Things they don’t tell you… Part 2

A couple of days ago I posted Part 1 of ‘Things they don’t tell you…’ written when DorkySon was just a few months old. This is Part 2, covering the additional lessons I’ve learned over the last couple of years.

I was foolish enough to envisage that DorkySon child would be ‘part of my life’. That he would have his own room, where all his belongings would stay, and that there would still be parts of the house, and of my life, untouched by him.

Ha! Not so! DorkySon shares everything with me. He stashes his Lego bricks in my pillowcase. He sneezes, coughs and splutters his bodily fluids all over me, just to make sure that whatever cold he has, I catch too. And if he is eating something he doesn’t like, he will expect me to stick my hand out and catch it, when he spits it out.

In return, I am expected to share everything with DorkySon. Nothing is my own anymore. He will refuse his own sandwich but insist on eating half of mine. He will want to try every cleanser, toner and moisturiser I bring in the house, cheerfully oblivious to their price tags. He empties my underwear drawer, rearranges my bookshelves, and when I’ve got visitors he has been known to walk into the room with a handful of Kotex, saying “Dat?”.

So, acknowledging that having a child is all-consuming, life-altering, and very messy, here are ten other important lessons that I’ve learned during my time with DorkySon.

1. If you have an inkling that your child is now tall enough to vault out of their cot, lower the mattress immediately. Do not wait for them to prove you right.

2. You can bet your ass the first time you leave your child with someone else overnight, it will be the first time they need to go to the Sick Kids Hospital. You will feel awful.

3. You will notice that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of time you spend preparing a meal, and the enjoyment your child gets from it. If you spend an hour making something tasty and nutritious, it is very likely to be dumped unceremoniously on the floor after one mouthful. If you stick a couple of fish fingers and some chips in the oven, they will be hoovered up. For your own sanity, learn not to take this personally.

4. It will take all your restraint not to slap the woman in the street that calls your child podgy. This exercise in self-control is excellent practice for the day that your child pats you on the bottom and says “Mama Fat!”

5.  When the third person in a row has complimented you on how beautiful your daughter is, it’s time for your son’s first haircut.

6. Unless you want to pay £60 to repair the ‘water damage’ to your iPod, keep it out of your child’s reach while he is teething.

7. When your health visitor tells you that a baby who sleeps well does not necessarily equate to a toddler who sleeps well, do not scoff at her. She’s absolutely right.

8. If your child shows an interest in helping with the laundry this should be encouraged. However, always make sure you have cleaned any cookie remnants off his hands before he deals with a load of whites. Otherwise you will need to do them all again.

9. Don’t be surprised if your child’s only interest in his potty for the first few months is wearing it on his head.

10. Just when you are reaching the end of your tether – tired, impatient, and in need of a large glass of wine – your child will do something amazing for the first time. The first smile, first laugh, first steps, first colourful crayon scribble, first words… all designed to remind you why you became a parent in the first place. They are nae daft, toddlers… they have well developed survival instincts.

Things they don’t tell you… Part 1

I’ve just found an old Note that I wrote on Facebook (remember Notes?!) from when DorkySon was three months old. It’s called “Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting: What They Didn’t Tell Me”. It made me smile, laugh, and even cry a little to look back on how I was dealing with being a new parent, almost two years ago, so I’ve decided to post it here too.

Later this week, I’ll post an updated version – Parenting A Toddler: What They Didn’t Tell Me – but in the meantime…

It has been a funny old year. I’ve gone from feeling barely able to look after myself, to knowing that I have to look after myself because I’m growing a little bean inside me, to that little bean turning into DorkySon… and having to look after him every day.

Right now it feels pretty awesome. He’s a wonderful mellow little guy, and it’s great fun getting to know him and watching him grow up. But so often in the last 12 months I’ve wished that I’d been warned about how hard it can be – pregnancy is hard, birth is hard, and parenting is hard.

All along the way I kept having moments where I thought gosh, I wish someone had told me such-and-such. So even if this note serves no purpose other than to remind myself of those moments should I ever find myself in the same position again, here they are…

Pregnancy

Right about the time you feel you should be giving your growing baby the biggest intake of nutrients – the first twelve weeks – will be the time you are unable to stomach anything except cans of Schweppes Bitter Lemon and fizzy Haribo sweets. This will be your first experience of maternal guilt.

Really, really savour those long baths you take during your pregnancy. You won’t get another for the next 18 years.

Just because you have no stretch marks at 38 weeks doesn’t mean you will have no stretch marks at 42 weeks. No amount of cocoa butter or Bio-Oil will undo this.

Birth

Your birth provides a good lesson that you should bear in mind as a parent… whatever plan you have in mind for how the day will go will most likely be shot to pieces.

Gas and air is awesome. I’m amazed you can get it on the NHS. Perhaps the fact that it only comes in a whopping great canister brings the street value down somewhat.

Your baby’s weight isn’t the only indicator of how easy/difficult your birth will be. Length and head size are also pretty important. Who knew?!

Doctors, nurses and midwives are just like the rest of us. Some of them enter the caring profession because they care. Others just need to pay the mortgage.

No matter how uncomfortable you feel, or how long you have been in labour, don’t be rude to the anaesthetist. He’s the man who’s going to stick a needle into your spine. Saying that you hope he didn’t come bottom of his class at med school probably isn’t helpful.

You don’t need to spend too much time filling out the little menu card they give you every night in hospital. It doesn’t much matter if you order cottage pie or lasagna – it’ll be the same strange mush that appears on your plate whichever you choose, and there won’t be enough of it to keep you feeling full for longer than half an hour.

Buy one of those doughnut shaped pillows to sit on for the first few days/weeks/months post-birth. And don’t be embarrassed about it.

The little red button beside the shower in the hospital bathroom is not just a Call Midwife button, it’s an Emergency button. So don’t press it when all you’ve done is forgotten your towel, unless you’re prepared for half a dozen people to break down the bathroom door and see you standing there shivering and starkers… and then get very angry because you’ve brought them running for something less than an ’emergency’. Ho hum.

(Note to NHS Lothian… you could do with better labelling of the red buttons in your hospitals.)

And on that note, be prepared to completely lose any sense of appropriate boundaries. Even if you start the birth process slightly shy, by the time you’ve had everyone from the cleaners to the catering staff looking at your nether regions, you’ll lose any sense of dignity or privacy you ever had. You’ll emerge from the whole experience feeling that it’s totally okay to go to the loo with the door open, or talk to strangers on the bus about your placenta. How liberating!

Parenting

Everyone tells you that you need to prepare your nipples for breastfeeding to stop them hurting. No-one tells you that you need to prepare your hands for pushing a pram around every day. Unless you’re already employed as a farmhand, be prepared for callouses on your palms in the first couple of weeks.

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than going in to pick up your baby in the morning and finding that he has worn off huge tufts of his fluffy little hair and they’re stuck all over his basket. Don’t ask your husband if you should leave it outside ‘for the birds to make nests with’ unless you want him to think you have properly lost the plot.

Online shopping will be your new best friend. Unless you’re ordering disposable nappies or baby clothes online… in which case you’ll end up with cupboard full of things that your baby has outgrown in the three days between order and delivery.

If you are lucky enough to fit back into your size 8 jeans within a month of giving birth, don’t tell other new mothers because they will hate you.

It’s totally normal to spend six hours holding your crying baby and praying for him to go to sleep… and then five minutes after he finally does fall asleep, feeling the need to poke him away and make sure he’s still breathing.

Sometimes the notorious nesting instinct only kicks in after the birth, when you don’t stand a hope in hell of having a free two hours to tidy those drawers/dust those skirting boards/clean those cupboards. Deal with it.

Buying lots of books to read while breastfeeding = smart thinking.

Buying all hardbacks that are too heavy to hold one handed = expensive mistake.

No one warned me that having a baby monitor would bring out my inner 6 year old. You may think that’s just harmless static interference… I’m quite convinced it’s a ghost/alien/monster. Which is why I’m going to wake up DorkyDad and get him to check on our son instead of going through myself.

All those things you swore you’d never do? Talk about poo all the time? Spend an hour trying to get your baby to smile for the camera? Plot his length and weight on those ridiculous charts the health visitor loves so much? You’ll succumb to them all.