There are many things about parenthood no one warns you about. I mean, there’s also plenty that you do get warned about and obsess about and then realise you wasted your time on (why are antenatal classes 90% about the birth and 10% about looking after a baby, when, you’ll have a day of labour – maybe a few if you’re unlucky! – but, what, 18 YEARS ahead of you to look after a human!?!?)
I thought I was pretty prepared going into parenthood. I read lots of books, listened to podcasts, went to therapy. HAHAHAHAHAHA. As anyone who has walked across this particular threshold into another dimension of being, will know, NOTHING can actually prepare you.
Approximately 1,000 things have surprised me in the years that i have been a stepmum and had a baby, but here are 25:
1. Berries. We’ve probably added another decade to paying the mortgage off because of berries. Yes, BERRIES. See, I would never have normally dreamt of buying a little punnet of blueberries for $7.99, but last autumn, they were my little guys favourite (and a surefire way to calm things down) and he didn’t eat a heck of a lot else at that age, so I kept adding them to the trolley and crossing my fingers when I swiped my card.
2. That I’d cry anytime I see or hear of anyone else’s kids being injured, hurt, let down, or – worst of all – killed.
3. The number of conversations my partner and I have had about baby poo.
4. I no longer make online fantasy carts of clothes or shoes or homewares I’d like to buy for myself – in fact, I no longer really buy clothes or shoes or homewares for myself. Instead, I have 15 tabs open for the baby/kids/toy section at Seed, The Warehouse, Toyco, Kmart and Marks & Spencer, and have never missed a Nature Baby sale. I may be a mess, but my kids look great and have lots to play with.
5. Getting six straight hours sleep is now something that feels illegally good and is celebrated with much, much excitement and high-fiving.
6. I tell everyone that I’m buying a new set of Duplo for my toddler, but in actual fact, every time I buy a new box, it’s because I’m bored out of my goddam mind using the same blocks every day.
7. How much I miss my old boobs. RIP.
8. How much better my kids eat than me. If it wasn’t for my partner – who makes us so many meals – I would barely eat, or would live off the leftovers of what my toddler doesn’t eat (there’s less and less of that too tbh). I’m perfectly happy to make my kids elaborate pastas, breakfast bowls and treats, but can’t be bothered boiling an egg for me.
9. That they don’t all sleep through the night at three/four/five/ten/15/20 months and that’s ok. I mean, it’s not ok, because not sleeping is definitely a form of torture, but that there’s nothing wrong with them (OR YOU!) and despite what every sleep coach on Instagram says, some babies/toddlers just don’t sleep all that well, but one day will!
10. How quickly I would become one of those mums who thinks their baby is a genius because they can mimic a horse/dog/cat/sheep/fish. Every new word he says I act as though he has split the atom.
11. The dishwasher and laundry basket have both become odd mysteries. Neither will ever be empty. By the time I clear it, there will be another half-load, ready to go, at all times. And there will never be enough forks or sippy cups no matter how many you buy.
12. That you’ll never need to go through as many nappies as you will when you discover (normally quite late at night) that you’re running dangerously low. (HOW do they sense this?!?).
13. You’ll also never be able to get your baby down for a nap – even if they’ve been going down quickly and easily at that time for weeks on end – if you’ve organized a call/meeting/have urgent work to do. They KNOW and they’re not here for it.
14. There’s something weird about having a child that makes you suddenly reexamine your whole childhood. And as your kids reach certain ages you relive everything that ever happened to you at that age? It’s an emotional rollercoaster.
15. You’ve never been more productive in your life as you are while your child is napping.
16. My belly-button. I’ve never really thought much about it in the past, but now, what am I even looking at?! Lots of the weird body changes I was warned about (and stressed about – like potentially getting huge feet?) never actually happened, but no one told me that my belly button would completely change and i don’t even understand what it is anymore.
17. It doesn’t matter if I go away for the night and stay in a hotel on the other side of town or across the ditch – I will still wake when the baby wakes. I have spent a total of five nights away from my toddler over the last 20 months and I haven’t slept through the night for any of them – in fact, I’ve weirdly woken up at the exact same times as he’s stirred, thousands of kms away.
18. No one (fools!) makes a good pair of leggings with a reinforced knee, or a knee patch, or anything that stops your kid from wearing a hole through them within a week while they’re crawling but not yet walking. Everyone will say to you, ‘Oh, be thankful they’re not walking yet’ but you will be willing them to master it so you don’t have to buy new goddam leggings every week.
19. It also doesn’t matter if he does have a rare night where he sleeps through the night, because I still will not. I’ll wake up in a panic at some stage, aware that he hasn’t woken up and will need to check the monitor that he’s still breathing before I can go back to sleep.
20. The morning after he has slept through the night I will (while feeling very pleased with him!) also feel a bit sad that I’ve missed out on those nighttime cuddles. WTF is wrong with me.
21. That EVERYONE has an opinion on EVERYTHING. An no two opinions will ever line-up. Even two paediatricians will think differently (and you betcha every mom influencer has a different opinion again – which, despite having any qualifications they’re very happy to confidently lecture people about?!?). The more time goes on the more I realise that no one actually knows anything.
22. Your baby probably will have some sort of mild accident and they’ll be okay. Mine, after never showing any signs of being able to roll, promptly rolled off the couch while I was taking the dog’s collar off. He didn’t roll again for a few months. I felt like the worst mum on the planet. It wasn’t a big drop, and it was onto carpet but he was only wee and I was terrified of everything so I called Plunket. They advised us to get him checked out to be safe. There, every nurse and doctor proceeded to tell me everything was fine, to please stop worrying and each told me a horrific story of how their baby had rolled off the change table, or the kitchen bench onto tiles, or off a trolley onto concrete etc. and how they were totally ok and it happens. Each story was worse than the one before (and came from doctors!) and made me feel better about the slight drop onto carpet (but bad that so many doctor’s babies fall onto concrete?! Or did they just tell me stories to make me feel better?!?)
23. That breastfeeding isn’t all that easy and doesn’t “just come naturally” like people tell you. I mean, maybe it does for some people! And, to be fair the very first time I did it, I was like, ‘oh, this is nothing to worry about’. BUT then, it changed. Colostrum is weird. Waiting for your milk to come in, is weird. It coming in, is weird. And maybe, like me, you have a c-section and end up retaining fluid (in your boobs??) and have to be taught a weird massage to get rid of it to actually access that milk (and relieve the pain)?!? It got SO MUCH EASIER and I wish someone had of told me that in the first six weeks, when I cried over it most days.
24. Everyone says it and warns you about it but you never understand it until you see it for yourself: they grow up so goddam fast. Sometimes my stepson comes upstairs after waking up and I almost don’t recognise him because I’d swear he’s grown a foot in his sleep. The toddler has gone through so many clothes that I haven’t had the time to get as sentimentally attached to them as I thought I would.
25. HOW GOOD IT IS. Honestly, so many people have come at me with their ‘oh, just you wait until he’s crawling / walking / teething / two’ etc, like there are so many hideous phases ahead of me to come. But so few people list the ‘oh, just you wait’ moments that are full of indescribable joy. So, to any new mums, I’d love to say: just you wait until they smile at you for the first time. Just you wait until they say ‘Mama’. Until you watch them wobbly, but proudly take their first step. Until they give you a kiss for the first time. Until you see them try to make friends. See them master new tricks. Watch them go down a slide for the first time and giggle with glee. There is so much joy ahead.