It's such a magical time of anticipation, your first pregnancy! Seasoned parents will offer tantalising snippets of information about how your life is about to change. They might try to prepare you for the incredible surge of love you'll feel when that squidgy little thing bursts into your world (impossible, you'll only understand when it happens). They might warn you to brace yourself for sleepless nights, or the dramatic (and sometimes surprising) change in your priorities.
What they won't tell you though (well, they never told me anyway) is that, very soon, you are going to be spending a sizeable proportion of your life feeling like a bit of a plank. You are about to enter the barmy world of (Aunty Jelly's JumpAbout/Babs' Boogiewoogie Babies/Tara's Tinkle Tots – delete as appropriate) baby sing-alongs.
You might be like me and have a strong aversion to sitting in a circle on the floor with a group of strangers (actually, the antenatal classes might have prepared you for that part, and at least this time you won't have your bum in the air).
But you will do it. You'll go along and sing Incy Wincy Spider and mime the 2,000 or so actions that accompany The Wheels on the Bus. You'll do it willingly because you know your baby will probably like it. You'll do it because research tells you that music and singing fires neurons in your baby's brain and helps to establish your parent/child bond. You might even do it because you can't remember a single nursery rhyme and singing Rhianna's S&M to a three-month-old seems inappropriate.
And those babies, they do blummin' well love it (which is why you'll keep going back). I'll never forget the look on my daughter's face when a room full of people broke into song – even if it was a bit flat. So, shoulders back! Deep breath! Better be prepared...
1. Understand that the people who run baby sing-alongs are frequently – but delightfully – a tiny bit barking mad.
The multi-coloured hair and polka dot tights are easier to get your head around when you realise even a single hour of nursery rhymes is going to leave at least one of those repetitive tunes going round and round (and round) in your head for the rest of the day.
The only antidote I found to this was to go straight home and listen to Frank Sinatra singing Fly Me to the Moon. That also played on an internal loop, but it was preferable to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
2. Never go alone/arm yourself.
Not with louder maracas or anything. I mean go with a friend and thus arm yourself with a spare baby. If you feel a bit uncomfortable singing anyway, you will feel even more uncomfortable singing to a baby who has decided to have a snooze. Been there, done it. Felt like a plank.
3. Don't even think about miming.
Aunty Jelly (probably the only person singing in tune) will know. She'll weed you out and then she might make you sing the first round of London's Burning by yourself. Obviously a little Dutch courage is not really appropriate at 10.30am on a Tuesday, but if you just hate singing and you're not breastfeeding, a couple of espressos might help you belt them out!
4. Don't get too comfortable with the lyrics.
Oh yes, after going to a couple of groups you might think you've got Humpty Dumpty down to a fine art – but then you stumble across the politically correct version. Apparently, some people think the image of poor Humpty smashing into bits on the ground and not responding to resuscitation is too upsetting, so their king's horses and king's men "make Humpty happy again." They never actually explain how though.
5. And on that note, remember animal noises aren't for everyone.
At home, Old MacDonald's farm is full of animals who 'moooOOOOooo!', 'nEEEEEiiiiiggghhh!' and 'bAAAAAaaaaaa!'. At sing-alongs, they tend to just 'moo', 'neigh' and 'baa'. And 'oink' (I couldn't work out how to spell the noise a pig would make). A friend's husband made that error once. He was absolutely mortified that he made an actual (very loud) cow noise, while everyone else just said 'moo'. He has never really got over it.
Enjoy your baby sing-along, tell us how you all get on!*
* health advice: too many sing-alongs may result in talking permanently in rhyme.