Before children, I was always THAT person who secretly used to look at my friend’s kids and make a mental note as to how I would do things differently. My family would be like the Calvin Klein adverts from the 90s. I would be that mother trekking through Tibet with my newborn neatly attached by an Indian print scarf. My daughter, dressed in floral pinafore dresses, would sit next to me drawing as I lunched out with friends each week.
So now my time has come, it turns out I’m not that mother. Here are some of the things I didn’t know before my world turned upside down:
1. That labour doesn’t always take place in a birthing pool, with whale music and the smell of aromatherapy oil wafting gently through the air.
2. That post-birth euphoria doesn’t always involve lying in your bed, with a cup of tea and toast (as One Born Every Minute cruelly suggests) cooing over your newborn as your partner looks lovingly at you, your hair beautifully splayed across your pillow, having just achieved one of life’s miracles. Sometimes it involves throwing up in a paper bowl on an operating table.
3. That breast feeding is really fricking hard. Who knew it wasn’t as simple as suctioning your baba onto your (now enormous) boob like simply attaching that small hoover attachment you use for cleaning the car?
4. That some people can’t actually breastfeed, even if the scary breast police tell you this isn’t true.
5. That you might cry a lot in the early days. About everything. For example, someone bringing you flowers and not being able to find a vase.
6. That you DON’T KNOW what being tired really is. And now you have to bite your tongue (with rage inside you) when all your single friends tell you how “shattered” they are from a succession of boozy nights out.
7. That you will never go to the toilet alone again. Even if you do, it will resemble that scene from The Shining. The door’s shut, but they are on the outside desperately scrabbling to get in.
8. That you won’t become an earth mother like Gwyneth Paltrow. You won’t feed your kids an organic macrobiotic diet, and you won’t take your newborn (modelling pink baby headphones) to a festival to watch your rock star husband. Not only because you’re not that cool, and you never went to festivals pre-kids, but also because your husband isn’t a rock star and works in food retail.
9. That leaving the house should win you first prize on The Crystal Maze. Even if you do manage to get all coats and shoes on, try dodging that last minute explosive poo.
10. That your social life will crash and burn.
11. That your sex life will follow your social life.
12. Ditto for your dress sense. You will think nothing of rubbing poo leakage into your jeans with a baby wipe, rather than changing them, in order to just get out of the house.
13. That you and your partner will compete for the ‘most tired’ prize and find yourself secretly calculating on a daily basis how much the other one has slept.
14. That you will discuss / show parts of your anatomy freely with complete strangers. When a room of around approximately 8 men and women have stood around all staring intently at your lady garden, you no longer hobble about, hunched over, covered in a towel to get your undercrackers on in the swimming pool changing room.
15. That going on holiday will transform from being a pleasurable pursuit to a living nightmare. Yes, you may have once trotted off to Mexico with hand luggage containing two bikinis, a skirt and some flipflops. But now you’ll need a new car, roof box and five suitcases just for a mid-week break at Centre Parcs.
16. That your house will be filled with plastic cr*p, even though in your pre-children years you smugly looked at your friends and decided you would only ever purchase wooden toys for your future sproglets.
17. That you will dress your daughter in tacky branded clothing and not Laura Ashley. The Cath Kidston floral babygrows will quickly be replaced, post age 3, with everything Disney has ever made.
18. That walking around Tescos on your own will become a relaxing, and much anticipated pastime. Once upon a time, you may have drunk cocktails in Soho every Friday night, but now 15 mins spent staring blankly at the toiletries section will give you the same whiff of freedom and excitement.
19. That children’s shoes cost more than yours. Unless you buy them from a supermarket, and not Clarkes, and then face months of guilt that you are a neglectful parent.
20. That your life will never, ever, be the same again.
But then again, would you want it to be?
originally published – Nov 6, 2016