For many, many years, I didn’t think I’d have any kids of my own. I don’t know what it was that led me to this conclusion exactly, but for whatever reason, I’d resigned myself to remaining “always the aunty, never the mum”. What I did know for sure, was that I would certainly have to learn a few things before I heard those incredible cries coming from a baby of my own. But, I was convinced that these things would miraculously appear in my brain during pregnancy, or at least during the birth.
Yes, as far as I could tell, mums just knew shit. It was innate, primal, natural. During the path from person to parent (and I still feel there is a difference, even if the difference is simply the number of hours sleep you take for granted each night) I was convinced there was a transformation which involved gaining the wisdom you needed to raise a child. Now that I have housed a child in my uterus, I can assure those of you who have not, that this is sadly not the case. Parents are just normal people with more responsibilities. Slightly more tired people, with more unidentifiable stains on their clothes.
So what knowledge did I think I’d acquire before I was handed my first born? Here are 10 things I expected to be carefully delivered to my brain in the months preceding child birth:
- How to give birth. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d seen Casualty. Hell, I’d watched Call the Midwife from the start. I’d even become quite a fan of One Born Every Minute. I knew this was going to hurt. I’d been aware there may be some pushing. I’d also heard it smarted a bit. But there are so many points that are never addressed until you’re in the moment. What should I be doing? Where should my legs be? Why do I feel like I might burst? What in God’s name is coming out of me now? What happened to my clothes? Who are all these people? And in my case, will I make it to the delivery room? Trust me, nobody has a sodding clue how to give birth to your baby. You will know when the time comes. Sort of. You will do exactly what needs to be done without meaning to. I had a bloody awful, but incredibly fast labour, and up until the last 12 minutes (once I’d finally made it to the delivery room) I did nothing but panic and cry. But in the end, the midwife told me to do what felt right. Three contractions later, my person to parent makeover was complete. And I still had no freaking idea how I’d done it. Oh, and if you’re not sure what it is that’s coming out of you, I urge you, don’t ask. You don’t want to know.
- What to dress baby in. Is he too hot? Is he too cold? Does he need a blanket? Or 3 blankets? Is it a babygrow or an outfit occasion? What about a jacket? Hat? How do you tell? Seven months on I still don’t have a pissing clue. Hell, half the time I have no idea what I should be wearing…
- How to pass baby back and forth. (And not accidentally grope the person you’re passing to or from.) I swear the answer to this question is “Continue to hold child until the end of time. Unless other person is someone you are allowed, or indeed, expected to grope.” There is nothing more awkward than two men passing a newborn between themselves. Nothing.
- How to go to the toilet. Now, I still knew how to carry out the actual toileting (although the first poop after you give birth is more terrifying than the thought of a fire alarm going off in a hotel when you’re in the bath) but the practicalities of going to the toilet with a newborn baby are not something you are faced with until it happens. Do you leave them alone and risk finding yourself somehow locked in the bathroom without them? Do you go to the bathroom but not lock the door, all the while worrying because you can’t see them? Do you leave the door open and worry that an unexpected guest arrives mid pee? Do you take them with you and spend the duration of your trip wondering if you’re scarring your child for life? So many decisions. I’ve not a bloody clue. But don’t worry whichever you choose…there isn’t a right answer to this one either. You’re allowed to leave them alone while you pee. But if you don’t want to…that’s ok too.
- How to cut baby nails. Bite them? File them? Risk cutting their tiny, adorable fingers off? No idea.
- How to decipher the crying. Now, I was under some misguided impression that parents knew what a baby’s cry signified. And sometimes we do. But sometimes, we don’t. And sometimes, well, sometimes the just sodding cry. And nobody knows why.
- How to juggle the changing bag, baby, pram and car keys. Some people may look less inept at this than others, but really, we’re all just hoping we drop the changing bag and not the baby.
- What to do when the supermarket trolley seat is minging. Now, I was away recently and the supermarkets in some areas actually have “Cleaning Stations”. Not something that exists at my local store. So when I approached a trolley with a baby seat for the first time, only to find it was both dirty AND wet…well…I was baffled. My (then newborn) child seemed far too important to be plonked on top of carpark dust and rain water, yet I didn’t want to appear the neurotic mother I am and refuse to use it. On my first excursion with this issue I opted to not use it and pretend to be breezy about it. Half an hour later I had to lie my child down on the checkout in order to pack my shopping. Fantastic mumming.
- What to do when you accidently call a muslin a Muslim in public. The best I’ve come up with so far is – Pretend it didn’t happen.
- How to know if you’re doing things right. Well, you don’t. But, wondering if you’re doing them right…worrying that you’re doing things wrong? Well, that’s a good sign that you’re on the right track.