I Would Never Do That

never do that never do that

The first time it happened, my son was four months old. We were in the United lounge at San Francisco International Airport, laying over after his very first flight, and my husband and I were congratulating ourselves at the milestone. We traveled! On a plane! But before we could clink our glasses, a familiar sound emanated from the babe’s behind, then a dreadful warmth on my lap. Lifting him, I confirmed it. Blowout. Defcon five.

I ran to the bathroom where, after sacrificing approximately five thousand wipes at the altar of my child’s backside (frontside too), I confronted a choice: attempt to clean the colossal yellow stain from his onesie — the onesie I’d specifically selected to impress the gaggle of family we’d meet when we landed in Seattle — or toss the sucker into the trash and call it done.

My pre-mom self would have scoffed. Such waste! Such laziness!

My mom self hardly thought twice. Such an easy decision!

Into the trash it went.

Fact is, my pre-mom self had no clue. If I could visit her, ghost-of-parenthood-future style, here’s what I’d tell her about how her life was about to change.

1) You will be surrounded by stuff. Yes, you, smug KonMari devotee. Because when reality arrives—in the form of a slobbery blob who needs carrying, soothing, bouncing—so too will the carriers and wraps, the floor mats, the feeding pillows, the swings. Soon the blob will turn into a toddler, and your home will be consumed with everything from Legos to beeping vehicles to talking dolls, even if you don’t believe in talking dolls. This terrible mass of stuff will sometimes occupy your kid long enough that you can brush your hair, and for this, you’re grateful. Eventually, you’ll declare it a losing battle, especially since you’re pretty sure the stuff multiplies when you’re not looking.

2) Forget your concern for the environment (not really, but): you’ll drive your car around aimlessly in the hopes that your child will fall asleep. Forget the fact that you have a life: you’ll kill hours sitting in a parked car because your child is sleeping in the back.

3) You will hide — and possibly “accidentally” recycle — some of your child’s favorite books because you just. can’t. read. them. again. Yeah, yeah, you’re a lover of literature. But trust me: No matter how entertaining, how sweet, and how charming, read something enough times and it will turn hideous.

4) You will redefine foreplay such that “Baby’s asleep; should we have sex?” qualifies.

5) You will re-calibrate your barometer for “gross.” You will use the toilet with your child strapped to your chest; perhaps while nursing. Fishing poop out of the bathtub will be a non-event. You might draw the line at sampling your own breastmilk to determine whether it’s still potable, or you might not.

6) You’ll never look at a giraffe… without thinking “Sophie!” again.

7) You will craft thoughtful, nutritious foodstuffs for your child while you subsist on frozen taquitos and goldfish crackers. You will think nothing of polishing off a half-eaten PB&J you just found in the backseat of your car, ditto the cold scrambled eggs left on the high chair tray. You imagine you’re above sucking down one of those broccoli-apple squeezie pouches, though you never know…

8) You will fall asleep during your dental exam.

9) Your wardrobe will fall out-of-date despite the fact that you shop constantly because you breastfeed constantly and what else are you going to do with your other hand? Unfortunately you only shop for your kid.

10) You will cultivate a mom voice; in it, you will speak about yourself in the third person.

11) Your boobs will turn purely utilitarian. You will nurse at restaurants, in cars, at parks, while getting a haircut. At a “Sip and See” at your parents’ house, you’ll excuse yourself to breastfeed. Afterwards, you’ll traverse the house, passing all of your parents’ friends en route to the kitchen, where your dad will take you aside to report, red-faced, “Umm, your nipple is out.” You will be 1% mortified and 99% thirsty for more wine.

12) Going to the bathroom alone… will feel like a spa day; the grocery store, vacation.

13) You will gaze upon your sleeping child... the one who pooped on your shirt, and your heart will swell to a size your chest must struggle to contain, and you will wonder how you got so lucky, and your entire being will be consumed with desire to reach out and touch that silken cheek. But before you do anything hasty, you’ll shut the door and get the heck out of there; you’ll know better than to wake the baby.

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Shannon Kelley lives in Santa Barbara with her son and husband. Her work has appeared in Elle, The Washington Post, and The New Republic, among others; her book Undecided was an Amazon bestseller (Women, Business). Tweet her @Shannon_BKelley.