I would love to go back six years to the not-yet-pregnant me and tell myself these things. I just can’t find a way of getting back to 2009. In the meantime, if you are thinking of embarking on the journey of parenthood, how about I share these things with you?
1. Hold on tight, you’re getting on a rollercoaster
When you decide you want to have a baby, a lot of things are going to happen and most of it will be utterly out of your control. On my journey, I found it easy to GET pregnant, hard to STAY pregnant and easy to BE pregnant. Giving birth was easy twice and breastfeeding was hard twice. One baby slept well, one baby didn’t – sorry, I mean, doesn’t. I had 4 miscarriages and 2 babies. I had one 12 week scan with exceptionally low odds of abnormalities and one 12 week scan with the highest possible odds you can get for that. There were no abnormalities either time. The first 6 months of both babies were terrifying.
Every parent will report a different cocktail of the above. I’ve never heard of a time it was all easy, but I’ve never heard of a time it was all hard either. It will go up, it will go down, you will feel exhilarated, terrified, like you want to get off, like you never want to get off, like the harness isn’t tight enough. You’ll wonder “what if”, you’ll not want to look but you won’t be able to look away.
It will be the ride of your life.
2. Read all about it (and make your own mind up)
Whether or not you like to read, material on this subject will be hard to avoid. You’ll be given leaflets, it floods your facebook newsfeed, you will Google it and you will find a million books with a million opinions that will all conflict and claim to be the definitive way to do things. Breastfeeding, the ‘cry it out’ method, co-sleeping, baby routines and discipline are all subjects that can start wars. They can make people get very nasty and a little bit righteous.
I have read A LOT about it all. Before you experience any of this for yourself, there is a danger in thinking that everything you read is right. What I have concluded is that no one on this earth has got it 100% figured out; not Gina Ford, not attachment parents, not Dr Spock, not the baby whisperer, not mumsnet, not your midwife and probably not even your mum, though she’s probably closest. The problems seem to kick off when someone truly believes they have got it 100% figured out - they haven’t.
It’s good to know about all the ways you can do things. Some people’s opinions will help, a lot will make your head spin.
However you ultimately do things, you will have it as figured out as it needs to be.
3. Prepare for the “hardest life” argument
This is the most ridiculous and irrational argument you are ever likely to have with your partner in your life. I have it most days. My friends have it most days with their partners. My friends and I talk about it most days. You will think it won’t happen to you, but I think it’s very likely that it will in the early months of being a new parent.
It goes like this: I will tell Daddy Wilson that he doesn’t understand what it’s like to look after a baby all day, every day. He will tell me I don’t understand what it’s like to have to sell A LOT of toothpaste all day every day. I will tell him I do because I used to have to sell cheese. He will say he looked after Ben all day last Saturday. Look, I’m even having the argument in this article!
The fact is, it’s all hard. But, one day, soon, it won’t matter because it will all be easier. Well, maybe not the selling of lots of toothpaste, but what would I know about it.
4. Get ready to tear it down and rebuild it (better)
One of the most depressing clichés I found about becoming a parent was the one about life never being the same. There’s an implication in that that all the fun of young, carefree life as you know it is going to end.
The good news is, that the sooner you accept that and let it go, the sooner you can get started on building something else. I was the most naïve new mum in the world. I just thought life would go on with a cute kid in it. The reality of that can be illustrated by the presence of my daughter asking me expectantly if cats can talk whilst staring at me as I sat on the toilet.
In the present, 5 years after my first baby arrived on the scene, my life now resembles something of what it used to be. I run nearly every day. I read a lot of books. I write instead of marketing cheese and I love that more. I get to go to theme parks and pretend it’s “for the kids”. I went to the cinema to see Cinderella “for Holly”. I shop for incredibly cute clothes – Okay, they’re mine. The point is, life has changed but it would’ve anyway; clubbing in Ibiza is not dignified at 43. It’s different and better.
5. Hold on to your heart – a baby’s about to grab it and squeeze it hard
You will never know love like it. This is the cliché I cannot contest. It will sometimes make it hard to breath. It will keep you awake while you stare at them sleeping. It will make you cry, it will make you laugh. It will make you terrified. It will make you sob at sentimental stories. It will turn you into Mufasa on that mountain with his cub singing the circle of life. It’ll make you a Mum. It will make you a Dad. It will make you smug, proud and like the only people who have ever had a baby. And the hard bits, well it’s worth every tiny sleep deprived second.
(And just for the record, it’s DEFINITELY harder than selling toothpaste)