With my single experience of parenting, I felt like I had suddenly been given the key to universal knowledge about motherhood. I quickly took to the internet to share my revelations thinking they would help thousands and I would be hailed as a hero of (wo)mankind.
Slowly, it started to sink in that, my one experience was just one of many millions of experiences being experienced throughout the land. So, I retreated quickly back into my heavily stained dressing gown and returned to panicking about whether the baby was sleeping/eating/pooing enough.
It is a massive cliché that nothing prepares you. Nothing can. Antenatal classes, although incredibly informative about how to squeeze a large circumference out my chuff, lacked some essential information about life with a baby. For instance, that the baby will detect the moment you even think about putting it down and that every decision you make from this moment forward will be dripping in guilt.
I also had difficulty asking for certain advice. Like, what to do with their 'bits'. Girls have scary bits with crevices. Boys have scary bits that point at you way before you even think is possible. My girl was born with the greasy, sticky birth residue all over the place. I found out after making her sore from trying to pick it off, to leave it alone. I also discovered that boys find ‘themselves’ from a very early age and simply will not leave it alone.
I didn't know what I should do with my boy's foreskin and was convinced that Special Ops would smash through my windows the moment I Googled it. Older generations had even more disturbing anecdotes about what I should do with it. I now know that, by the time boys have finished stretching it, turned it inside out, poked it into the DVD player and tried lifting boxes with it, no intervention is required whatsoever.
My daughter may one day decide to have children of her own. I will, of course, encourage her to seek out professional advice whenever possible, and not be scared of being arrested for searching for answers on the internet. However, I do have a few nuggets of information I wish to pass on to her in the hope it might make her transition into the hood a little more painless...
#1. Prepare to be violated
Regardless of how much you value your personal space, expect it to be fully infiltrated from the moment you conceive. After the medical staff have spent nine months probing, prodding and stretching, the Baton of Abuse gets passed ceremoniously to your offspring. Every orifice on your body will be explored, traumatised and questioned about.
A baby has an unnatural ability to find nostrils in the dark of night when you find yourself inadvertently co-sleeping. A toddler has an unnatural fascination with eyeballs which they will poke when you least expect it, giving you a healthy case of pink eye. A school-age child will announce that, that man's beard looks like your armpits in the middle of Tesco.
#2. Postnatal exercises
The only bit of information I remembered from pregnancy yoga, in the midst of my contractions, was: "screaming is a waste of energy." So I mooed like a cow in its final moments of dying instead.
Instead of learning to mimic dying animals, try to master ninja techniques such as The Roll Away, Sitting Down Sleeping Baby and Silent Footsteps Over Lego. All absolutely essential to escape after you've spent hours getting the baby/child to sleep so you can enjoy a few seconds of alone time before repeating the whole process again.
#3. Set the bench mark very low
It's very easy to get carried away with wanting everything to be perfect first time around. Just remember though, whatever you do with your first, you'll have to maintain with your subsequent children (that you accidentally conceive) in the interest of fairness; swimming lessons from 6 weeks old, sports clubs, dance clubs, organic home-cooked food, everything brand new, sleep routines, extended maternity leave. Therefore, do the absolute minimum. The thousands of pounds you spend on character building in the first few years of their life won't get remembered, that really expensive cot will remain untouched and they'll refuse to eat anything other than beige food or floor pie regardless of how nutritious and delicious that dinner you've just made for them is.
#4. It's ok to call your child names
You love them. Of course you do. No-one will deny it. But sometimes, their determination not to sleep, eat any of the food you've prepared or push the boundaries will make you disagree with their behaviour.
It is perfectly acceptable, when out of earshot, to spit out expletives under your breath or call them names - and you shouldn't feel guilty.
They will always manage to make you look like a hideous parent by asking for a unicorn for Christmas, for a rollercoaster in their back garden or for a plane made of gold to fly them to North America (not made up). And don’t even think about giving them the purple plate with the green cup. Just don’t.
Believe in the brilliant parent you know you can be and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When I say anyone, I mean your children. They will always tell you otherwise.