Manisha Ferdinand on the alternative moments in your baby’s life – for which there are no cute, Instagram-ready cards – that will freak you out good and proper…
Everyone knows the milestones we’re supposed to look out for – we’ve all got those cards that we artfully arrange on our unsuspecting babies in the vain hope of getting the perfect placement for an Instagram picture. First smile, first time they roll over, every time they’re a month older, from 1 to 12 (why do we stop celebrating monthly birthdays after a year, by the way? Imagine how much more fun your life would be now if you celebrated getting older every month…) and so on.
But what about those other milestones – the ones that sort of creep up on you; and you don’t realise quite how significant they are until they’re here or worse, gone?
1. The first time your baby falls over and/or bumps his head
For the first, ooh, let’s say six months of your baby’s life, there is no harm that can come to them. Because, you, of course, have them cocooned from the world, metaphorically and literally protecting them from every hazard you can think of.
But then, they learn to crawl and they encounter something dangerous every fourth second or so, and your ability to protect them decreases (well, it does if you want to do anything other than follow them around all day every day, like eat, go to the loo, occasionally even make a cup of tea or something - although that sort of advanced behaviour is best left to the professionals.)
It could only be a little thing – maybe they fall backwards from a sitting position and knock their head – or something bigger that results in a genuine trip to A & E (and by genuine, I mean something more than the staple new parent ‘he’s breathing a bit weird. Is he breathing a bit weird? I’m taking him to A &E’ panic which leads to a four hour wait only to be told by a very patient children’s doctor that weird breathing is normal and your baby is about as healthy as it’s possible to be.)
The point is, the first time your baby falls over – and reacts to it - is a real milestone; and subsequently how you choose to react is an absolute testament to the kind of parent you want to be. Will you be of the ‘life’s tough, kid, get used to it?’ school? Or race over the moment you hear that first, ringing cry, scoop them up and shower them with kisses and hugs? There’s no right or wrong, but just remember that – if your baby is anything like my little maniac – this is going to be the first time of approximately 3434304535624. So, you might want to be consistent…
2. The first time your baby eats something that isn’t food
One of my favourite baby related phrases is ‘floor tapas’ – that being, of course, the never-ending banquet of “food” that can be found on any given floor of your home at any given time. Whether it’s dried mud, bits of old food or paper, there’s a pretty good chance that your baby is going to eat it at some point, especially if he or she is crawling about.
The idea of our precious babies ingesting anything that isn’t organic, pureed, gluten, salt and sugar-free is terrifying for many, but the REALITY is that it’s probably not going to do them a massive amount of harm. And sometimes the little buggers just move too quickly for us to do anything about it anyway. The real danger is of course, choking, which is why you’ll never find coins on the floor of our house. But I remain relatively relaxed about dried mud and old food – no-one wants a fussy eater, right?
3. The time you try on your pre-preggo clothes, six months after the baby is born, and THEY STILL DON’T BLOODY FIT.
‘You’ll lose so much weight breastfeeding – it’s just going to drop off!’ everyone shouts, incessantly. I’M STILL WAITING. Or should I say – I’m still WEIGHTING.
On the other hand: I haven’t slept for what feels like decades, I’m on my hands and knees all day either playing with toys, picking up old food or cleaning up poo and I literally grew a human from scratch and kept it alive for months. I’m going to eat as much cake as I sodding well please.
4. The first time the kid stands up while breastfeeding
This is just WEIRD. They’re like…a proper child.
Oh, and also the first time they bite you. This one won’t freak you out so much as make you SCREAM. Good luck.
5. The time your baby sleeps through the night – yes, seriously
It’s the Golden Fleece of being a parent; that elusive, unobtainable distant dream – one day; not too far into their first year, your baby might give up the ghost and stay asleep for twelve straight hours.
We sit next to a cot at 2am, shushing a screaming baby and stroking him through the bars, and we muse longingly about how wonderful a night of unbroken sleep will feel when – if – they EVER FLIPPING DO IT.
And then, one night, you wake up nine hours after you’ve put them down, and realise you haven’t heard a peep. The first problem, of course, is that YOU ARE AWAKE EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT. The second problem is that you are obviously so worried that – baby monitor be damned – you are going into that room to check they are breathing, even though rationally you know they are probably fine, and even though your partner has his head buried under the covers and is begging you not to go in because ‘you’ll wake the beast and then it is GAME OVER.’ But go in you do, and naturally all is well. But you lie awake for the next few hours, checking on them every so often ‘just in case’ until the little terror wakes up, refreshed and ready to play, naturally ie. TOTALLY the opposite to how you feel. GREAT.
6. The first time you AND your partner leave the kid home and have an adult night out
It’s an odd moment, this – when you and your partner step out the house unencumbered by changing bag, food bag, toys, pram, extra clothes, muslins, Calpol (just in case), teething gel, sling and – oh yeah – baby. You’ll look at each other and giggle nervously, because it’ll feel SO WEIRD – you might have only had the baby for a few months at this point but it’ll feel like a lifetime, so being without them is distinctly disconcerting. But it’s also absolutely vital.
You and your partner might well have forgotten what you used to talk about before the full colour chart of poo and how many hours was spent that day trying to get the critter to sleep, but that doesn’t really matter – what matters is that you get the chance to spend some time as a couple, and not just as Mum and Dad. Whether you’re leaving them for the first time at five weeks, five months or five years, that feeling as you step outside of guilt, mild panic and – whisper it – freedom, will SERIOUSLY freak you out. But go with it. You’ll have a great time, once you stop incessantly texting your babysitter.
7. The moment you realise you have to stop swearing
I’m not sure how I’m going to cope when this moment arrives.