Now, you know I’m not big on parental advice.
Not giving it. Not receiving it.
I don’t know your child, you don’t know mine. I don’t know what I’m doing, you don’t really either. Let’s just do our own thing and keep it real and get along, etc. You know how it goes.
However, earlier this week, my daughter turned 5 months and to “celebrate” I thought I’d tell you all 5 things I wish I knew when I was pregnant. Not that I mean to be preachy and advice-giver-y. You’re doing a great job. All of you. I can tell.
1. The number of a good marriage counsellor. Having a child with someone you love can bond you in the most incredible of ways. More incredible that you might think, in fact. However, I can confidently say that in those first few months, had it not been for my extreme fatigue, Joel would have woken up many mornings to discover his belongings strewn across the front lawn with a mad woman belting out delirious fits of rage from the upstairs window. Not that he ever did anything wrong, really. Not at all. It’s just that the sleep deprivation, the hormones, the what the hell are we doings, the lack of intimacy (for better word), the difference in baby approaches, the sheer overwhelm – all those things fling your insides around so jarringly that someone has to cop it. I knew it would be a challenge, but in all honesty, I thought that I – being the mother – would be the only one really challenged. I’d be the one feeding every couple of hours. I’d be the one awake just as often. I’d be the one at home, isolated, figuring out what the hell I was doing. I’d be the one giving up my career. I’d be the one grappling with a new sense of identity. I knew to expect that. I knew all those things would test me. But Joel? He’d go to work as normal. He’d get to enjoy the good bits and sleep through the bad bits. He’d show off photos of his gorgeous new baby to anyone who’d look and he’d have a wife at home cooking him meals and doing his washing. Not much challenge there, really. Sounds like heaven, actually. However, having a child will bring to the surface every issue you two have together. You are not the only one under pressure. You are not the only one whose life has drastically changed. You are not the only one who has emotions which can get hurt. You are not the only one needing to be appreciated, cared for, and included. And unless there is a calm, neutral person sitting between the two of you carefully adjudicating your overwhelmed and underqualified selves, things can start to resemble a war-zone. It gets all hazy as a woman lionesses over her newborn and a man gets pushed to the side, and it can take a while for things to balance out. So get a marriage counsellor. If you want. It just might be useful. I don’t mean to be bossy. Just trying to help, is all.
2. Just Say No. Ho-ly Smokes. I never KNEW how crazy people were for babies. And these people want to get their hands on these babies ASAP. Fresh out of the womb, if possible. I was not at all prepared for the circus which awaited Joel and I, and if I had my time again, I would have been much stricter about restricting the amount “viewers” we had so early on. At the very least, I wish I had a full 24 hours alone with Joel and my freshly born baby, soaking in the euphoria and the awe and the hushed silence in which an experience such as birth demands. Those few hours the three of us had alone together after Ella was born are what I cherish the most because those moments are the closest to Heaven I have ever before come to experience, and they are moments you can never get back. You might view things differently than me, but I think an experience as incredible as birth needs to be held delicately and quietly, without the Outside World pushing its way through. Not just yet, anyway. That time is for you – to bond with your baby, to recover, to imprint to heart the look in your partner’s eyes as you watch them fall in love. Nothing beats that. It’s yours, that time. It’s special.
3. Get A Photographer. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but for me the experience of labour was so hazy that I can’t remember it. Obviously, nature designed it that way, because let’s be honest, it’s no walk in the park. But to witness the look on Joel’s face as he encouraged me on, the strength on my face as I fought with all my might, the very first moment I touched my baby, the tears in Joel’s eyes as he watched, those are the moments I wish I could see. Those are the moments I wish I could hold in my hand and look back upon when I’m old and grey and reminiscing about the few occasions in life which truly change you forever.
4. That Reading Books Does Not Always Help. Before I had Ella, I read a lot of books. Sometimes to educate me. Sometimes to excite me. Mostly, though, to feel more in control. To feel remotely hopeful that I knew what I was in for. Before she was born, I had highlighted and dog-eared and post-it-noted entire chapters on routines and crying translations and development stages and feeding schedules. I felt confident and mother-ish because I was educated, friends. Of course, when she was born, I forgot every single thing I had read, because that’s just what I do. I forget things. I get a bit vague. It’s my thing. It’s why I get a bit dismissive when people encourage me to write a book, because unless I’d be allowed to write in short, sharp bursts, like I do here, I would most certainly not remember what the point of the story was, nor would I be able to follow my thoughts for long enough to have them link in any coherent way. So anyway, Ella arrived and I was so busy doing that I didn’t have time to think about what I should be doing, until a few months passed and I decided to look back on what I had book-marked. You know, just to congratulate myself. Just to put on my mother-ish hat and check my progress and feel all grown-up and pleased with myself. And then the anxiety set in. Everything I was doing was wrong, according to at least one book, and Joel would come home to find me flapping about screaming No! No! No! It has to be done like THIS! We have to let her cry/pick her up/use a dummy/not use a dummy/nurse her to sleep/put her to bed awake/ put her to bed at 7pm/ wake her up at 10pm for a dream feed. Oh my God the dream feed! I forgot about the dream feed! WE HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING DIFFERENTLY JOEL! DON’T YOU SEE IT’S ALL WRONG?? This carried on until he couldn’t bear it anymore. He marched me to the kitchen, ordered me to take some rescue remedy and talked enough sense into me to reassure me that we were doing a great job. That Ella was happy (most of the time). That it was surely better to not be stressed about everything. That women have been doing this for thousands of years before baby books were invented. That I was a great mum. That I knew things about Ella that I’ve only learnt because I shut my head up long enough to just listen to her. And it was true. Of course it was true. Most things Joel says are true. Except that he was never taught English properly at school – that he was never shown proper grammar and abbreviation rules and what a pronoun was. That, I do NOT believe. Anyway, the point is, sometimes baby books work for people, other times they do not. If they do not, throw them away immediately. Or, forget them away immediately, if you’re anything like me. Then, just do what comes naturally. That I DEFINITELY wish I knew when I was pregnant.
5. That Everything Would Be Okay. Of all the things I worried about when I was pregnant, not one of them eventuated. The things I never even thought to worry about eventuated. The thing is, you’ll never know. You don’t know the baby that awaits you. You don’t know what this baby will do to you. Or the people close to you. But had someone told me to trust myself, to stop thinking, to roll with things, and to simply offer what I had, the quicker I would have come to realizing that we are always more capable than we think. And we are always enough just as we are. I now know that everything will be okay if we are okay. I think that’s just how things work out, in the end.
P.S. Anyone have anything else they’d like to add?