When I decided I wanted to have a baby I knew nothing about babies. Despite being almost 30, none of my close friends had babies and there were no babies in my family. In hindsight I think that was probably for the best. Had I known what I was letting myself in for I’d have been researching vasectomies instead of fertility. I don’t think I ever really thought about what life with a baby would be like but if I had I suspect it might have involved the baby sleeping all the time and me doing a lot of baking. Oh dear.
Sleep (lack of)
Needless to say, the reality of living with a baby came as something of a shock. My illusions about sleep were quickly shattered on the first night when, 10 minutes after I went to bed following my 72 hour labour, I was awoken by the first of many demands for milk. I couldn’t for the life of me understand how I was expected to keep getting up and feeding this child after what I had just been through. How could nature not have come up with a better system? Perhaps laying an egg? Then you could just sit in the egg while you recovered, before you had to start feeding a live human (who incidentally had a tongue tie so required being on my breast at least 23 hours a day to get enough milk to sustain his 9lb 7 birth weight).
Routine (lack of)
Now I am a creature of habit. I like a routine. I like to stick to that routine. Boy Child unfortunately did not. When I was pregnant someone (who clearly hates me) recommended “The Contented Little Baby Book”. Sounds harmless doesn’t it? Just the sort of thing a first time Mum is looking for. If you’ve never heard of Gina Ford, look her up. She’s obviously the devil. Not because she advocates sleep training, but for quotes like “put your baby to bed sleepy but awake”. How!!! If you’ve had a baby and achieved this, do tell me how? My babies were either asleep in my arms or crying at pretty much all times. When I read the book pre baby it reassured me that I would soon have him in a routine, he would feed when it was time and sleep when it was time. Er, no. He did what he liked, when he liked and I just had to fall in to line.
Speaking of all the crying, colic. Both my children had it and it was hell, from 5pm to 10pm every night, they screamed non stop. Nothing we did would help. Boy Child would at least attempt to feed for a few minutes from time to time but Girl Child was totally inconsolable and would often not eat for the entire 5 hours (and neither would we). The poor neighbours must have thought we were performing ritual torture, particularly as the nursery window was covered in foil to try and help them sleep better (more useful advice from Gina there). At the time, I kind of just assumed it was normal. It was only when a friend who had children was staying and saw the state of Girl Child we realised not everyone goes through it.
Bodily Fuids (also Endless)
I was to some degree expecting the bodily fluids involved in parenthood. At least some of them. I knew there would be nappies, I knew there would be poo and wee. I knew there would be sick however I didn’t know how much sick or where it would end up. Boy Child was a sicky baby, he smelt of sour milk at all times and you never held him without a muslin. When you were carrying him, he liked to vomit over your shoulder so you wouldn’t know he’d done until you stood in it a bit later (or worse, a visitor stood in it). He also liked to projectile vomit up entire feeds. When it’s 3am and you’ve just spent an hour feeding, only for it to go flying across the room, there really are no words.
Alone Time (Nonexistent)
The biggest shock of all for me was that you’re never really alone. I’m an introvert and I require a certain amount of time alone to function. Again, I hadn’t considered how a baby would impact on this. Want to read your book? Baby needs a nappy change. Want to eat your dinner? Baby wants theirs. Want to go to the toilet? Baby wants a cuddle (we’ve all gone to the toilet with baby on our laps, right?). I’m eternally grateful to my mum, a fellow introvert, for taking Boy Child out for a walk most days to give me time to regain my hanging from a thread sanity.
All in all, I was pretty naive when I started my parenthood journey. I suspect we all are to some extent (otherwise the human race would have died out long ago) but I think I may have been more naive than most, for which my children are very grateful.