Whilst pregnant with our first child, both myself and my husband did all of the things.
We took all of the classes, bought all of the stuff and followed all of the advice. We were on time for everything and looked rested and content. After each antenatal group session, we would glide serenely from the building to enjoy an un-interrupted leisurely lunch to mull over the name choices for our impending bundle of joy.
During those classes, where a sage and comforting midwife would advise us on breathing techniques etc, we would smile and nod at the other couples present in the room. The man advising us on car seats managed to sell us the latest and most expensive model with his utterance of three little words, “it’s the safest”.
It quickly became apparent that there was an underlying common denominator for us all. Not that every woman in the room was pregnant, nor that we were willing to shell out exorbitant sums of money to prove that we could keep our offspring safe; no, we were all about to become parents for the first time.
You see there were no second or third timers in that class. No veterans. Why? Because they had stuff to do!
I’m pretty sure with the amazing front-line medical personnel, I would have navigated the ‘how to breathe’ situation pretty quickly. If my midwife had advised me to stand on my head, I would have duly done so.
But, once the baby arrives, bar the requisite check-ups and vaccinations, you are pretty much left to your own devices. Of course, there are books; you won’t have time to read them. The internet? Don’t do it to yourself.
For what it’s worth, listed below are some things I wish I had known. Or maybe it was better I didn’t.
1. You do not need all of the stuff.
By the time you have shelled out on items like a car seat, which looks like a set piece from ‘Tron’, the coffers are steadily depleting.
Buggies/prams with all the bells and whistles are lovely. Until, you have to clean dog excrement from the all-terrain tyres, scoop out a soggy rusk from the foot-muff and dismantle most of it in teeming rain to ram it in the boot.
Which then means the shopping has to go in the back, which will lead your toddler to ferreting out more rusks and then the whole cycle starts again. Less is more in the buggy department.
Also applicable to high-chairs, cots etc. They will only seek to destroy.
2. Invest in longevity.
If by some chance you do have some remaining funds, may I suggest you plough them into the place where you will all spend the next foreseeable few years of your life. The bed.
No, don’t be silly, you won’t actually be sleeping in it for lengthy periods. You will be existing.
That cosy little double number will feel as if it is closing in on you so now is the time to upgrade. Because children like to claim stuff that they have no actual rights to. The first being your bed.
Even, if by some miracle you actually move them out of it, they will still slither their way back in. They are diminutive and sly negotiators and will take up every square, available inch of that mattress while you cling helplessly to the precipice lest you disturb them for the five-minute intervals in which they deign to close their eyes.
Also, plastic sheets. Whilst nothing sets the mood like listening to your husband rustle his way into bed, you will thank every star in the universe for those mattress tablecloths when your child sits up to empty the contents of their stomach.
I can’t help you.
4. School applications.
You will be tempted to eavesdrop on conversations in the playground of parents who will wax lyrical on the fact they started applying for schools when their offspring were in utero. Turn your head the other way as that will mess with your mind. Even more than the rustle from the plastic sheets.
You will find a school place for your child. You can also expect to be called in at least twice due to one wrestling or trying to hack the school’s mainframe.
So, don’t beat yourself up about it. There will be plenty of opportunities to berate yourself during the teenage years. Pick your battles. When all is said and done, it will work out. That’s also what they don’t tell you. Because, maybe if we did know that, it wouldn’t make the end result so sweet.