Sunday, 4 October 2015

The fourth trimester: seven things I wish I'd known

We've nearly made it! In two weeks' time darling daughter will be sailing out of the fourth trimester and reaching that all-important three month milestone.  While I'm not doolally enough to think this spells an end to a lot of challenges, and won't herald in a host of new ones, I can at least content myself in the fact that by this point, we've both got our heads round mother and babyhood a little, my tiny tot is finally wearing newborn size and her mummy has worked out how to fit the carseat without having an aneurysm in the process.  While nothing can prepare you for parenthood, there are certainly a few things I'll remind myself of if I decide to embark on this escapade a second time around:

1. Babies are sneaky
Your little one might seem helpless and adorable, but that innocent exterior is harbouring a machiavellian mastermind.  A deeply sleeping beauty will mutate into a squawking gremlin the moment you decide to take a moment out for yourself, whether you're sitting down to eat, answering the phone, dashing to the loo or trying to have a conversation with your other half that doesn't revolve around nappy contents and cradle cap.  Or, having the health visitor round to weigh the baby? What better time to unleash a triple whammy of projectile poo, pee and puke the moment the nappy comes off.

2.  Health professionals are (mostly) not there to judge you
It's easy to get anxious when incident above happens, or when you find that your baby is the only snarling beetroot in a postnatal group full of pink, pillowy angels, but doctors, nurses and health visitors have been round the block and know the drill with babies and frazzled first-time parents.  Feeding is the only area which might play out a little differently, but there's a whole blog of its own in there.

3. Mealtimes will never be the same again
How I laugh ruefully now at my optimistically alphabeticised spice shelf, arranged a mere month before the baby made an appearance.  For the first few weeks, we lived off ready meals and takeaways when we remembered to eat, and it's only now that I've graduated on to making the odd simple meal in a week of bangers, burgers and stirfries.  Meals are now erratic, frantic and usually bolted down one-handed while trying not to spill sauce or noodles on a tetchy newborn.  And you will probably never feel the same way about korma sauce again.

4. The most mundane of moments are your new vicarious thrills
Usually food-related, including: savouring a biscuit while the bottle warms up at the 3am feed, slathering indecent amounts of butter on cold toast, getting to drink half your coffee while it's still lukewarm, trawling through Buzzfeed in the early hours as you hold your baby upright for that all-important half hour after a feed.

5. That sleeping like a baby... lies
Newborns spend the night grunting, straining, snoring, squeaking, coughing and farting, and you will spend at least the first few weeks sitting bolt upright in bed in terror for every noise you hear.  The times when they are silent and appear to be barely breathing are even more terrifying, to the point where you get no sleep even when the baby is allowing you to.

6. The 'baby in bed' dream is the worst
Many other parents have shared the horror of a vivid dream that your newborn is in bed with you, only to wake up disorientated and scared to find that they are sleeping happily in their basket (probably grunting, farting, etc).  I can take this up one level, and found myself trying to burp a daughter-sized teddy bear while semi-conscious in the early hours.

7. The first smile is worth the wait
After weeks spent fretting that darling daughter hadn't raised a smile yet ('maybe she knows how to but we just aren't making her happy?'), my husband and I both succeeded on consecutive days, me from playing a silly game and him from stuffing his face with food (clearly we have an intellectual heavyweight in the making).  Like so many other things, babies' sense of humour is mysterious and peculiar, though; both of us were pipped to the post in getting a grin by the base of the armchair next to her changing mat, which she seems to find comedy gold to this day.