When you’re expecting a baby, there is no shortage of advice given to you. Complete strangers suddenly feel compelled to come over to you and regale you with tales of their experience with pregnancy, birth and beyond while they creepily grope your belly (I know this because now I’m one of them.) And it’s not just strangers – it’s aunties, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends, cousins, doctors, co-workers and your weird neighbor Bob. Everyone is suddenly a fount of knowledge, willing to impart on you all the important lessons and vital information that you will need on your parenting journey. Being the parent of a five month old I now feel obligated to join this wisdom club, as there were some key things I wish I had been informed of before I had my precious little bundle. So here it is, I present to you: Things Nobody Told Me About Being A Mum.
- You can fart your baby.
I’m not sure why this isn’t the first piece of advice people give to expectant parents. It’s both hilarious and useful information. If I had known this when I had Lila, I would’ve been far more equipped to deal with the gas situation. You see, the baby gas situation seems like it’s not such a big deal. Oh yeah, I know all about babies getting gas. You have to burp them, right? Yeah, sure – burp them. But when they’re screaming the house down at four in the morning because they have an evil little gas bubble that travelled down their teeny little body before you even had the chance to flip them over your shoulder and taptaptap on their back, you’ll be cursing yourself for ever assuming that ridding a baby of gas is as straightforward as ‘burping them’. So let me save you some time when I tell you – you can fart your baby. Some people disguise this little pearl of wisdom under terms like ‘baby aerobics/pilates/yoga/massage’ but the bare nekkid facts are that if you gently raise your bub’s little legs and bend them upwards towards their chest, the gas will be released, your baby will fart, you will laugh, and you can all go to sleep peacefully. You’re welcome.
- Scary movies are no longer entertaining.
B.B (that is, Before Baby) I loved nothing more than to absolutely scare the shit out of myself. Horror movies were my favorite kind of movies – the scarier, the better. I used to watch The Hills Have Eyes repeatedly just because the creepy mutant things really made me feel sick in a weirdly awesome way. Until for some reason, A.B (After Baby, keep up!) I just couldn’t do it anymore. The sick feeling was no longer like ‘oh my god that’s so gross let’s watch it again!’, now it was some horrible skin-crawly kind of feeling that had me hating the world for being such a disgusting place. I mean, The-Hills Better-Not-Have-Bloody-Eyes, I have a daughter now! I guess it’s something to do with the fierce maternal instinct (crazy mamma vibe) that kicks in when you have a little one, but regardless, my tolerance for scary movies has all but dissapted. I had to turn off an episode of The Blacklist the other night because there was gunfire. Looks like it’s mellow episodes of Play School from now on, if I can only handle the scary uncertainty that is the arch window, round window or square window. Jesus christ, which one will they choose?
- You will spend an inordinate amount of time picking someone else’s nose.
I felt like a massive creep about this until I brought it up at Mother’s Group and received some vigorous nods of agreement. At first you do it out of necessity. Babies can’t blow their own noses, the nurses inform you, and you will need to ‘nasally aspirate’ them. So there you are, fresh out of hospital with a little bean of your own, watching them cry and snort because they’ve got too much junk up in that nasal cavity. You remember you have a ‘nasal-aspirator’ (booger-sucker) in your baby kit and you get to work carefully, gently, ever-so-lightly suctioning the snot out of their teeny tiny fragile little nose. Fast forward to three months later and your favorite past-time is now boogey-removal. In fact, you keep the booger-sucker on hand just in-case you spot a rogue bat in the cave during tummy time, or feeding time, or even nap time. Yeah that’s right, you’ll totally wake up a sleeping baby just to get that snot out. Ain’t no booger gonna break your stride.
- Two words: Post-partum sweating. (Potentially three words. Let’s not get distracted.)
No one told me about this, or if they did tell me, I didn’t take it seriously enough to listen. Hear me now ladies – post-partum sweating is a thing. I had my baby in the beginning of Autumn, so it wasn’t overwhelmingly hot outside, and less so at night. But I would wake up for the two A.M feeding absolutely drenched in sweat. Which is really unfair, because you already have to deal with interrupted sleep, giant and leaky boobs, weird. crazy hormones and the fact that none of your clothes fit. On the plus side, I think I lost a kilo of the baby weight in pure perspiration. Delightful.
- And let’s not forget post-partum hair loss.
The post-partum hair loss is even ruder than the sweating. It doesn’t hit until about the three month mark, when you’re just starting to feel like a normal human being again. Remember that scene from The Craft, when Christine Taylor starts losing all her hair in the shower?
Yeah. That’s me every single morning. It was so terrifying to begin with that I immediately googled ‘extreme hair loss’ and found out that it’s a completely normal thing after having a baby. Oh good. Thanks for the heads up, What To Expect. If I had ‘expected’ this one I wouldn’t have turfed my hair extensions. The only thing I’ve found that works to deal with this lovely side-effect is to brush/style/wash your hair as little as possible. Which you’ll be doing anyway because you’ll have no time. Hurrah, new-mum life!
- You won’t be needing an alarm clock.
Ahh, nothing like a fresh uppercut to the jaw first thing in the morning. These days, I know it’s time to get up not because of the beeping of an alarm, or the smell of freshly roasted coffee, or the sun light filtering through the window. I know it’s time to get up because of the tiny fist that imprints itself repeatedly along the side of my face first thing in the morning. It’s like she’s beating some kind of baby morse code into me: HEY MUM – punch – WAKE UP MUM – punch – OPEN YOUR EYES – punch – MUM – punch – MUUUUUUUM. People told me that co-sleeping would be a precious bonding experience for both of us. They didn’t tell me it’d be like sleeping next to a very small version of Ronda Rousey with a penchant for 6 A.M wake up calls.
- It won’t always be love at first sight.
Of the resounding phrases you hear when you’re expecting a child is ‘oh gosh, when you hold that baby for the first time – it’s just absolutely breathtaking/magical/beautiful/insert-cheesy-adjective-here’. When I held my baby for the first time, all I was thinking about was how incredibly weird, squished and slimy she looked. I didn’t feel a rush of emotion, I didn’t suddenly tear up, time didn’t stop and fireworks didn’t go off and it didn’t get me right in the feels. Not in the way that I expected it would. And it was a massive let down, not only because I felt like I missed out on something, but because it then made me wonder what was wrong with me. Granted, having panic disorder perhaps meant that birth was a little different for me than for most, but I still thought I would feel this amazing connection to my newborn and I was really bummed to have felt nothing at all. So if you’re like me and you didn’t get that life-affirming moment when you held your baby for the first time, don’t feel like you’re a weird heartless bitch – because you’re not. I can say now with absolute honesty that I love my baby more than I ever thought possible, and just because I didn’t feel it in the beginning, doesn’t mean I didn’t feel it at all. In retrospect I can see what a special moment it was, but I wish I hadn’t put such high expectations on our first moments together at the time.
One of the things people do tell you repeatedly is how awesome it is to be a parent. And god damn it, they’re right. I was told this by everyone, but there was still a huge part of me that was incredibly fearful and apprehensive about bringing a child into the world. I mean, I could barely handle the responsibility of a goldfish, how the hell was I going to handle a baby?! But you know what? It’s not that hard. It’s exhausting, and scary, and confusing, and there will be at least ten times a day where you need to ask for help. But it’s also funny and wonderful and rewarding and yeah, it’s awesome. Life changes, and some completely unexpected shit happens, but it’s still awesome. (You can fart them. Fart them!)
What do you wish somebody had told you about being a parent?