FFrom the moment I announced that I was pregnant, the comments from other parents started pouring in:
Hope you are ready to never sleep again.
All your hair will fall out.
Just wait until he’s a toddler.
Just wait until he’s a teenager!
Do you know what a episiotomy is?
They came from friends, from colleagues, from strangers who saw my round belly. (OK, the last one was my doctor.)
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At first they didn’t bother me. Nothing could ruin my excitement. But as the months went on, so did the comments. I began to wonder if anyone was real held have children No one seemed to have anything good to say. I’ve always liked kids, but from what I’ve heard, the second you have one of your own, you find out “the truth”: they drain you, demand snacks at all times, cry all night, breastfeed too much, don’t breastfeed enough, break valuable heirlooms, force you to become an exhausted heap of a person who can’t even drink a cup of coffee without a little person insisting on looking at Blippi while his nose pull up and wipe it on your unused grad school diploma.
Was this what was going to happen to me?
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For a long time, motherhood was glorified. When my mother was pregnant in the 80s, she told me it never occurred to her that it would be difficult because no one talked about the challenges. She was surprised when we weren’t little replicas of the perfect children she imagined, children who slept through the night and were happy to sit quietly in a playpen until we were 5. Instead, when my mother took my brother for his first. preschool interview, he turned on all the outdoor branches he could find and flooded the playground.
So now people try to avoid making it seem like it’s all snuggly babies and well-mannered toddlers who would never intentionally flood a Montessori vegetable garden. We finally started talking about issues that are ignored like postpartum depression. We’ve allowed TV dads to be emotional and stopped portraying moms as rosy June Cleavers who have time every morning to make their family waffles and maintain a perm. But maybe, when it came to talking about parenting, we overcorrected. We forgot to keep sharing the good stuff in addition to the bad.
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I had my baby in May 2020, probably one of the worst times in recent history to have a baby. Of course, it could have been worse – it wasn’t on the Oregon Trail or during the Ice Age – but it wasn’t good timing. For the first few months of my son’s life, apart from the normal impossible baby things like swaddling and sleeping on the schedule of someone who hasn’t figured out night and day, we couldn’t see anyone. We showed him to friends and family through Zoom or by holding him up to a closed window. I wish they could have held him. I wish they could have held me. One night when he wouldn’t stop crying, I drove to a Starbucks parking lot where I sobbed until the sun came up. I think, It is exactly what everyone told me it would be.
But even as a first-time parent of a pandemic baby, I have found that there is so much good. Why didn’t anyone warn me about the good? I don’t mean good in the sense that my toddler is easy (he isn’t) or my parenting is perfect (last night my son ate 30 tater tots and nothing else for dinner). But things unlike anything I knew before I became a parent. Sometimes, after my son has gone to sleep, I revisit the feeling of being with him as if it were a drug. I can release endorphins just by looking at a picture of him playing with a shower truck.
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Maybe that’s why it’s hard to tell people about the good. The best moments of parenting sound mundane but feel otherworldly: The first time my son heard “Jump in the Line” by Harry Bellafonte and it immediately stopped his crying and I danced around the room as he laughed. Cuddle on the couch and watch Cars 3 (again), stroking his hair. Kicking a soccer ball in the park while the sun is setting and the whole world is purple and orange — the whole world is me and him.
A few nights ago at bedtime, my toddler went around saying, “Good night, I love you!” to all his trucks, our cats, his dad and me. He has never said “I love you” to me before. My heart felt as if someone had grabbed it inside my ribcage and squeezed so hard that the ventricles were about to burst. I’m glad we’ve become more honest about parenting. But now when my friends are about to become parents, I try to explain it: some moments you will be so happy, you will practically ignite.
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