Here's what your baby really looks like: a potato.
You paid upwards of $500. You waited until your newborn was asleep, positioned him perfectly in a crocheted football outfit, his head resting angelically on his fat little arms. Then you wrapped him in swaddle cloth. You slung him in a baby hammock. You cradled him in your arms.
The photographer snapped pictures of it all. Then she went home and edited the sh*t out of those pics because I'm going to let you in on the secret known to everyone but you: Your baby is ugly.
I don't mean you, specifically. I mean the vast majority of babies. Postpartum hormones and society and evolution conspire to make you see that red, squawling thing and think oh my gosh, he's gorgeous. He's the cutest baby in the history of civilization.
When my youngest son popped out, I had a single, immediate moment of, "Oh, he's not cute!" before the hormones jolted in and that baby was beautiful. And even slim moment of clarity is rare. I never had it with my other children. And they looked, basically, exactly the same.
Mostly, mothers gaze their babies and think they're gorgeous, no matter what they look like, because God/evolution/The Flying Spaghetti Monster designed it that way. If we finished pushing, looked down on the result, and had the logical thought, which is holy sh*t, what's this red proto-human thing, we'd be a short-lived species. We'd also destroy an entire industry of baby photographers and cutesy clothiers, because we'd wrap our shame-spawn in sackcloth and ashes while we waited for them to grow into normal-looking people.
Mothers also just went through the worst pain of their life. They pushed something the size of a watermelon through a hole designed to accommodate the average penis. Or they had the thing hacked out of their stomachs in an operating theater. This after nine months of a ballooning stomach, aching back, nausea and misery.
Therefore, moms have a vested interest in liking the results. A baby's cuteness makes it all worth it.
A baby's adorablity also redeems the sleepless nights to come. Babies are hard. They don't sleep for more than four hours at a stretch, which means you don't sleep for more than four hours at a stretch.
They vomit on your clothes. They spray feces all over their diapers. In the case of boys, they pee on you. They latch onto your breasts, possibly painfully, and tie you down to a couch while they suck, suck, suck. You have to touch their pee, and poop, and vomit, plus shove a thermometer up their ass when you're worried that they have a fever.
That sucker had better be cute to earn all that. So, you think your baby's cute. Otherwise you might perish of existential despair.
But here's what your baby really looks like: It's red and puffy. It sports a proportionally enormous head and little squinty eyes of an indeterminate non-color, a dark blue-gray. Its skinny limbs flail helplessly.
You have to mitten its hands to prevent it from clawing off its own face. You didn't do that quickly enough, so it's scratched up. Its features are indeterminate, with no clue if it'll grow up to look like Jessica Simpson or Quasimodo. Basically, your baby looks like an angry red potato.
And then there's the hair quotient. Half of all babies have no hair, giving them a vast red cueball their mothers usually blessedly cover in one of those baby hats. Which should be universal, because a cute hat can distract from the potato-ish visage below.
The other half of babies pop out with a headful of hair, usually dark. These look like weaves that put Donald Trump to shame, and will likely fall out over the course of the next month, leaving baby with a few tall wisps that resemble a pathetic baby bird. Hats for all babies! They may look like you're wrapping a striped concoction over a baking potato but it's better than the terrifying alternative.
Everyone knows this, of course. But no one's going to tell you that. Those Facebook pictures you post just after little Allysynn's birth? Everyone says the polite thing, which is "Congratulations!" and not the logical thing, which is, "This baby is slightly less unattractive than other babies I've seen."
You keep posting pics of your potato-spawn: sleeping, yawning, swaddled, limbs free. And a few people will like the pictures (Gramma). Most people will ignore them, because if you don't have anything nice to say...
And you don't say a newborn baby looks like a potato. It's not socially acceptable. We're all engaged in a vast conspiracy to pretend babies look like adorable little human beings, when really, they still look like fetuses. Not that there's anything wrong with looking like a fetus, if you're a fetus.
But these are not fetuses. They're fully grown humans with giant heads, squinty eyes, and scrawny limbs.
But before then, it's potato all the way.