many questions about my food.

Once, a little girl asked, “Why don’t you eat peanut butter and jelly on white bread like us?”  I answered “What’s that?  I never had it before.” She told me that all American kids ate it and that maybe I should “Go back to where I came from if America is so bad that you can’t even eat what we all eat, you stupid Polack.”  I was 7 years old.  It wasn’t the first time I was told to go back to wherever I was from because I did things a little different (never mind that I desperately wanted to fit in and never said anything nasty about what they did). It wasn’t going to be the last time I heard it either.

In fact, I heard some very strange statements about Poland from other children. That we were all Communists. Did we have tombstones, tomatoes, diapers, cows, cars? That we owed the USA for everything because the USA rescued Poland during World War II because we were too stupid and lazy to fight the Nazis. I could go on for hours.

At home, I tried to speak English all the time, even though my parents wanted me to still speak Polish so that I would have that as a job skill later on in life. They were right, of course, but with what I went through at school, I didn’t care. My parents spoke to the teachers about my issues with my peers and the first couple of teachers cared and had me sit at tables where the children were not judgmental and nasty.

But then, I got a teacher who didn’t care at all and probably secretly was a nasty little racist herself. My schoolwork suffered for a while under her. I began to draw back emotionally from people and not focus. In the beginning of the school year, when she met my mother and I, she requested a fellow teacher to try translating for us. When the second teacher came, she listened to us speaking English, albeit with accents, and she announced “They speak English clearly. You don’t need an interpreter.” My new teacher would go on to hold hostility toward my family. She and my mother once got into a screaming argument because she believed I should have been held back the year prior and because she believed I needed to be tested since she felt I had a low IQ. Never mind the fact that the same year we were all tested for future placement in the new Gifted and Talented programs and my results placed me two years ahead of my peers. My mother was so pleased at the results, she shared them very nicely with the teacher, who in the conversation went from her usual fake smile (it was the year I also learned that just because someone smiles, does not mean they are actually happy) to a very unhappy and angry face. She then looked at me, smiled and said “I always knew you were intelligent.  You just lack focus, sweetie.” And then turned to my mother and said “I still think she needs more ESL classes” and walked away.

We did a presentation in class, my first. I didn’t fully understand what the assignment was, asked and was told to “Just do it!” It was for Black History Month. It was the first time I had ever heard of that. I asked my parents if they had a Polish History Month and my parents laughed. Apparently, there wasn’t an Immigrant History Month, either. The assignment was to pick a famous Black person and write about them.  This was a new idea to me. How would I know who was a famous Black person? My parents didn’t really know either so a classmate’s mother suggested, and I wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr., who’s dream of a color blind world really touched me.

While presenting my essay in front of the class, I began to stumble on my words and speak quieter and the same racist teacher commented “Somebody needs more ESL classes! Go sit down!” I was so young and I still remember how angry and hurt I felt. I still carry hatred towards her, which I know is wrong, but I don’t care, it’s the way I feel.

The holes I have in my education are all from that year. I can’t multiply off the top of my head and I struggle to write an research essay about a theme someone presents me with.  That year, we also learned about the names of other countries and their capitals. I decided in high school to learn that on my own, since I didn’t learn it that year in elementary school. I could work on it more, I know. I could shake the blame I lay squarely on her.  But she was also a teacher. Someone who helps shape children into the adults they become. And I don’t think she had any right to be one.

I also feel shock and disgust at the education system because although my mother repeatedly reported her for marking all my homework as wrong, of which the answers were all always correct, even according to the Principal of the school, she continues to teach to this day. In fact, when we moved to a new school district, my younger sibling was assigned her as a teacher in the new school. She attempted to fail my sibling as well, and state that she could not understand their “accent” which they did not have, being born and raised in the USA. After three months of her continued harassment of my mother and sibling, my sibling was transferred to a different teacher, but that woman was never reprimanded.

I ended up losing my accent very quickly. I also forgot Polish. My cousins, both Babcie, Cioci, and Wujek would all send me cards and letters which I loved. But I didn’t know who they were. And it reminded me constantly that I was missing family. And I couldn’t call them to talk because at the time, calling Poland could cost you over $100 for just a half an hour. And I didn’t write to them because I felt ashamed that I didn’t know Polish well enough anymore to say anything.

I even had play dates with another little boy my age who was also Polish and who constantly reminded me that he “was more Polish” than I was. Surprising, he and his family later in life were confused why I didn’t marry him. I’m actually glad I left the neighborhood I lived in, because shamefully, many Polish Americans had that same “I’m more Polish than so-and-so” attitude. I don’t think that is a Polish trait, I think it was specific to that neighborhood.

*This is the second of a three-part series from Polish Mama On The Prairie. The first installment is here.*

A Frank Look At Living With Her Feet In Two Worlds

*Please welcome guest blogger Polish Mama On The Prairie. She was born in Poland, but has spent most of her life in the U.S. She’s a mom of two, married to her high school sweetheart and is equally passionate about America and Poland. Here’s her story:

I’m letting you know right from the very beginning, that this is going to be brutally honest. The way it really is for me emotionally. But I also want to say that this does not in anyway mean I look down on either country. I still love the USA and Poland, and both of their people.

And I want to also say that this is specifically my perspective. My experiences. It doesn’t represent everyone in any particular group. So, please, don’t take it away from me or trivialize it because you might not understand or empathize or agree. Ready?

For myself, a part of my personality and what I feel is that missing gap where Poland should be.

That gap made by being taken from your family, from the land where everyone speaks your birth language, where you don’t look different, where your name is not unusual and you don’t get 20 questions for it, and perhaps even nasty judgments for your heritage. From where your quirks and particular mannerisms are commonplace.

Don’t get me wrong, I love America. I love living here. But if your name is something like Jane, Jessica, or Amy, and your great-grandparents were born in the USA, you look like the typical American girl next door, and you’ve never traveled outside of your home country’s borders, your grandparents were always just down the street and present for holidays, then you don’t understand what I mean.

My husband came from that same background, an easy-to-say American name, grandparents always a huge part of his life, his accent and speech were never different from anyone else’s in school, etc.

I wanted him to see who else I was. No, I needed him to see. Or else, I didn’t think our relationship would truly work. So, I took him to Poland for our honeymoon, amidst many protests from him and his family.

So, who am I? By now, it’s fairly clear what my background is. I was born in Poland to Polish parents. We fled Communism and its oppression. We waited to get legal papers all in order to become U.S. citizens, came to America, and all was peaches and cream.  Right?

Not exactly. For one thing, we had no help. None. There was no neighbor, friend, or relative to call on when someone had an emergency. Whether that emergency be that someone had to go to the Emergency Room and my parents needed a babysitter or money for the medicine, or someone was sick, so that we had a roof over our heads or food on our table, or even just so my parents could reconnect on “Date Night.”

For work, my father grabbed whatever he could as quickly as he could.  Because, apparently in the USA, they didn’t care that my father has a Masters Degree from Poland. It wasn’t a Masters Degree in the USA. In fact, one place even told my father that he was lucky they considered him to be a high school graduate. The same went for my mother, who also had a Masters Degree back in Poland.

So, he ended up getting some minimum wage work working as many hours as he physically could (he still works well over 70 hours a week) while my mother tried to find a babysitter she could trust with me. She found one, went to work also making minimum wage, until the babysitter took me outside in the dead of winter in just a onesie and I got very, very sick. This was according to a couple of other neighborhood eyewitnesses. So, it looked like my mother couldn’t work because we couldn’t find anyone trustworthy to watch me without potentially killing me.

So, since there was only one income in our house, we ate boiled white rice, split a can of vegetables and each ate one boiled hot dog. Every. Single. Day. For well over a year.  Because that was all we could afford. There are pictures of my parents during this time and they were so skinny. I, however, was not, because my parents made sure I at least ate enough. To this day, I hate boiled white rice. I hate canned vegetables. And I especially hate hot dogs. And when someone makes a comment that I am a food snob or eat weird food because of that, it boils my blood, because they didn’t go through what we did.

Why not apply for assistance, perhaps, you ask? Don’t even make me laugh. We couldn’t get it because we were not born here. While my father walked home from work everyday in the scorching summer heat through the miserable neighborhood we lived in, he saw houses where nobody worked and they had air conditioning units blasting and were cooking all sorts of food for dinner.

As soon as my father got a better job and we could afford to, we moved out of that area, filled with litter, cockroaches, and drunks, and into an apartment in a decent area so that I didn’t have to worry about gun fights on the way to school. The apartment where I shared a room with my sibling.

I never did my first Holy Communion because of several reasons. Some churches wanted my Godparents there for it. Ummm, they are in Poland and can’t get Visas to come over?  “Then you can’t do it.” Some churches didn’t understand why I didn’t speak good enough English to understand the Bible at the time, never mind that I was learning English. And, as my mother said, “If you do your First Holy Communion, you will have only your father and myself there.” My vision of a party afterwards would not happen, because what family could come to the party? They were all in Poland. I would again be the weird kid who only had parents there supporting them during a childhood event.

For Birthdays, I grew up having small gifts because we had just come to this country, you don’t get rich overnight, and no family giving me presents. Not a big deal until you go to school and other kids brag about the hundreds of expensive toys they got. Then, the inevitable “What did you get from your parents/grandparents/aunts/cousins, etc.?”  And, “Oh,” once they heard my reply. The same was true of Christmas.

Thanksgiving and Easter were also lumped into the same category by the question “Who came over your house/Who’s house did you go to?” My answer? “Nobody. It was just us.  At our house. Because my family is all in Poland. Thanks for reminding me. Again.”

*This is the first of a three-part series from Polish Mama On The Prairie.*

Memories of A Miscarriage While Caring For My Newborn

*Guestblogger Jess is a quick-witted, stay-at-home mother-writer-friend who periodically discusses the various lenses of her life on She’sWrite. Here’s her story:

Six weeks ago, I had a beautiful baby girl named Clara. So it might seem odd to write about a previous miscarriage, but the memory of that child has come to surface now more than any time since. I often think of her as I care for my new baby.

My first child, Henry, was 18 months old when we were surprised to find I was pregnant again. Though my husband and I wanted a second child, it wasn’t planned. But after initial hesitation, we embraced the pregnancy wholeheartedly. I felt strongly, in the way many moms do, that I was carrying a girl.

My 8-week appointment went well; then I got a call that they wanted me to come back in to check the placenta again on an ultrasound. There might have been something wrong — I can’t even remember now what it was — that would have caused me to have a pregnancy in which I’d have to be extra careful. So the thought of bed rest was on my mind as I lay on the table and looked at the little jellybean on the screen, the one I had seen days earlier and whose heart had been beating away rapidly. I saw no such flutter on the screen this time. At first I was confused, maybe in denial, and then I saw the look on the technician’s face. Several days of visceral sadness followed, the kind of emotion you do not have to think about or talk yourself into. It just was. The sadness gradually receded over the next several weeks.

I sometimes feel, and felt, apologetic over my sadness about that miscarriage. I mean, it happens all the time. There must have been something wrong, it was nature’s way. And after all, it was only nine weeks. Imagine the pain of miscarrying once you feel the baby inside you.

But nine weeks.  Since my husband and I found out as early as possible, at 2 weeks, that means I had seven long weeks of imagining my child playing with her older brother; imagining the softness of her cheeks and the cooing of her little voice. She was not a bunch of cells to me. She was my child. No, I never met her, not literally. But I carried her, and many mothers will tell you that is an experience unlike any other. The bond grows fiercer the longer the pregnancy, but it is strong from the beginning.

A friend of mine had a miscarriage, too, followed by the birth of her little girl. My friend feels that the miscarried baby was who eventually became her daughter, she just wasn’t ready to come at that time. For me it is a bit different. She is sort of my ghost child, an older sister, the one who came before. She never quite became a part of the family, but she will never leave it. I feel my ghost child in Clara; she is a part of her, but not the same.

My miscarriage has given me deeper gratitude watching my beautiful baby girl sleep and even delighting in her pouty cries for milk. In some strange way I don’t understand, I feel like Clara is an honor to her, my first girl.

Introducing Jess: Soon-To-Be Mom of Two Looks Back at the Good, Bad and Snuggly

*It’s a big day for the She’sWrite blog. Today is my first guest blogger. Her name is Jess and she’s a quick-witted, stay-at-home mother-writer-friend who is expecting her second child any moment now. (I mentioned her in my previous post as the cute brunette in my mommy group.) She’ll be popping up here periodically sharing her insights on the various lenses of her life. Without further ado, here’s Jess:

I am about to become a new mother for the second time. I have a 3-year old son, Henry, and the invaluable advantage of hindsight — I now know there is a solution for every problem and no problem is a catastrophe — but still I feel I am entering virgin territory (well, you know, new territory). How will I manage breastfeeding all night and a toddler all day? How will I deal with Henry’s jealousy? Will I ever be able to run an errand again?

I also can’t exactly remember my experience the first time around. So I reread with interest a few thoughts I wrote when Henry was 6 months old. I will no doubt learn new lessons in the next six months. For now, though, here are some things I think hold true for real first-time moms:

1. You might not love your baby right away. Many people threw the following clichés at me when my son was born: “Don’t you just want to eat him?” No, I didn’t. “Isn’t it scary how much you love him?” No, it wasn’t. “Can you even remember what life was like before him?” Yes, I could. For the first month, I felt like I was babysitting a child — I was very careful and attentive, even ferociously protective, but I was not in love with my baby. I felt exhausted, dumbfounded, and trapped. The love happened over time.

2. You are trapped. “Adjustment” is a euphemism or something you do to your seatbelt. But being trapped becomes okay. By the time your baby is old enough to leave with someone for hours or even days at a time, you won’t want to go as much as you did the first six weeks.

3. You might feel very alone for awhile, even if you are surrounded by people. No one is going through exactly what you are. The closest you can come to a sense of camaraderie is with other people who have new babies — not just children but new babies. If you don’t already know someone like this, the best thing you can do is join or create a new-moms group.

4. Those cute little shoes for newborns are more trouble than they’re worth. When your baby is a genuine newborn, for about the first 3-4 months, you are trying to figure out how to hold him without his head falling off. These tiny shoes are just another thing you have to deal with. Newborns need a onesie and a blanket. Forget accessories. Spend your money on easy.

5. While you’re at it, cut out other unnecessary crap. This goes for everything from answering non-urgent emails to hosting your in-laws from out of town. Do what is best for the new-mom you even if the well-mannered you is worried it’s impolite. Ignore emails; ask your in-laws to stay at a hotel; say no to travel for the first six months if lugging a baby to the airport feels like too much. It doesn’t matter if your friend could do it. It doesn’t matter who you disappoint. You are undergoing the biggest transformation of your life.

6. Your body will never be the same. I always thought this oft-recited warning just meant I’d be forever plumper. What I now realize is that it’s not (just) about weight. It’s about ligaments and bones that move while you are pregnant and don’t go back. Shirts are now shorter on me. Pants lip out in back when I sit. The act of delivering a child seems to have made my backside flatter.

7. Finally, the clichés are true:

  • Once the love starts, every day you will love your baby more than the day before. You’ll think you can’t but as with the Grinch, your heart grows bigger and bigger to accommodate.
  • You can love someone so much it’s scary. You have only so much control and you hope that the story is happy and continues long after you are gone.
  • Love makes you vulnerable. Falling in love with your child is like having a huge, open wound: much of your happiness relies on the hope that people won’t mess with it.
  • And yes, you can love someone so much you want to eat him.

*Update: On Sept. 24, Jess had a healthy baby girl, Clara June Edith.