Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda*… Or Things I Wish I’d Known During My First Year as a Mum.

*Yes I am a Sex and the City fan (and not a fan of Beverley Knight, but respect to that song that reminds me of Year 8) for those of you noticing the title.

I’m not planning on having another child, but during a convo with my fella the other night whilst gobbling garlicky food and excellent wine (love you Spain) we got to thinking (another Sex and the City-ism there) about what we would do differently as parents if we ever have another. Never say never, but we are a typical one-and-done family and given that we have two dogs arriving this week I doubt our combined salaries would be able to take the strain. It is interesting in a kind of nostalgic, “blimey-look-how-far-we’ve-come” way to peruse how you would change the way you parented then and if you’d do anything differently.

I must admit that I have very blurred memories of the early stages, in fact, I used to get a bit cross with my Mum when I asked her to tell me about the newborn stage and she’d say that she couldn’t remember. Nowadays I’m right where she is now! However, what I do remember are all the things I learnt, and here I am writing them down for posterity, like delayed diary if you will. Here are a few tips, experiences and chunks of unsolicited advice for anyone who’s about to have a child, in the midst of the newborn stage and feeling a bit shit (that’s okay, by the way. You’re doing amazingly), or simply just passing through on their way to get to the craft stuff.

I wish I’d known…

That it’s pointless buying shoes for them before they start to walk. Apart from it being quite unhealthy for a baby’s feet to wear shoes, there really is no need (apart from aesthetic ones) for pre-walking children to wear them. We spent a huge amount of cash on cute trainers and flouncy little numbers for my barely-moving Alex when she was very small, only to find that she’d grown out of them in weeks, sometimes days. Save your cash until they’re toddling, then you can buy those incredible Adidas shell-toed trainers. Cuuuute!

That taking a while for yourself is what you should be doing, every single day. And no shame, please. Even the most balanced person can have their mental wellbeing shattered by giving birth and having a new human being to care for. It’s not lie that up to 85%(!) of new mothers experience mood disturbance during early parenthood, and 10% develop depression. During the early weeks and months it’s incredibly important to take time out to enjoy hobbies, take a long bath and do your nails, see mates, spend quality time with your other-half… Basically rediscover the things you did before you became known as Mummy or Daddy. For me it was crafting and some well-deserved meals out with my man. Whatever makes you happy, try and find time to do it. Getting a babysitter is absolutely fine, too.

That the paraphernalia you have to carry around won’t be forever. There are times during the early stages where you feel like you’re lugging around a small bedsit, fridge full of milk included, hanging off the pushchair. You wonder HOW you will EVER bloody well LEAVE without carrying ten nappies (and six just-in-case ones), twenty toys (why though?) and spare tops (for you and the baby) anytime soon. One thing you notice is that soon the amount you carry about will decrease, and I swear that by the age of three all you’ll need when you leave the house are a few bribery snacks and a plastic Triceratops.

That it’s okay to let your partner take the reigns once and a while. You and your other half will have different ways of doing things regarding the baby. You might like him or her to be dressed in a certain way, to play in a different way or just have differing ideas of what constitutes a ‘schedule’, but it’s empowering for your partner to take over once and a while, not to mention a break for you! If he or she does things in a way you think is strange or just not how you’d do it, let them do it and take a breath. I for one wish I’d let this happen and not been such of a control freak about silly little things.

That Googling every doubt only makes everything worse. Distinct memories here of sitting in the pitch black searching for ridic things online when I should have been sleeping. I had a gajillion doubts and every one of them was searched for online, analysed, scrutinised and left me with no answers other than suspecting that I was slowly turning into a maniac. You know how if you Google something innocent like “common cold” it tells you within five minutes that you’re about to die? Yeah. Same when you Google baby stuff. Step away from the laptop, and if you have genuine doubts book an appointment with a doctor,

That most parenting forums are a haven for nastiness, bullying and shaming. Have you heard of Mumsnet? Joke, even my neighbour’s cat has heard of Mumsnet. It may be tempting when you’re feeling isolated to start signing up to numerous parenting websites and trying to bond with strangers, but in my experience, every doubt you share is met with a wall of hostility and will probably make you feel like an even bigger ball of shit than you did before.

That this too shall pass. Ah yes, that overused phrase. It’s true though, and helped me not lose my shit a few times during the rough stages. All bad periods feel like they last forever, but you will get through them and you will be stronger afterwards

That the way you feed your child is irrelevant. All kids end up doing weird stuff in the end, backchatting, failing a subject or two, dating dodgy people… None of that has anything to do with how milk got into their bodies as a baby, despite what some people will tell you.

That what strangers think about your parenting style doesn’t matter. Haters gonna hate. Grannies in Tesco gonna tut. Father-in-law gonna make breastfeeding comment. Sod them all and do what you want and what is best for your family.

That accepting help is not a failure. If people offer to help – even if it’s something simple like taking the dog out, bringing you a cheeky Maccy Ds or washing up the mugs in the sink – TAKE THAT HELP! If people ask if there’s anything they can do, TELL THEM SOMETHING (or two ting) THEY CAN DO! You aren’t failing or lazy by accepting kind gestures and you should be taking advantage of people’s kindness right about then.

That you might lose some friends. A few friends (the childless ones normally) might find it hard to understand that having a new baby doesn’t exactly fit to well around those all-nighters that you used to pull. They might get annoyed that you are no longer your old Courtney Love self and can’t down Vodka until 3am like back in the day or go off for a boozy weekend to Barcelona on a whim. They may even find it impossible to understand how a cosy night in with your baby and a blanket might be more appealing than missioning up to London and skulking around Slimelight. They might get over it, they might not, but the truest friends are the ones who’ll accept you even with a vomited on tracksuit and leaking breasts. The ones who didn’t hang around have done you a favour, doll.

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