There is a vast canon of literature on new-parenthood, child-rearing, baby nurturing, what to expect and what not to expect once you've had a baby. You could thatch houses with the amount written about this most wondrous time of any person's life. However, here's a few things a lot of people don't really talk about much when it comes to becoming Mum or Dad for the first time:
1. Labour is the easy part. Yes, seriously, pushing the baby out or having to go through a section or whatever route you have to take to get the baby into the world is the easy bit. Even when enduring the hideous pain of contractions/perineum tearing/crowning, or watching your partner go through this, in the back of your mind is the knowledge that it will be over, and soon, whether it be hours or days. The end is always relatively imminent in the grand scheme of things. Once the babies here and all is well, it's the next 16 years or so where all the work is.
2. It's the most terrifying thing in the world. Taking a tiny human-being from the hospital and into your home for you to care for and rear, with no-one but yourself and your partner with little if any baby experience, and no health professionals around to tell you what's what, is a whole new level of fear. But it will pass in a surprisingly quick amount of time. Which is good.
3. If you think your full time job is full-on, you ain't seen nothing yet. In fact, there will probably be times you miss the ease and relatively small hours of your job, and eating lunch with adults while talking about the latest reality tv show, uninterrupted. Motherhood is 24/7, no holidays, no pay.
4. Everyone is an Expert. Everyone will be handing you all sorts of advice from how to get them to sleep to changing nappies to how to feed them. This deluge of advice can be both welcome and hugely irritating at the same time. Take whatever advice you think is useful, for the rest smile politely and tune-out, because for the most part, you'll work it out just fine yourself.
5. Babies sleep schedules and bowel movements will become an integral part of your life. And of conversation with other mothers. You'll overnight gain an enviable ability to talk about poo and wee in all seriousness without even flinching, and at impressive length. Please note, this is likely to bore and slightly peeve (and make-heave) non-mothers.
6. Choosing not to breastfeed does not make you a bad mother. Others pressurising and making you feel bad if you choose bottle over breast is what's wrong. If you do choose breast, good for you, but if you'd rather the bottle route for whatever reasons personal to yourself, and no-one else, that's fine too. Ignore the breast-is-best banshees. Do what's right for you.
7. Nothing pierces both head and heart like the sound of your own baby's cry. No matter the decibel level, your own babies cry is deafening, and nothing can distract you from it. Some babies cry a little, some a lot, but if your little one is in the former category, 'Controlled-crying' will probably at some stage enter your vocabulary. It's a double barrelled torture mechanism which some say will treat the crying episodes, eventually. This is possibly the most stressful period of new motherhood, enduring the crying of your precious child and not knowing how to soothe them is actually heart-breaking. But it will pass. It will. Take a deep breath. Babies cry. It's normal.
8. Clothes shopping takes on a whole new meaning. Once you've gotten through the pile of impractical and tiny baby clothes well-meaning friends and family have bought for the baby, you'll be buying new clothes and throwing out clothes that no longer fit on a continuous basis for the next 16 years or so. And that's before you even think of dressing yourself.
9. Adult conversation will be a novel and highly valued thing. Any conversation that doesn't revolve around bowel movements, sleep routines, weaning process, latching, vaccination etc, ad infinitum, will be seen as great escapism from the sometimes mundane nature of motherhood. What's happening on Corrie? What's Kimmy K done to her hair? Did you hear so and so has been having an affair with his daughters step-son's mother in law. Etc. Baby-talk grows old when it's all there is to talk about.
10. Babies know when you are about to eat. They know that exact five minutes when you're ready to tuck into a hastily thrown together dish of eggs and toast which you've been looking forward to since darling bubs woke up for the 3rd time at 6 in the morning. Cue crying from said bubs. They have a food 6th sense, and impeccable timing.
11. Say goodbye to lie-ins for the next decade or so. Everyone will tell you this prior to the arrival of the baby. They aren't lying. Just take a minute to think about that.
But even with all the above, it is without a shadow of a doubt the single best thing you'll ever do in your lifetime. The above are things they don't tell you, mainly because the good times really do outweigh the tough times, by an immeasurable amount. Travel the world, win awards, bathe in the millions you may make in a glittering career, but when it boils down to it, nothing compares to creating, nurturing, and rearing you own little human being. It's completely selfish, yet purely selfless. It is a privilege. It is a blessing. Enjoy every single minute of it.