Navigating a bumpy road through parenthood

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. If you are pregnant, you should demand to be showered with love, attention and gifts as the day demands. Here’s some A-Z advice for all the first mums-to-be out there from mother-of-three, Esther N McCarthy.

A is for advice

Everyone will have advice for the first-time mammy. From in-laws to strangers on the bus to smarty pants Life/Style writers. Every baby is different and what works for you is what’s right for you.

I read every book, magazine article and mummy blog going when I was pregnant with my first baby. I was au fait with everyone from Gina Forde to Dr Spock, but one contradicted the other, until I just gave up and tried to remember the way my nan did things.

People will give you advice whether you like it or not. Don’t use a dummy, they’ll give the child buck teeth! You must use a dummy, it prevents cot death! Baby-led weaning is the best way to get them on solids, or do you want them to be a coeliac?!

Let the baby cry, you don’t want to spoil them! Pick the baby up, they’ll feel unloved! Blah blah blah. Just be kind - to yourself, to your baby, to your partner. Also, make up some theory to have as a backup if someone’s really annoyingly know-it-all.

“We plan to follow the Snederfugen method of child-rearing. Oh, you haven’t heard of it? How quaint.” Then waddle off and have a cup of tea for yourself and immediately forget everything they told you.

B is for bump

People tend to think your bump is public property and it’s ok to rub it for luck, like you’re Buddha or something. The next time someone does this, extend your hand to their breast, and - this part is important - without breaking eye contact - replicate what they’re doing to your belly.

Pat, polish, pet, whatever. Continue talking, no blinking, until they remove their sweaty hand from your bump. See how they like social norms being violated.

C is for car seat

This has the potential to break your partner. Do you want to see a grown up cry? Get them to practice putting it in and out of the car. It will be time well spent.

D is for first drive home

We live 47 seconds away from the maternity ward where our children were born. It took us 3 hours, 45 minutes, to get home on baby number 1. My husband was terrified, suddenly aware of all the maniacs on the road. He was also exhausted from trying to get the car seat to click onto the holder thingy. He didn’t do the practice.

E is for ego

Dump it, you won’t be needing it now.

F is for feeding

Lawks, the palaver over how babies are fed. The pressure! The misinformation! The slow realisation that there is going to be milk coming out of your body soon after a human has also emerged. Isn’t nature grand? If you can breastfeed, great.

Do try it, give yourself a bit of time to get the hang of it, it’s not this natural easy peasy thing that just happens. There’s a knack to it, it’s a brand new skill you and your little one have to learn together, but once it clicks, oh it’s just magic.

So do give it a chance, but if it doesn’t work, there is a fabulous invention called formula that is perfectly fine. Don’t let anyone force you to do either. Your boobs, your baby, your decision. Utilise another f here if anyone gives you guff about either method: “Feck off, you.”

G is for grandparents

They rock. Use them as much as possible. Let them spoil the kids. So what if they give them expensive Magnum white ice creams that are bigger than their actual stomach?

H is for Heimlich manoeuvre...

...and all the other things you meant to learn but never got around to, It’s terrifying being responsible for something you love more than yourself. Youtube teaches all.

I is for injections

That first one, when you have to hold your precious baby down while a doctor jabs a giant needle into their little thigh is horrendous. I cried more than the baby.

But the ones that come when they’re toddlers and realise you are complicit in this torture and they look at you like the dirty traitor you are, as they wail and struggle and fight and you’re holding them down ... uggh.

Just pretend you have a gynaecological appointment and get your partner to bring them. Let the child associate him with that horror for the rest of their days, not you. You give them a lollipop when they get home.

J is for juggle

Make like a clown and try and keep all the balls up in the air. Life/work balance! Calorie intake! Birthday party invites! Baby Einstein CDs! Playdates! Balls!

K is for kiddie meals

Call food by more interesting names. Red kidney beans are super turbo boost beans and grapes are sweeties. Badabing badaboom. Don’t bother looking at the kiddie menus in restaurants. Save yourself time and just get the chicken nuggets.

L is for lying

You need to be a good liar to be a good parent. From enthusing about their amazing artist endeavours (when, truth be told, that’s a rubbish hedgehog by anyone’s standards) to pretending to your partner you’re doing a poo and you’ll be another 5 minutes but really you’re just sitting on the toilet, studying your split ends, waiting for him to realise there’s a code brown in the baby department and let him deal with it for a change.

M is for memory

It comes back. Eventually.

N is for nipple shields

These are plastic pretend nipples that are used for women who have inverted nipples that are not conducive to breastfeeding. I was thrust a pair of these by an impatient midwife 20 seconds into my first attempt at feeding my first baby.

You could tune in Fun Radio, 94.3 Fm Bratislava, on my nipples. I did not need help in that department, I just needed someone to give me 5 minutes to show me how to get the latch right.

But I got completely paranoid that I couldn’t feed the baby without these yokes, but they chaffed and made me bleed and the baby had to work extra hard to get any milk out and I ended up with in A&E on Christmas Eve with a fever and mastitis.

Like cows get. Oh, the pain, but I was determined to feed the baby myself. I used to cry great fat hot tears, plopping onto the baby’s head every feed, that was every 2 hours because he wasn’t getting enough and I wasn’t emptying each side properly. So stay away from nipple shields, if you can, the name is misleading.

Also, I should say on baby number 2, I had this wonderful, patient, relaxed midwife who showed me a couple of little tricks and stayed with me until I was feeding successfully and it was a dream. Midwives are overworked and underpaid and I just thank my stars she was able to give me her time and experience, it made a world of difference to me.

O if for ordering online

You can get everything you need delivered so don’t go out until you’re ready.

P is for poo

Be prepared for lots of poo and poo-related worries. From waiting for that first weird green poo the baby does to changing cartloads of shite to anxiously counting how many hours the baby’s been constipated.

Then suddenly they’re out of nappies and you find yourself doing the poo-poo dance of a Tuesday morning when your little darling first evacuates his bowels in the potty. But it’s not over. You could well be doing the ‘check wipe’ when they’re five. I’m just warning you, it’s years of dealing with another person’s excrement.

Q is for questions

Be inventive, be fun, lie wildly. They won’t remember it anyway.

R is for reading baby books

I love story time, it’s the best. There are so many awesome books for kids and it’s such precious time with them. Peepo by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Elmer by David McKee, all of Dr Seuss, Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Tiddler by Julia Donaldson. A joy. Some are brutal though. Avoid.

S is for sleep and also for sex

Same advice applies. You’re going to be having a lot less of both for the foreseeable future. You’ll miss the second one but at the same time, you’ll be too tired to care because of the first one.

T is for teething

You can get gels and powders and icerings and amber jewellery but it’s going to awful for the poor little mite, a drooly, bawly, slobbery few months, with red cheeks and rotten nappies but this too shall pass.

U is for unidentified flying objects.

Learn to duck.

V is for vomit

So much vomit. Facebook popped up an On This Day status update for me recently. “Got puked on from a height today. I’ve never had puke in my eyes before.” I honestly can’t remember that incident.

Before I had children, I’m pretty sure being temporarily blinded by someone else’s undigested food would register in my memory banks. But cleaning it up, scraping it off sheets at 3am, finding old crusty bits in your hair, all par for the course. And you know what, ‘tis grand.

W is for writing things down

The inane boring things you think don’t matter. The huge milestones that you think you’ll never forget. It all blurs into a hazy montage of you and your baby at the park. Keep a diary, print out photos, you’ll treasure them.


X is for xylophones

If every baby ABC book can trot that one out, so can I. Babies like xylophones.

Y is for youth

You’re not as cool or relevant or important as you once imagined. You are old, you are old, you shall wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled.

Z is for zoo

And other fun places you will get to go as a mother. I’m not talking about those indoor places that call themselves GoGo Superslide Zoo or whatever, where everything is slightly sticky and smells of damp foam and Febreze. I mean proper fun days out you’d never do if you didn’t have the rug rat. Get a Fota/Dublin Zoo annual pass. It is so worth it.

More on this topic

David Beckham and Liam Payne lead celebrity tributes on Mother’s DayDavid Beckham and Liam Payne lead celebrity tributes on Mother’s Day

5 celebrity mums we can all learn from on Mother’s Day5 celebrity mums we can all learn from on Mother’s Day

Befitting that in the week that Mother’s Day falls, I finally learned what it means to give my child a level of trustBefitting that in the week that Mother’s Day falls, I finally learned what it means to give my child a level of trust

The best mum and daughter breaksThe best mum and daughter breaks


Mulranny, in the shadow of the Nephin Beg Mountains on the north shore of Clew Bay, is a hill-walker’s paradise.Old Irish goats deserve to be nurtured

In awe of nature’s bounty on a glorious September dayIn awe of nature’s bounty on a glorious September day

Rotten by name but certainly not by nature.Islands of Ireland: Rotten to the core

There’s a revealing story well told by the writer Alice Taylor about the day a neighbour gave a present of a poached salmon to her family.Alice’s salmon of knowledge

More From The Irish Examiner