Not the parent you thought you'd be? Nor is Reena Reeves, but she's here to reassure you that it doesn't matter a bit...
Seeing those two lines appear is something of a magical time. And, after the initial shock dissipates you might, as we did, find yourself theorising on what sort of parents you might be and what sort of ‘rules’ you are going to impose on your firstborn. If, like me, you constantly cringe at what a judgmental and clueless fool you were when you were preggo, you might relate to my 10 Commandments for Parenthood.
Please note: these are all based on my own experiences, you might be better at some of this than me.
Before: "I will breathe my baby out in a mood lit, darkened room with some lavender oil and the dulcet tones of the hypnobirthing lady telling me everything will be OK from the wireless speakers (and some dolphin music for when things get, ahem, a bit tricksy). It’ll be a beautiful experience that we will cherish forever", we naively believed.
After: While some of my friends' babies did seemingly daintily flutter out like flower fairies, mine... not so much. 21 hour chemically-induced labour hooked up to more machines than in the CERN space station, eventually screaming blue murder for an epidural 17 hours in, with an ever increasing collection of student doctors and random hospital workers looking at my fanjo until the poor kid was finally yanked out in a fluorescent lit operating theatre? Yep. Aaaaand breathe. If you're reading this pregnant, this almost cerainly won't happen to you, promise. But if it does, it'll all be worth it.
Before: I was so convinced I that I wouldn’t be poisoning my precious spawn with nasty, synthetic formula that I refused to buy (or listen to anyone who suggested I purchase) any bottles, sterilising equipment or milk. "It’s TOTALLY going to be like the Aptamil advert where the yummy mummy in white cashmere holds her baby to the breast and the baby instinctively knows exactly what to do", I thought. Easy peasy.
After: After the aforementioned less than dreamy labour my traumatised little lump had a few medical issues and had to be tube fed. Which is handy, as my milk didn’t come in for FIVE FREAKING DAYS by which time I had been manually ‘milked’ by a number of nurses (FUN!), had my nips violently thrust into the baby’s mouth (who could not give less of a shit if she tried) and been strapped up to a ‘hospital grade’ pump every four hours to complete the Daisy the Cow Milking Experience. Suffice to say the Perfect Prep machine, selection of bottles and year’s supply of Milton were purchased before you could say ‘lactation cookie’. But the main thing? She's absolutely fine now. And so are my nips.
Before: We have some very cool friends, let’s call them Sally and Kevin, who we very much aspired to be like as parents. They are always doing crafts and drawing pictures with their kids and crucially, the TV is never on at their house. We decided we wanted to be JUST like Sally and Kev, as they’re super awesome and their kids are ace. Plus, TV rots kids’ little brains and turns them in to passive zombies…
After: My kid’s greatest achievement this week is learning how to put Teletubbies on herself from the Sky Planner. That’s a fine motor movement nailed, surely?
Before: We love a Thai red curry and an over-priced sushi box as much as the next person, so we were sure our kid would be JUST like us. "We’re going to give them whatever we eat and of course, our kid won’t be fussy. Meal times will be fun, stress-free affairs”, we said. Oh, and all that free time I’ll have on mat leave? It will be filled with making lovingly prepared, organic meals for my munchkin who will gobble them up nicely. Eat your heart out, Jools Oliver.
After: Some days I genuinely believe I should just cut out the middleman (baby) and just throw the food I’ve made straight into the recycling bin. There are too many foods to list that my kid won’t eat but to give you an idea– bread and cheese. Who the chuff doesn’t like bread or cheese? On a recent holiday (more on this later) my child decided she wouldn’t eat her safe food (pasta) anymore UNLESS we were within the confines of our apartment. Eight days of pasta pesto and peas a la Jungle Book ensued.
Before: When colleagues came in bleary-eyed after a rough night with their babies I (inwardly – I’m not THAT much of a dick) rolled my eyes and tutted. Why not just leave them to ‘self soothe’ or - the other buzzword I had heard about - ‘cry it out’? “They’re making a rod for their own backs”, I smugly thought not realising I DIDN’T HAVE A BLOODY CLUE WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT.
After: The Darth Vader-esque breathing of a newborn can invoke all manner of over reactions – “Is she alive? Is she choking? Is that normal? Call 111 you twat!” - let alone their little yelps in the middle of the night. We had her in our room for six months and it was literally a race to see who could see to her first every time she made a peep. We live in a terraced house so even if we could sleep through her cries (we can’t, I’ve given it a good bash) the neighbours couldn’t. They’re good (childless) people who didn’t sign up for this shit.
Before: We found out we were having a girl and from that moment on we became Mr and Mrs Gender Neutral (aka a couple of absolute morons). We were adamant our child would not wear anything pink, frilly, or emblazoned with slogans such as “Daddy’s Princess”, which we made it clear to our lovely, extremely tolerant families.
After: When you have a child with reflux who can sometimes require 5+ outfit changes a day, you quickly realise that spending 18 quid on a Scandinavian organic cotton romper may not be too sustainable on the old bank balance, and the five pack of pink babygrows from Primark shoved at the back of the drawers, are, in fact, a god send.
Before: We loved travelling and were sure our baby wouldn’t hold us back in our desire to travel to far flung, obscure destinations on a whim. “We’ll just chuck them in a carrier, they’ll sleep and eat as usual and we won’t even have to pay for a seat for them for the first year – yay!” we stupidly thought.
After: When we finally grew the cahoonas to travel anywhere with the Small Dictator we went away to Suffolk for a couple of nights over Easter. We took more stuff than Mariah Carey heading out on her World Tour and any rare moments (minutes, seconds) of relaxation had to be taken in shifts. We got cocky and went to Italy when she was just one. It was a lovely trip but make no mistake, holidays with smalls are just a case of ‘”Same shit, different location”. Crap sleep, crap meal times, excellent gelato.
Before: Also see ‘Holidays’. We like to entertain and socialise a lot, no biggie, our baby will sleep in its pram during long boozy lunches, sit in a highchair and read books in cosy pubs while we duck in for a cheeky pint.
After: HAHAHAHAHAHA. IN YOUR FACE MORONS. Who were you kidding? If you can even muster the energy to socialise with a newborn I salute you but I also challenge you to not repeat the same question over and over again and miss the response entirely, in your sleep deprived state. Now, no conversation goes beyond one line until it’s punctuated with “Can you stop eating that stone/spider/shard of glass/what noise does a monkey make? Do you want a snack?”. We’ll just see everyone in about 10 years…
Before: As soon as the baby is born, once a week we’ll have a date night. We will have stimulating conversations and spend quality time together that will enrich our marriage and help us stay connected.
After: If, one moment you can put to one side that you are both perpetually shattered and really want nothing more than say, four hours of uninterrupted sleep more than anything in the world right now, you might not even want to leave your precious bundle with anyone. When you finally do (somewhere around the 12th birthday mark) you may find that you don’t have much else to talk about other than the baby’s bodily functions/eating habits/obvious above average intellect. You may find yourself throwing dinner down your throats and forgoing more drinks/dessert just to get home at 9pm and for Granny to report that the baby slept the WHOLE FRICKING TIME.
Before: "I am going to have SO much free time during mat leave that I am going to take long walks with the baby in the sling every day! I might even do those Buggy Fit classes in the park and use it as an excuse to become one of those #Fitmums like on Instagram”, I stupidly thought.
After: I joined a running club. I went to running club twice. Then I realised having a baby makes certain exercise a bit challenging, shall we say, and the anxiety of possibly having an accident midway around the rugby pitch was too much to bear. My exercise regime now consists of walking to the shop to buy secret chocolate to get me through another stressful meal time (some people frown on day time drinking with a baby, meh) and trips to the park, which inevitably end in a meltdown as someone doesn’t like getting out of the bastard swing. #slummymummy is a bit closer to reality than #yummymummy for me.