Before initiation, other parents are strangely excited for you. Truthfully, I always found all the excitement and congratulations a bit unnatural - like they wanted some company in the hell that they're going (or have gone) through. Sometimes I got the distinct impression that the excitement was all an act - to your face they're saying "congratulations - when are you due?" and behind your back, they're muttering "ha, suckers".
After initiation, I have become one of those parents - a member of the secret society of parenthood. While I now know that the excitement is not a farce (I am excited for you, really), I do have to admit to thinking smugly "ha, they have absolutely NO idea of what they're in for".
There actually was a secret parent society ("keeping kids clueless for 382 years"), though it now appears to be defunct. I think it's probably gone underground.
You know you're a new member of the secret society of parenthood when:
- you freely exchange knowing/friendly smiles with other parents/people carrying babies
- you can identify the brand of their frontpack or buggy from 50 feet (or you surreptitiously try to spot its brand if you haven't seen it before)
- you'd describe yourself as an expert on carseats and cloth nappies
- you have no qualms about starting up a conversation with other parents in an elevator
- you find yourself giving unsolicited maternity bra advice to the uninitiated
- you happily talk about bodily functions and substances (mostly baby poop) to anyone who looks vaguely interested (and even those who don't)
- you've gone to work with baby puke on your shoulder (and no one's mentioned it)
- you can belt out at least three children's songs loudly enough to last the car ride home (and you know that Twinkle Twinkle will get you from the bottom of the hill to your house)
- things that would normally have embarrassed you (ie, all of the above) now don't faze you in the least.
Those who have been members of the secret society for a longer period will be familiar with all of the above, but for most, the novelty has worn off. Older members of the society are generally wiser in most parenting matters, though some have a habit of giving outdated advice to newer members. There are also some taboos - in particular, older male members of the society should refrain from giving unsolicited advice about breastfeeding to the uninitiated (more on this later).
Secret societies often have their own language and jargon, and this one is no exception - especially if you're an internet-trawling parent. Acronyms like DD, DS, DH (darling daughter, darling son, darling/damn husband), LO (little one), EBF (exclusively breastfed), FF (formula fed) are littered throughout facebook pages and forums. It takes a while but eventually you master the jargon, perhaps enough to have a sensible conversation - once you're not so sleep deprived.