My husband and I thought we were prepared for parenthood. We'd been to the classes, I'd read all the books and we'd written a birth plan but as it turns out, parenting begins after the birth. We'd only revised for the first part of the test.
It wasn't that we hadn't each thought about how we would parent our baby, it was that we hadn't talked about it.
I knew that my approach would be totally baby-centric but I wasn't prepared for how seriously I would take my new role. I made a lot of insane rules for myself like only watching 'educational' television programmes when I was breastfeeding in the middle of the night. The hours that I spent staring blankly at BBC 4 documentaries, lest my secret penchant for Made in Chelsea should destroy my six-week-old child's intellect. Needless to say, I can't remember any of what I learned on those long summer nights and my three-year-old sure as hell can't.
My husband was much more laid-back. He didn't believe that our little one needed constant stimulation. He was happy to pop her in her baby bouncer and settle on the sofa with the paper and a cup of a coffee while she gurgled away next to him. Looking back, the memory of a scene like that melts my heart but at the time it would have made me so mad.
Sleep deprivation coupled with that unsettling, guilt-inducing sense of being 'trapped' at home whilst my husband went out into the world - speaking to adults, drinking hot coffee, going to Pret - definitely contributed to my rage, but I think the real issue was the difference that was beginning to show itself in our approach to children and parenting. Neither of us knew what was best, we were both defaulting to our innate sense of how to be parents, but the natural differences in our personalities were guiding us in different ways. All those books I had read started to rear their ugly heads too. When I found myself quoting from 'Why Love Matters' I decided it was time to put aside everything we both thought we knew and start again from scratch.
The only way to get over it was to talk. To plan. To decide, together, what sort of parents we wanted to be and how we would achieve that.
We asked each other some simple questions:
How would you describe yourself as a parent?
What sort of relationship do you want to have with our daughter when she has grown up?
Who do you admire as parents? What is it about their parenting style that you respect?
What aspects of parenting are you enjoying? Which aspects could you enjoy more?
How important is our relationship to our baby's experience of the world?
I urge everyone to have conversations like these before your baby comes and to carry them on through the wonderful, messy, sometimes impossible first year. I feel so strongly about it that along with own mum, who happens to be a brilliant expert coach, I have created a product to help parents do just that: a pack of 50 coaching questions that can help everyone have open, honest conversations about your experience of parenting and plans for the future. Coaching Cards for New Parents are available now from Amazon.