Before our first child is born, most of us are bombarded with stories and “advice” from family and friends. Maybe we will read a book or two – I had one called something like “The Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide.” You may, after taking all of this in, consider yourself prepared for parenthood. Well, you’re not. You can’t be. No one can. Ever.
With that comforting thought in mind, here are just five of the things that come as a massive shock. Either no one bothers to tell you about them, or no one can sufficiently explain because you just have to experience them yourself to understand – like most of being a parent, really.
1) The birth.
I thought I had experienced the greatest feelings in the world. Seeing many of my all-time favourite bands perform. Performing on stage in a band myself and watching people (admittedly in quite small numbers) genuinely loving the music that we are creating. The wedding day.
In all honesty, I’m not too big on ‘feelings.’ Something to do with the Lancashire DNA I imagine. Before the birth I had wondered a little about how I would react. Was I even capable of feeling the way parents are “supposed to” upon the birth of a child? Will I cry? Should I cry?
Turns out there was a fairly automatic reaction which I’m not sure anyone can avoid or suppress…pure, unrivalled joy. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced it. Care to attempt to describe it? No, me neither.
2) The first nappy.
Straight from the seventh circle of hell. Seriously, WTF? How does the source of the aforementioned unrivalled joy produce such an unholy specimen? I changed it. I freaked out a little. Got over it eventually. There was actually a simulation of this in one of the antenatal classes, but it’s not the real thing is it?
And I still can never remember what it’s called. Sounds like macadamia nuts…
3) The first couple of days.
Man, talk about false sense of security. They sure do sleep a lot don’t they? This is pretty easy. Apart from the tiredness, but we’ll get back to that. Feed, change, sleep, repeat. You know what comes next…the sleep gradually decreases. You try to rebuild something approximating your normal life, and mostly fail. And the tiredness REALLY hits you…
4) The tiredness.
OK so maybe people do try to tell you about this, but it just can’t be put into words. I went back to work five weeks after the birth, still somewhere between robot and zombie, doing my job on some form of autopilot. Not easy for a teacher. Soon after that, I had an appraisal meeting with my head of department and he asked me what I thought my targets for that year should be. I told him that right at that moment my main target was to come to work without vomit on my shirt. I’m proud to say that so far, three and a half years later, I’ve consistently achieved that target.
5) The STUFF.
Choose life. Choose a baby. Choose cot beds, cot bumpers, Moses baskets and travel cots. Choose a pram with a titanium chassis and a carrycot / Isofix car seat. Choose changing bags, changing mats, and changing your baby in a shopping centre toilet that looks like the one in Trainspotting. Choose more nappies, wipes and muslin cloths than you ever knew existed. Choose filling your home with chunks of brightly-coloured plastic because you’ve been led to believe that they’re essential for your baby’s development. Choose cupboard locks, fire guards and six baby gates, most of which can be rendered unnecessary by simply watching your child. Choose plastic cups, bowls, plates and cutlery, which may not break but will never stop the Bolognese finding its way onto the carpet. Choose babygrows adorned with amusing puns that will be worn twice and then be either too small or ruined by a leaking nappy. Choose parenting. Choose baby stuff. Choose your future. Choose life.
(If you didn’t read that in Ewan McGregor’s voice, there is something wrong with you.)