Babies are so Me Me Me.
Our tiny human is only three weeks old and she’s already lording it like an East African dictator over the once-democratic Republic of Home.
I accidentally told the health visitor on Thursday that I’d forgotten how much a newborn can ruin your life. I was hoping to say ‘rule your life’ obviously but my mouth had other ideas. I think I might have got us added to a register.
Thing is, newborns can’t tell you what’s wrong and something always is. Looking after one is like being trapped in a never-ending game on the Crystal Maze, somewhere in the Angry Aztec Alien Zone and with no inkling of what the rules might be.
The first few weeks are characterised mainly by confusion and frenzied shouting (Bounce it! Feed it! Stick a nappy on its head!)
Respond incorrectly to a wholly ambiguous cue and the child will scream directly into your auditory cortex.
The arrival of a new baby marks the start of a beautiful but bewildering period and you shall navigate it with the energy levels of someone with anaemia and an underactive thyroid coming down off a three day bender.
In the interest of helping new and out-of-practice mums adapt to life with a tiny tyrant, here are some things to remember:
1. Sleep positions
NHS advice states that babies should be laid horizontally on their back in a basket to sleep.
Hurrah! This is the position they hate most in life! And they’re not afraid to say so.
There you go, sweetheart. Let’s just put you down here in your- Waaaah Waaah Waaah. What the hell are you doing, Mum? I told you about this yesterday.
Experts also insist that you should never co-sleep with your baby in your bed.
But wait. Bed is one of baby’s favourite places to feed and the only means by which you can furnish it with milk when you are hallucinating from sleep deprivation because you’re not SAS-trained.
2. Nocturnal habits
As a new parent, you will often hear that babies can’t tell the difference between night and day.
Poppycock. Babies are born with the innate knowledge that nighttime’s where the action is and daytime’s not worth bothering with.
That’s why so much baby gear has woodland animals all over it. They identify with badgers and foxes much more than with other humans.
Never mind. A quick online search will arm you with a 90-minute soundtrack of lullabies with which to sedate an infant at your convenience. Yours will enjoy the full hour-and-a-half of soporific classics with its eyes wide open.
You will also encounter hilarious advice that claims getting a newborn into nightwear will somehow overwrite its topsy turvy body clock. Good luck with that.
3. Feeding patterns
There is bags of advice online about feeding patterns.
If constant nursing through the night is a problem, it says, don’t worry. This is completely normal and can go on for months.
Thank God for that! I was anxious it might be done and dusted before I got chance to experience actual proper insanity.
And stop fretting. It’s easy to cope with baby’s nighttime wakefulness. Just sleep when it sleeps in the day (really deeply and for ages in its horizontal basket, remember?).
Cos all adults can drop off on demand, right? Especially when they’re full of coffee, there’s a pile of poo-stained babygrows waiting by the washing machine and the work surface is growing its own antibiotics.
Nope, if you do manage to fall asleep when your baby does in the day, it will be in one of those forbidden baby-crushing positions on the sofa because you both lost consciousness mid-feed. You must be a terrible (normal) mother.
4. Holding baby
Your baby favours different holding positions depending on puzzling and constantly shifting variables like the number of chaffinches that crossed your path on your return from Boots minus the price of a Sophie the Giraffe in Icelandic Krona.
Babies will punish you for holding them the wrong way and take a very dim view of those with the audacity to put them down.
They also magically quadruple their body weight within three minutes of being picked up and you can’t complain because look how tiny she is, you wimp!
Someone is stealing these from your changing bag. There is no way you can be using them this fast.
Imagining your wheelie bin full of dirty ones being tipped casually into landfill will make you want to plant some saplings and beg forgiveness from the universe.
You could always try the reusable ones. If this is your plan though, for God’s sake, tell no one. Anyone who gets wind of your intentions will dissuade you by laughing uncontrollably because they assume you’re having them on. Unless you live somewhere progressive and rational like Germany or Brighton, of course, in which case they’ll pass on their old ones.
6. Playing dead
Playing dead is meant to be a really hard thing for actors to do. I don’t know why though cos babies have nailed it.
There are nights when even close visual inspection of your infant’s diaphragm will reveal no chest movement whatsoever and the only way to check for certain that they are breathing will be to poke your finger under their chins and see if they startle.
Luckily, they usually do. They startle, wake up, wail, fill their nappies and demand five breasts’ worth of the white stuff for their trouble.
7. No smiling matter
At some point, you are going to think your newborn hates you.
This is in part because it tugs at your nipples like an impatient piglet, but also because it frowns at you like it knows you’re an imbecile who is unfit to parent.
Worry not. Most tiny babies have the air of a disapproving schoolmistress. No amount of kindly cooing will change this.
For now, your little one really hasn’t got time in its busy schedule to humour you and your foolish attempts at bonding. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t know how to smile yet.
8. Picture perfect
Share the best photos of your newborn by all means. You know, the fluke shots where it looks like it’s smiling or is actually attractive.
But don’t be surprised when your friends recoil on peering into the pram and seeing what your generic wrinkled creature really looks like.
Expect to be high on life one minute and sobbing into your porridge the next, although you’re more likely to have a breakdown in a busy public place, simply because it’s more embarrassing. Avoid children’s parties at all cost. Avoid people at all cost.
10. Your health
Stitches, piles, prolapse, bleeding – all perfect for easing you into your new life of lifting things all day and never sleeping.
You don’t want to go on about it but Jesus, all this has come at completely the wrong time.
Could nature not have staggered the punishment? You wouldn’t do the Three Peaks Challenge the weekend after a hip replacement and this feels even more stupid.
Well-meaning friends and family will look concerned and tell you to look after yourself. Try not to punch them.
Oh yes, and gas. It’s not just babies that get that. Again, the timing couldn’t be better. What lovelier environment in which to receive visitors than one you have been polluting all day with your uncontrollable wind? A useful resource, however, if people stay too long.
You will be shattered in the first few weeks of your baby’s life, especially if you’re nursing a glutton.
Most women are very disciplined about sticking to a high GI diet at this time.
Too tired to make it to the shop to buy boiled sweets and biscuits? Try a tablespoon of golden syrup to give your blood sugar that much-needed boost.
Nutritious meals are important but keep your cupboards stocked with cake like an army of grannies is coming to stay.
12. Getting things done
Do you consider having a wee and cleaning your teeth achievements?
Great! In that case, prepare to achieve up to four things a day!
You will be holding your baby 24/7 so keep to one-handed tasks. You’ll be surprised what you can manage with just five digits (unloading the dishwasher, pulling your pants up, pulling other people’s pants up…)
Planning to use your maternity leave to work towards some personal life goals?
Forget it, my friend.
We’ve all seen that woman on Grand Designs who is living in a caravan with a newborn in sub-zero temperatures whilst working full-time in an executive role and site-managing a massive fuck-off building project.
You are not her.
Consider changing your knickers every 48 hours a huge accomplishment. Well done.
So there it is. Some random intel of almost no value at all.
Don’t worry though. You won’t have a tiny screaming baby for long.
Before you know it, you’ll be looking for help with different problems, like your daughter’s plan to remove all the hair from her special place or your son’s penchant for impregnating strangers.