Yes, the books are very helpful (also, a little bit frightening), but nothing can fully prepare you for those first few months with a newborn.
Take everything you think you know and turn it upside down. That’s your new life as a mum. Here’s a few things you can only properly understand after baby comes home…
Leaving the house is suddenly a military operation
Remember those days when you’d be up and at ‘em in five minutes flat, carefree and happy as a lark? GONE. Now you’re looking at a two-hour prep time, minimum. Get baby ready, pack changing bag, look for extra nappies, clean up baby after baby throws up, get baby ready again, look for wet wipes, look for phone, drag comb through your hair, clean up baby after baby needs a nappy change…oh, let’s just stay home today.
You will become a West End star
Singing is every new mum’s favourite thing, even if she can’t carry a tune in a bucket. You’ll find yourself spontaneously singing to baby in the bath, at bedtime, naptime, mealtime, any time there’s tears. Because if a few lines from a bad Westlife song get you a blissful smile and a gurgle, you’ll gladly step up to the mic.
Housework is a distant memory
A place for everything and everything in its place… which is usually on the floor. You’re going to need help, and lots of it. If budget allows, get a cleaner and ironing service, and if it doesn’t, enlist family and friends because when baby arrives it’s like your house is a snow globe that just got a good shake.
You have to be a grown-up now
There’s nothing like childbirth for making you feel like a fully-fledged adult. And that means sorting out sensible stuff such as wills and life insurance. Squaring all that away means you’ll stop torturing yourself with those irrational ‘what will happen to baby if I fall down a well…?’ questions.
Every single item of clothing in the house will be covered in sick
Even the ones in your wardrobe that you haven’t worn for two years. It’s one of the great unsolved mysteries of motherhood: how did THAT stain get THERE? Babies are stealth weapons when it comes to vomit. Luckily, you’ll be happy to wear your sticky, icky patches like a badge of honour.
Hangovers are 100% worse
Two small glasses of wine to relax after the little darling went to bed, that’s all it was. And now a brass band is playing in your head and you’re in desperate need of a fry-up, two paracetamol, total silence and a very long lie-down. Good luck with that.
You’ll make friends wherever you go
Becoming a parent is like getting a VIP pass to every cool club in town… as long as it’s the park or Tumble Tots. One of the best side-effects of motherhood is that it’s easy to make new mama friends when you can bond over leaky nipples, teething troubles and sleep training.
Babies come with more kit than the International Space Station
Suddenly, your house seems half the size it used to be. Buggies in the hallway. Baby bouncer in the doorway. Travel cot and car seat. Moses basket and changing mat. Toys everywhere. Blankets and onesies as far as the eye can see. Solution? Bigger house, please.
Your idea of me-time is three minutes alone in the loo
Oh, the days of spa visits and salon appointments, long lunches with the girls and candlelit baths with the latest Marian Keyes. When you’re a new parent, what you laughably call me-time shrinks to tiny treats and blissful rewards, like shovelling chocolate digestives in your mouth while standing up in the kitchen so as not to disturb naptime.
You’ll see family in a whole new light
Get ready for the dynamics to change when your mum becomes a grandma because you’ll suddenly understand all the sacrifice and hard work she put into your childhood. And that’s nice (plus a little bit of a shock). Seeing your family fall in love with your baby is one of the biggest joys of being a new mum.
Worrying will become your new hobby
You’ll start checking the nutritional value of every food in the supermarket. You’ll be ‘safety first’ about everything. You’ll want to look after your health so you’ll be around for as long as possible for your family. You’ll even get serious about savings (after all, baby’s going off to university one day, right?)
Everyone – and we mean everyone – will buy cute clothes for your bub
Which is great, because babies grow like weeds, but also not great because sometimes those clothes will be hideous and you’ll have to grin and say thank-you and dress baby in that outfit every time they come to visit. And tiny stretch jeans and Barbie-pink corduroy baseball caps aren’t a good look on any baby. Not even one as adorable as yours. Sorry.
You will never watch the news again
Forget leisurely flicking through the Sunday papers and catching up with the important events of the day on News at Ten (for a start, that’s two hours after your bedtime). For the first few months of parenthood, you’re living in World of Baby and that means a news blackout. The best you can hope for is a lightning-fast check of Twitter and scanning year-old mags at the GP surgery. Oh well.
You have to let go of ‘perfection’
Spending £900 on a fancy pram won’t make baby grow up to win the Nobel Prize. Leaving him to cry himself to sleep occasionally probably won’t turn him into a scary loner. And wearing unironed babygros won’t lead to years of expensive therapy. You’re doing the very best you can. Everything’s fine. A few shortcuts won’t hurt. Enjoy the ride, because this precious time will be gone in a flash.