6 things no one tells you about parenthood
I’ve only just started writing it, but I already know this post is destined to be written in bursts of maybe 20 minutes at a time, over a period of many days. I may or may not have time to proofread it, and I’ll almost definitely have to illustrate it with a crappy iPhone photo that was really only meant for Instagram, but which is having to suffice for now, because, seriously, who has time to take photos just for a blog post? WHO?
Er, the answer to that?
OLD ME. THAT’S WHO.
(Um, by which I mean Pre-Baby-Me, not that I am Very, Very Old, although that too, actually. Ahem.)
Old me had time to do things like set up photos, and take time over blog posts, because, the fact is, Old Me REALLY didn’t know what was about to hit her when she decided it might be cool to introduce a tiny little new person into her life. I mean, she THOUGHT she did. Old Me knew all about the sleep deprivation, and the fact that she’d probably cry a lot in the first few weeks: hell, she even knew she’d probably struggle with the way her appearance would change, and would want to turn all the mirrors to the wall for a good few weeks monthsyears the rest of her life. (Old Me was right about that last one, just FYI. GOD.) Anything she DIDN’T know about, the Just You Wait Brigade had helpfully filled her in on, by repeatedly popping up to yell, “JUST YOU WAIT! Your life will soon SUCK!” every time she mentioned feeling even slightly positive about the prospect of parenthood, so, yeah, on the whole, Old Me was feeling pretty smug, really.
Old Me, however, was an IDIOT.
I mean, you got that, didn’t you?
Because, the fact is, Old Me might have been prepared for SOME aspects of new parenthood, but she definitely wasn’t prepared for all of ’em. Here are some of the things she really didn’t expect – and I’m going to just go ahead and stop referring to myself in the 3rd person, and as “Old” now, if that’s OK with you? Here we go…
The Complete Lack of Time
Right now we’re pretty lucky in that Max has recently started sleeping through the night – by which I mean he has his last feed of the day at around midnight, and then doesn’t wake up for the next one until after 7am. (Yes, I know about the 4 month sleep regression, and will respectfully ask you not to be That Person who’s all “JUST YOU WAIT!” because I might be sleeping, but I wouldn’t say I’m sleeping WELL, so I can’t promise not to roll my eyes right out of my head at that …) YAY!
He might be sleeping at night, however, but you know what Max ISN’T doing? Napping during the day. Or not much, anyway. He WILL, of course, have little naps here and there, but they tend to only last for 20 minutes or so at a time (Unless one of us is holding him, or he’s in the car or pram), and they don’t stick to any particular schedule, which makes it pretty tricky to get things done – and yes, that’s even WITH both of us at home, which I know is unusual, and makes us very fortunate.
The thing is, we may both be at home all day, but we both also have to work (No maternity leave for the self-employed, unfortunately…), so we basically have to work in shifts, with one of us looking after the baby, while the other frantically tries to get some work done, or have a shower, or whatever. It sounds like it should work out fine (and I’ll just stress again that I do realise how lucky we are to have this arrangement), but the reality of it is that everything you do has to be done in a rush, so you can relieve the other person, and let them do whatever it is THEY need to do.
So we eat in a hurry, and in shifts (It doesn’t matter when we have dinner, that’s when Max will be his most active, so one of us has to hold him while the other one eats…); we shower in a hurry. Hell, I even go to bed in a rush, because Terry does the last feed of the day and then brings Max upstairs, and if I haven’t taken my makeup off and faffed around taking the 765 scatter cushions off the bed by the time he comes up, it’ll be almost impossible for me to do it in the dark, without waking him.
(This post is being written in a rush, needless to say. That’s why it’s so long. You know that Oscar Wilde quote, “Please excuse the length of this letter – I didn’t have time to write a shorter one”? THAT.)
Just to add to the constant feeling of panic, during the daytime Max is still on that 4 hour feeding cycle, and he’s like clockwork with it, seriously. Because of his reflux, by the time we’ve burped him, and kept him upright, and – inevitably – changed him, each feed can take up the best part of an hour, and, once it’s over, the clock starts ticking down to the next feed, and you’re all GOGOGO, knowing you have a maximum of 3 hours to leave the house, do whatever you have to do, and come back.
It’s a bit like being on some weird kind of game show or something, and it can be pretty stressful: I’ve frequently left the house with a pounding headache, having spent the last twenty minutes frantically rushing around trying to dress myself and the baby, and that feeling of constant pressure, and always having to do everything in a rush is something I REALLY wasn’t prepared for.
On a more frivolous note, I also wasn’t prepared for…
Your hair might change
So, I know my hair will start to fall out at some point (Everything I’ve read suggests this happens at around 4 months post-partum, so… any time now, really. I’m honestly dreading it more than I dreaded childbirth…), so I am somewhat prepared for that. (I will still whine my face off about it, though, obviously…) What I DIDN’T expect, though, was that my hair would change texture, too. I started noticing this not long after Max was born – basically my hair, which used to be fine, limp, and with a tendency towards greasiness at the roots is now dry, frizzy and with a single greasy patch right on the back of my head. So, the worst of all worlds, really – lucky me!
Obviously I know this is nothing compared to what I’m presumably about to go through with the whole, “Hey, my hair is falling out!” thing (I’ve literally been having nightmares in which chunks of my hair come out in the shower. Guys, I AM TERRIFIED about this…), so I would happily live with it, if that was the alternative. It’s a bit weird, though, and ever-so-slightly annoying, especially given that I’d JUST discovered my holy grail shampoo and conditioner combo, and now I have to start again from scratch.
(Or maybe not because I’LL BE BALD SOON. <insert hysterical laughter>)
My hair wasn’t the only surprise, though: I also noticed…
You’re going to need a ton of hand cream
They’ve gone back to normal now, thankfully, but in the first few weeks of parenthood, I developed a bad case of what I think of as “dragonhide” on my hands – presumably due to all of the extra handwashing that comes with having a baby. I wash my hands after every nappy change (And, in those early days especially, I changed a LOT of nappies…), before every feed, and at various other times, and, in addition to all of the times you’d wash your hands anyway, it ended up making them really dry, and quite painful at times.
As I said, this seems to have cleared up now, and I’m not really sure why: I have hand cream in each bathroom, but there never seemed to be a good time to use it (See: everything has to be done in a rush, above…), so it’s possibly just due to the fact that Max seems to have cooled it a bit on the nappy front: either way, it was another one of those things no one had warned me about, so my dragon hands came as just a little bit of a surprise…
I’m really aware that this post just sounds like a list of complaints at this point, and I really didn’t intend it to be (I mean, I DO believe in being realistic about parenthood, but I don’t want to be a doom-mongerer either…), so let the record show that there were also some pleasant surprises in store, such as…
All of the new baby gifts can be totally overwhelming
I was completely and utterly blown away by the kindness of people – some of them virtual strangers – when Max was born. We got SO many gifts for him that I could easily have gotten away with not buying him any clothes at all for the first six months or so (I did, though: baby clothes are just too cute for me to resist…), and he also now has a large book and soft toy collection, mainly due to gifts. As I said, some of these came from people who barely even know us – parents of friends, neighbours of my parents, etc, etc – so it went a long way towards restoring my faith in humanity, and we were both really moved by how generous everyone was.
I was, however, totally unprepared for all of this, so if I could do one thing differently here, it would be to be better prepared, with thank you cards at the ready, so I could write each one out as soon as we received the gifts in question. As it is, I still have quite a few to write, and I’ve been feeling SO guilty about not having gotten around to it yet – I also keep forgetting to post/deliver the cards I’ve already written, so if you gave Max a new baby gift, and you’ve not had a thank-you card yet, please don’t hate me, I promise I’ll get to it soon!
The cleaning. Oh my God, THE CLEANING
I mean, I clean a lot anyway (Yeah, I know, I need to get my priorities straight…), and I don’t generally mind it (Other than emptying the dishwasher obviously: I’d much rather just DIE already…), but having Max has introduced a level of cleaning that I even I could not possibly have imagined.
“I feel like I NEVER stop cleaning the kitchen,” Terry said to me the other day, and it’s true: I feel like that too, but the weird thing is, there are two people cleaning that kitchen on a near-constant basis, and it STILL never feels clean to me. GOD.
There’s just SO MUCH MESS to contend with, though. The much-hated dishwasher now has to be run every single day because of all the bottles we go through (We used to only have to run it a couple of times a week, and even that was too much for me…), and the washing machine sometimes does two, or even three, cycles per day, mostly filled with bibs, burp cloths, and all of the clothes of Terry’s that Max managed to spit up on. (Oddly, he only occasionally seems to get me, but, having said that, I’ve just had to put a cushion cover in the wash that was covered in baby puke, so I can’t feel TOO smug about it…) I think the house LOOKS pretty tidy, thanks to all of my organisation efforts, but it’s not nearly as clean/tidy as I’d like it to be, which I find pretty difficult: I know I’m basically inviting people to scoff here, while telling me THEY have BETTER things to do with their time than clean, but what can I say – mess makes me anxious, and as soon as I get a couple of hours to myself, I’m planning a huge cleaning session, (So, maybe sometime around his 18th birthday, then…) purely for the sake of my mental health.
In the meantime, I’ve been watching speed cleaning videos on You Tube any time I find myself trapped under a sleeping baby. It’s so weird … but so completely addictive…
Finally, and because, as I said, I really, REALLY didn’t want this post to be the giant whinefest it”s turned into…
During one of the many breaks I took while writing this post, I filmed Max laughing while Terry tickled him. Then Terry took him back downstairs, and, instead of taking advantage of the opportunity to finish this post, I just sat at my desk and watched the video I’d just taken around… ooh, ten times, maybe?
Guys, there is nothing in this world that compares to the sound of my baby laughing – except maybe the sight of that huge, infectious smile of his. NOTHING. Seriously, it’s THE BEST. He is THE BEST. And that’s why everyone you speak to about parenthood will list all the negatives – the dry hands, and the frizzy hair, and the fact that it’s been 4 months now since you last enjoyed a nice, long shower – and then finish up by saying, “It’s so hard – but it’s SO worth it.”
Honestly, it sound like one of those trite things people say without really thinking about it, but it’s 100% true: trust me.