The ten things I didn’t know about having a baby

No real northern angle here, just a little exposition on my general babyrearing ignorance and what I have learnt in the first six weeks.

1. Epidurals aren’t 100% effective. Sure, I had lots of earth mother ideas about labouring in a spa-like birthing pool, with dim lighting and atmospheric music and aromatherapy oils, effortlessly delivering the Nipper whilst barely breaking into a sweat. Since I couldn’t, and since I was hooked up to various IV drips and bells and whistles anyway, I thought I may as well go with the flow and enjoy the ride with an epidural.  Fact for the day: an epidural that only works on one side offers little relief from a syntocinon-induced labour. Painful.

2. Babies neigh. And shout, and grunt, and snort. Not so much angelic cooing; the Nipper sounds mostly like a combination between a tiny pony and Father Jack Hackett.

3. Forget the toys. The various luxurious soft toys, playgyms and educational games that we purchased to encourage the Nipper’s early route to prodigiousness seem, largely, to have been a waste. What the Nipper actually likes: curtains; the demo function on our electric piano; kitchen roll; pulling my hair; picture rails; the inside of his pram. And Matthew Kelly being interviewed on breakfast television about his upcoming stage role in The History Boys, apparently.

4. Babies’ breathing makes you neurotic. When the Nipper is sleeping, instead of following the oft-bleated advice of “sleeping when baby sleeps”, it is obviously very important that every two minutes one of us goes to the pram/cot to check that the Nipper is breathing. Owing to the irregularity of infant respiration, this usually involves the following neurotic mental process: “Hm, the baby isn’t neighing/shouting/grunting/snorting, I’d better check him… hm, the baby is very still, I’d better check his breathing… OH MY GOD HE’S NOT BREATHING… OH MY GOD PLEASE BREATHE…OH NO OH NO OH MY GOD…Oh, there you go.”

(That reminds me: any neurotic thought that you have as a new parent? Google it and you can guarantee a Daily Mail article will come up that will make you feel worse).

5. Babies grow really quickly.  The Nipper was quite tiny when he arrived, so we wisely immediately stocked up on tiny baby vests and babygros. He outgrew them in a fortnight.

6. Babies fart. Really, really loudly. Usually with perfect comic timing just as you’ve informed him how adorable he is.

7. Motor skills development. Yours, not the baby’s. Suddenly, there is a whole host of new skills you need to learn: e.g. how to type emails without being able to see the keyboard, make dinner in under three minutes, wash up with one hand, execute a perfect plié so as to remove something from the lowest shelf of the fridge without dropping the baby, and so forth.  And looking after a baby is like being some surreal action movie; sprinting from the bathroom back to the living room to catch the Nipper before he goes into total meltdown, or watching the weird egg thing on the dressing table turns an alarming shade of fluorescent red when the temperature goes over 20 degrees, it’s hard not to feel like a shit Keanu Reeves trying to stop Dennis Hopper from blowing up the house.

8. The tit police will get (to) you.  I assumed that, having decided to breastfeed, it would be simple; if the Nipper was hungry I would pop him on and off we’d go. No one told me that breastfeeding is hard.  It doesn’t come naturally; it’s awkward and uncomfortable; it bloody hurts when you’re trying to get it right; it takes ages, especially during growth spurts; and it’s impossible to do in public whilst retaining a shred of dignity. And the tit police are everywhere; the health visitor, the doctor’s surgery, the midwife, other mums, and the women who weirdly turn up unannounced at your house just after you’ve got home from hospital to watch you incompetently try and get your screaming two day old to feed for more than thirty seconds. Yes, yes, I know it’s worth it and important and blah blah blah, but sometimes I wish those serenely smug NCT types would just sod off and not make me feel like I’m poisoning my child just because I top up with half a carton of formula every evening.

9. Mother & baby sessions. Having clearly been identified as a potential post-natal psychosis risk by the health visitor, who doesn’t realise it’s in fact perfectly normal for you to walk around wide-eyed with your hair unbrushed and no make up and dog hair all over your clothes, you finally succumb to weeks of pressure and take your six week old infant to the mother and baby group session at 9am on a Monday morning, where you bemusedly watch a dozen other much older babies and their mothers playing with wooden spoons and singing “If You’re Happy And You Know It”, whilst your infant screams blue murder and you realise all other six week old infants and their mothers are very sensibly at home in bed.

10. It’s all worth it.  Oh, I know it’s a cliché, but none of it matters when he smiles. Seeing his little face light up makes every terrifying, exhausting, anxious, frustrating second worthwhile. Even though he only smiles at the cat.

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