. That way, Everyone on the Island Bébé Team is a parent to either a baby, a toddler, or both, and over the course of our adventure together we’ve found that, when it comes to the unexpected, we’ve had a lot of similar experiences. These are things that no book, YouTube video or prenatal class can coach you on. From the emotional to the practical, there’s never a dull moment, so here are the parenting truths that no one prepared us for.
1. The concept of ‘time’ gets really weird.
Before parenthood, you tend to focus inward, on your own lifecycle. Your youth, the here and now, you think of your life as an independent experience. But, when you graduate to parenthood, and you see your parents graduate to grandparenthood, time suddenly becomes so vast, and you feel so much more connected to a bigger picture.
At the risk of breaking out into some Elton John, we really are all part of the circle of life, and there’s something surprisingly comforting about that, whether you feel it from a scientific or spiritual perspective.
2. Your body feels different.
We all know that your body looks different during and after birth, but what we didn’t see coming was how different it feels, and how this feeling is permanent. Forget about how long it takes to physically “snap back” (whoever invented that phrase needs to f*ck off), all the abs in the world won’t change the reality that you now reside in a new vessel, one that created, carried, and birthed a baby.
The feeling is impossible to describe, it’s almost like you feel more fragile because your body has taken a battering, but at the same time you feel so strong, like nothing can stop you because you survived it. No matter the changes, you’ve just found a new love and appreciation for yourself. Enjoy it.
3. Omg, babies can’t do ANYTHING.
Okay, it’s not like I expected my baby to come out fully dressed for his first job interview or anything, but I really did think that there would be some things that came naturally to them. Not so. Babies literally can’t do anything for the first 3 months. They don’t even know how to fart, can you believe that?
When I asked my midwife at one of the home visits why my newborn was so irritable she said that it was probably gas, but that their digestive systems aren’t developed enough yet so he has to learn how to pass it. They don’t sleep because they don’t have a circadian rhythm. It’s not that they don’t want to sleep, they literally don’t know how to sleep. I vote we put them back in there for another 3 months with some YouTube tutorials. All in favour, say “aye”.
4. The love you have is so strong, it sometimes feels like fear.
When it comes to parenthood, the movies have a lot to answer for. They make everything looks so textbook and perfect and blah. It’s not even close. In fact, it’s so far from the truth, I’m convinced the people who make family movies don’t even have families. Yes, I love my child with every single fibre of my being, they got that part right, but what they don’t tell you is how terrifying that feels.
Sometimes that love can be so overwhelming it feels like your heart is bursting, for others it comes in little drips and drops for the first few months so you start to question if you are loving enough. Other times it translates into a feeling of pure terror, of worry and anxiety that something will go wrong, that you can’t protect them, or you won’t be good enough. However it manifests itself, do not even think about judging yourself, because it’s all normal and you’re doing just fine.
5. Trust us, you need a break.
Times are strange right now. People are in various stages of quarantine. Friends, parents and grandparents are being hidden away. There are new parents across the island trying to do this on their own with very little help or possibility of a break. This is not how parenting is supposed to be. Covid or no Covid, you are supposed to get a break. In order for you to be a fully-functioning parent, you are required to have a break.
Do not feel guilty for asking for one, don’t feel like you need to be on it 24/7. Not only is permanent parenthood unhealthy, but it will also suck the joy out of what should be a memorable time in your life. You need some time to chill, to cry, to not think, to be alone and to just be. Don’t push through it, tell someone. You’ll be surprised how happy people are to help.
6. You will feel like an asshole for mourning your old life.
I found myself missing being able to leave the house 10 minutes after waking up to take my dog for a walk by the coast. Instead, here I was stuck at home feeding, sorting out bottles and unable to chill with my fur baby, my beautiful best friend who was here long before the baby, it didn’t seem fair. Leaving the house was now suddenly a whole process, a drama that I wasn’t used to and that, some days, I just couldn’t be bothered with.
However, the new reality of baby life settles in, routines emerge that make things a bit easier, and this new way of life will become second nature. There were parts of your old life that were easier – that’s a fact – and it’s okay to be vocal about missing them. It doesn’t mean you would change anything, or that you’re a bad parent, it just means you’re human.
7. Your partner suddenly becomes kind of annoying.
You might think that just because you managed to shop for house furnishings together without an argument means that you are soul mates destined for a life of harmony. You just wait until your partner puts your baby’s socks on inside out and then come tell us. This is not curtains and cushions, you guys will each have your own opinion about what is best for your baby. You will place different levels of importance on different things, and ultimately you will disagree.
You are both as scared and overwhelmed as each other. The more empathy you can have, the quicker you will find your new rhythm as a couple and you’ll get back to the formidable team you once were. Sometimes if you can’t make time for each other, just telling your partner that you miss them can make a big difference.
8. You can’t watch the news without having a breakdown.
Do you remember pre-pregnancy PMT? You will now have that every time you watch the news. Enjoy that. Whether it’s a humanitarian crisis, a heart-warming dog adoption story, old people things, babies, natural disasters, whatever. Anything that involves the slightest bit of human suffering or happiness, you will feel what they are feeling.
Being a parent brings everything right into your living room. Suddenly it becomes about, “what if that happened to my baby or my grandparent”, it’s all relatable. We suggest rationing your news time. That way, you won’t end up exhausted from trying to solve all the world’s problems.
9. The one we wished we’d known.
If we could choose one unexpected parenting truth that we wished we’d known before, it would be that it’s all temporary. When you have your first child, the fact that they do this weird thing with their nose when they’re feeding will keep you awake with worry for days. Their long, difficult, bedtime routine that they insist on putting you through every night will make you wonder if it really is all worth it.
But the funny thing about it all is that what was absolutely consuming you one week will have completely disappeared the next. Okay, yes, it will probably be replaced by something equally as worrisome, but still. Try not to let yourself get too wound up. The chances are it’ll soon be forgotten about and you’ll have just wasted all that worry for nothing. Just think, you could have used it to worry about weaning instead. Or what you’re going to cook for dinner tonight. Or whether the bath is too hot, or too cold, or too wet.