Remember those blurry weeks after the birth of your baby? Nope, me neither. Seriously. Three kids and it’s a total blur. I know one of them took a dummy, and one of them had colic, and one of them may have been born with ginger hair, but beyond that it’s all a crazy haze of poo and milk and being so tired that I lost the feeling in my fingers.
I was reminded of this on the weekend, when we Skyped Paul’s brother and his lovely lady partner, themselves the new parents of a brand-new baby (Eva-Mae, for future reference). Having clearly never read my blogs, and being under the assumption that we know something about parenting (ha!) they were asking our advice on naps and nappies and burping and shit (literally). And I looked at Paul and Paul looked at me, and I said: “Do you remember ANYTHING about having a newborn?” and he was, like: “We have children?” We mustn’t have done a bad job, because we all lived to tell the tale, but my goodness, we must’ve seriously just muddled our way through those first nine and a half weeks.
Which got me to thinking: just what DO I remember about having a newborn? Here’s what I came up with:
BOOBS. From what I remember (not much), the first nine and a half weeks were all about the boobs. This took me by surprise, first time round. Especially the leaky bit. About three days after Ben was born, I remember standing in the bedroom talking to my mum, and suddenly exclaiming WHY ARE YOU WETTING ME and then realising it was ME, it was my boobs, they’d turned on me, and were literally gushing milk. And I ask you: where is the dignity in THAT? Breast pads were no match for my prolific udders: I spent much of 2006, 2012 and 2013 with two massive wet milky patches on my blouse. Also: they’d squirt inappropriately. I would discreetly pop a bosom out to feed a baby, and the milk would shoot out like a nerf bullet. Again, Chris Burns, I can only apologise. So yeah, my boobs had a life of their own. I was probably known locally as milk boob lady and openly mocked by small children. I didn’t give a shit. Breastfeeding burns mega calories, so the joke’s on THEM.
DIGNITY. Speaking of dignity, I forsook it in the first weeks after my children’s birth. My babies breastfed so often, and for so long, that the aforementioned boobs were always on show. I kind of forgot that they were supposed to be tucked away. I’d do the school run with my boobs out, eat Sunday lunch with my boobs out, do the weekly shop (by which I mean, answer the door to the Coles man) with my boobs out. I basically forgot that this isn’t - in general - what humans do. Again, I didn’t give a shit. BREASTFEEDING BURNS CALORIES, remember?
CLOTHING. This is the boob thing, again. You know you can’t wear dresses when you’re breastfeeding, right? Right? Cos you can’t discreetly get your baps out in a retro summer dress, right? I learned this the hard way. In Scitech. My friends, you know you’ve hit an all-time low when you’re naked in the baby changing room of a science museum on a bank holiday weekend, dress around your ankles, breastfeeding the fattest infant in the land.
DELIRIUM. When you have a new baby, the nights are the weirdest, especially if you’re a breastfeeding mamma. I’d fall asleep with the light on, sitting upright, then wake up in a panic, convinced that the baby was under the bed, or under the duvet, or - as happened to my friend Alison - under the illusion that her baby had morphed into her husband’s head. She tried to CRADLE his poor sleeping bonce.
THE WITCHING HOUR. This is a bit of a blur, but I seem to remember my babies hitting about four weeks old and then screaming a lot. Specifically, screaming between the hours of 6pm and 10pm, just to coincide with the Come Dine with Me omnibus. I remember this being vaguely equivalent to the seventh level of hell. One baby - I can’t remember which one - would only settle if you walked around with them, arms positioned JUST SO, jiggling JUST SO, and sssh-shhh-shushing JUST SO. And woe betide you if you tried to put that baby down. I remember that. I remember not enjoying that.
DON’T WAKE THE BABY. The whole new parenthood thing? It lures you into a false sense of security. You bring your baby home from hospital and it sleeps, like, all the time, and you think, this shit is easy! I rule at parenting! And then, suddenly, they don’t. And you can’t get them to sleep. And you can’t get them to stay asleep. And you try and put them in their crib and their eyes PING open and - at that moment - life is the cruellest of bitches and your beautiful precious bundle of joy sux ballz. SO, you find yourself doing strange, strange things to keep your baby asleep. With Frankie we adopted a stop, drop and roll technique. Once he’d been shushed to sleep, there was NO WAY you could place him on his back in the crib. We tried that. We failed. The ONLY way he’d stay asleep was if we knelt down and - well - kind of rolled/kind of threw him on to our bed. This was not in the Gina Ford textbook. This is probably ill advised, but it worked, so up yours. You do what it takes. And that, basically, is my advice to all new parents, including the parents of my lovely new niece: just do what it takes.