When you’re expecting a baby, and when you’ve just had one, everyone loves to give you advice.
You’re going to get advice from everywhere. And then you’re going to actively seek advice, too, because you want to be a successful parent. And some of that advice will be useless, and some of it will be annoying, and a lot of it will be unsolicited and worst of all, by the time you get close to the due date, at some point almost all of the advice you’ve received will have been contradicted by some other piece of advice – and this is especially true if you dare to seek advice on the internet.
So, obviously, I’m going to give you some advice.
Two bits, in fact, and Georgie and I agree that these were the two most helpful pieces of advice we’ve received throughout the whole year and a bit of expecting and having a baby.
The first is this:
It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
This was in reference to the birth, but to be honest it applies equally well in the weeks and months afterwards.
If it’s your first time get used to the idea that the birth is going to take a long time. For the vast majority of people it’s really nothing like the movies when the water breaks and the baby pops out in the back of the car on the way to hospital. You’ve no doubt heard of people who’ve spent days in labour and perhaps you’ve winced in sympathy but get your head round the fact that this is far from uncommon. If it takes a day and a night then you’ll be doing well. So don’t go off at a sprint, stay cool, keep calm and stick to your plan. Be ready for the long haul.
But this advice isn’t just metaphorical – it’s practical, too: just like a marathon you’ll need to train and prepare for the birth. Your childbirth is going to be better and easier for all of you if you’re fit and well rested. This goes for both you and your partner – so make sure you’re both keeping up the exercise. Make sure you’re all set on the big day and that you’ve got the stamina to keep going. You need to be strong enough to support your partner throughout – there’s no time for you to flag. Not only that, but you’re going to need energy in reserve, too, because in the days that follow anything and everthing that isn’t specifically connected to feeding that baby lands in your inbox. You’re going to be busy.
Like a marathon, you’re going to want to make sure you’re well hydrated and have appropriate nutrition, too. You’re not going to be able to pop out for dinner halfway through the process so make sure you’ve got some good snacks on hand. It’s easy to neglect yourself but you’re no good to anyone if you don’t keep your own energy levels topped up. It goes without saying that you’ve got by far the easier task on the day – but make no mistake, compared to anything else you ever do this is no walk in the park.
Here’s the second piece of advice that’s worth remembering once you’re a few weeks in – it’s something that we’ve adopted as a mantra:
Everything’s a phase
One morning, about three months in, we took a walk into town, the three of us. The Child was wrapped up snug in her buggy, still in that early sleepy phase and we thought we’d hit the town, do some shopping and reward ourselves with a coffee. It was just about the first time we felt normal as a family. We were beginning to figure out what life would look like.
It’s great taking your new baby out – everyone wants to coo and tell you how beautiful your new kid is and you just have to smile and say, “I know, right?”
Not so great manoeuvring your cumbersome pushchair into some narrow-aisled hipster coffee shop for a swift espresso but people are generally pretty kind and only scowl a bit when you drive into their shins. One guy, only a little older than us, plonked himself down at the next table, steaming mug of cappuccino in hand, and offered us a big grin.
“I’ve got three,” he said, taking a luxurious sip of his coffee. “First time away I’ve had in….” he looked at the ceiling and then shrugged, “…months.”
He then coo-ed over the child and told us she was beautiful and I smiled and said, “I know, right?” and just before he opened up his newspaper, looking like the most contented man on the planet, he said this: “Just remember: everything’s a phase. Everything’s. A. Phase. So try and enjoy it.”
You know what, that’s such good advice.
That’s the kind of advice you can cling to at 3 in the morning when The Child will not sleep. It’s the kind of advice that gives you zen calm when you’re wiping a poo explosion off the light switch panel some time before dawn. And it’s more than that – it’s the kind of advice that makes you stop and actually relish every one of those crazy desperate moments. It stops you from wishing it away and it stops you from going loopy when things get tough. And here’s the thing – it’s just as true for the good bits as well as the bad. Don’t get too smug if your kid is sleeping through the night or never crying or whatever – because as soon as you get used to anything, you’re going to find the goalposts have been moved.
Everything’s a phase. So try and enjoy it.
If you’ve got a better piece of advice than either of those, I’d love to hear it.