Our babies are fast approach the big ‘one’, which feels like such a milestone considering that in the past I have struggled to keep house plants alive for such a time! After the crazy, chaotic 12 months that has literally passed by in a flash, we reflect on some of the things we’ve learnt over the year as first-time parents.
Be warned - this is not a fun game and your baby will win. Gamble responsibly. During the first year, your baby will play a long game of sleep roulette with you. You think you have sleeping cracked and are edging closer to the elusive, long promised 7-7 sleep through. You start to feel confident and stay up a little after the headlines of the ten o clock news and then one night, you get cocky and stay up well past your bedtime. Guaranteed this is the night that your baby hits you with a multi wake up. Dark glasses and caffeine are the only way to survive such days!
During the first 6 months, “The Wonder Weeks” [book] became our go to guru for explaining the nuances of our baby’s behaviour. If he was anything other than a chipper chap then we would nod knowingly and state that he was probably going into a “stormy” phase. Or just coming out of a stormy phase. Or maybe he was midway through a stormy phase. And anyway, the stormy phases come every two weeks and the book says there can be a two week margin of error ...!
The New Lie In
You quickly learn that babies don’t do lie ins, and there is no snooze button. The 6am alarm of your baby shouting ‘Dadadada’ (why never Mama?) still sounds on a Sunday, and will certainly sound on a Bank Holiday, and most definitely when the clocks go back this weekend!
Attending a wedding with a baby is hard, really hard! At a friend’s wedding recently we were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves, having mastered getting ready with a little person attached to your leg, navigated around nap times and even managed to blend the patch of sick into the floral pattern of my dress as we waited for the bride to arrive. By the time of the wedding breakfast, we were overly smug as Henry charmed his way round the table with his cute waves and adorable smiles.
Our smug state was soon shattered as I realised with horror that Henry had done a through-outfit exploding poo. Trying to change his nappy (and outfit) discreetly in the middle of a wedding marquee made me realise that spanx were not designed for this! Cue a lot of gin, and making a mental note to pack more than a pair of slightly-on-the-small-side pjs as a spare outfit for my baby!
Whatever the mode of transport, the word ‘delay’ when travelling with a baby is as welcome as a dreaded “nappyless poo” situation. We’ve found ourselves singing countless rounds of ‘Wheels On The Bus’, ‘Old MacDonald’ and the annoying, but classic, ‘Wind the Bobbin Up’ as we wait in motorway traffic or sat on delayed planes.
Our advice - be prepared with the ultimate winner, the new toy, or a bag of Wotsit-like carrot puffs if necessary. Oh, and a bag of Haribo certainly lifts the mood of the adults … at least for a short time!
Plastic will fill your house
No matter your pre baby vow to only buy beautifully crafted wooden toys, plastic will fill your house. Be it the jumparoo, the plastic train, the ball pit … babies love it and especially the toys with the weird songs, which you will find yourself singing later, no matter how annoying you find it at the time.
At the first sign of a baby bump, parents love to warn you about the lack of sleep a new baby brings: “Oh just you wait, then you’ll know what tired is”. I was prepared for the first few weeks and possibly months. But ten months in and with a teething baby to contend with, an 8 hour stint of uninterrupted sleep sounds like bliss! Be warned that lack of sleep does make you slightly mad; you will feel actual resentment toward the phone-in on This Morning about people struggling to sleep … and heaven help your husband if ever he mentions struggling to drop off or comes home from work and mentions offhand feeling “tired”!
My husband says the best bit of advice he got before becoming a Dad was: “If it’s good - it’ll change. If it’s bad - it’ll change”. No matter what you try to do as a parent (classes, books, techniques etc.). So if nothing seems to work, just give it a few weeks. There’s a good chance it’ll change.
Don't feel like you have to 'enjoy every minute'
During the first few weeks of being a parent, it felt as if everyone’s advice was to “enjoy every minute”, or to “cherish every moment”. In reality, some bits of being a parent are really hard. Our advice: enjoy the good bits, of which there are many and remember that every parent has those tear filled, exploding pooh, no-time-to-shower, rubbish days! But you will look back on them and smile, I promise.
It really does 'go so quickly'
Remember how your wedding day passed by in a flash? Well imagine this on a high-speed dubbing setting and you are somewhere close to just how quickly the first year as a parent goes. It feels like just yesterday that our babies were tiny bundles, nestled into us like little koalas … and here they are, almost a year later, with Flo chattering away and Henry the fastest crawler in the Cotswolds!
As they take their first tentative steps into the big wide world, (or at least to nursery) we look at the amazing and fascinating little people they are becoming, and cannot wait for what the next year brings … although hopefully accompanied by a little more sleep!