A FEW WEEKS ago, LaVeta's nephew and his wife welcomed a bouncing baby girl. I was happy for them. But I couldn't help laughing, because new parents have no idea what they're in for.

They think it's all cooing and kisses. They believe it's all sunshine and light. They swear that their baby won't do the things that infants are obligated to do.

Well, as a father of three, I'd like to drop some serious truth on every new parent who's reading this. Your baby will eventually do something that will make you want to stick pins in your eyes. For your sake, I hope they do it while they're little. At least then you might be able to clean it up.

I know some new parents are reading this and saying, "Not my baby! My baby is the best thing that's ever happened to anyone, anywhere, ever!"

You're right, of course, and you'll be right until the projectile vomiting begins. Take heart, though. The hurling is just the beginning. Thanks to your baby, you will discover bodily fluids that you didn't know existed. Not only will you see them, you will clean them, and on occasion, you will do so by hand.

Just when you think the horrors have ceased, your child will do ungodly things in a diaper. Things so disgusting that they would be illegal in most countries. If they're boys, they will pee on you when you least expect it. If they're girls, they will release gases that you didn't think females could produce. When they're finished doing those things, they will go to sleep, but only for a few minutes. That's when the real fun will begin.

At 4 in the morning, when the world is shrouded in darkness, you will hear something. At first, you'll think it's a nightmare, because you've never heard actual sounds at 4 a.m. When it gets louder, you'll know it's real. And as you stumble down the hallway toward the source of the racket, you'll realize that the child you brought into this world is playing a cruel joke on you.

Here's the worst part: It won't be a joke. Your baby will be up at 4, and so will you, but unlike those other times when you've been awake at 4 in the morning, you won't be having a good time. You'll be lurching through your own living hell.

Babies not only keep you up at 4, they get in the bed with you and your spouse and form an impenetrable barrier. Even if you wanted to reach over to get a little comfort, your bundle of joy will be there, forming a literal wailing wall between you and your life partner.

After a few nights of that, the sleep deprivation will kick in, and you'll turn on each other like mongrel dogs. But don't worry. You'll be much too tired to fight. In fact, you'll be too tired to sleep.

Thanks to your newest addition, sleep will simply be a memory, and a bad one at that. With your little wailing wall in the middle of the bed, you and your significant other will look back on the days when you used to be able to do sleep like a drug. You'll remember doing it on your sides, doing it on your backs, even doing it on your stomachs.

You'll remember the way you used to do it with impunity. No position was forbidden, and neither was any location. Before the baby arrived, sleep felt good, because you could do it whenever you wanted.

Now, as you lie in bed, staring at your crying interloper through red, tired eyes, there won't be much reason for optimism, because the sleep you're losing will never come back. You'll be tired from now on.

So, let's review. The arrival of your child will change most everything, including your tolerance for nastiness. From dirty diapers to the disgusting body fluids, you'll see, smell and touch things you never thought you would. But through it all, you'll grow in ways you wouldn't have grown before.

You'll be willing to put your own needs aside for the needs of someone else. You'll learn what it means to help someone who is incapable of helping themselves. Through each stinky diaper, and every sleepless night, you'll learn a little more about love.

And when that baby's all grown up and ready to take on the world, you'll find that you've grown up, as well.

Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.