The new baby is here!
You are now a parent. You prepared for this – many of your friends and family have children and you have played with them, maybe even volunteered to babysit from time to time. You have read all the books, been to the antenatal classes. You have had months to glean every bit of information that you may need and have been fed lots of (perhaps unwanted) advice from well-meaning folk. You know that being a parent will be hard work at times but you are looking forward to the challenges as well as the joyful times.
Even after you have prepared yourself as much as you can, there are still some things that no one ever tells you. These are some of the things I have learnt about my baby and being a mum for the first time that came as a surprise to me.
Baby Secrets Revealed
The first week or two can be a relatively easy time for getting the baby to sleep. In-between feeds, he falls asleep quite fast without much fuss. Maybe it is because they are still exhausted from the birth. Maybe it is lull you into a false sense of certainty.
Then suddenly it gets really hard. There is crying and short naps and more crying. And then you start getting desperate and deciding to take baby in the car, or rocking him in your arms or in the bassinet to sleep, or start using a dummy. And you feel bad about it because the baby needs to sleep but you don’t want them to rely on these things to get to sleep. And you didn’t think your baby would be like this. But they don’t tell you that EVERY baby has at least some issue in this area. This is why there is a whole industry built around helping babies to sleep. There are a ton of books on the subject and many ‘baby whisperers’ who have the next full-proof solution. There is no ‘full-proof solution. All you need to know is that your baby will fall asleep eventually and when he does, you can too (unless he has fallen asleep in your arms and you are standing up and you are getting pins and needles but you don’t want to put him in the bassinet as he may wake up and that would be worse….)
Remember your baby is NOT a textbook! You can do everything the ‘right’ way and not get the same outcome. We can have two identical days and one day Dylan will go down for a nap without any trouble and the next day he will scream and cry like napping is the worst possible idea in the world.
And talking about crying. You will find a lot of the time you may not know why your baby is crying. Sure, you can hypothesise and then decide on the best answer, but you will not really know. They sometimes cry for absolutely NO reason at all. The other day Dylan was blubbing and we couldn’t decide if it was because he was teething, had a sore tummy, had nappy rash, was hungry or tired, or had woken up too abruptly or had a nightmare – can babies have nightmares?? You just have to decide on what cause you think may be the issue and provide a solution. Cuddles are usually a good start.
There is a major design fault with babies (other than not being able to talk) and that is their nails. No one tells you that you are going to become a full time manicurist to your baby. Babies’ nails grow fast, they are sharp and are hard to cut. And if you don’t cut, file or even bite their nails off as soon as possible they can easily tear up their own face with their sharp little claws. You baby’s beautiful skin can end up with scratches all over it. Do not neglect the toenails while you are at it, they are almost as bad
There are some other minor things that I either wasn’t told or didn’t take much notice of. Our midwife showed us when you can tell when you little baby boy is about to pee by noticing the stance of the penis which is useful to significantly reduce peeing accidents. We also found out that you can use plain old corn flour as a powder for the baby’s bottom and it works just fine. Many babies go through stages of preferring only one side if you are breastfeeding and this is perfectly normal. It may not be OK for you, but usually fine for the baby. If your baby clothes do not have domes then they are not worth wearing. Do not ever buy baby clothes without domes, preferably ones that go all the way down the front.
And finally, I just assumed from reading all the books that babies only ever wake up crying. I was in shock when I discovered that Dylan could wake up and actually be very quiet for a while. It was a pleasant surprise when I noticed that most of the time he woke up cooing and even laughing to himself.
Mummy Secrets Revealed
I didn’t realise that I would be in a kind of shock after birth. For days afterward I would constantly look at my baby and just not believe that he was finally in the world. I was astounded that this fully made human came out of me. Honestly, if I weren’t there myself I would have scarcely believed it.
I also didn’t understand the amount of decisions you have to make all day long. When and how much to feed. When and how long they should sleep. How to wind them and what to do if there is no wind. And that is just the early days.
Because of this you also suddenly get a mother’s guilt – and it creeps up on you and it is about everything, every tiny little decision. It can be overwhelming if you let it. For instance, should I wake Dylan from his afternoon nap so that he goes to bed at a reasonable time or should I let him sleep? Every day there are a million decisions to make and there is no black and white ‘right’ answer.
I had no idea how hard it can be to stop swearing. I certainly didn’t realise how much I swore in the first place. You think it may be easy to rid yourself of ‘potty mouth’ but, like all habits, it is harder to break than you first think. And the latest research says that babies can understand some sounds from as young as six months old so it is important to stop it (or significantly reduce it) as soon as possible.
I am not sure if this happens to many new parents, but I have become ultra-sensitive about the news. I guess you know bad stuff happens but when you are a mummy and you think of all that terrible stuff in terms of your own sweet little baby, it is enough to make your heart break. I have found the easiest solution is to no longer watch, listen to or read the news, as I usually get upset. It doesn’t even have to be about babies and children. For some reason even the Pope resigning was distressing for me.
But there are also pleasant surprises. You end up singing all day long. You find your singing voice again and make up silly songs and also dredge up long forgotten nursery rhymes. For some reason I keep singing a few lines of ‘A Bicycle Built for Two’ – huh? And what is awesome is my baby absolutely loves it which is great, as no one else in the universe likes my singing!
So there it is, the good the bad and the ugly in all its glory. It is certainly not a comprehensive list, but it is all true and all things that I wish I had known before becoming a mummy.