Before I was pregnant, I had many preconceptions about babies and motherhood, as I’m sure we all do. During my pregnancy and since becoming a new mum however, I have come to realise that the majority were in fact misconceptions. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
1. Your tolerance levels go to infinity and beyond!
Firstly, allow me to qualify: this is specific ONLY to your baby’s every need and whim.
Secondly, this subtitle is exactly the kind of thing I’m talking about – you go so far outside of what was once acceptable to you, that your adult/baby filter inadvertently becomes almost entirely switched off.
Similarly, the bank teller becomes ‘Poppet’, the end of a supermarket till becomes a legitimate place to breastfeed, and you find yourself singing nursery rhymes. Out loud. In those most nightmarish of places known as Public, Outside and Everywhere.
2. For everyone else your tolerance levels become non-existent.
Imagine your serenity as a pair of scales. BC (Before Child) the scales are harmoniously balanced to ensure a more or less equal share for everyone; AE (Accident & Emergency After Exhaustion), the scales shift to their limit, with your entire patience reserves focused solely on your baby. What this essentially means is do not mess with me.
3. Sadly, the above regularly extends to one’s husband.
Simply because he shares your living space, he’s primed to become a source of almost constant irritation. While you’re mastering the art of becoming an irrational, neurotic wreck, so your husband will master the art of treading on eggshells. (And specifically, learning to swallow the innocent enquiry ‘what have you been doing today, Dear?’. This lesson is usually assimilated after the first utterance of the unmentionable words is met with a Death Stare – you know the one, it tends to end with silence and Hubby passing you a glass of wine.) Luckily for my husband, he has a few years’ experience to draw on here.
4. Having a baby of your own does not automatically lead to fondness of others’ children.
Maybe *whispers* not even your friends’. There will unquestionably be some that you are partial to – but they’re probably limited to those that sleep a lot. And definitely not those that are noisy/grubby/sick/pinch your child.
5. You will learn things about yourself that you do not much like.
Such as, per above, your intense dislike for other small children who threaten your offspring; the ease with which you adapt to being unable to maintain your (previously obsessive) gym schedule; the fact that your standards have slipped to such a degree that you sometimes leave the house without pulling a brush through your hair.
6. Friends who were considered among your best can be fickle and flighty.
Contrary to your assumption that a baby would bring you closer, one or two people will let you down. Turns out inference drawn from excitable vows of support is not always reliable. On the flip side of inertia, some selfish folk will STILL try to make it all about them. Yep, even when you’ve just given birth.
7. Easy come, easy go.
Back to that serenity thing – I cannot indulge the above behaviours. It’s more than a refusal: I simply do not have the capacity left in my reserves. Those around me need at the very least to require nothing from me; ideally they will be offering help to me. Or at least providing cake.
Any person who becomes a drain on my precious physical or mental energy does not feature on my list of priorities. I may have cared once, but I no longer have the stamina to do so.
8. Chivalry is dead.
For every lovely person who makes more allowances than strictly necessary, there will be two who couldn’t care less. People will casually ignore your heavily pregnant bulk pushing an overflowing shopping trolley up a hill to your car (because you stupidly parked in the most inconvenient space possible, forgetting momentarily that you are no longer sprightly). Post birth, grumpy old codgers will push past you while your baby is strapped to your chest; and ignorant waiting staff will jostle your sleeping beauty in her pram in order to make more space for other diners. Despite providing said space specifically for your buggy – as requested over the phone well in advance.
9. To redress the balance, one or two people will step up in a big way and pleasantly surprise you.
Actually, that’s an understatement, the good eggs will ASTOUND you just as much as the bad apples do. Nurture those friendships and be sure to reign in the absent tolerance; some people are worth digging deep for. You will be glad of these friends when a half hour nap is no longer a nice thought, but rather a critical requirement to the well-being of both you and your little cherub – or you simply reach the point that a shower has become non-negotiable.
10. You go temporarily insane.
Going a bit mental is a rite of passage for a new mum. In fact, I hate to break it to you, but they say that you never fully reacquire your mental agility. Stopping in the middle of a sentence because you’ve forgotten the ending becomes the norm. Disposable nappies in the laundry basket? Standard.
11. You recognise the value of just 20 minutes precious sleep.
It’s roughly equal to the feeling you get when you scoff a chocolate bar after abstaining for a month.
You also find a new understanding of the sciences, namely the bending of physics dictating that after regularly surviving on a meagre four hours a night, an inexplicable eight hour stint leaves you wiped out.
12. It’s possible to be broody for the baby you have.
Weirdly, people seem to think it is acceptable to enquire as to when you will have your second child. And astonishingly, to lecture you about why it would be wrong not to have another – even when your first is not yet weaned or out of nappies – or SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT! So, no thanks, I’m good for now. But am I broody? Well, I’d like my tiny baby back for a while please, since the laws of physics have changed and all.
13. Take advice with a pinch of salt.
Your parents; his parents; friends; family; and yep – even the experts. They may provide ideas for different things to try if what you’re doing is no longer working (trust me: just at the crucial moment you think you have a routine down, your baby will have an *almost* comical knack for destroying your relief, simply to be contrary).
But none of these people have experience in parenting your child.
Yet in the beginning, we’re so unsure of ourselves that we tend to seek help from all sides, mistakenly believing desperation making us hopeful that what worked for our neighbour could work for us too – and then often try to implement conflicting measures. If you’re confused, how do you think your baby feels?!
The day I dropped this silliness is the day things started to turn around for me. I read an article that reminded me of the health benefits to a baby of waking frequently through the night (a reduction in SIDS for one) and that babies ‘sleeping through the night’ is a Western ideal and not a natural occurrence in young babies. It reminded me that babies should not be shoehorned to fit into our schedule, rather we should be flexible enough to meet our baby’s needs. I took a lot of relief from simply changing my mindset and disregarding others’ expectations: yes, my angel is very good. And no, she does not yet sleep through the night. These are not mutually exclusive concepts.
14. ‘Punctual’ becomes a curse word.
It’s those warped physics again: waiting for your child to fall asleep can take an interminable age; and yet getting out of the door time speeds up. Just as baby vomit has become your customary new accessory for any outfit, so tardiness is equally expected by friends and family.
15. Organisation becomes your religion.
And if your baby’s schedule is your Bible (NEVER deviate!), then the change bag is your Church – it is visited regularly (to ensure it is fully stocked), and treated with a reverent respect when that item you packed *just in case* becomes absolutely essential.
16. I wouldn’t change it.
All of these things are true, and yet… I’m going to pull out that trusty, mawkish ol’ cliché – that clichés are only thus because they contain a startling magnitude of truth.
I’d love to hear about your surprising lessons since becoming a new parent, please share in the comments!