7 Reasons to Ignore What People Tell You About Babies*
Either I’m missing something or our six day old baby is defective. I was brought up to believe that parenthood was a living hell and that newborn babies were the worst things in all of existence. But, so far, and I hope I’m not tempting fate here, it isn’t and he isn’t. Doubtless there’ll be times when he’s poorly – or we are – and the going is really tough, but the babygeddon that I was led to believe I should expect as a new father has yet to materialise. I’m beginning to suspect that people have been lying to us.
1. “It’s hard, it’s really hard. It’s awful. You won’t sleep for the first three years and then when you do, he’ll wake you up within five minutes just to spite you.” Blimey. Okay, so we need to feed and change him regularly day and night, but we seem to be getting loads of sleep. I actually feel guilty. I’ve begun stretching and pretending to yawn to make other parents feel better. “Oh, it’s absolute hell” I tell them in agreement, while wondering what all the fuss is about. Will it be possible for my wife and I to survive on only eight hours sleep per day each? Only time will tell.
2. “He’ll scream for hours for no reason.” No, there is a reason. In the case of the changing-table-screaming, it’s because he doesn’t want two giants tearing all his warm, protective layers off and attacking his bits with cotton wool every time he smells funny. I wouldn’t like it either. Nor would you. Fortunately we have worked out that we can distract him with the Poo Donkey; which is the donkey that comes and takes away the baby poo. (Not related to the father that takes the piss). Thank you, Poo Donkey, if it weren’t for you, the baby would still be screaming every changing time. Babies do scream for a reason. It just takes a bit of working out what it is.
3. “You’ll never be able to go anywhere ever again.” Yes we can, and we have; every day. We’ve mostly been to Boots, Mothercare and the doctor’s surgery and we have to take a bit more stuff and it takes us a little longer to get ready, but we’ve been perfectly mobile. Okay, we get a few minutes of pushchair screaming which we don’t have a donkey to sort for us yet, but, with a bit of determination and preparation, a tiny child seems to be no obstacle to doing anything. I sense that only our own inertia would be.
4. “Boys will wee absolutely everywhere, on everything.” Yes, and babies are the same. Fortunately though, fast-hands can protect you from this. Yes, my nephew (also a baby) has managed to wee in my sister’s mouth and eye on more than one occasion, but this – I am sure – can be attributed to her having the spatial awareness and lightning reactions of a morphine-addled sloth listening to a tuba (throughout my sister’s childhood, the cry of “catch” was almost always followed by a sharp and unexpected blow to her forehead). For those of us with superhuman awareness and reactions (or even with human awareness and reactions) it is not difficult to place a hand between the source of the wee and the thing you want to protect from it. Sadly, my wife’s coat (on the back of a door several feet away) was sacrificed in the learning of this. But so far, we have not drowned in wee.
5. “There’s poo everywhere and you’ll spend your entire life cleaning it up.” No there isn’t, it’s conveniently contained within nappies, which – at this early stage – are not unpleasant to change (even for someone as squeamish as myself). Let’s say he does six poos per day and it takes five minutes each time to clean and change him. That’s only half an hour per day. The BBC have just axed My Family, so there’s half an hour. Now all we need is for them to axe EastEnders and Holby City and that’s a week we can spend dealing with shit, rather than watching it. Or we can just turn it off (the television, not the poo). Half an hour is not difficult to find. Half an hour is not all day, and half an hour every day is not an entire lifetime. For some people it’s not even an entire lunchtime.
6. “Newborn babies are really cute and their tiny little hands and feet are gorgeous. Awww. Sssswwwweeeeeettttt ickle babies. Do do do do do do do”. No they’re not. Our child has feet almost as large as his mother’s and fingers so long that he could probably play the piano if he could reach it. Or if we had a piano. Our son also has a hairier arse than most builders. Not all babies have tiny hands and feet.
7. “The baby will take over your life.” Yes – okay I have to concede that there may be a point there – and 7 Reasons apparently**. Expect us to have wrested some of it back from his evil clutches by next week though. Jon and I can take a baby in a fight. We’re not scared. Bring it on, you big baby!
*Don’t listen to me either, I expect that everyone’s experiences of parenthood are just different and we shouldn’t imagine that what we have undergone will be universally the same for others.
**We will be putting the baby away soon and normal service – rambling on about biscuits and France – will resume shortly.