1. You’ll never sleep the same way again. You learn very very quickly to function on far less, for starters. Some days I’m stumbling around on a measley 3 hours and it SUCKS SO MUCH. I feel sick sometimes from lack of sleep. But also, the quality of your sleep changes; you always have one eye/ear out for your little person. I’ve lost count of the amount of times that I’ve woken up panicked, to check that Charlie is still breathing in his cot next to our bed. This morning I rolled over for a sleepy check on him at 6am and he had pulled the wrap over his face; I nearly had a heart attack. I have NO idea how we’ll ever be able to put him into his own room. I’ll have to strap a baby monitor to my eyeball, or something.
2. There are nappies and there are NAPPIES. And you’d do yourself a massive favour to work out which ones are best. Those with a colour-change strip down the front which lets you know when to change them are the business. Mr Chick just bought a box without the strip and it’s going to be a loooong 108 nappy changes without that little heads up. (Bubbas hate it when you manouvre them so you can peek/sniff their nappy – well, mine does anyway.) Also, go bigger. Some nappies which will supposedly fit your newborn son, for instance, will actually squash his tackle into oblivion. I speak from experience.
3. You LIVE for your baby’s smile. Caring for a bubba can be a thankless, relentless, Groundhog Day type of scenario. It’s fine, I signed up for it and I’m very lucky I don’t have to work for a few months and can just focus on him, but even so its a helluva grind at times. So when that little rugrat breaks out his big, gummy, gorgeous grin, I pretty much would lie at his feet and do anything he asked.
4. Going outside, at first, is nerve-wracking. You want to look like you’ve got this baby thing sussed when of course you don’t have a blinking clue. My dad coached me through 10 or 15 trial runs of collapsing/assembling the pram we were kindly given by a friend of a friend. It’s a Bugaboo Frog which is a cool little baby mover, but it does require a bit of practice and there was no way I was going to look like a gumby attempting to assemble it in public. Now, I can sort of assemble it, but driving it is another matter. I spend half my time apologising to Charlie because I’ve rammed it into another fence post or wall. I never knew a newborn could look so exasperated. (Sorry bubba.)
5. You’re suddenly a member of a far-reaching parenthood club. I still remember one of my friends telling me this years ago after she became a mama for the first time; that other parents go out of their way to help you in malls, airports, supermarkets etc – and she was right. I’ve noticed just how many people open doors for us, smile at me, offer to help in ways I don’t remember so much when I didn’t have Charlie Bear about my person. Once when driving out of a supermarket parking lot with Charlie, the back door of our car suddenly swung open and a guy walking by jumped over to close it for us, saying he knew what it was like having a new baby. We’ve had parking inspectors who spot Charlie and tell us that’s okay, we don’t need to buy a ticket (I kid you not). And every time I venture out with this little dude someone stops me to ask his name, make funny faces at him or tell me he’s cute. Between me and members of the public cooing over his cuteness I swear the kid must have an ego the size of his head.
6. The tests and jabs will break your heart. Anyone who read Up The Duff will know I am no stranger to needles. I loathe them, and was a reluctant pin-cushion during IVF (when you need loads and loads of blood tests). But watching your bubba having his heel pricked so the midwife can squeeze blood from it for a test, or watching your GP and a nurse giving him simultaneous needles in his thighs for his first immunisations, will rip your heart out. Expect to cry the same or possibly more than the baby does. Ditto the murderous thoughts you may have towards whoever is causing pain to your child. That said, despite the awfulness of watching your tiny bubba go through this stuff, I’d never not do the tests / immunisations. Anti-vaxers just baffle me. It’s so selfish and stupid NOT to vaccinate your kids, but don’t get me started.
7. You can accomplish amazing things in ten minutes. I used to procrastinate a bit. (Okay, a lot.) But with a bubba around, there’s none of that – or literally NOTHING gets done. You get so used to starting things: dinner, washing, showering, painting your toenails etc – only to have the little person throw an almighty spanner in the works (like having a hissy fit, needing a nappy change etc). So in ten minutes, I am basically Wonder Woman. I can shower, start dinner, do a nappy change and put a load of washing on, no sweat. Probably because it might be the only ten minutes I have that day to do anything whatsoever.
8. One day, it just ‘clicks’. I have no idea when it did, probably last week sometime. But suddenly, I just got it. Charlie was easier to soothe. I know how to make him stop crying. I can change a pooey nappy in two seconds flat and coax a smile out of him without even trying. I know when he’ll be most grumpy and when he’ll be happy and I arrange visits accordingly. I get what he’s crying about (most of the time) and I know how to put him to sleep and generally when he should (and will) go down for a nap. I know he usually does two big yowls before dropping off – and while early on I despaired it heralded the start of another crying jag, I now know those yowls are a protest cry that says, ‘Noooo! I will not go to sleep, I will NOT!’ and then, like clockwork, he is suddenly asleep. I know if he’s relaxed he’ll often put himself to sleep, after a little grizzle. It’s like suddenly I’ve found the Charlie map or a manual of sorts, whereas before I was almost scared of him and felt like I had no idea what I was doing at all. It’s a great feeling knowing you’re starting to get it (even though I’m fully aware it’ll all probably change tomorrow).
9. The days are long, but the years are short. I first read this saying in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and it’s actually very true. While my days with Charlie do stretch out sometimes, I have no idea where the last six weeks went. Seriously… that’s 42 sleepless nights, 420-odd nappy changes, 504-odd feeding sessions and probably thousands of settling, cuddling and playing sessions. And it’s just one big almighty blur. I almost feel like it was only last week we were bringing him home from the hospital. He’s already grown nearly 10cm and put on over 1 kg in weight, and I just marvel at the fact that not so long ago, this chunky monkey was in my tummy. They change so fast, and so quick.
What did you learn from becoming a parent? Any universal truths I’ve left out?