The entire time I was pregnant, it was impossible for me to conceive of just what it would be like to actually be in possession of a human baby. Basically my expectations were, feel indescribable love to a degree I could not imagine, and feel completely overwhelmed and have no idea what I was doing. That was the extent to which I could imagine motherhood–nothing more concrete than that.
I remember being in my breastfeeding class, holding a rigid plastic baby to my shirt and trying not to make eye contact with the equally uncomfortable expectant father sitting across the table from me, and thinking just how insufficient this preparation was for actual motherhood.
As I’ve said before, I don’t pretend to think I can fully prepare anyone for becoming a mom, but in my first 100 days of motherhood, I can tell you that the following *activities may help exercise some of the more important skills you will need, such as desensitizing your gag reflex and pretending not to be uncomfortable.
*Do not actually do any of this.
To prepare for early visitors
Activity: Stay up all night long. In the morning, call someone you are fond of but not particularly close to (your boss? your husband’s uncle?), and invite them to come over for a visit. Find yourself a good strong chip clip, binder clip or similar pinchy thing. Allow a vanilla milkshake to come to room temperature. Affix the clamp to a nipple and dump a good amount of warm milkshake to the other breast, allowing it to thoroughly soak through your shirt. When your visitor arrives, try to hold a pleasant conversation and notice how your visitor chooses to maintain almost a crazed level of eye contact or finds a focal point across the room to stare at during the entire visit.
How this helps you prepare: If you have to feed your newborn during a visit (and oh, you will. The eat literally all day and all night long), you will likely find yourself in some amount of pain, you might leak all over, and your baby will do his or her best to help you flash a nipple at your visitors. (Yes, sure, breastfeeding is never supposed to hurt if you’re doing it right. Congratulations if you figure it out and it never hurts.) Good luck maintaining your composure while you figure this all out in front of an audience.
To prepare for messy events during outings
Activity: Place a 16-ounce container of small curd cottage cheese in the trunk of your car for nine days. (Is it winter? Then put it in the back of your closet.) After nine days is up, wrap a baby carrier around you, grab the cottage cheese and go to a diner with your husband and your brother-in-law. Place your order, and then dump the cottage cheese into your baby carrier. Be sure to really smoosh it down there so it soaks through your clothes. When your food arrives, see if you can eat toast without gagging. This will be impossible, so instead, watch everyone else eat breakfast for as long as possible before you must race home to clean up. (For the full effect, once you get home, smear your dog in spoiled cottage cheese, too, and then try to clean both of you up.)
How this helps you prepare: Just last week, I went to a diner with Baby, Husband and Brother-in-Law. I was already just emerging from a bout of food poisoning (which is THE BEST when you have an infant), so I just ordered toast. The Baby determined it was a good time to break his spit-up record. I stewed in the hot sour stink for a good 15 minutes before I decided I couldn’t take any more and walked us home to deal with it. When The Husband caught up with us and I begged him to help me, he nearly threw up. So it’s probably a good idea to have your partner participate in this activity to dull his gag reflex, too.
To improve one-handed dexterity
Activity: Have someone bind one arm to your body, then balance a plate full of fragile items (Christmas bulbs, lit candles, or raw eggs would work) on your head. If you’ve been particularly active during pregnancy, plan not to sit down at all during this activity. Once you’ve got your arm pinned and are balancing stuff on your head, attempt to complete normal daily tasks such as feeding yourself, brushing your teeth, putting laundry in the dryer, using the bathroom, picking up something you dropped or checking Instagram.
How this helps you prepare: Very young babies tend not to like being put down for long stretches of time. They also have floppy necks and are very fragile, so you can’t just bend over like you usually would, even if you can figure out how to do things with one hand. *Pro tip: Practice picking stuff up with your toes.
To prepare for how much you’re going to love your baby despite how disgusting he or she is
Activity: There is no need (or way) to prepare. You will find yourself soaked in milk, covered in poop or spit-up or both, and still (mostly) content to deal with it because your heart is bursting. At least the first 50 times or so.