Six months in, it feels the time is right to look back and consider what we’ve learned, such that others may learn from me. Though top of the list of lessons would undoubtably be, look elsewhere for your baby guru needs. I’ve stuck a 1 at the end of this post title as there has been so much learning going on….and I feel so much learning still to do….that this will be a theme that I return to.
Lesson One: A Baby Changes Your Life Completely. Self evident you may think. And of course, you’d think right. Of course I knew it would change our lives. Everyone told me it would for a start. And from looking at others in a similar situation, I could see lives had indeed been altered. But still…. A baby really does change your life completely. You can nod, say yes it will, laugh about not being able to sleep for the next few years, about staycationing forever at the expense of far flung, exotic travel plans. You hear all this, and no doubt you accept it all at one level. But it doesn’t hit home how fundamentally your life, and more fundamentally you yourself, are changed by this alien life form, until it is held in your arms for the first time, just you and they and time to contemplate the immenseness of it all. At that point you finally know and understand.
Lesson Two: There Is No Manual. Again, a statement of the bleedin obvious you say. Yes but… I found it hard to understand that I was being given this tiny, fragile, priceless thing to take home with little more than a hold it this way up, the nappy goes on that end, and feed it every 2 to 3 hours. And even then, the latter advice was only imparted after we admitted to the nurse we hadn’t fed Grace in about 6 hours on the first day because she was asleep and we didn’t think we should wake her. Thank heavens we had made the NCT intense, 2 day weekend boot camp a fortnight earlier, so that I was at least aware of how to get a nappy and vest on. Albeit Grace wriggled a little more than the stuffed bear I had previously only been trusted with.
Lesson Three: Google is your Friend? The main consequence of there being no manual, is that there are lots of views, opinions and thoughts on things. When I say lots, I mean an infinite number. When I say things, I mean everything. And that is just counting the relations, nurses and friends that are on hand with ready access to this information. Nowadays though it won’t be long before you reach for your trusty smartphone and seek Google’s view as an independent, impartial and all knowing Oracle. And then…. An innocuous query about the small rash on Grace’s chest suddenly becomes a planning exercise on which A&E department is closest Northampton or Milton Keynes, for surely this is a medical emergency. A concern about a poo-less day becomes a day spent reading stories of how babies are supposed to have from between 0 and n where n can be any 2 digit number, of poos in any given 24 hour period, and it’s all perfectly normal. Or absolutely time to go to the hospital without delay. If there are two interpretations of some symptom or behaviour, and one will cause untold worry, then that will be the one that occupies the first ten pages of Google’s search results….
Lesson Four: Save Money and Avoid Fancy Clothes. When you’re changing outfits for the fourth
time in an hour, you will understand that pretty outfits are all very well, but getting said clothes quickly on and off is where the real value of an outfit becomes clear. As does being able to bin them and not feel bad, when several washes and soaks in Vanish later, the tell-tell yellow stain of poo remains forever imprinted into the material. Multi packs of cheap, basic vests and body suits aplenty are what are needed… with the odd bit of cute clothing for when you take baby out and want to show her off, obviously.
Lesson Five: Don’t talk about Sleep. It’s very easy to become a sleep bore ( see blogposts, 3,4,6,7,8…etc), when whole days will revolve around whether or not you’ve had sufficient shut-eye to function as a human being. Certainly avoid the subject with fellow new parents. It will either become a competition as to who has had the least sleep and still be able to operate a baby, or else one of you will hear tales of babies put down at 7 who sleep instantly, only waking for their breakfast 12 hours later, and you will thereafter resent these people and their freak of a baby forever. Besides, on the rare occasion I have spoken of 11 hours uninterrupted sleep (rare because a) I follow this rule and b) because it is so rare to be able to report it), less than 24 hours later we are back to sitting on the nursery floor in the middle of the night trying to soothe a distressed baby for a couple of hours.
Lesson Six: Never think you’re in control. When you think you’ve cracked it, when you think you understand the crying demands, when you think you have a set routine, when you think you don’t know what the fuss is…that’s exactly and precisely the moment when you find everything’s changed. Everything you thought you knew is wrong. Everything you had assumed, you had done so on false premises. Sometimes it feels like a game of snakes and ladders, where the ladders climb up one row, and all the snakes send you to back to the start. That said….
Lesson Seven: You Would Never Have It Any Other Way. Lesson learned in the first hour, and reiterated every day you see the first smile of the day.