Becoming a parent for the first time means doing a lot of things you’d previously never have imagined yourself doing. Wiping someone else’s butt is the first thing that comes to mind here (I can totally see my teenage self cringing at the very suggestion of this, and then flouncing off to her room, shouting that she’s NEVER HAVING CHILDREN, because OMG YUCK! How the mighty are fallen.), but there are plenty of others. Anything involving snot is another one that just presented itself, actually. Like, if I were to make a pie chart of a typical day right now, it would look a lot like this:
01. Wiping butts. (Well, BUTT. Because, you get that when I say, “someone else’s butt,” I am, in fact, referring to the baby right?)
03. Endless amounts of laundry.
04. Trying (unsuccessfully) to get a photo of the baby smiling in a cute outfit during the 30 second time window between me removing his 3 bibs, and him spitting up on himself.
05. Explaining to Terry why I insist on dressing the baby every single day, and don’t just leave him in the same sleepsuit until he’s 14.
You’ll notice there are no slices of pie dedicated to “sleeping” or “work” here, because HAHALOL. There should probably be a slice dedicated to making pie charts explaining how I spend my day, though, because WOW, that took way longer than anticipated. Like, halfway through it, I was all, “Is this really worth it for the sake of a feeble joke, Amber? IS IT, THOUGH?” But anyway, I digress. Quite a bit, actually, because I was actually here to tell you, not just about all of the things I now find myself doing that I previously wouldn’t have been able to imagine, but about some of the strange habits I’ve developed since Max arrived. I’m talking here about things like…
Referring to myself in the 3rd person
“Mummy’s just going to put you here while she makes your bottle!” “Mummy’s going to change your nappy now!” Like, seriously, SHUT IT, “MUMMY”.
It’s not just me who does this, though: a few weeks ago, Terry told me he’d gotten out of the shower and found himself thinking, “Now, where did daddy put his shirt?” We haven’t yet reached the stage where we refer to each other as “mummy” and “daddy” yet – and we’ve quietly agreed that if and when that happens, we’ll just get divorced – but we do both appear to refer to ourselves in the third person now, and Amber does this because of another habit she’s developed, namely…
Narrating my every move
Look, babies are both difficult and easy to entertain. They’re difficult because they require CONSTANT stimulation when they’re awake, but they’re also pretty easy, because they think everything is fascinating. Early on in my parenting journey, I developed the habit of just narrating everything I do for Max’s benefit: the problem being that I still do it even when he’s not there, and even when I’m not even speaking. So, a few weeks ago, I was tidying up the kitchen, and I thought to myself, “Hmm, why isn’t this drawer closing properly, Max?” I mean, Max wasn’t even THERE at the time: I’ve just apparently started tacking his name onto the end of every thought. Haven’t I, Max?
Rocking things that aren’t my baby
In my defence, that pile of laundry probably really appreciate my attempt to rock it to sleep. The bowl of soup, not so much…
Sleeping like a baby
By which I mean, “Waking up constantly”. The thing is, even although Max is currently sleeping through the night (PLEASE LET ME NOT HAVE JUST TEMPTED FATE BY SAYING THAT), I’m not, because I have to wake up every so often to make sure he’s still breathing. And the pressure to keep him alive has infiltrated every part of my mind, to the point where, last week, in my half-awake state, I spent a good few minutes carefully “tucking in” the end of my pillow (I still sleep with one of those V-shaped pregnancy pillows, purely because it’s just so damn comfy, which means the ends of my pillow protrude out into the middle of the bed), and then un-tucking it again, because I was worried it might be too warm. Then I woke up properly, and realised that, yup, that was your PILLOW, you idiot – the baby sleeps on the OTHER side of the bed…
(I also almost woke Terry up a few nights ago by tickling his chin. It was only when I felt his beard make contact with my fingers that I realised, WHOOPS, ALSO NOT THE BABY. JUST GO TO SLEEP, WOMAN.)
Doing a stupid, open-mouthed smile all the damn time
I use this expression a lot now:
I hate myself, srsly.
Back when Max was just a few weeks old, though, I read something on one of the many parenting apps I’d downloaded at the time about how babies respond best to very exaggerated facial expressions, but see things (At whatever stage he was at back then…) almost as a series of “snapshots” rather than as a movie. The advice was to pull your stupid facial expression of choice, and then kind of freeze-frame it for a few seconds, to give the baby a chance to respond. I decided to go for the stupid, open-mouthed smile, and, sure enough, every time I pulled this face, Max would smile back at me. Probably because he was thinking, “LOL, lookit this idiot!”
Now, baby smiles are pretty addictive, really, so I kept on doing it – and have continued to this day, to the point where it’s become totally ingrained in me, and any time I smile at someone, I have to suppress the instinct to do it as if I’m about to eat their entire head. I’ve even started to instinctively adopt this look every time someone points a camera at me: seriously, I can’t even tell you how many times recently Terry’s been taking outfit photos for me, and he’s had to stop, lower the camera, and be all, “Seriously, dude, CLOSE YOUR MOUTH.” At first he thought it was – and I quote – “some weird, fashion blogger thing”, but nope, it’s just me, with my sad attempt to make myself appealing to people/babies/cameras by showing them my tonsils.
Like I said, HATE MYSELF.
Having a hair elastic permanently attached to my wrist
Every morning, I wash, and then carefully style my hair.
Then I take out a raggedy old hair elastic, scrape my hair back into a scrappy ponytail (And not a sexy, dishevelled ponytail, either, but a straight up, “I’ve given up on life, and also on hair,” ponytail. Because that’s the only kind I can do.), and then leave it like that for most of the day. On the odd occasion I release my hair from its unkempt ponytail, I put the hair elastic on my wrist, and that’s why my outfit photos all look like this now:
What does this have to do with having a baby, though? Well, the hair ties are mostly there because any time I need to change a nappy, or do some other baby-related task, I always feel the need to pull my hair back first – a bit like the equivalent of rolling up your sleeves, or preparing to go into battle or something. I keep meaning to hit up Google for some prettier hair ties – like, ones that could easily pass for a bracelet, say, given that they’re never off my wrist. And, you know what? If that isn’t a Thing yet, it totally should be…
Repeating everything twice.
Finally, to return to my second point, about narrating my every move, I’ve also discovered that it’s not enough for me to babble mundane nonsense once – I now have to repeat everything twice. I said I now have to repeat everything twice. So, instead of just saying, “Mummy’s going to change your nappy now,” and leaving it at that, I’ll be all, “Mummy’s going to change to your nappy now! Yes, she’s going to change your nappy!”
(I bet you’re all dead grateful for that useful explanation of what “repeating everything twice,” means, huh? Because, otherwise you’d just be like, “Why, I wonder what Amber could possibly mean by this? I wish she’d provided an example!”)
(Oh, and in addition to repeating it twice, repeating it twice, I also have to say everything as if it’s the Most! Exciting! Thing! Ever!)
I have no idea why I do this: all I know is that it could be worse. My mum, for instance, has been unable to speak without singing since Max was born – it’s almost like she’s some kind of fairytale grandmother, and the Wicked Witch has hit her with a Singing Curse, so everything she says has to be sung, instead. (BRB, just pitching Pixar with this idea…) My personal favourite song of hers is the classic, “Max Is In His Pram, And He’s Looking At His Gran,” (The title of which is also the verse, btw. And the chorus.), but it’s up against some stiff competition from Terry’s self-penned hit, “What Are These Handies Doing?” and my own, “Bouncy Max”.
Max, meanwhile, likes all of these songs, but much prefers basically anything my dad sings: so, mostly blues, then, but, I mean, if my dad sung the phone book to him, Max would be like, “WOW! BEST! SONG! EVER!” You can tell who the singer is in our family, huh?
Er, we all sing a LOT now is what I’m saying. And I personally sing everything TWICE. At least. My mum will sing this post when she reads it, obviously, and Terry will just be all, “What’s with all the singing, daddy?” I’d say my dad was the only “normal” one left amongst us, but then I remembered his patented, “Bendy Grandad” move, in which he kind of sways from side to side repeatedly, to shrieks of laughter from Max.
So, now I’m thinking Max HIMSELF must be the only normal one left?
Isn’t that right, Max? Isn’t that right?