So you’ve had a baby. Congratulations and welcome to your new psychedelic sleep-deprived hazy world where even the simplest tasks have become mind-bendingly impossible; you can’t remember how to get dressed properly and making a cup of tea makes you want to cry. Do come on in…
Just to let you know, for the most part, you won’t have a clue what you’re doing. If you’re like me, you will simply rely on an assortment of books to tell you absolutely everything you need to know, and then frequently panic when you realise you’ve accidently gone off-piste and done something none of them mention.
This is certainly how I found the first three months of life with a newborn, and I became completely and utterly obsessed with the following aspects of caring for a new person:
1. Room temperature – exacerbated by the presence of a glowing egg-shaped thermometer. The constant dilemma this presents is when the room temperature feels ok but the book and egg suggest otherwise. Revert to Operation Room Temperature:
• Throw open all windows and strip baby down to vest as cannot risk baby overheating, but hang on – now egg is suggesting room is too cold…
• Crank up heating, close all doors, add extra bedding layers.
• Buy another thermometer (not coloured) in case egg is actually incorrect and monitor both readings simultaneously. Debate introducing a third device to double check accuracy of previous two.
• Spend hours adjusting thermostat and radiators to obtain the perfect temperature (NB this is actually impossible; an endless quest trying to find the Shangri-la of room temperatures).
• Get up three times a night (outside of feed times) to check on both temperature readings.
• Repeat every night for at least three months.
2. Blanket madness. The book suggests baby should have one more blanket than its parents. But how does the book know how many blankets we have? What if we are actually akin to cold-blooded lizards who need more than the average number of blankets? And, hang on, we don’t even have blankets! How many blankets does a duvet equate to? What happens if we fold the blanket over, does this count as two? How thick must the blankets be? What the hell is a tog rating??
3. Sterilisation. Warning: whether bottle or breast feeding, the obsession with sterilising can take over your life. Resistance is futile. If you suffer from sterilising obsession you will know that all bottles must be meticulously sterilised along with dummies, and once weaning so too all spoons, bowls and plates. Code Red situations may occur when someone (other than you) inadvertently opens the steriliser and leaves it open, thus rendering all contents unsterile, meaning the process will have to begin again. It is inconsequential that your child, once crawling, will consume more dirt and germs in an hour than you can in a lifetime – the sterilising process MUST continue at all costs. And it’s hard to let go of this one, I have a friend who is still sterilising her two year old’s things despite his penchant for eating sand, mud and most other things he can get his hands on.
4. Boob amnesia. If, like me, you’ve read stories of women “overusing” one boob resulting in a pair of breasts resembling the comedy duo Little and Large, I’m sure you understand the need to balance boob feeding and stick to it. I discovered there are numerous systems available: ribbons on bra straps, badges, detailed feeding logs and apps. All of which, however, you will also forget to use correctly as this is just as complicated as trying to remember which boob you used last. I did debate writing on my boob with a felt tip pen at one stage, but couldn’t find one (pen, not boob).
5. Weight – not my own, for once. I think I may have become addicted to visiting the weighing clinic, analysing the results in the ‘red book’ and correlating weight with feeding volumes, frequency and timings in the manner of a GSCE maths conundrum. One baby was high on the ‘Centile’ chart (has anyone else ever come across this word pre-children?) in the 95th to be precise (Too big? Too much food? Am I cultivating a giant baby? What happens after the 100th? Do they deflate her?) whilst second was below “average” (Not getting enough? Will he suffer from tiny man syndrome? Will I end up with two children resembling the above boob scenario?) As she ushered me out of the door, the health visitor very kindly, but firmly, told me that I didn’t need to come every week and that the babies were absolutely fine.
So now that I’ve firmly left Newbornsville and waved goodbye to the steriliser and the weighing clinic, what have I learnt? Well, despite the fact the egg is still plugged into my two year old’s wall, I don’t pay the slightest bit of attention to it. If it’s hot I will probably open the window for a bit. Imagine that?
At some stage I must have started remembering which boob to use as they look ok, although I did once spend an entire morning wandering around Bentalls, Kingston, with one on display having forgotten to adjust my feeding top properly.
I say do what you need to do to get by, go with your gut feeling and not books. And does anyone really understand the blanket rule anyway?