What I saw were dirty diapers, spit-up, minivans cluttered with sippy cups and toys, and, later, sports equipment. Moms seemed always to be rushing to keep up with laundry and school projects and disciplining their little heathens.
Perhaps the thing that stood out most? With moms, no subject seemed to be off limits. From the aforementioned dirty diapers and spit-up to leaking breasts and constipation, mom talk, to me, seemed a little less womanly and a lot more, well, gross.
I hoped I could avoid all that when I someday became a parent. I'd forgo the poop talk, and my kid would never be the one with food and snot all over his face.
What I envisioned for parenthood was glamorous and serene. I'd always have everything right at hand, my car would stay decently clean and I would handle boo-boos with grace.
And as a pregnant woman, I would be glowing, I wouldn't swell up, and I wouldn't complain.
From the beginning of my pregnancy in early 2009, things went downhill fast. Where I expected a glow, there was acne. When I expected food cravings, there was nausea, and later heartburn. And that cute belly filling out the cute maternity clothes? It's heavy and the term "uncomfortable" seems too mild.
As for the swelling, I'd heard many a mother tell stories of only being able to wear flip-flops during pregnancy. Me? Not even those would fit. One day at work, when my feet were puffing up around my flip-flops to the point of panic, I walked to Family Dollar and bought a pair of size 9 mules (and maybe a box of Little Debbies) that were to be my only footwear for the next couple of months. I'm normally a 7.5.
My visions of motherhood dashed, I did what only seemed natural: I talked about it to other moms, who were almost always willing to listen and were always willing to share their own pregnancy stories.
The mom talk I had promised myself I would avoid was becoming vital, and I hadn't even delivered the baby.
Now the mother of a half-year-old, I'm well aware that this wasn't the only part of parenthood that wouldn't go exactly like I'd planned.
Cloth diapers were a nice idea, but I went for the easier, and cheaper, disposables.
A natural childbirth was what I wanted, but I ended up with an epidural, and eventually a C-section.
Keeping the snot off your son's face? A lofty goal, indeed.
The funny thing about it is that while the whole experience has pretty much gone exactly like I didn't plan it, motherhood is even more magical than I could have dreamed it.
I guess you could say I've got baby goggles on: The dreaded dirty diapers, well, those are just evidence that I am feeding my baby well. The clutter in my car, including pacifiers and, of course, toys, are things that make my baby happy, and when he grins that big one-toothed grin, there is no happier mommy than me. The laundry? Even folding my baby's cute little clothes makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Jessica Wiant is features editor of The Northern Virginia Daily. Contact her at 800-296-5137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.