New motherhood should be full of photo-perfect moments and sheer emotional bliss. Or at least that’s the emotional core of every movie in which a woman pops out a baby while wearing full hair and makeup. Those are accurate, right?
For mortals, however, there are some hard truths about life post-baby that your friends are probably too nice to tell you, so... buckle up.
Mommy brain is real, and it’s not going away.
But it will get better; I almost never put my keys in the freezer anymore. The thing is, once you’re a mom, you’re always going to be at least partly in parent mode, and that requires some of your brain power at all times.
Your body has changed, and some of those changes are here to stay.
People will tell you that you can "get your body back." What they really mean is that you will get a body back. It may even mostly resemble the one you used to have. But your body has done some amazing things in the name of creating new life—and the new shoe size/bra size/ribcage expansion/hair loss/hair texture reversals are part of the cost of doing business. See also: Shar-Pei belly.
You will have sex again, but it won't be the same.
It might even be better than it was pre-kids (when you can find the time and energy). But it, too, will be different. For a while, you might be swollen or sore. After that, you might just be exhausted. You might also feel pressured to get with the program and start up again stat, lest you risk your relationship. I’m here to tell you that probably the best way to guarantee no sex is to pressure yourself to feel sexy. Give yourself space and permission to ease back into it.
Expectations of personal time, space—really, personal anything—need to be managed.
You know all those clichés about new moms never having time to take a shower, brush their teeth, or change their clothes? They exist for a reason. While the initial hygiene-compromised panic mode will largely calm down, the concept of alone time is probably as outdated as your old lingerie. You will often find that you can’t seem to finish any activity—even peeing—without being interrupted. This doesn’t ever really change, although as your kids get older, you can be more insistent about carving out demand-free time (and locking the door when needed).
There will be garments in your life you had never envisioned.
Before I had my first kid, I had no idea that maxi pads could be that large. Nor was I aware of the existence of stretchy, disposable mesh panties... but after giving birth, I was profoundly grateful for their invention. And a PSA here: Go to a real, legit underclothes store and get yourself measured for a couple of new bras, at least once you’re done breastfeeding. This will help.
Your body might feel… off.
If you have a scar, it may itch or twinge mysteriously as it heals. And then it may continue to do so long after it’s already healed up. I’m at nearly nine years since my last kid was born, and I’ll let you know if this ever stops. Some of my friends have told me that they’ve also experienced stretching or "out of place" sensations vaginally. It helps a lot to talk about this stuff with others—if you’re shy, find a friend who lives in another time zone so you don’t have to do it in person.
Your tastes might weirdly change.
Perfumes you used to love might not smell great on your skin anymore, or you could discover that your favorite deodorant no longer works. Tastes that you previously enjoyed may have become associated with morning sickness or other ailments; it took me about four years to get over the profound and sudden revulsion toward blue cheese that I developed during my first pregnancy. You may also be carrying around your new child’s DNA—and there’s even evidence that the cells you got from your mother might be duking it out with the baby’s! Crazy, yes.
Unexpected external stuff can shift too.
Your social circle may shift post-baby. Yes, women without kids can certainly be friends with women who have kids. But you might find that it takes more effort. Parenting is likely to consume a lot of your focus, and other moms are likely to be more tolerant of this. On the other hand, you may also come to realize that all you and your mom friends talk about is parenting and that you’d do anything to have a conversation that doesn’t involve words like "poop," "sleep schedule," or "sippy." So, while it could be rough going for a while, preserving non-mom friendships can help retain a sense of perspective.
It might seem like the world will never be the same—and it won’t. But the new normal eventually becomes exactly that: normal. And you’ll have just about enough time to adjust before the next stage hits... and you get to recalibrate all over again.
Madeleine Deliee recently wrote about the new Doctor Who, visiting the Anne Frank House, dystopic Young Adult literature, and Wonder Woman’s alcoholism. She likes to keep 'em guessing and occasionally tweets @MMDeliee.