My friend is pregnant. 4 weeks pregnant. She has 8 months to fill her brain with other people’s opinions on pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood. And there are 1000s of opinions out there pleading to be heard (my favourite source can be reliably found on Facebook. Everyone has an opinion on babies/parenting/foreign policy, on Facebook.) But, despite the shelves of Waterstones buckling under the weight of tens and tens and tens of baby-themed books, no one covers the real facts about life with baby.
The midwife won’t help. She’ll tell you breast-feeding is ‘second nature’, using earth-friendly reusable nappies is ‘second nature’, and motherhood in general is ‘second nature’. She lies.
Here’s the truth. Here’s what your midwife won’t tell you (forewarned is forearmed, hey?):
- In the first trimester, no one will know if you’re pregnant or just fatter than you were a few months ago – unless you deliberately arch your back and/or waddle when you walk. This is not the time to bump into the girl you disliked/the boy you loved in school.
- As your bump expands, you’ll scratch yourself like a scabie-ridden ferret. Skin itches like hell when it stretches to accommodate your baby’s enormous head. It really stretches.
- Your sex-drive sky-rockets, once the vomiting reduces to just once a day. You could find yourself frequently rubbing up against all manner of fixed objects (corners are good) and masturbating in the downstairs loo whilst pretending to make tea for your mother-in-law.
- In the last trimester, you won’t sleep; it’s good practice for when the baby arrives. Get used to it. You won’t sleep through the night for another 3 years (if you’re lucky).
- A fellow blogger wrote that labour burns; bit like a urinary tract infection. Well, not exactly. Multiply that pain by 1000. Then double it. Then add a million. Burns? Sure, it burns. But more like sitting atop an erupting volcano or feeling the red hot poker of Satan himself rip through your torso.
- You’ll shit the bed. And pee everywhere. And drench the midwife in amniotic fluid. Dignity? No, you said goodbye to dignity the night the little fella was conceived. It’s horrifically undignified here on in.
- There is no such thing as pain relief. It’s the midwives’ private joke. They’ll offer you gas and air, which is a bit like offering a plaster to someone who lost their arms AND legs in a chainsaw accident. The only thing that works is the blessed epidural (although watch out for the enormous needle they plough into your spinal column. That hurts).
- If you’re in the UK, expect to half deliver the baby yourself. With shockingly low numbers of midwives available, you may need to do a bit of reading-up beforehand.
- Breast-feeding is a learned skill. It doesn’t just miraculously happen, and it could take months to perfect. It’s hard. bloody hard. Your nipples will sprout milk without your invitation and your milk-soaked nursing pads will put you off cheese for ever.
- You’ll be inundated with well-intentioned (not always) advice. EVERYONE will tell you EVERYTHING they know about raising kids. Ignore it. Ignore it all. If there’s one way to solicit self-doubt, neurosis and anxiety, it’s listening to everyone else tell you what to do.
- Avoid baby-groups – see above. Unless you actually want to leave each meeting feeling like a failure. They’re a hive of negativity, criticism and judgement.
- You brain turns to sawdust. Made worse if you don’t follow points 1 & 2. You won’t have intelligent conversations anymore. Your once clever and sparky friends will talk incessantly about the colour of Tammy’s poops, the enigma of colic, and how to purée parsnips.
- Sex will never be the same again. Initially, you’ll worry your vagina is as wide as the Channel Tunnel – ‘I can’t feel anything, I can’t feel anything!’ And when that passes, sex will be something you participate in to stop your husband’s nightly erections stabbing you in the back.
Come, come, it won’t be so bad. Nothing lasts. Good or bad. You’ll experience the A-Z of emotions, usually within the first 4 weeks. And no matter how horrendous you feel, it’ll pass and soon you’ll be watching Home Alone with your 15-year old wishing you could go back to the beginning. Minus the sleep bit. And the sick bit. And the labour bit.
“This too, shall pass.”