From the surreal moment a pregnancy test lights up with the all important second line (or the word pregnant if you splashed out on a fancy pants Clear Blue Digi) you are riding on a high of excitement. I couldn’t wait to be a mummy. I read books, copious articles on everything from changing nappies (yes, really! I didn’t realise that was the least of my worries) to sleep schedules (LOL) and spent a fortune on stocking up on all those baby essentials.
When I visited a friend and her newborn baby a few months before I was due she turned to me and said “you honestly have no idea what’s coming”. Casually laughing it off I thought to myself “it can’t really be so hard, can it?”. The answer is, yes. Yes it can.
When Bubba One arrived I was thrilled to bits. She was perfect. Healthy, happy and gorgeous.
However as those first few days passed I realised I did have no idea what was coming. Until you become a parent you don’t realise what it will mean. So here’s my rundown of all the things I wish they could explain to you before having a baby:
How much you will worry over every silly detail. What temperature is the room, what should they wear, are they sleeping enough, are they sleeping too much, are they gaining enough weight, is their poo supposed to be like that? It’s never ending. Me and hubby also discuss this bollocks endlessly.
There are a million baby sleep products/books out there and they’re all useless. Whoever comes up with the ultimate fix to making baby go to sleep in their own bed without a fuss and snooze peacefully until 7am the next day will rule the world. The multi-billion pound baby industry is filled with experts who promise their product/book will definitely get you the sleep you are so desperate for. The fact is there is no magic solution. You just need to grit your teeth and ride out the toughest phases. To offer a solution suggests you are doing something wrong as a parent. We’re all just doing our best and that makes us great parents.
How hard breastfeeding is. Perhaps because the NHS is so keen to promote the beautiful and natural marvel that is breastfeeding they deliberately leave out the fact it’s bloody hard work! It’s not just a matter of X number of feeds lasting X amount of time a day. It’s a round-the-clock mission filled with uncertainty and leaky boobs.
The silly rows you will have with your other half. Although hubby and I rowed before having kids, it went from once every few weeks mediocre falling out to slanging matches and silent treatment that lasted for days all because we disagreed over how warm the milk should be served. We have fallen out over silly details that really do not matter. Sleep deprivation is to blame combined with the change in dynamic when you become parents, not just husband and wife.
How it will feel to lose your independence. I miss being able to spend all day Sunday in bed binge watching Breaking Bad. I miss spending hours in a beer garden on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I miss popping out for a curry after work on a Friday night. I miss dropping everything to go see a film. It’s tough to lose the ability to be spontaneous. Sure we have gained so much more, but sometimes I long to have that freedom back for just a day (or weekend!).
Everyone has pearls of wisdom. As soon as I announced my pregnancy there was a steady stream of advice coming at me from even the most unlikely places. A childless friend lectured me on the importance of routine. My childless aunt advised me to feed my six month old jelly when she wasn’t that keen on veggies. People who have been there before, particularly grandparents, are desperate to offer their help and say what worked for them. Trouble is this can be a bit overwhelming when you’re just finding your feet. I wanted to learn things at my own pace and do it my way. Plus the advice has changed so much in a generation. Learn how to nod politely and reply “how interesting” with enthusiasm, then crack on with your way of doing things.
Your childless friends won’t get it. When you go from being the fun drinking buddy who’s out all night to being the dazed zombie who yawns into two lemonades before heading home early it can be tough for your childless pals to understand what’s going on. Until you’ve had a baby you can’t understand the mind-numbing hell of sleep deprivation and how it makes you cherish every early night you can get. I was the same before having kids. I thought If your other half has agreed to babysit, why can’t you let your hair down and have a big night on the town. Real friends will be sympathetic and patient. And they may be in the same boat soon enough.
How hard it is to survive on broken (or no) sleep. When Bubba Two was a few weeks old and waking 4/5 times a night, sometimes staying up for hours on end, I began to wonder if it is possible to die from lack of sleep. Sometimes when she began crying and I woke with a jolt I wondered how I could physically lift her tiny body out the cot I was so so exhausted. I sleep walked through the days. I was a grouchy, moody, miserable mess. Hair a mess, clothes covered in goodness knows what and barely able to communicate with others. While I’m still not getting many zzzzzzs these days, things have got better. Or perhaps I’ve got used to living on less sleep. I can’t wait until she sleeps through, whenever that magical day might be.
What took you by surprise when you had kids? Let me know your thoughts.
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