Unpleasant Side Effects
When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed. But it does come with some unpleasant side effects. And I am not talking about morning sickness, back pain, heartburn or swollen ankles.
It comes with the side effects of people rubbing your belly (I am not a genie people!). It comes with mothers telling you their traumatic birth stories (do you really think telling me you pushed out your 18 pound baby after 26 zillion hours of labour with no pain relief is helpful in any way??). And the worst side effect of all – the advice, wisdom and facts that you are suddenly bombarded with.
But like every new mum-to-be, even though I heard some of these parenting insights over and over, I refused to believe them. If they were bad I rejected them outright – I didn’t want to hear about ‘poo explosions’ thank you very much. Even if they were great (‘you will love your baby more than anything in the world’), they usually seemed so overwhelming I ignored them. The irrelevant ones were dismissed straight away – why are domes on baby clothes so important anyway? So I skipped around in my rose-coloured pregnancy daze and then Dylan was born – and BAM it hits you – ‘they’ were right all along. So here are parenting truths – the good, the bad and the ugly.
TRUTH 1) You will NOT have spare time
I just couldn’t believe that if you took 8 hours of work away every day how I couldn’t have more spare time. How on earth could one little baby who supposedly sleeps most of the time change that? Well for one thing, breastfeeding alone can take up to 8 hours a day – and that is just the day feeds. It replaces your full time job and that’s before cooking, cleaning, changing nappies and getting baby to sleep. Especially In those first few weeks with a newborn there is sometimes no time for even for a shower.
TRUTH 2) You will NOT sleep as much as you would like
Textbook babies sleep 16 hours per day so I couldn’t understand how I would not get enough sleep. After all, I am one of those lucky people who happily thrived on five or six hours a night. You are told “sleep when the baby sleeps” but what the books didn’t say was how difficult it was to know whether Dylan would have a 15 minute cat nap or sleep for three hours. In those first few weeks, I got to the stage where if I had two hours of sleep in a row it was an amazing miracle. Sometimes I would be happy if I managed to lie down and close my eyes in a dark room for ten minutes. I am pretty sure I could cure cancer or attain world peace if I ever get six hours of sleep in a row again.
TRUTH 3) Your entire world will change
I was told so often that my world was about to completely change that it became an almost cliché. This is not an instant transformation as soon as baby is born. It is much more slow and insidious. Then you look around a few months down the track and realise that there has been some sort of fundamental shift. The people I hang out with have changed. What I talk about and think about has altered. What used to be fun is not that fun anymore. When Dylan was three months old, I decided to go to a film at the film festival like I had been doing every year for the past ten years. The evening involved scheduling my in-laws to baby-sit, spending the week leading up to it expressing enough milk just in case baby was hungry and spending the time during the film worrying that the baby’s sleep cycle would change due to the disruption to the usual routine. A Saturday morning sleep-in, a lazy Sunday afternoon watching movies or a spontaneous weekend away are all just distant and hazy memories.
TRUTH 4) Your baby really is the most gorgeous in the world
I am an objective and rational woman. I know that every human is unique and we don’t all get the Jessica Alba/ Brad Pitt genes. So I didn’t quite believe that I would instantly decide that my baby is the most gorgeous baby in the world. Without a doubt he is the most handsome, delightful and perfect baby and there is not a single person who could tell me otherwise. I actually look at other parents with their far less good-looking babies and feel a bit sorry for them.
TRUTH 5) Your husband/ partner will step up to the challenge during labour
We were told over and over again that during labour my husband would not only be helpful and loving, but may actually enjoy it. We dismissed these outlandish claims. Mr S hates pain, anything medical and has to have his hand held when he goes for a blood test. But ‘they’ were right again – my husband even cut the cord.
TRUTH 6) Things that used to be disgusting are not a big deal
Babies do lots of wees and poos. I used to leave the room when friends changed nappies. Now, not only do poop-filled nappies not bother me, I will go as far to say that they can be exciting. I have been known to even get up from a lie down if my husband is changing a nappy and announces that it is a ‘good one’. We can have an entire conversation at meal times about the colour, consistency and frequency of our son’s number twos, and it is suddenly not gross or weird at all.
But I may as well save my breath – all you mums-to-be will not believe me. Just do me a favour and save this somewhere and then read it again six months after your child is born.