If there’s one thing that no pregnancy guide or baby book can prepare you for it’s the shellshock you feel in those first few weeks of bringing your new baby home.
You have read the books, you’ve seen the magazines, you’ve spent most of your pregnancy surfing the internet for adages of advice on how to create the perfect nursery or what mummies keep in their baby changing bags, you’ve listened to the advice of scores of friends; you’ve even conquered childbirth.
Then you step out of the hospital and get in the car. You are alone (or with your partner) without the experts. Suddenly you are responsible; totally responsible for this tiny little creature you have created.
I remember with my first, an overwhelming worry that she would start crying and I wouldn’t be able to stop her. I mean sure I knew exactly what to do with a classroom full of unruly teenagers, and the teacher in me had read just about every baby manual known to man. But as my mum is all too fond of saying ‘Babies can’t read books’. Did I really know what I was doing?
In reality looking back, I didn’t have a clue. I had envisioned a maternity leave full of endless time, a spotlessly tidy house and beautifully prepared nutritious meals. I hadn’t followed the advice of friends who had warned me to fill the freezer with pre-made meals. After all, I spent all day looking after thirty children – how hard could one really be?
No-one had warned me that she would only want to sleep on me, and that the second I put her down her little eyes would pop open and the three hour process of rocking her to sleep would begin. No one had told me that as beautiful and educational my baby gym was, my newborn would have the attention span of a gnat and if she lay there for ten seconds I would think it was an achievement, and certainly no-one had warned me how long it would be before I got to have a wee without someone else watching!
But no-one had also told me how miraculous she would be, how I would spend hours just watching her sleeping, how her adoring eyes would make eating microwavable cheese on toast (which can incidentally be made and eaten with one hand) seem without doubt worthwhile, how I would love her totally unconditionally, and more than anything no-one had told me just how quickly those precious moments would flash by.
Those early days pass by in a haze, a wonderful yet bleary phase, full of sleep deprivation and new experiences, full of questions and discoveries. A learning curve which is steeper than no other I’ve ever been on. The building of a new relationship; the getting to know your baby. It’s the nicest kind of shellshock there can ever be…