When you have your first baby you will make all of the mistakes. These mistakes are necessary steps in your journey toward what I like to call, ‘Parenthood Consciousness’. Parenthood Consciousness is a little bit like Christ Consciousness: you come to the transcendental realisation that everything is now beyond your control.
1. Obsessing over developmental milestones
Here’s a confession. One of my kids never rolled over, which is supposed to happen between four and six months. At the time, I obsessed over it. I tried to make him do it; I grabbed his arm and pulled him over, I lay down beside him and rolled over to show him how it was done. He just didn’t want to do it. (Fourteen years later I still cannot make him do anything he does not want to do.) But all the books said that he ‘should’ be rolling by six months and I nearly lost my mind with all the worrying about it.
With the benefit of hindsight you will realise, like me, that the milestone markers in baby books are not tests that need to be ‘passed’ but merely a suggestion. Occasionally it’s a sign there’s something wrong, but most of the time, your kid just doesn’t want to.
2. Any sort of breastfeeding failure
Some women have the boobs as food source thing down from the get-go. The rest of us struggle. We accidentally starve our baby and then we’re so alarmed that we just switch to bottle feeding without working to rectify the problem via whatever solutions are available. The point is, while breast is best, starving your baby is not. Breastfeeding is not easy and for some women, it just doesn’t happen. Don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes, mess it up and ultimately have to abandon it altogether.
3. Forgetting to take the nappy bag that one time
There will come a day when you really feel like you’re finally nailing this motherhood thing and on that day you will breeze out of the house without the nappy bag. Which is kind of like going scuba diving and forgetting the oxygen tank. Your second mistake will be realising you’ve done it and then and thinking you can wing it. What could possibly go wrong? I’ll only be out for a few hours.
Do I need to spell out what will go wrong? Suffice it to say, you will only ever make this mistake once.
4. Forgetting your baby
Yes, it happens. When you first have a baby, it takes a while to remember that you actually have a baby. You’re so used to walking around in the world just as yourself, that remembering you now have an attachment takes some getting used to. Me? I left my baby in his pram, in the butcher. I’d moved away from the pram momentarily to place my order, received my order, paid for it and then walked straight out the door. I was about three shops down the street when I got the distinct impression that I had forgotten ‘something.’
5. Thinking you can solve the sleep thing with elaborate repetitive rituals
The sleep thing is so vexing. Why don’t babies want to sleep? It defies logic, especially when you are so tired you would sell your own soul to the devil for a few hours of deep, restorative sleep. Seriously, if Lucifer showed up now, you’d be like: what’s a soul for anyway? I don’t need that intangible thing that no one can prove even exists. Take my soul and give me sleep Evil Master of the Underworld.
The upshot of this is, you get a bit OCD about the sleep thing. You begin to see ‘patterns’ where there are no patterns. For instance: the last time the baby went to sleep without a fuss, someone downstairs slammed a door, Claire Foy’s voice from The Crown was blasting from the television and the window in the nursery was left open two inches. You try to recreate that set of circumstances every time you put the baby to bed, thinking THAT’S the thing that will make the baby sleep.
Spoiler alert: you cannot solve it. It’s not Claire Foy’s voice or the door slamming or the open window. It’s none of the above and it will never be the same thing twice.
6. Letting everyone at the barbecue hold your baby
When you first have a baby, you don’t realise that passing it around the barbecue table like a pass the parcel will result in serious consequences for you, later that day. The consequence? A hideously overstimulated baby who refuses to sleep. Why? Because babies love faces: faces are like a Netflix show they can’t stop bingeing on. They just keep looking and looking and looking. So when you pass that baby around and the baby gets an eyeful of 10 new faces, by the time the baby comes back around to you, it’s like SITUATION SENSORY OVERLOAD!
You’ll only let it happen once, and then after that you’ll be the politely declining people’s offers to ‘can I hold your baby?’ No, the baby is not a toy and it does not have an off button if you wind it up too tightly.
7. Give your toddler a sugar high for breakfast
Okay, I know this one sounds so stupid it’s ridiculous, but we did this and maybe you will too. We were on a holiday road trip and had set out before sunrise. By the time we stopped for breakfast we were feeling pretty cocky. So when the kids asked if they could all have a spider (soft drink with ice cream in it) for breakfast, we said, “Hell yeah! It’s the holidays!” There followed about 10 minutes of fun and hilarity as the sugar high kicked in followed swiftly by the crash. I don’t remember the exact details but there was a lot of unhinged, demonic screaming and we had to quickly exit the café with children in football holds as everyone silently judged us.