Подснежник, originally uploaded by skynja

One thing you don't realize about snow--until you have spent a winter shoveling--is that by the end of the season, you run out of places to put it. I did not come to learn this fact until I bought my first house. It's on a corner lot, with a driveway, and a sidewalk winding around one half of my yard. That's a lot of surface to shovel.

When the snow starts to fall in October, it's easy to clear away. By the time March comes around, the piles at the end of the driveway are shoulder-high, and options are limited. When we get buried under another foot of snow, I just sigh and get my boots on, because I know I'm looking forward to an hour of quality time with the shovel.

Contrast that reality with the portrayal of winter in Hollywood and TV. I saw a commercial recently where a man brushes the fake, fluffy "snow" off his windshield with two big sweeps of his arm and then collapses in frustration. I couldn't understand the message of the ad until I realized that they were trying to portray this activity as difficult. "Where's the melted sludge that sticks to the glass?" I said. "Where's the solid ice that you have to defrost for several minutes before you can even start to chip it away?"

I imagine it would be quite a shock for someone with romantic notions of winter to visit Minnesota in February for the first time. And I'm starting to wonder whether everything I've learned about babies, from a lifetime of sitcoms and movies, is a lie. Clearing snow looks easy on commercials, and giving birth doesn't seem very traumatic on Friends.

We're reading books and watching movies to counteract our Hollywood education in childbirth and baby-raising, but that only goes so far. Just as I didn't fully appreciate the task of shoveling until my first winter with a house, I know that I won't understand parenthood until I have actually lived with our baby for a while.

What have we gotten ourselves into? We're about to find out.

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