During my first pregnancy, I tapped into all the pregnancy resources that my friends recommended. The books ‘The Baby Whisperer’ and ‘French Children Don’t Throw Food’. The BabyCentre app where you can compare your baby to a piece of fruit (“It’s the size of an avocado!”).
I didn’t, however, read the famous and somewhat dated ‘What to Expect when You’re Expecting.’ I didn’t have to, as my 76-year-old mother in law rented it from the library and recited paragraphs to me as my pregnancy progressed. There is nothing quite as vagina clenchingly annoying than your husband’s Mum ‘warning’ you about piles and the pigment in your nipples changing in the third trimester. It’s a good job I respect public property, or the book could have been accidentally reduced to cinders in a freak candle lighting incident.
I read, I digested, I was lectured to and eventually, I realised it was all to be taken with a pinch of salt. No book or app can prepare you for the soup sandwich that is the early stages of parenting. No matter the circumstances, the amount of help you have, the way in which your baby enters the world, it’s a sucker punch to the gut that takes some time to get used to.
If you’re lucky enough to have friends and family who have been through it, or newly NCT acquired buddies, the first few months pass in a blur of bodily fluids and shared woes. Night feeds are accompanied by WhatsApp messages of ‘who’s up?’, ‘I’m going fucking mental’ and ‘who wants coffee in the morning?’
And then, slowly, almost without you noticing, it starts to get easier. You have more experience and become hardened to stuff that would have previously freaked you out. Full on back shits and breastfeeding in public are no longer challenges. Like all jobs, you settle in and hone your art through trying and failing and trying again.
When my two were still pretty young, we decided to move out of London to Surrey. We wanted a bigger house and loved the countryside vibe of the area we eventually settled on.
The area we moved to was completely new and as such, we didn’t know anyone. We have completed the last couple of years of this journey without local trusted peers or any support. We haven’t had a frame of reference from anyone nearby about stages of childhood and to be honest, it’s been a bit of a lonely road.
An unexpected side effect of writing on the internet was finding the peer support I’d been missing. I genuinely had no idea that the community of parent bloggers was so vast and varied. I wish I’d found it earlier, as it could have prepared me for some of the stuff I’ve experienced that I could NOT have predicted. The stuff the books and apps don’t tell you about. What to expect 5 years after expecting. Such as:
- Babies get away with being a bit rank as they can’t control their bodily functions. Milky baby poo and sick isn’t particularly offensive, but kid crap and vomit is bloody disgusting. When your 5-year old lays a cable and insists you look at it and praise its length and girth, you realise you’ve hit a new low. I have also caught sick in my hands more times than I care to admit.
- Not only do kids revel in massive turds and projectile vomit, but they also have a natural lax attitude to hygiene. My boy has a remarkable knack for remembering song lyrics. His latest lesson comes in the form of the following lyrics, sung to the tune 90’s banger ‘No Limits:’ ‘Bum bum, bum bum bum bum, bum bum bum bum, bum bum – DON’T TOUCH YOUR BUMHOLE!’ This is my life now.
- When my babies were babies I couldn’t wait for them to talk. I imagined their beautiful voices penetrating my eardrums like the most angelic of symphonies. Now, I sometimes think if I hear the word ‘Mummy’ one more time my brain is going to dribble out of my ears.
- I always thought I was a pretty patient person. I’d had some good training, my mother in law’s library/ lecturing habits had stood me in good stead for biting my tongue and letting the moment pass without comment. 5 years in, I’ve reached a new level of patience. Don’t get me wrong, there are moments where my frustration has escaped in a howl that sounds like foxes mating. But generally, I’m the black belt of holding it together.
- Moments where I thought I was going to lose my shit but didn’t include being chanted at when trying to find a certain TV programme (TURTLES, TURTLES…), getting kids dressed to the sound of a metronome ticking or having everything I say repeated. By two children. For an hour.
- Kids go through socks like TV cops go through doughnuts. I find them everywhere. They must wear them for no more than 4 minutes, before discarding and wedging under the sofa, behind cushions, in my bed… It’s getting so extreme I’m considering moving to a hot climate so we have no need for socks anymore.
- I don’t know if it’s just my kids or all kids, but living with them is like living with kleptomaniacs. They both find the most unfathomable stuff irresistible and insist on snaffling it away at every opportunity. Fridge magnets, my hairbands, receipts, cushions, spoons, boxes of tissues, the hairwashing cup from the bathroom. All essential shit to be taken and placed in a bedroom in a pillowcase and never to be found until bed changing day.
- Bathtime with older kids is less of a calm down time and more of a ‘washing machine with the door open kind of experience’. Washing a child’s hair is an endurance battle that even elite athletes would shy away from. Especially when you can’t find the fucking hairwashing cup.
I could go on, but I have to go and find my hairbands and it’s bed changing day. Plus I’m being called to the bathroom to witness my 3-year-olds latest masterpiece. 😉