So the blog’s had to take a bit of a backseat for a while. Images of sipping a latte in Caffe Nero – baby in one hand, laptop in the other – haven’t quite materialised.
Turns out, having a baby is a quite a time-consuming business after all. Who knew?!
But here I am three months into parenthood: somewhat haggard, a tad greyer but willing to bore the socks off anyone who asks about our awesome little girl.
Of course I still want to blog about nuisance neighbours, my peculiar parents and the local coffee shop crazies…
But given that my life for the last 15 weeks has been dominated by our new addition, here’s my lowdown on the highs and low of parenthood…
1. It’s A Game Of Survival
There’s many different types of mums out there: attachment parents, Gina Ford militants, and breast-feeding evangelists – to name a few. Here’s my advice: avoid advice at all costs and just do what you need to survive.
Take the dummy for example. Before I had a baby, I’d never really given the pros and cons of using a dummy any consideration. Yes, ideally I would rather my daughter didn’t toddle around with a piece of plastic hanging out of her mouth (look what a hoo-ha it caused with Harper Beckham). Dummies, apparently, can cause problems with teeth and speech. And let’s be honest, no one wants a child with Ken Dodd gnashers and a Chris Eubank lisp.
But parenthood isn’t an ideal world. It’s a world of survival, where future dental plans count for nothing and all that matters is getting through the next hour.
When you bring the baby home from the hospital, they sleep a lot. You have 24 hours of feeling quite smug. They feed a bit and then sleep for several hours. Heck, you might even manage to settle down to an episode of Homeland while silently patting yourself on the back and commending yourself for producing an ‘easy’ baby.
But soon, I’m afraid, the beast will awaken. And in our case on the fourth night, our beast decided to reign merry hell. It was 1am in the morning. She was fully fed, changed and it had been several hours since her last sleep. Her screams had reached fever pitch, while we sat rocking hysterically in the corner. What could she possible want?
‘I’ll tell you what she wants’, said the husband. ‘She wants to suck.’
I stuck my finger in the crib to test out his theory and she nearly sucked it off. The suck was so strong that I was terrified she was going to suck my nail polish off (not least because I had no idea when I’d be able to get my nails done again). There was only one thing for it: time to reach for the ‘dodi’. The transformation from screaming to sleeping was instantaneous.
From that night on, we vowed only to use the dummy in emergencies, when all other methods of placation have been exhausted.
Let’s just say, we’ve had quite a few emergencies…
2. Your Home Is Overrun With Stuff
If you’ve got a minimalist apartment and happen to be a tidy freak like me, from Day 1 you will begin an all-out war with stuff. There’s no getting away from it: babies need stuff. Great bulky, cumbersome amounts of it. You try and conceal it behind the sofa, cram it under the bed, shoehorn it into every available cupboard.
My previously show home-tidy lounge is currently strewn with: a vibrating chair (soothing essential), an activity mat (eyed with suspicion), a Moses basket (daytime napping necessity), and a spare changing mat (for emergency poo-namis – see below for details).
And the kitchen is another sorry story: a Tommee Tippee prep machine (the dream machine for any bottle feeders out there) has replaced the stylish Kitchen Aid mixer (because let’s face it, rustling up a batch of cupcakes is the last thing on your mind) and a sterilising unit is currently clogging up my microwave.
You can just about cope with the necessary stuff but it’s the unknown stuff that makes it even more stressful. When you arrive home with the baby, an avalanche of gifts descend. And not just from friends and family… Everyone buys you presents – from long lost Aunties to your mum’s next door neighbour’s cousin. People are incredibly generous and it’s a little overwhelming.
Right now, I’ve got 27 stuffed toys in various shapes and sizes taunting me from a box wedged under my bed. We’re not quite sure what to do with them.
3. Your Brain Turns To Babied Mush.
Harbouring an ambition to one day plough through War and Peace? Forget it. These days even half an hour of EastEnders is too taxing on the brain. The husband and I settled down to watch Inherent Vice the other night. The film didn’t start well as I kept anxiously listening out to check the beast was asleep. (Sometimes you’re convinced you can hear them crying, yet it’s just a figment of your imagination).
However, my eyes kept flicking to the piles of laundry languishing in the corner and the myriad bottles waiting to be washed. On the screen, Joaquin Phoenix was mumbling inaudibly. After about 10 minutes, I glanced at the husband, lolling on the sofa in his favourite David Gandy pants (see previous blog here). Was he asleep?
‘I have absolutely no idea what is going on.’ I said, poking him. ‘I can’t tell a word old Wack-in’s saying.’
‘This is too taxing for our sleep-addled brains,’ said the heavy-lidded husband.
‘Shall we just watch The Undateables instead?’
4. Your Social Life Takes A Nose Dive
Before I had a baby, I thought I might become one of those cool parents, who would continue drinking cocktails with the baby attached to my hip. You soon realise this is completely impractical; bars and babies are not a good combination.
Instead, you find yourself cracking open a bottle of wine with frightening regularity. Friday nights involve inviting a friend round and drinking wine in the dark while shushing the baby to sleep.
And if the baby’s catching zzs by 7pm and you’ve somehow found half an hour to read Grazia magazine in the bath, well that’s as good as it gets.
5. You Will Check The Baby Is Breathing
You seem to spend half your time trying to get the baby to sleep, deploying a variety of methods: Ewan the white noise sheep, the YouTube hoover sound, the Tomy Light Show… When they are finally asleep, they usually make cute little grunts and snorty piggy sounds.
But just occasionally, they sleep so silently that you actually wonder, ‘are they still breathing?’ Your rational brain knows they must be but still, you find yourself crawling on your hands and knees into the darkened nursery and listening intently at the cot for signs of life.
And if they miraculously sleep through (‘sleeping through’ is the ultimate aim in early days’ parenting – it’s all new mums talk about), then you wake at around 5am panic-stricken as to why they are still asleep and ruing the fact that you’re now awake when you could be catching up on some much-needed slumber.
6. You Will Use An Inordinate Amount Of Nappies
There’s a malodorous whiff in the air. It can only mean one thing: the baby needs changing. Down on the mat she goes and off come the nappy. Bingo. There’s a poo – scrambled egg in both colour and consistency. There’s something strangely reassuring about the sight of a newborn’s poo – it signifies a ‘healthy baby’. Better still, daytime poos means there’s less chance of a nighttime poo-nami (nightmare incident where a tsunami of runny poo travels up their back, requiring a full clothing change, one hell of a mess and an inevitable torrent of 2am tears).
As you’re wiping up this eggy mess and strategically placing a new nappy in position, there’s always an outside chance she will choose that precise moment to do a wee. Best case, the new nappy will have contained this unexpected gush; worst case, it will travel in rivulets all up her back, soaking both her babygro and vest, requiring yet another full outfit.
Change complete, you’re just lowering the baby into the pram ready to depart, when there’s a loud parp… followed by familiar odour. Drat! Repeat all of the above.
If you’re lucky, you may be rewarded with a wry smile.
And suddenly, all is forgiven…
7. I Never Knew How Much Fun It Would Be.
And here comes the cheesy bit… You brace yourself for the sleepless nights, the numerous nappy changes and the fact you can never really leave the house post-7pm. But you never realise just what a little personality they would have from so early on.
From Day 1, the baby regarded us with the utmost suspicion. She would suck away hungrily, while all the time peering suspiciously at us with one half-opened eye. It was as if to say, ‘Who are you? And what do you know about parenting?’
She treats bathtimes with bewilderment, observes her surroundings in wide-eyed wonderment and seems to wear an expression of perpetual shock.
Our inquisitive little meerkat has developed a dislike of hats and reserves a special cry (the hat cry!) if you attempt to wrestle one onto her bonce. And if it falls over her eyes, well, all hell breaks loose.
She chortles at funny faces, frowns at silly toys and studies books with serious intrigue.
And when you lean over the cot in the morning, she beams back at you like you’re the most important person in the world.
The husband and I now spend our evenings talking solely about the baby. We coo over pictures of her and gush about her latest achievements.
When we got out for dinner, we actually have to wrack our brains to remember what we talked about pre-baby.
We’ve basically become THOSE parents: fully signed-up, unapologetic baby bores.