No amount of information or advice from friends or family really, truly prepared me for having a baby. I read every book going, did NCT and even did the free NHS classes too. I was a complete swot and asked lots of questions and wrote a whole heap of notes. All in preparation for becoming a ‘parent‘ (dun, dun, duuueeerrr!) I was ready, like a runner lining up in the starting blocks, or so I thought. But when my baby arrived, everything I’d learnt or read went out of the window. Funnily enough never at one point did I refer back to my trusty ‘notes’. The last thing you think about doing during a 3am feed followed by a ‘poo-splosion’, is consulting your pages and pages of handwriting. You genuinely have to wing a lot of it. There were some very confusing moments when my baby was new (often involving poo or sick) but I got through those dark times and hey presto, I came out the other side having learnt a new skill, wahoo! (to any potential or new parents, you will at one point be stood covered head to toe in sick, holding a baby also covered in sick and you literally won’t know where to start) Here are a few truths for you, a few things that I’ve discovered along the way.
Post birth pain: A friend once described it to me as ‘like having been in a car crash’ (nice) and I hand on heart laughed this off, silly woman! What is she on about! However, when the baby came out, my body felt like it had been squashed in a vice of some sort. There was SO. MUCH. BLOOD. Damn she was right. I thought in hindsight. I ached, I was bruised and sore, I was basically in various worlds of pain and quite frankly nothing prepared me for that. NCT got me a lovely group of friends and gave me a heads up about the labour bit, but not the bit afterwards, and actually that’s quite important.
You will forever be chasing the ultimate sleep: You get no sleep with a new born, that’s a sad fact and to be honest, even when you’re child starts sleeping well (if they do) you still find yourself chasing an endless circle of blessed sleep. The dream is a solid twelve hours, no wee breaks, no interruptions, just pure coma-esque sleep. When my baby was very new, I found that I’d sneak in a couple of awesome naps’ and I’d emerge feeling on top of my game, but then I’d have another terrible night and feel crap again. This, on repeat, groundhog day style, forever. Even when me and the Mr have been away, we get so excited about ‘being away’, that we get drunk and sleep terribly (anyone else do this?) And even if you do get that ultimate sleep, give it a day or so and your kid will see you back on track 😉
You’re not taught what to dress your child in: For the first three months my child lived in baby grows, but when I got more adventurous and started taking her out to places, I was always a bit confused about what to dress her in. One trip to meet family at RHS Wisley when she was about ten months old, saw me dress her in a vest, cardigan, leggings and crocs when it was driving rain and about 5 degrees outside. My mum spent the whole day tutting at me, whilst constantly feeling the kids’ hands (she was fine!). I’ve also taken her for a walk once to essentially a quagmire, in little trainers, leggings and a summer coat. I spent the whole time shepherding away from the mud and carrying her over puddles, totally pointless.
Your first boozy night out post baby might be hard: I was desperate to have a proper night out once I’d had my baby, literally chomping at the bit, complete with foam. My alcohol prayers were answered one weekend about three months after the kid was born. My husband and I found ourselves in a local pub garden, with all our friends for a birthday and the Mr opted to take the baby home, leaving me to PAR-TAY! It was brilliant, so much fun, everyone bought me wine, amazing, whoo! But suddenly at 9pm the floodgates opened to tear-city and I couldn’t stop crying. It was all too much, too soon. I was still breastfeeding and was drunk in a world of guilt and hormones. I was put in a taxi and sent home to my bewildered husband, who wondered why his wife came home snot-sobbing. New mums, if like me you’re desperate for that night out, but you’re still early on with breastfeeding, or still feeling a bit delicate then just wait. Wait until you’re 100% ready, or more established with your feeding, or more confident. Nights out don’t change so you’re not missing anything, don’t push yourself.
At some point everything will get thrown in your toilet: The kid hit about 22 months when this started to happen. Some days I’ve had to make some serious decisions about what to sacrifice and free to the toilet in the sky. A playdate went wrong recently when a friends three year old went for a number two in our toilet and before an adult to get to her, my child stuck talking Peppa Pig head first on top of said poo. One of Peppa’s phrases is ‘Splish, splash, splosh’, how very apt. She also threw in two bracelets recently on top of some un-flushed wee, I stood starring at the toilet for about ten minutes before opting to fish out one item (I know, I know!) and ditch the other. The kid has also thrown in whole toilet rolls, a toothbrush, keys and various other cuddly toys, lovely.
Toddlers are mini dictators: Sit there, do that, NO DRINK, MINE! Mummy, run! Mummy, jump! I often find myself star-jumping, running, then being demanded onto play park equipment, I do as she says and always fall off or hurt myself, looking like a total wally.
Play parks and soft plays are boring: I thought I’d love the play park but after 500 pushes on the swing, arguments about getting of the swing and some awkward moments with my child and another parent and child on the see-saw, I’ve done my time and want to go. Also see point above, I usually get made to go on something and fall off, or hit myself in the face with a swing, not cool. In the same vein, soft plays are just indoor hell. I see them as indoor germ hell as all the children are in such close proximity, often picking up a toy that someone else’s kid has just been drooling on, yick. Even with back up by way of a friend/family member, you get no time to chat as your child gets stuck in various things, throws something they shouldn’t or tries to pick up someone else’s baby (yes, mine does that!) But, on the same topic farms and slightly larger outdoor equipment ARE fun. Seeing my kids reaction to cows mooing and sheep baaing is priceless and see photo below, outdoor bouncy pillows are awesome! Release your inner child! Just don’t do what I did and ping your child off the side of a bouncy pillow, cue awkward retrieval of child face down in sand.
Children can sense weakness: Just like some dogs can sniff out cancer or horses dislike fearful riders, toddlers can sense weakness in adults. And I’m talking about the weakness that adults have with a hangover. That’s right, after a heavy night on the vino, all you want is a day of sofa hugging and perhaps some Disney film watching, surely the kid will be up for that right? No way, this is when mine wants to sit on me, jump on my tummy, perhaps throw in a cheeky hit to the face or even a leg bite, ‘don’t you want to play with Daddy’, I wail, looking to him for help (I get nothing) ‘don’t be so stupid’ the kid says.
And finally, having a child is constantly, hugely emotional: The birth is emotional, tiring and exhausting. Then your baby grows, feeds, sleeps, learns new things and it’s all madly wonderful. Suddenly a year passes and they are one, then two (and so on) but each day or month you will find that you feel new and weirdly strong emotions towards this little human that you grew. It’s crazy weird and I’m still getting to grips with it to be honest but each and every day, oh I feel those heart strings tugged in one way or another because of this little person and it’s amazing, fact.