Before I had children, I thought I was reasonably well educated on the topic of babies. After all, I was a family doctor. I had treated plenty of them. But there’s nothing like hands-on experience with your own bundle of joy to highlight how unfit you are to take charge of one.
Here are ten things I soon learned when I had my first baby.
1 That little scrap of human, even covered in blood and vernix (plus, in my son’s case, meconium) was the most beautiful thing ever. It was impossible not to fall in love at first sight.
2 Baby boys are like high-pressure hosepipes on the loose. At the first nappy change, the little man peed in his own eyes. The next time, it was his father’s eye. I got adept at using a spare terry nappy as a shield.
3 The doorbell always rings just as you’ve settled yourself and the baby for a feed.
4 A gin and tonic is an excellent substitute for bathtime. Bathing is a wet experience for all concerned and young babies don’t always enjoy it. Topping and tailing is enough at first, with a full bath every other day.
5 It’s never the ideal time to return to work, but I regretted going back at six weeks. Unfortunately, there was no locum doctor available, and I felt morally obliged not to leave colleagues in the lurch.
6 Babies need a lot less sleep than their parents. After all, they don’t have to face the boss in the mornings.
7 Moses baskets are pretty but overrated. Instead of using it for long daytime naps, as I imagined he would, my first son used his twice before the cat commandeered it.
8 It was delightful to cradle that tiny sweet-smelling bundle in my arms as his eyes gently closed. However, around the age of six months, babies learn to stay awake on purpose when they want to. Well before then, it would have been wise to encourage him to doze off unaided.
9 I should have put all non-essential activities on hold in the first three months. Memo to those who wash net curtains weekly or iron the tea towels: please stop it now. And yes, on looking back, going back to work was a non-essential activity too.
10 The most important lesson was to put the little guy first, before anyone else. But that, of course, is exactly as it should be.
Now, with Parenting 101 under my belt, I would be well prepared for a second pregnancy. That was before I discovered that the next baby was bringing a pal along to share the fun.