13 Things I Learned In The First Weeks Of Being A New Parent

You will stare at photos on your phone like a besotted teenager.

1. You are never alone.

Not in the toilet, not during the night, not at any time. Not anymore. At all.

2. You don’t enjoy food.

Long gone are boozy lunches with friends in pubs, romantic dinners, even a bottle of wine and a takeaway. Food is now consumed swiftly and functionally – with one hand, because the other is holding the baby. You might even have to get someone to cut it up for you so you can stab at it frantically with a fork. ‘Dinner’ for me, six days postpartum, was a burnt Chicken Kiev, which I ate with one hand like a sandwich.

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3. You can’t shower.

Putting baby down makes baby unhappy. Your attempt at keeping clean makes baby unhappy. You will try leaving baby in its cot to dash to the bathroom, but will become convinced it has injured itself in the intervening 30 seconds and will jump out to race, stark naked and soaking wet, to the nursery. You will learn to take baby into the bathroom with you in its Moses basket and/or bouncer. Baby will be happy again.

4. You worry all the time.

I had no idea that in the rare moments my baby would be sleeping quietly in her cot, I would not be able to close my eyes because of an intense and irrational fear that she might die. I’m serious – if she slept for longer than 30 minutes, I’d find myself hovering over her, anxiously checking she was breathing. I did this for MONTHS.

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5. You will stare at photos on your phone like a besotted teenager.

Biased, hell yeah – but who wouldn’t be, when they’re the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? (Even if in reality, they look like a small, screwed up, hairy monkey).

6. You never knew tired before.

“I know what being tired is like,” I scoffed, before I became a parent. “I’ve worked late, got up early, been out all night dancing and got home at 7am – it’s not like parents have a monopoly on being tired.” Oh, sweet ignorance. Just wait. You may have burnt the candle at both ends for a few weeks, but at least you can spend all weekend in bed catching up on a few Zzzs. Try chronic sleep deprivation for SEVEN YEARS.

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7. You have to teach babies how to sleep.

As an adult, it’s hard NOT to fall asleep – in the cinema, on the sofa, on the train, at work. But babies do not know how to do it. The only way, according to them, is while being rocked, sung to, jiggled or fed. Later, at a point of true exhaustion, you will agonisingly discuss the pros and cons of ‘crying it out’ (leaving the baby to cry until it falls asleep on its own). This is a hard time. Go easy on yourself. Trust your instincts.

8. Newborn babies, however, sleep ALL the time.

At least 23 hours a day – at first. And yes, it is possible to watch all seven series of ‘Gilmore Girls’ in two weeks. Enjoy this sofa time with your newborn dozing peacefully on your chest. For it shall not last.

9. Everything gives them wind.

Babies need to be burped, or they will whine and grumble and make loud, grunting noises in their sleep. They can’t bring it up by themselves, so you will find yourself holding them upside down, patting them on the back, rolling them across your knee, bending them forwards and backwards – anything to get that gas bubble out.

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10. 111 – the NHS helpline – is your best friend.

Rashes, coughs, wheezes, colds, too much sleeping, not enough sleeping... nothing prepares you for the obliterating, all-encompassing new parent paranoia. Babies are tougher than you think, but if you’re worried, call 111. It’s not worth the risk – or your sanity.

11. Imposter syndrome.

“I’m not qualified for this.” You might feel like a kid playing at being grown-up, except the tiny doll you’re bathing is real, and very, very noisy. Make sure you take time to give yourself a giant pat on the back. That disgusting nappy? You dealt with it like a pro. High-five.

12. You need so much STUFF (or think you do).

Pram, cot, sleep pod, breastfeeding pillow, bath thermometer, baby monitor, medical thermometer...etc. I’ve never had as many Amazon deliveries in my life as in the first couple of days after my daughter was born. The great secret is that you don’t need half of it – the special clear plastic ‘bath tub’ you paid £20 for? Could’ve done it with a £1 plastic bucket from B&Q.

13. Nothing grosses you out anymore.

You’ll pick (or even suck out) bogeys, get weed on, clean up giant poosplosions, and take it all in your stride. My husband once absentmindedly licked what he thought was chocolate from his hand after changing our daughter’s nappy (spoiler: it wasn’t chocolate). But he was cool with it. Sort of. That’s love, for you.