I have friends due imminently and here I am, soon to celebrate Scarlett’s first birthday. Can it really be a year and a half since I started this blog and commenced my journey as a new Mum?
I can’t really class myself as having a newborn anymore, she can barely really be called a baby now she toddles about, starts to learn to communicate and storms into the ‘toddler’ era!
One friend asked me for tips…HA! I may not be a brand new parent anymore, but I’m still an amateur so don’t really feel particularly qualified. I also think that passing on parenting tips is difficult because every child is completely different, and asking how to parent is a bit like asking an actor to quote page 32 of Shakespeare. Which play? Which version?! It’s impossible to predict which Shakespeare play you’re going to get and which version of that play! There’s no stage directions and the language is familiar but not what you’re used to. And each incident can be tragic or comic depending on how the part is played!!
That isn’t to say that nobody is entitled to their own opinion of Shakespeare though. So with that in mind I had a little think, with my own imminent birth due date seemingly an entire lifetime ago, what tips came to mind to pass on?
1) Take anything I (and anyone else) say here with a pinch of salt, all advice is well meant but only applies to the particular baby they’re used to. One Mum told me that ‘babies love strawberries and it soothes gum pain.’ Lovely. Except Scarlett eats ANYTHING (seriously, even olives..!) APART from strawberries, which she hates. Strawberries are also quite a common allergen so although it’s great that they helped one Mum, none of us can go round giving advice as parenting cast iron facts! Share tips by all means, some will help, but a lot of it is finding your own way, and a lot of that will be by accident! Which is fine, don’t worry about the accidents, remember to…
2) Chill out. That may seem flippant but it’s not. You’ll make mistakes, you’ll forget things, it’s a ‘learn on the job’ situation. But as long as you’re doing your best and love your child, you’re doing it right. Throughout the last year I’ve found myself in the middle of a theatre working and realised there were no nappies left, not ideal, especially as I realised AFTER taking her nappy off! But I improvised, put on some cream, chucked over loads of tissue and Blue Peter’d my way into making a nappy of nappy sack bags! It was not pretty, it was a very good job there was a Sainsburys round the corner, but it was fine. Scarlett was ok, no harm done so no point stressing! Maybe it’s because I work in theatre and so am used to hectic schedules and last minute problems, but I have never really been one to panic and have always been quite relaxed. In becoming a parent, that was my secret superpower. I’m not saying I’m ahead of the game AT ALL, but it’s the trait I most appreciated when things inevitably go unexpectedly awry. Ignore anyone who tries to fluster you, and repeat after me ‘everything’s going to be ok’! The only thing you’ll do by panicking, is distress your baby. A self created nappy may not have been the comfiest thing Scarlett’s ever worn, but laughing through it meant she was laughing. Happy mother, happy baby, everything else can be sorted somehow!
3) Stay in 2015 (or whatever year it is when YOU are a new Mum). When my Mum was pregnant with me, she was advised to have a pint of stout a day and eat plenty of liver. She was also supposed to put me down to sleep on my back. When she was pregnant with my brother nearly a decade later, stout was out, as was liver and he was to be put to bed on his stomach. Cut to me being pregnant twenty years after that, iron pills were in, the odd stout would be ok and Scarlett was to be put to bed…drum roll…on her back! And that’s just the big gaps. The stats on alcohol changed between one of my close friends being pregnant and me getting pregnant and there’s six weeks between our kids! The official advise changes all the time, be as healthy as you can be but listen to the current advise, however tempting the advise your Nana gives of giving a colicky baby whisky sounds! By all means don’t ignore your Mum or other parents throughout the ages, but when your Grandad insists that you’re putting your baby to sleep wrong, just remember that although he means well, it’s unlikely he’s kept totally up to date with the latest medical parenting advice! Past generations can have a wealth of information and again, they will mean well; so smile, thank them, and take the dummy out of the whisky (maybe pour yourself a glass instead..!).
4) Remember what’s important. If you’re raising your first with a partner, you will both be learning on the job. You will both improvise differently. As its all improvising, that doesn’t mean either of you are wrong. You will inevitably have to compromise if one believes in co-sleeping and the other wants the baby in their own room at three months, a discussion will be needed to decide. But every decision is NOT a battle to be won. And importantly, if you’re arguing over something, both with the baby in mind; you’re on the same side with a different view. And that’s important to remember, you’re comrades, not opposing armies battling over baby land! As the parents, you’re the most important people in that babies life. Does it REALLY matter if your child is in a different outfit than the one you picked? Does it REALLY matter if your partner washed baby’s hair first when you wash baby’s hair last? Try and remember what’s important, the happiness and safety of you, your partner and your precious baby. It will be difficult sometimes, mainly due UK those pesky hormones…
5) Ready yourself with the knowledge that hormones are a bitch. Emotionally, while pregnant and during those first months of motherhood, you’ll be all over the place. You’ll cry at the donkey sanctuary advert, you’ll yell at your partner because you wanted slightly more toasted toast and slightly less butter and you’ll leave the house with two handbags but no phone. Embrace the crazy. Seriously. There is no other way. I remember on one particular occasion, being angry at my husband because he’d made dinner but I wanted it in a bowl, not on a plate. Then it occurred to me that I was being *slightly* unreasonable and I saw his little face looking so sad that he’d upset me and I burst into tears, “I’m sorry I’m so mental.” He stroked my hair and said possibly the most comforting thing he could have done, “it’s ok that you’re crazy, no harm done.” My hormones were everywhere, I was happy, sad, scared, bereft, anxious, nauseous, giddy, dizzy, blue, and all other colours of the rainbow! And sometimes it was tough for my husband to know how to react (safely!). Give each other a break. Be open about how you’re feeling to be as prepared as possible and prep your partner (and others close to you) to not take anything personally and to bear with you. It’s a roller coaster journey that you’ll have the very smallest of grips on and a lot of it you’ll forget a year later (which is probably for the best), some women are less affected, some are more. But if you’re ready for it, at least you’ll go in (sort of) prepared!
Those are the five big things that come to mind, there are also five quick things that come to mind which I’ll also put in case it helps…
1) Take wipes with you…everywhere.
2) Accept offers of help, especially at the beginning!
3) Keep smiling, but once in a while, have a good cry!
4) After the first crazy few months, take some time to be partners not parents.
5) Remember you’ll look back and remember the best bits, so give the highlights your full attention and savour every second.
As I come to end of my blog (ending when Scarlett turns one), I look forward to what future years hold and wonder about future siblings. I would definitely blog again because I have it on several good authorities that having a second child is a completely new journey with completely different experiences, and if it’s all a super fast hazy blur like this one has been, I will definitely want at least an insight into how it all went!
Maybe the best advice I received (and I don’t even remember who first said it to me!) is that;
Everything is just a phase, tough week because of teething? It WILL pass. Child won’t let you put them down for five minutes? It’s a clingy phase that WILL end. In the very small hours of the morning when you don’t know if this crying will ever stop, it WILL. In the first six weeks, and at several points since, I have taken a deep breath and told myself that this bit WILL pass.
At the time you can’t imagine looking back fondly, but those nights at the beginning in the still of the early hours, just me and my precious baby daughter looking up at me after a feed? Priceless. Even the crying, I remember looking at my husband one night at 3am as she made it clear at two weeks old that this night…this night was NOT going to be a peaceful one. And almost in unison, we nodded to each other and said, “coffee?” That night, we sat in bed, cuppa in hand, and soon after she woke, she settled but didn’t sleep and the three of us sat in bed watching a huge storm going on outside. At the time, we were exhausted and running on empty, but not even a year later we want to do it all again. The chaos suits us anyway! And sometimes, in those moments when you tell yourself, ‘this will pass’, in the blink of an eye, it will have passed and you’ll realise they’re some of your most cherished memories. It’s hard, really hard, which is why it’s rewarding. So to all new parents, enjoy! Enjoy every terrifying, ridiculous, heartwarming/heartbreaking, frustrating, exhausting moment! Remember it’s all a phase, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride!