All that annoying stuff that well-meaning people spout at you throughout the early weeks (months… years…)? Lyndsey Gilmour’s learned the hard way that a lot of it is actually true…
For me, it was the advice offered in those early, sleep-deprived weeks usually around the Moses basket, and usually by the kind of folk who insisted on checking in with me (day in, day out) to see if I’d “had the baby yet?” that I liked to dismiss the most. It wasn’t real advice anyway, more the same old lines everyone hears on repeat. The problem is clichés are popular for a reason, and that reason is because they resonate. So, as loathe as I am to admit it, here are the seven big clangers that defined the first six months of my becoming a mum.
1. They said: “You’ll never finish another hot cup of tea.”
They were right! Throughout those early days there’d be half-filled mugs of manky grey liquid dotted around the house (surfaces getting higher as motor-skills improved). I’d lose count of the kettles that boiled and cooled seeing little more action than the flick of a switch. In all honesty I’m yet to drain a hot cup while on Mum Duty; my daughter’s just turned five and this habit is dying hard. I’ve pretty much written it off until she’s old enough to put the kettle on and brew me a cup herself. Filing this cliche in the same category as ‘you’ll never get to wee again in private’ there are some things you just end up getting used to.
2. They said: “Calm mummy, calm baby.”
They were right! Although you can imagine how helpful this little nugget might be when you’d been up three times a night, dealt with two ectoplasmic nappies before lunch (she needed a full outfit change, you *should* have had an outfit change) and for the love of god, you just couldn’t finish a cup of tea. Those peaking cortisol levels make it very hard to put this saying into practise. But when you learn not to sweat the small stuff (i.e start lowering your standards along with your expectations) it’s amazing how much easier everything seems and how much happier everyone becomes.
3. They said: “You’ll never sleep the same again.”
They were right! You might have been known to pull the odd all-nighter in your early twenties, rolling into your desk after less than forty of the proverbial. And you might still have put in a good shift. What you don’t realise is that this in no way prepares you for the amount of kip you’ll have to survive on seven days a week with a newborn. For me though, it wasn’t the lack of sleep that did me in (I can survive on four or five hours at the behest of insomnia even now). No, it was being woken up. Being disturbed from the deepest of sleeps — so deep you don’t know who or where you are: that finished me off. And don’t get me started on napping “when the baby does”.
4. They said: “Trust your instincts”
They were right! On a serious note, I really wish I’d listened to my inner voice more. I turned to sleep training after three months, thinking a bit of routine would help us all. The promise is that if you stick at the controlled crying long enough, it will work. Only, for us, it didn’t – and I’ve since realised it was no battle of wills. Once my daughter was able to communicate, we learned she suffered from growing pains in the night (we call it ‘ouchy leg’) and going by the patterns that it comes and goes in (quite regularly, even now) we can pretty much determine that she suffered from it as a teeny tiny. Barely a day goes by without feeling guilt of it all because there’s a strong chance we let her cry when she was in pain. How I wish I’d trusted my instincts. Anyway speaking of Mum Guilt…
5. They said: “Mum Guilt will eat at your soul like nothing else.”
They were right! Once you have a child your conscience will forever trick you into believing you’re a terrible person. All your choices will seem bad and everything, from who you leave them with to an undiagnosed chicken pock will make you feel like the lowest, scumbag human being possible. Where our kids are concerned I swear we have a chip programmed to make us feel like we’re constantly failing, but, to throw in a last cliche to round it off, it’s only cos we want what’s best for them. And it’s only cos we care.
6. They said: “Your baby will dress better than you.”
They were right! When the last thing you can remember buying in Zara came in size 6-12 months; and the only new top you’ve bought yourself in living memory was purchased alongside some frozen peas and a bottle of Mr Muscle you know you’re no longer channelling ‘what Kate would do’. Quickly realising if it wasn’t stain-proof, comfortable or pocket-dense, it wasn’t coming out of the wardrobe, my double standards became exposed because no such limitations were put on the kid. If she wanted to soil a perfectly good pair of Stan Smiths after two outings: fine. There’d be a perfectly pristine set of Converse waiting in the wings.
7. They said: “You won’t mind the smell of your own kid’s nappy.”
They were right! There might be the odd one that has you gagging once you’ve moved to solids, but the milky poo of your newborn baby will not turn your stomach. Be warned though: other kids’ poo will. And they’re obviously the ones responsible for stinking out the communal changing rooms.