The big one

So Elphie turned one! I don’t know how it happened, but somehow a year has flown by and my premature baby is on the cusp of becoming a toddler.

I didn’t really expect the first birthday to feel like such a milestone, but it did. It was quite an emotional day, not least because Elphie burst into tears at being presented with her birthday cake. It certainly feels like a good chance to think back over the year and pass on my “wisdom” to those that come after me so they can steadfastly ignore it as we all do


1. It gets easier

Nothing can prepare you for the first three months. They hit you hard. From living your nice independent life, you go immediately to being depended upon 24 hours a day, lucky if you get over three hours sleep and you spend most of a working day with a limpet stuck to your breast constantly worried about whether they are growing fast enough, developing the right skills, crying too much (and boy do they cry). Alongside that you have a tornado of hormones swirling inside you so you are crying at any opportunity coupled with the torture that is sleep deprivation. Fun times.

Once you hit six months it seems to get easier – you vaguely know what you are doing and have accepted that all those projects you thought you would do on maternity leave will not get done. It all settles into a rhythm and you can sit back and marvel at the slow but amazing progress your offspring is making away from being a baby.

2. Feminism ain’t what it used to be

I imagine this is something I will write more on, but being a mother has made me realise that the previous view I’d held of what feminism is was screwed up. Previously I thought it was all about equal rights, equal pay in the workplace, equal opportunities to climb the corporate ladder. I’d got it all wrong – this view of feminism is destined to fail because it is all about equality within a man’s world with an equal right to act and achieve success like a man.

That’s why people get confused when they find many feminists agree with attachment parenting, despite it being a style that could seem to align with a 1950s view of womanhood – aren’t feminists all about rejecting the housewife role? Well no, because that is obviously barmy. If a woman wants to be a stay at home mum then that should be seen as a totally valid career choice.

Personally, I want to be a mother and succeed in business – I want both and true feminism should be promoting the opportunity to have both without one eclipsing the other. Feminism isn’t about women being successful in a man’s world, it’s about changing the world so you can succeed as a mother and a worker and truly have it all.

3. Bodily fluids

The obvious next topic. Especially at first, the excretions of a baby are overwhelming – poonamis, vomit, wee, eye discharge, snot, earwax if there’s an orifice then something will regularly make an appearance from it. The good thing to know is that at least from my experience, your distaste for excretions reduces when they are from your own child. While I still find other children’s poos abhorrent, Elphie’s don’t seem to produce the same effect – despite there being some corkers to test that theory in her time. And for once my nasally challenged sense of smell comes in useful.

My top tip for newborns is to buy nappies with a wetness indicator on them at first – on the Pampers ones it is a yellow line on the front of the nappy, once it’s all blue then you need to change them unless a poo has prompted an earlier about turn.

4. Phone a friend

Why oh why did I not extract wisdom from my existing mother friends before having a baby? Why didn’t I pin them down to come over and help me with breastfeeding? I should have got training beforehand – spent a day with them under their instruction!

I have no idea. Maybe I just didn’t want to know.

Learn from my mistakes!

5. Enjoy the arts

Go to concerts, the theatre, musicals, opera, ballet – go often, see them all. They are one of a few things which are largely cut off to the family group. There are some family-friendly concerts and theatre matinees, but they are probably not what you want to hear or see.

Or get your friends to babysit so you can go (thanks Anna, Jack, and Alex for this week’s double whammy)!

6. Fight club

Find parenting support groups you like – they’ll open your eyes to a whole new range of techniques for wrangling babies. There are some great ones on facebook, including Cry It Out Yourself, Rucking Marvellous Parenting and Crunchy Skeptics and I found the mumsnet ante-natal club useful while pregnant and in its incarnation on facebook post-pregnancy. Also there are specific support groups for breastfeeding, tongue ties, cholestasis, attachment parenting and slings that are useful to dip in and out of. And if you don’t get much from the advice then it’s always good for a laugh when someone hair flips (storms out of the group with a post explaining why everyone else sucks) or posts go out of control (as virtually all posts on vaccination, circumcision and formula do).

There’s also a Crazy Cat Ladies group on Facebook. Just sayin’.

7. Trust no one

It’s worth doing a bit of your own research rather than blindly trusting what your told or even your own instinct. The latest thinking changes regularly and not everyone keeps up-to-date. Hence finding out on our first aid course that the advice given by our nurse to reduce a temperature with a tepid bath was no longer best practice.

Not parenting related but Julia was stunned when I discovered for her that flossing and heart disease were not causally related as had been rammed down her throat in the US. I imagine it’s still good for dental health, but I think I’ll leave it to the Americans.

8. Do a first aid course

There is no substitute for a rubber mannequin.

9. Frequent playgrounds

There really are some awesome ones out there – our local one has just had a huge sandpit area introduced and Elphie loves wandering around in it stealing other kid’s buckets (poor kids they then get told they have to share with the random baby).

When it’s wet, find a soft play, from when she was sitting Elphie loved just sitting and staring in the middle of a softplay as streams of children ran around her. Now I am lucky if I can keep sight of her as she crawls off at top speed with barely a backwards glance.

10. Wear sunscreen

Most of all of course – wear sunscreen. Or don’t if your baby is less than six months and of course once they are over six months you need to allow for some time to get their necessary vitamin D exposure but not allow them to burn – good luck with that!