When I was a cadet at West Point, all the professors and "Old Grads" would constantly chide us with "just wait till you are in the REAL Army." As a cadet, this is perplexing because you think you already ARE in the Army. You have an ID card, you wear a uniform, higher ranking people yell at you for no good reason, and so forth. It isn't until you graduate and go to your first unit that you realize you were truly "playing Soldier" for four years and have NO idea what you are doing. For me, I had the same exact experience once I brought my daughter home from the hospital and all the helpful friends and family went back to their normal lives.
When I was pregnant, I thought I was becoming a "mom." I stopped drinking Red Bulls and gave up everything that actually tastes good because the doctors told me it was best for my daughter (FYI, gestational diabetes sucks). I would talk to my baby bump and even occasionally play music for her. I endured peeing every 15 minutes and attempting to roll over at night, only to feel like an old person doing an 8 point turn to get into a parking spot at Walmart. In hindsight, those things are laughable and it made me wonder, "At what point are you a REAL mom?" When are you an official, card-holding mother?
These are some of the things I have come up with thus far, although I still haven't quite hit the milestone of my daughter's 1st birthday (also known as the "Yup, I kept a mini human alive for a whole year" milestone). I am sure mothers of several, older children can add many things to this list:
1. Huge Diaper Blowout in Public
This generally occurs at a very inopportune time in conjunction with the one day you didn't quite pack everything you need. For me, this was a photoshoot at the Dallas Arboteum, getting beautiful pictures of my little cherub amongst the pumpkins. As we finished, I caught the aroma of foul manure and saw my daughter's evil smile, realizing we should have skipped the fruit baby food that morning. Although the front part of my daughter looked cute as can be, her entire backside was a lava flow of baby poop.
I started carrying her by her armpits, legs dangling around, in a vain attempt to not take a bath in baby poop. After about 200 yards, I gave up as I wondered "why the heck are the bathrooms so far away??" As I changed her diaper, I realized I was getting dangerously low on wipes, so I did the orgami method of folding each wipe 10 times to get the most use out of it. Once all the poo was removed, I went to change my daughter's clothes, only to realize that although it was a windy, 50 degree Autumn day outside, my spare outfit was a onesie that was one size too small. I threw my very underdressed daughter in the Baby Bjorn and headed to the car. Only as I was driving away did it occur to me that some other child was probably discovering a "brown speckled pumpkin" in the patch and that I am a bad human being for not alerting the staff or something.
2. Having Unidentified Baby Fluids On You (and no longer caring)
To just be thrown up on is still the Minor Leagues of the Mom's Club. You fully know you are a "real mom" when you glance down at your shirt and see some miscellaneous baby fluid on you and it doesn't even fazz you. You might have a slight curiosity of "hmm, I wonder if that is vomit or breastmilk?" but that still doesn't motivate you to do more than fruitlessly wipe on it with a burp rag. Change you shirt? Nah, who got time for that??
Some other aspects of this milestone are realizing you have poop under your fingernails, looking in the mirror to see the wet stains on your shirt from lactating, and/or actually getting baby vomit in your mouth, ear, or up your nose. You get bonus points if your child projective vomits and you feel a slight pride at, "whoa, that went a really far distance."
3. Holding a Sick Baby for Hours on End
At some point, your child will get sick and be inconsolable. This is heartbreaking because you want to fix it, but there is nothing you can do. The best thing you can do is let them lay on you and hope they get some sleep. I remember stopping by to drop off dinner to a friend whose daughter had a double ear infection. I didn't want to ring the doorbell, so I knocked softly and opened the door. I was confused because it was completely dark inside and looked like no one was home.
"Over here," I heard whispered from the corner. My friend's baby had finally fallen asleep when there was plenty of sunshine in the room, but she had been sitting in the dark for the last hour because she was afraid of moving and waking the baby up.
For this milestone, you generally will have to practice sitting like a Budda statue while enduring at least some of the following: needing to pee as if you were 9 months pregnant, losing feeling in multiple appendages, stretching your fingers out in a vain attempt to reach your cellphone that is 2 inches too far away, or losing your mind as you stare off into space.
4. Wanting to murder the UPS guy (or whomever just woke up your sleeping baby)
No matter what cute little signs you put by your doorbell, some buttmunch is going to ring it right after you finally got your little one down for a nap. Not to call out UPS, but they are the main culprit in my neighborhood. Plus at my house, I have a black lab and a beagle that chime in with a harmony of barking and howling in case my daughter somehow slept through the bell.
In that moment, you will feel justified in dragging that delivery person out to the curb and running over them with their boxy brown truck. I mean even if you ARE charged with murder, you should be tried by a jury of your peers, right? As long as that jury is made up of sleep-deprived parents, you are home free.
5. Realizing Your Boobs Are Hanging Out (and no longer caring)
This is for all the breastfeeding mamas out there. After feeding your little one every two hours for literally every day of their life, you will eventually forget to put "the girls" away before getting up and doing your next task. The truth is, that you are so used to your tatas hanging out that you might go some time before noticing. For me, it was going to the bathroom, washing my hands, and looking in the mirror while thinking, "hmm, sometime is not quite right. What is it? Oh yea, I see nipple."
6. Having a Conversations about Poop
This is one of the mandatory milestones for truly becoming a mother. You might even pinky-promise that you won't be THAT parent that discusses their child's bowel moments as if recapping last night's episode of The Bachelor. However, not only will it happen, it will become a regular occurrence. You will know what the heck meconium is, the difference between breastmilk and formula poop, the tricks for "unstopping up" your kid, and shamelessly stick your nose by your kids bum and sniff to see if they pooped.
What other things would you add to the list?
Please comment below and we will add to the post.