I had two quite eggy babies. This is my first, pictured here. Tiny little wasp in a jar.
It was hard, hard, hard work. My memories mostly involve a degree of fear that he was about to implode. Or choke.
However, he survived, is now a teenager, and his sibling has also reached double figures. By some fantastic miracle of fate, all my fears were nothing more than that; I have been allowed two gangly, hilarious and healthy offspring – an outcome I am immensely grateful for.
When I look back at those tiny raw days, I have an overwhelming feeling of being crushed. Of being bewildered, exhausted, frightened, pretending – and, most scarring of all, convinced that I was not doing it well. And this, from someone who had ten younger siblings to witness and to practise baby skills on.
So, now, as a parent a little bit further along from you – further in towards the shore on this sobering parenting wave that we are riding, I want a moment to shout back over my shoulder to you there, at the start, with your little one, and let you hear a few things about how it is now. A few things that might just make the beginning a touch less stressful.
When your children are no longer babies, when they are at senior school, believe me, all the competitive comments at Baby Group and all the Gina Ford tripe, will fall into a box in your brain marked ‘Why The Blinking Sh*te Did I Worry About That?’ – I hereby give you a head start on not worrying about any of this. I certainly wish I had known it was such temporary nonsense.
What age must you get your baby to sleep through the night?
Whenever it works, whenever you can – it doesn’t make a single bit of difference when they are bigger, no one cares, no one will ask, and it WILL NOT AFFECT their later life in any way.
When to move your baby into their own room?
Whenever you feel it is the right thing. It will be OK.
Whether or not to breastfeed?
Do what you can / feel best doing. It will be OK.
What pram should we buy?
One with wheels. It will be OK.
When should I go back to work?
When you need to. Or want to. It will be OK.
What age should they be crawling?
When they crawl. If they do. It will be OK.
What age should I start weaning?
When you think it’s right. It will be OK.
What groups should I take my baby to?
The ones you want to. It will be OK.
Should I use a childminder or a nursery?
Use the one you like best. It will be OK.
When should my child start talking?
When they do. It will be OK.
Should I let my baby have a dummy?
If you want to. If they want to. If it helps you both to feel relaxed. They won’t want it forever. It will be OK.
Should I let my baby sleep in my bed?
If you want to. If you know you are safe. If it helps you both sleep. They won’t want it forever. It will be OK.
What I am trying to say is that, when your children are teenagers, and even before they are teenagers, you will notice that all the competition and anxiety of whose baby is, or is not, sitting, or rolling, or sleeping, or cruising, becomes utterly obsolete – it’s a temporary madness and it can create deep grooves of stress where stress need not settle. When they are 13 and are bashing each other around a basketball court in size 10 trainers, none of us are standing on the sweaty side-lines asking each other when Tommy first managed a night through without his blanket. It just doesn’t matter at all.
Trust yourself. Listen to yourself ahead of a book or the internet. Almost every time you will know what the right call is, and you will also know the few times when you don’t.
Do it your way, for your baby. It is the right way.
It will be OK.