Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Letter to Pregnant Me

In the lead up to Harry's first birthday next week, I made up a book of "Letters to Harry". Essentially it's a book of letters from friends and family for him to one day read himself. The process of writing a letter to future grown up Harry got me thinking about what I would write if I could write a letter to myself before I had a baby.

We also had some family stay over on the weekend and they brought along their four month old first born. Being around the nervous and excited busy air of first time parents of a newborn reminded me so much of how we must have been only less than a year ago. 

Reflecting on the first year of parenting and the flashback to the newborn bubble we must have once been in got me thinking... I wish I could just go back in time to the very last time I was in a world without a baby, take myself aside before we drove to the hospital that day and tell myself a few things.

Here's what I would say:

Date: just before you pop i.e. a year ago from today
Dear Pregnant Me,

Hi. I am you from the future. I am writing you this letter to save you a lot of grief and angst. These are things that you must know, and will know. Hindsight is a lot more useful as foresight, so stop being hard headed like you usually are, put your preconceptions down and just listen for a minute. No, really...LISTEN.

EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. Just think about that for a minute. And remember it. For every time you think "I have no idea", or "wtf is happening?", or "this is the worst" - just remember that you will come through it and it will pass. One day this big parenting conundrum that has you stumped right now will be long gone but what you have is a person you have known since it's creation and seems to become more wonderful everyday. That is what sticks, not the seemingly insurmountable pain of labour, or the infinitely long sleepless nights or the horror of your baby's first fever... just remember that it will pass.
your new parenting mantra

YOU WILL BE MORE TIRED THAN YOU HAVE EVER IMAGINED. Everyone "knows" this going into parenthood. All the knowing smiles when people realise you are pregnant "haha get your sleep now while you can" they all said. Yes I know, I am perfectly aware that parenting is difficult, I once said. No. You do not know what tired is. When you think you are the most tired a person could possibly be, expect something unexpected to happen which will mean you have to dig deeper than ever to find that extra dog to add to your pack... and don't worry, you will always have it. Everytime. And then you will wish that you were only as tired as you were last week when that once massive problem now seems so much smaller than the problem that superseded it.

YOU HAVE NO IDEA BUT YOU HAVE INSTINCT. Just accept that you don't know what you are doing and be cool with that. It's okay that you don't know. That stack of books, research and articles you have for every single foreseeable issue... put them down and place them in box, bury that box in a bonfire and burn it. Those books will make you feel more inadequate, it does not have the answers you are looking for because the authors of those books have never met your baby. Your baby is unique. He is not ordinary. He does not respond to what most babies apparently respond to. You have to give yourselves time to learn each other. It will be rough, it will take months but trust your instincts. It is stronger than you think. Those books and guides are merely that, but be aware that they can cloud your gut feel for your baby. Forget the books and stop bloody googling everything. For example, "6 week old baby crying now for two hours don't know what he wants" is not a productive search term.
the only book that accurately depicts the nature of baby sleep

BABIES ARE HARDY. Don't live in a clean freak safety conscious bubble. Your baby is resilient and strong. Don't stress about every little thing. It doesn't matter if he misses a nap every now and then. It is not the end of the world. I still remember crying because he didn't nap. Those are wasted tears. It doesn't matter if you forgot to change his nappy, these days he's lucky to get changed for anything other than a number 2. It doesn't matter if you don't sterilise every little thing, one day he will mouth the toilet when you turn around for two seconds. It doesn't matter if you have to change the routine every now and then. It's not going to make a big difference in the long run. The routine will not stop him from crying. If he wants to cry he will whether or not you gave him all his naps that day. He will be right.

not a cloth nappy in sight

BEING A MUM IS NOT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR FASHION. Stop googling "best swaddle/sling/clothnappy". That shit does NOT matter. You will not be using this expensive cloth nappies a year from now. Babies in the desert survive with nothing but basic food, shelter and LOVE. Stop expending so much energy preparing for the physical needs of the baby when he arrives and instead invest in some inside mind relaxation and calm. That stuff will take you a far longer way than having the latest baby gimmicks on hand when the baby arrives.

TREAT YOUR BABY LIKE IT'S YOUR SECOND. This way you will enjoy life with a baby. You will get so caught up in your baby it is almost as though you live in a bubble. Don't forget that your baby has entered your world and not the other way around. Don't get me wrong, the baby will become the most precious thing in your life but being completely absorbed to the point of obliviousness to the world will only mean you forget to see the big picture and focus on things like number of naps and feeds instead of numbers of funny things he did that day.

DON'T PUREE BABY FOOD. He'll be ready to eat a softer, mashed up version of your food when he's good and ready. There were days when I cooked the most beautiful baby purees which the baby wouldn't eat, whereas on the same day I ate almost nothing myself. That is NOT good parenting.
baby don't care if you took five hours to make this. If hedonwannaeat, hedonwannaeat.

LET YOUR BABY CRY. I still remember jumping at every slight noise and bolting from across the house to attend to the baby before he's even had a chance to get the cry out. It's okay to let him cry. Convert that pain in your heart every time you hear baby cry to a mild bemusement. You shouldn't think "oh no something is wrong" straight away. Think instead "aww how cute, look at him trying to say something". I'm not saying leave him to cry every time , I am saying eliminate the fear in your heart every time you hear him cry. Babies cry. That's what they do. A LOT. Don't panic. And sometimes there is nothing wrong, you've done everything and they will still cry. He will scream in your ear so hard and so long because he doesn't know what else to do. Don't cry with him. Just be patient and remember everything I said above.

Last but not least - 

ENJOY! It is hard having a baby but I promise it gets better. He starts to hit all the developmental milestones on his way to becoming a little man. With each new skill he becomes more and more fun. More and more relatable. He is lovely, ever increasingly perfect. Somehow the challenges become bigger but the boy becomes easier to enjoy.
one smile is all worth it

I know you will now scrunch up this letter and think, meh what do you know. I suppose you just have to live it to get it. And yes, I do sound a lot like my parents these days. There's nothing you can do to change that I'm afraid. That much is inevitable.

a much cooler and wiser Me a year from when you read this


Note, photo of other babies above is from the movie Babies. Incidentally an excellent film for all new mothers and mothers-to-be to watch.

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