I yearned to be a mum long before I ever became one. But I didn't just sit around idly waiting for those magic two lines to appear on my pregnancy test, oh no! I used the time it took us to conceive to prepare, research, read up - I wasn't going into this motherhood lark with my eyes closed. From childbirth, life with a newborn to the dreaded four-month sleep regression, I hungrily hoovered up every morsel of information Google had to offer. I wanted to know exactly what to expect and, more importantly, how to be The Best Mum Ever.
But for all my preparation, it turns out I knew jack shit about being a parent. Like most vocations, Motherhood requires a certain on the job training that parenting books simply can't provide.
So, if you're an expectant mum, here are a few parenthood lessons I've learned from the front line. But the take home point is basically thus - being a mum is bloody hard work, more so than I ever expected. But is it all worth it? A thousand times yes!
EXPECTATION: Breastfeeding Will be a Breeze
Breastfeeding will come naturally, obviously. After all, I've got a special breastfeeding chair - what more do I need? When I do decide to introduce solids, it'll only ever be organic and home made. None of these 'convenience' baby food jars for my boy!
REALITY: Breastfeeding Can Be a Total Nightmare
Holy cracked nips, breastfeeding hurts. Do all babies have the latch of a barracuda, or just mine? Lucky me. I had no idea that something so 'beautiful' and 'natural' could be punctuated by a chorus of screams (mine in agony, his in frustration). Quick, give him an Ella's Kitchen sachet. Don't worry about a bowl, just squirt it straight into his mouth.
EXPECTATION: I'll 'Snap Back Into Shape'
I've read Heat magazine, I know how it's done. My body will bounce back a la Abbey Clancy, my hair will always be freshly washed and I'll take my post baby fashion cues from Beyonce (printed trousers, structured blazers and brogues were the call of the day when Blue Ivy was a baby). You won't catch me in ill-fitting maternity wear and un-highlighted hair, thankyouverymuch.
REALITY: OMG, I Am a F**king Mess
I've got two words for you: loose skin. But aside from the fact that my upper body now resembles a melting candle, I seem to spend an unhealthy amount of schlepping around in a Weetabix encrusted dressing gown. On the rare occasion I do actually get dressed, I wear the same handful of clothes on rotation, purely because they're (whisper it) comfortable.
EXPECTATION: I'll Be a Nicer Person
Sure, I'll be tired. But as soon as I cradle my baby in my arms for the first time, I will instantly be transformed into a patient, serene woman. I'll softly chuckle in disbelief when I remember the highly-strung girl I once was, or roll my eyes and smile during yet another 3am night feed. In short, my tolerance levels will be reset to 'high'.
REALITY: Nope, Still Horrible
The little tolerance I had has shriveled up and died. Was everyone always this annoying? Hell hath no fury like a sleep deprived woman.
EXPECTATION: Maternity Leave is Pretty Much Like a Holiday
I cannot wait to go on maternity leave, I'll have so much time on my hands. No more dark, cold Monday morning commutes for me! I'm going to start baking and cooking sumptuous meals from scratch. Ooh, perhaps I'll write a book too? Yeah, I'll write a book.
REALITY: Maternity Leave is NOT Like a Holiday. At All.
Sweet mother of God, how is it five o'clock already?! I'm still in my pajamas, I have baby sick in my hair and the fridge is a barren wasteland. Please, let me go back to work just for one day, I need a break.
EXPECTATION: Having a Baby Won't Change our Relationship
We'll always make quality time for each other. What's more, we'll still do loads of things we used to do, we'll just take the baby along with us. I don't want us to be the kind of parents who are a slave to their kids' whims. What mugs!
REALITY: Having a Baby has Completely Changed our Relationship
Prams, travel cots, sterilizers, baby carriers, baby walkers... kids come with a lot of crap and, as their parent, it's your job to cart it around for them on the off chance they might need any of it at a moment's notice. Heaven forbid you be out of the house without 17 nappies and a bumper pack of wet wipes to hand at any given time. But if packing for an outing doesn't put you off, trying to schedule said outing around your baby's sleep routine might. As for making time for each other, how's that working out for you? Yeah, thought so.