I read. Might just be Twitter or Facebook, might be a blog or a website and, if I’m feeling grown up, it might be a newspaper.
I also listen; to the media, and certainly to my friends.
Never has this little concoction been more dangerous than in pregnancy and the first 6 months of parenthood, when I was so tired, delirious and (as a knock-on effect) irrational, that I took any bit of baby-related information as gospel. Here are the 7 pearls of wisdom I wish I had taken with a pinch of salt.
1) Your life will change beyond recognition You know what? This little gem is SO true that it’s pointless telling anyone else about it. I spent 9 months building up to Bear’s arrival, preparing, buying, organising, blah blah blah. Did it prepare me for arriving home from the hospital? Nope. NOTHING prepared me for newborn-ness, or indeed the 6 months that followed. And yet I did listen to everyone that told me how much my life would change. It’s just pointless trying to forewarn anyone because your life changes far beyond recognition that people will only ever realise what you mean when they’re putting the TV remote in the fridge, poo is the most common topic of conversation, or 3 hours of unbroken sleep is worthy of a press release.
2) Sleep when your baby sleeps I had all good intentions. I love sleep, and what better excuse was there to catnap during the day than “everyone told me to”. Reality is a different beast. When do bottles get sterilised? When do I eat? When do I get dressed? When do I go to the loo without trying to hold a sleeping baby at the same time? What if I’m so on-edge that I couldn’t fall asleep even if I wanted to? And…worst of all…what if she wakes up?! Sure, on the (very) rare occasion in those early days that Bear napped for longer than an hour at a time, I kicked myself that I had spent that time watching her, waiting and wondering when she would wake up. Once she slept for three hours. I was impressed, but more than that I was annoyed I hadn’t done the same. I’d say sleep when you can, but don’t try and stockpile the zzzzs; sleep can’t be banked, after all, and eventually you get used to functioning on less shut-eye.
3) It gets easier We had a really good day today. Bear has been happy, she’s eaten, she’s slept, she’s laughed. She’s been ‘easier’ than she was when she cried all day, seemed permanently stuck to my boob, wouldn’t sleep and Paul and I wondered what on earth we had done wrong. It does get easier, it really does, but when you’re the one being screamed at 24/7 it’s no consolation that – months from now – you might look back and laugh at this*. I wish people had just encouraged me by telling me I was doing great, and that this 24/7 screaming was pretty normal. Because it might get easier, but I know even now (and she’s not 1 yet) that it’s never going to be easy. Just try and enjoy it, because however hard it is you’ll never have today again.
* You probably won’t. It might get easier, but it’ll never be funny.
4) Weaning is so much fun! After 6 months of milk, milk and more milk, puréed carrot seemed like the most exciting thing on earth. Health Visitors and mummy friends told me to enjoy this ‘fun’ time. So I filled the freezer with frozen delights of mushed fruit and veg and settled Bear in her bumbo mealtime after mealtime. For me, weaning wasn’t fun – by any stretch of the imagination. Bear’s favourite thing about mealtime was (and often still is) chucking food on the floor and waving at it, not eating it. It can be frustrating, disheartening and probably not what the Health Visitor had in mind. Just go with it. Apparently these babies have enough human instinct instilled already to not starve themselves, so they will eat when they want to eat.
5) Lies, damn lies and statistics Gina Ford, Annabel Karmel, my Health Visitor. Everyone’s a pro, apparently (even though two thirds of that little list don’t have children…but don’t get me started on that). At 8 months, babies need 4 hours of daytime naps each day, and they will sleep through from 7-7. They will also eat 3 round meals a day, wolfing down whatever you put in front of them. At 9 months, they’ll start to crawl and by a year they’ll be singing the national anthem (in French, no less). It’s all lies! Your baby will sleep when they want to sleep, eat when they want to eat, throw their food on the floor and wave at it when they feel like it, and crawl when the novelty of having everything done for them wears off (and let’s face it, we’d all hang on as long as possible, eh?) Forget the guidebooks – your baby hasn’t read them anyway – and appreciate that your Health Visitor can be helpful, but they’re basing their advice on national averages, not the gospel truth. Trust your instinct, not what everyone else’s babies are doing.
6) It’s just a phaseThis is so true. From colic to teething – it is just a phase. People are bang on when they tell you this, it’s just that until you’re out the other side and the tooth has cut through or the 8-10pm crying sessions are a thing of the past, being told “it’s just a phase” is just a bit annoying. That is all.
7) You need this, this, this, that and DEFINATELY one of those You probably don’t. Whether you’re nearing the end of pregnancy, approaching weaning, baby is on the move or any other milestone stage of their little life, you can probably find a ‘handy’ list of 20 things you can’t possibly do without. But you probably can. We joined an NCT group when I was pregnant and one of the few things I remember was that you only really need the following basics: something to sleep in, something to travel in, stuff to keep them clean, stuff to keep them clothed (i.e. clothes. Genius), and either your boob or bottles. Et voila! You might just be able to do without all those guidebooks after all…