They tell you your life will change. They tell you about what to eat when you're pregnant, what not to eat, what to do and not to do. They tell you about labor and childcare costs and college funds.
Here is what they do not tell you.
Your child is your heart.
There are other relationships, yes, but your child is your primary relationship forever now. The moment you lay eyes on her, or even before, that child becomes your heart, and you will never have loved so fiercely in your life. You will love more fiercely than you thought anyone could.
You will sneak into her room at night when she is two weeks two months two years old; you will watch her breathe, rest your hand lightly on her back to make sure she's breathing, make sure your tiny fragile miracle is still here with you. (You will know fear as fierce as that love. Ask a parent what their greatest fear is. I'm willing to bet on the answer.)
You will be run ragged when she will not sleep, will not rest, needs more than you can give (but you will find a way to give it), but you will love the hell out of her anyway.
Do not wear anything that needs to be dry-cleaned. Tie back your hair.
You will cry when you leave her at day care for the first time. Maybe the first week. If they let you, you will call the office just to make sure she's okay. (She will be okay.)
You will make real estate decisions based on school districts.
You will chaperone. There will be buses full of shrieking children and you will do it because it is your turn dammit. You will bring snacks to school, you will help her make gifts for her teachers.
You will take her to Girl Scouts, to karate, to anything she wants to try. You will rent-to-own musical instruments. (Rent-to-own. Do not buy right off. Your child may be fickle.)
You will put in a dozen years of Girl Scouting if that's what is called for, cookie sales and sewing those awful too-thick patches and community service and caroling.
You will go to every concert ever, fourth grade on up. The elementary schoolers will always play "Frere Jacques". The chorus will always sing "Dona Nobis Pacem". (In Girl Scouts, too. Dona nobis pacem dona nobis pacem dona nobis pacem an entire decade of dona nobis pacem.)
You will tell the story of your pregnancy and her birth over and over. How you played Little Shop of Horrors for her in the womb, how she was due on your birthday but she was so stubborn, how Auntie Rose missed her birth because they said it would be another three hours right before you said "NO THIS IS HAPPENING NOW."
At her endless requests, you will tell her over and over how and when she got her name. She will know the other two names that were under consideration, and how her grandmother hated her name until she suddenly found it perfect.
(These are the stories of the beginning of you, child: How often you kicked, how you made us wait, how your name was perfect, how you loved to be carried facing out because you couldn't bear to not see anything. How you fell and bonked your head on the corner of a chair and had a bump on your forehead that looked like a unicorn horn. The first songs you sang: "Cry Cry" by Oysterband, "Galileo" by Indigo Girls. How you spoke in full sentences before you ever started walking, and how your grandmother worried but I knew you would be just fine.)
You will do anything to send her to this summer program or that camp.
You will be her pillow. Even sixteen years in, when she is tired at a restaurant, she will curl up on your lap or rest on your shoulder.
You will drive each other crazy sometimes, you will push each other's buttons like no one else. It will not be perfect.
You will not be perfect.
It will be okay to not be perfect.
You will, if you are the Cool Parent, have lots of semi-awkward sex ed discussions with her friends. Yes, it is awkward. Do it anyway. Their trust is a gift, and they need the information.
If you are the Cool Parent, remember that you are Parent first and Cool second. Parent, then friend. Your child needs friends, but she needs a parent more.
Parenting will not be easy, but you will find a way. It will be your way, not anyone else's. Just like in a fairy tale, you need to find it yourself. Listen to us witches and woodland creatures, yes. But you will mark your own path.
What they do not tell you is that your child is your heart, and you will never be the same.
But you won't regret a thing.
Dona nobis pacem,
dona nobis pacem,
dona nobis pacem.
Happy birthday, my daughter, my heart.