This pregnancy and parenthood lark, it’s a puzzler. I’m all for reading what my health visitor friend referred to as evidence-based information. For example, I can’t get enough of the BBC pregnancy calendar (this week Sprout is about 20cm long, and weighs 300g) and I frequently return to the lovely Pregnancy book handed out by the NHS (seemingly every pregnant woman resembles the Greenham Common protesters: all 80s hair, dungarees and a whiff of communism). However, when it comes to instructions on how to do anything other than the basics I just do not want to know. Fine, tell me how to change a nappy - that said, I am still a bit woolly about the folding-and-pinning-the-thing-on process, but I figure I’ll work it out and anyway if I’m taking care of feeding, shouldn’t TA deal with all the downstream business? - but don’t try to tell me about routines I should get into, the Baby Einstein products I should be buying or the best methods of childrearing.
My (childless) aunt brought things to a head with her rather scattergun interrogation over lunch at the weekend. Will I have an amniocentesis, she demanded. Answer: no, I don’t need one since the 12-week scan said that I had the same level of risk of having a Down’s baby as a 15-year-old. Then she wanted to know what books I was reading to prepare. None, I rather rebelliously stated. The health visitor friend, who happens to live next door to Aunt, it’s a long story, and who was in attendance looked pleased. Don’t read “xxx” (I can’t even remember what it was called… “The Contented Baby”, thanks Amazon!) it’ll only make you feel as though you are doing everything wrong. Of course, the next subject was breastfeeding. Horrifyingly, Aunt’s scrofulous partner, the Rat, held forth on some time about how his wife had experienced difficulties and was told by Mother Russia (Aunt and the Rat worked at the World Service) to restrict baby to ten minutes per nipple. Health visitor could be observed biting her tongue, it is possible she drew blood.
This is my thinking on the subject, and feel free to laugh like a drain if you know better and foresee months during which my naiveté comes back to bite me firmly and relentlessly on the arse, women have been having and feeding babies for millennia - surely there has to be some instinct or basic survival mechanism involved? I want to breastfeed Sprout. I think all told it will be easier and cheaper than all the hullabaloo with formula and bottles, not to mention better for my waistband and Sprout’s overall health. I want to keep things as simple and straightforward as possible. I’m boycotting Mothercare, for example, having seen that they claim a £130 "kit" is essential for breastfeeding. I’m tempted to boycott as many of the medical appointments as possible - given that "my" obs was clueless and "my" midwife about as warm and alert to the proceedings as a recently buried corpse. In the back of my mind I cherish a hope that a couple of days of backache and twinges will be followed by a delivery so swift and easy that TA and I end up jumping on a bus to take the new arrival to be Apgar’d after the event. I know, I know - I’m going to have my illusions cruelly torn away during hours of pain during which I beg for an epidural of crack cocaine. But it does happen like that sometimes: my colleague has just had her first child and her labour lasted 20 minutes, albeit she was in hospital at the time.
There will be many things, I know, that I will have to go along with: the crib (which we already have), the sling, the pushchair (we have) etc, but I’m going to draw a line and say no to the essential breastfeeding kit, the baby bath (what’s wrong with a washing-up bowl?), the this and the that - all the 21st century consumer nonsense that gets foisted upon us. And no sodding instruction manual books either. Sprout can like or lump our best efforts; I’m pretty sure if we’re doing it wrong Sprout will find a way to let us know.