Flea’s going to be turning ten years old in a few weeks. Ten!
I’ve completely and utterly loved nine. I had a blast with eight and seven, and six and five. I adored four and three.
One and two?
I loved her.
But I wasn’t a natural parent. From the moment I woke from the general anaesthetic and mumbled, “What are you doing with that baby?” I like to think I discovered whole new levels of bumbling incompetence, which in my case had previously been restricted to DIY and cookery.
Here are five amazing moments from Flea’s first 1,000 days:
- When Flea was a couple of weeks old, I once forgot entirely where the baby was (with my Mum, downstairs, while we grabbed some sleep). So when I woke up to find an empty Moses basket, of course I woke up my husband and told him I thought we’d lost the baby. Cue several very long minutes of frantic searching under the bed and in my sock drawer (unlikely, but seemed possible) before I remembered that I’d given the baby to someone else to look after. Sleep deprivation is a cruel thing.
- When Flea was a baby, we LOVED baby swimming classes. Fortunately she has no memory of the time we were walking along the side of the pool after a class, and I accidentally bumped her into the water. I did jump in after her, OBVS.
- A high point of the early days was giving baby Flea a bottle of warm milk without screwing the lid on securely. I like to think I was just bringing forward the point at which I needed to wash a milk-soaked babygro.
- As Flea approached her first birthday, we started attending the birthday parties of our NCT friend’s babies. At one party, I happily lifted Flea up so she could grab a toy from her friend’s toy box. And dropped her. Head first, into the toy box. Luckily, they were mostly quite soft toys. But babies can be surprisingly slippery, is all I’m saying.
- Then there was that time I accidentally punched Flea in the face. I was trying to put her into her car seat, which Which? magazine told me was the safest seat in the whole wide world ever, while neglecting to mention fastening the damn thing was like completing the Krypton Factor. I was tugging, and my hand slipped, and… well, I hit my child in the face. All was not lost, though, because we made up a song about it, thereby making it a fun, educational experience and not an epic moment of parenting FAIL. *cough*
The truth is that for the first 1,000 days of being a parent, you’re winging it. We all are. You’re scared and you’re tired and nobody at the hospital gives you a manual – they just somehow expect you to care for this fragile, helpless little creature. There’s nothing more terrifying than realising you love this little being more than life itself – but its wellbeing depends almost entirely on YOU.
Someone asked me recently what the best piece of advice was that I received as a new Mum and it was actually from my own Mum, who told me, “You feel what you feel.”
Sometimes as a new parent you feel utterly happy and warm and proud and content. I remember the feeling of watching Flea snuggle into me while she fed. Of wrapping her in a blanket and holding her close to me as she fell asleep. Of seeing her smile. The joy in her face when she bounced up and down in her chair. The way she used to run around with her t-shirt round her chest shouting PUPPY KISSES to the dog, and trying to make the dog lick her tummy, because it tickled. Those are happy moments.
But other times you feel terrified and a bit inadequate and completely helpless. Sometimes you’re just plain bored and want someone, anyone, to talk to about something other than whether it’s toast or nanas for breakfast. Again. Sometimes you wonder how long it will be before you stop leaning over your child at night to check they haven’t stopped breathing (clue: never).
What my Mum meant is that there’s no point giving yourself a hard time about how you feel. Because it just IS. You don’t decide to feel sad or tired or frustrated, you’re just feeling it. And it will pass, and you’ll feel something else – in about 10 seconds, probably, thanks to the miracle of hormones.
I was reminded of this when the team at Pampers asked me to write a post about the first 1,000 days with my baby.
Pampers recently completed a study with the NCT following the experiences of 1,000 first-time parents during the first 1,000 days of parenting – and revealed that most parents are more tired for more time than they expect. The study also looks at the challenges and rewards of parenting for both Mums and Dads, and encourages some honest conversations about what those early years really look (and feel) like.
You can find out a bit more over on the NCT website, or check out the video below, which features people who have put on make-up and brushed their hair, which is probably more than I managed for 1,000 days, if I’m honest.