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February 23, 2004

Things the world should know about pregnancy. #1

Okay, roundup of useful thoughts from the whole of the last nine months.

1) There are two sorts of books you will need to read if you are a lady.

- There is the getting-pregnant/during pregnancy book - of varying levels of hectoring. The best of these we found was 'What to expect when you're expecting'. Sheila Kitzinger's index didn't line up, and the pictures of 'how to have sex while pregnant' could put you off the whole idea.

- Then there is the your baby has turned up, what do you do sort of book. Everyone goes on about Gina Ford's 'Contented Little Baby' book, which is a great ideal, if you're a complete nazi. It felt very inhuman, but just as daft were all the bits of advice about kids-in-bed feed-on-demand etc. Our salvation came in the shape of 'Secrets of the Baby Whisperer' which, despite being written in a cod-yorkshire accent for american readers (think Daphne from Frasier) actually contains the most pragmatic advice. Like 'stop and look at your baby and work out what they're trying to tell you before you project your own fears onto them'. We can now (usually) tell the difference between tired, hungry, bored and painful crying which helps a lot.

These two types of books do completely different things, and there's not really that much overlap between them. Read the first as you go, and skim the second until just before the baby turns up. At which point hand it to your partner because...

2) There are virtually no books to read in advance that are any use if you are a man.
We like to know what we're supposed to *do*. All these books are about how women will feel about internal changes going on in them, and their worries and concerns.
I wanted a to-do list, or a diagnosis flowchart. No books had that.
We had a great Haynes Manual for 'Baby' which seemed to do the job, and was certainly an eyeopener in terms of how to look at it all - an overview that whetted your appetite.
There'a a 'ParenTalk' book that was pretty good which dispelled lots of myths, and gave me a route into the other 'mum-oriented' books, but it's sadly no longer available. Booooooo.


When the baby turns up, we have a certain amount of time on our hands and there are tangible problems to solve. That's when the second sort of mum book is great and we can really come into our own.

3) Men can get more out of NCT classes than women.
(Once we get over our embarrasment.)

4) The sleep deprivation isn't as bad as you think.
For the first week anyway. Then it gets lots lots lots worse. But after about four weeks you've got as tired as you're going to get, and you can cope more.

5) Stop drinking.
Getting up in the middle of the night is tough enough without also being a bit dopey because you're mid-hangover. At the level of tiredness two glasses of wine becomes too much. Shrink your ambitions now.

6) You won't talk about anything but your kids afterwards for a couple of weeks.
There are two reasons for this, so relax:
i) Kids are genuinely fascinating
ii) You don't have time to do anything else that you could talk about.
Avoid talking about poo though. It is very boring.

7) In hospital, make sure you read your notes
You can find out a lot about what's really going on that way. We were able to remind people to provide medicine etc as a result of what we'd read. And refuse other things we hadn't asked for.

8) Babies need to wear both a vest and a bodysuit thing
We didn' realise this and thought one was for summer, the other for winter. Nope.
The vesty thing goes on first, with the bodysuit over the top. The hospital staff looked at us like we were mad for only having bodysuits.

9) Nappy shock
No matter what ecological plans you've got, it's probably a good idea to get some own-brand disposable nappies to cover the first week or so. They get through about 5 or 6 a day - don't get fooled because they're very absorbent until they're suddenly not. Trust to the weight.
I'd also say get one out and try putting it on a teddybear or something. That way you can figure out how the strange miniature velcro works for you. A bit of a shock to do your first when someone is wriggling in it.
Oh, and it's not just boys that wee when you expose them to the air. It's just not jet propelled in ladies.

10) Breastfeeding - the big lie
I get very very angry about this.
In books like Miriam Stoppard's there are innocent phrases like 'there is no reason why any woman should not be able to breastfeed her baby'.
What lazy ill-considered bollocks.
Breastfeeding is hyped as this beautiful natural bonding thing.
It's not - it hurts, is messy and uncomfortable and stressful and guilt-ridden. And it's lazy pressure from the 'breast is best' crowd that can leave women getting to the point where initially dismissive midwives will 'just have a quick look' at the damage and visibly wince.
Virtuarlly everyone in our NCT class had huge huge huge problems with it.
Don't believe the hype. Do what's best for your family as a whole.

11) Finally, avoid listening to Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work" at all costs
Particularly in public. Give it six months or so to fade.

[Update: some more items from later here]

Posted by Tom Dolan at February 23, 2004 03:03 PM

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Aha. The Parentalk book was their "guide to the first six weeks". See, another book about doing.

But it was very good anyway, and covered lots of things I needed to know about the run-up in a very inclusive way.

Posted by: Tom Dolan at February 23, 2004 03:49 PM

"But after about four weeks you've got as tired as you're going to get" - just you wait... and then when you think it can't possibly get any worse, have another baby...

Posted by: Rob Bevan at February 23, 2004 04:01 PM

[exit tom, running to hills]

Posted by: Tom Dolan at February 23, 2004 04:29 PM

Well said Mr Bevan... when it comes to children under 3, you are looking at a deeply non-linear relationship between number in the house, and your general level of fuckedness.

I've been told that after the 4th child the curve gets more linear, and might even flatten off a bit... but going from one to two children under 3 was for me a greater shock than from no kids to one...

Posted by: Tomski at February 24, 2004 05:25 PM

As one who has "failed" at breastfeeding twice, I have to agree.

Posted by: Madolyn at August 29, 2004 12:32 AM

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