Here's Reena Reeves with an alternative antenatal class. You can pay her later.
Maybe you decided to fly by the seat of your maternity pants and wing this parenting thing. Perhaps you read What To Expect When You’re Expecting from cover to cover or you might have been organised and taken antenatal classes; both of which are brilliant at teaching you HOW to get the baby out and that it might need feeding sometimes and other such pearls of wisdom. However, if you’re anything like me there are a few things I really wish I had been schooled on a bit more in the run up to becoming a mum...
1. How do deal with the Poonami
Butternut squash anaconda, Thunder Poop, Poosplosion… all other names for the type of shitty disaster that can render the clothes the offending baby is wearing at the time unusable. There are three stages of the poonami. 1- SHOCK: "OH my god, how can a barely 6lb baby produce SO MUCH CRAP? It’s up their back. UP! And why is it bright yellow”. 2. HOW: “…the hell do we clean this crap up without getting it on the baby’s head?” (answer? Babywipes: whole packet of - or just straight in the bath.) 3. WTF “…do I do with the clothes?” Envelope vests – the ones with those funny looking corners on the shoulders - allow you to pull the vest down their body so that you don’t end up giving your child a poopy facial.
2. Size does matter
I had a fairly neat little bump and scans suggested I was going to have a baby that weighed somewhere in the region of 7lbs, so I opted for 0-3 and some newborn sized babygrows (I was scoffed at for even considering the tiny baby ones). They turned out to be way too big for my nearly 6lb-er and so poor sleep-deprived daddy was sent to raid the aisles of Mothercare for something that was a little more fitting. Most babies are teenier than you think, so next time I will bring a few sizes from tiny baby to first size/new baby/tiny tiddler in my overnight bag. Keep them in their packs and you can always swap the unused ones for something way more impractical later on.
3. A C-section really isn’t the end of the world
Before I had my baby I was cluelessly adamant about a few things, of which you might be aware. I was only going to let my kid play with wooden toys crafted by Himalayan monks, I wouldn’t have any drugs in labour and I most definitely wasn’t going to have a C section. This was a no brainer and definitely was the worst case scenario of Shit That Might Go Wrong Whilst Giving Birth, for me. I’ve since met many mamas who’ve had planned and emergency c sections and it really doesn’t make any difference in the end. So you might not be able to resume your weight lifting career straight after and might have to be chauffeured around for a weeks (wait – that’s a huge advantage!) the main thing is that the baby is delivered safely.
4. Breastfeeding can be REALLY hard
If, like me, you imagine breastfeeding will just magically start ‘happening’ the minute the baby pops out, you might be in for a little bit of a shock. For some women it takes days and days for their milk supply to arrive and there can be a whole host of other issues that make it one of the most difficult skills for you and bubs to master. Cluster feeding, tongue tie, feeding on demand, skin to skin, mastitis, cracked nipples, expressing, colostrum – it’s a whole new milky world to figure out. The good news is that there is tons of support out there - from your local children’s centre to NCT who also have breastfeeding counsellors available - and once you've mastered it you probably won't even think about it. Of course, for some women it’s a much easier path to navigate from the start. I send much lactation luck your way.
5. Get all your equipment in check
You know when soldiers have to practice assembling and dismantling their weapon? (Nah, me either). They do this so that when shit gets real, they can do it fast and in the dark, if necessary. The same thing applies to making up baby bottles. We arrived home from 10 days in hospital where everything had been provided for us (sterilsed and premade) and the baby NEEDED to fed there and then - cue major panic stations. Ensure you have everything you need already set up – sterilized bottles, teats, formula or boobs, pump if using. If you’re really clever you could even do a dry run so that you both know what to do when you bring the baby home.
6. Buy a ton of muslins
I would love to kiss the face of whoever realised a square of muslin has so many uses. They’re excellent for mopping up baby sick (there WILL be sick, it’s the amount that’ll vary) but they’re also great to cover up should you feel a bit uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, and can make a great comforter for your baby. My strange child even went through a phase of only napping with one on her face. Unless you’ve got nothing else to do on pre-baby mat leave, I wouldn’t bother washing and ironing them beforehand as they will be washed until they fall apart or have to be thrown out (because you left it in the car, over summer and it grew stuff on it).
7. There's another magic gift
When you have a baby you are automatically given a really special, magical gift. Not the squishy baby, silly... but a wonderful, automatic self-filling washing basket! No matter how many loads of washing you do a day, that mofo will never be empty again. And if it is, you’ll find a stray dirty sock on the stairs.
8. Baby brain is real
It could be that you just zone out mid-sentence or completely forget the word for ‘steering wheel’. You might put your mobile phone in the washing machine or wake up in the middle of the night gasping “Where’s the baby!?!” as you think you’ve fallen asleep and squished them. The combination of extreme tiredness and general ‘being spent-ness’ from creating new life really will twist your melon (man).
9. The type of buggy you buy really doesn’t matter
Secondhand… top of the range…mid-range…parent-facing…umbrella… why the hell do they make this so hard for us impressionable parents-to-be? This one decision which carries so little importance in the grand scheme of things caused me much anxiety. Whether you opt for a travel system that costs a month’s salary or a second hand stroller from Gumtree one thing is for sure – it's going to rapidly become home to a manky layer of old raisins and crumbs and it may even become a Poonami casualty.
10. The obsession with "sleeping through"
A lot of strangers will feel compelled to ask you this question when you’ve had a baby and it will take as much will power as you can muster not to knock them out. “Is she sleeping through yet?” ARGHHHHHH. Babies are not programmed to know the difference between night and day and even if they did, their tummies are so small they need to eat frequently (i.e. every few hours). Our society seems a little obsessed with the idea of sleeping through and it’s a constant reminder for those mamas who are struggling with the dreaded sleep deprivation or an early riser. If yours is sleeping well, down-play it in front of other new mums or you may find those playdate invitations drying up…