My delightful sort-of sister-in-law is due to have her baby girl in a few short weeks. This makes me unfeasibly excited, because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to being a proper aunt, sort of. I mean, I’m already a sort-of aunt to Paul’s nephews, but they’re all grown up, and it feels a bit weird making a 20-year-old with whiskers and a girlfriend call you Aunty Lisa. Know what I’m saying?
So yes, I’m going to be an aunt, thanks to Paul’s younger brother and his lovely fiancée, and I can assure you that I’ll do a much better job than either of my two biological aunts, who – Muslim conversions and internet husbands aside – never really took to the role.
Admittedly, I can’t do much, on account of us living on the other side of the world from Daz, Lorraine and their nearly here baby girl. That sux. What I can do, however, is send over shitloads of second-hand baby clothes (and a natty little babygro with dusters on the elbows and knees, which we found on the internet whilst drunk, and ordered IMMEDIATELY, as you do), as well as a little bit of new-mamma advice. Because if there’s one thing I know a little bit about, it’s being a new mamma. And an old mamma. Basically, being a mamma. I know about being a mamma, and I know that I got it all wrong the first time around. That Ben survived is almost certainly down to a little luck, and the Catholic blessings of my dear friend’s family, who were rooting for us from the outset.
So, dearest Loz, here’s my advice to the expectant mamma (you):
1. Don’t buy all the shit. You don’t need all the shit. I made the mistake of going to a baby expo fair thing at Earl’s Court when I was pregnant with Ben. My god, the shit you could buy. The shit I did buy. You don’t need all the shit. You definitely don’t need fur-lined baby earmuffs. In Australia. You need a pram and you need a cot, although Ben slept in his pram for the first three months of his life, and it did him no harm (ummmm…).
2. Having said that, I found the following three things invaluable in the early days of new parenthood: a baby sleeping bag, a breastfeeding pillow, and wine. They will tell you not to drink wine while breastfeeding. There are ways around this. See me after class.
2. You will be told to write a birth plan. The baby will have its own birth plan. Forget your birth plan.
3. Take all the drugs you are offered (in labour). For the love of all things right and holy, take the drugs.
4. If you end up having a caesarean – and so many of us do – it’s no big deal. The only thing that matters is the safe arrival of your precious girl. How she gets here is irrelevant.
5. You may be able to breastfeed. You may not be able to breastfeed. Big knockers are no indication of breastfeeding suitability. Some people simply aren’t cut out for breastfeeding. If you are one of those people, then so be it.
6. If you do want to bottle-feed – by which I mean, if you want Daz to bottle-feed – then introduce a bottle fairly early on. People will tell you this causes nipple confusion (whatever that is). I don’t know about that, but I do know that NONE of my three children would take a bottle – at ALL – and were attached to me by the bosom for far longer than is right or necessary.
7. Dummies are clever little inventions, aren’t they? Neither Ben nor Frankie took to a dummy, but Alice has had one since day dot. The more she sucked on that, the less she sucked on me. Genius!
8. Get dressed every day. Sounds simple, no? It’s not. But: get up, get dressed, go out (with the baby, ideally). Set yourself the tiniest of goals: post a letter, buy some milk, walk the dog. Yes, it will take you hours and hours and hours to achieve these teeny, tiny goals, but do them anyway.
9. Watch out for other mothers. If another mother – kindly – asks if your daughter is ‘sleeping through yet’, ABORT MISSION IMMEDIATELY. Walk away. Reverse the pram and go home. The other mother doesn’t give a shit if your daughter is sleeping through. The other mother just wants to tell you that her daughter is. And she’s probably lying anyway. Don’t get involved.
10. On that subject: don’t listen to other mothers. Don’t listen to anyone. Especially old people. Everyone’s a fucking expert, especially in Sainsbury’s. Have a baby and suddenly EVERYONE thinks they can tell you that your baby’s too cold, too fat, too little, too hungry, too hairy, too ginger. Ignore them all. Trust your instinct. Unless your instinct tells you to sit on the kerb in a bobble-hat shouting at passersby. In which, case, seek medical advice.
11. On a similar subject, don’t read books. Specifically: baby books. I made the mistake of reading Gina Ford’s Contented Baby Book before Ben’s arrival. This messed me right up. Funnily enough, babies fly by their own rules, and aren’t inclined to follow textbook guidelines. Your baby will do what she wants, when she wants. You can either go with it, or go insane.
12. Remember: you can’t die from tiredness. Unless you’re that Chinese dude who played PlayStation for two weeks straight, but he’s the exception rather than the rule.
13. Finally, enjoy. Those few weeks after your baby’s birth are precious and extraordinary and wonderful, although you might not realise at the time. Spend time just looking at this beautiful, frog-like, possibly ginger creature you created. Soak her in, and enjoy the fact that she can’t wriggle around, climb bookshelves, talk back, and eat your Kit Kat (yet). Those precious early weeks go wayyyy too quickly, so don’t waste it worrying about milestones and other mothers.