Before the birth of our first child, I went with my husband to NCT lessons. Eight couples booked in for eight evening sessions with one earth-mother to guide us through what was to come using lots of props and an endless supply of her home-baked cookies.
Many of the things that she asked us to discuss and consider were very useful, and lots of the things that she said worked for me personally as a means to go into the business of childbirth feeling empowered and ready. But the rest of it was a blur of plastic babies that we had to pretend to breastfeed and change; little dollies wearing nappies containing various foodstuffs to show us what the first few weeks of poo should look like (I have never looked at mustard in the same way since). She also particularly enjoyed putting the husbands into awkward positions during role-play birth sequences such as when she had one of them up on a bed covered with stickers to represent the various tubes, monitors, and medieval implements that may be used in the escalation of childbirth 'interventions' from forceps via ventouse to emergency c-section. Then there was the time when she made us link arms as a group to impersonate the behaviour of the uterus and cervix during labour whilst she floated around in the middle waiting to be 'born'.....sometimes I have to remind myself that actually did happen. It did. I challenge you to come up with a more terrible team building experience.
What we didn't cover, and couldn't, was the experience of motherhood itself which I think was a great thing as we were already burdened with too many expectations that most of us would fail to live up to and couldn't be fixed by buying a changing bag that says 'Yummy Mummy' - whose bloody ridiculous and extremely patronising idea was that?! I am glad to have given parenting magazines a wide berth and for taking the advice of a former manager which was to 'buy the Gina Ford book and then burn it'. I saw it, there is no time to be a person in it except when you're asleep and dreaming of burning that book.
So we make it up as we go along, try to learn from our own mother's successes and mistakes and cross our fingers that we're doing a good job. With children that are still very young, I am only just on the journey but here's what I've found so far:
* Children rearrange your life, your priorities and your body.
* No outfit is made better by the addition of poo, sick or bogies.
* There is nothing quite like having a belly laugh with a five year old at the dinner table
* I am glad I partied hard, travelled far, and established my career first.
* Old ladies really do stop you in the street to coo over the contents of your pram.
* Babies really do say 'nom, nom, nom' when being fed.
* Sleep is the holy grail.
* I wish I could bottle up the greeting they get from their grandma.
* They might not understand the concept of 'today' and 'tomorrow' but they completely 'get' love. I heard a fantastic conversation on the playground where some of the children were discussing how marriage can be between men, women, or a man and a woman, as long as they love each other. It made my heart glad.
* The only prejudices they hold are ones that we put there.
* Watching the 'Baked Potato Song' on a whim will turn it into a 'family song'.
There's loads more, I'm sure, but I think that'll do for starters. Oh, except for one thing, how beautiful they look when they're asleep. Think I'm going to go and gaze on them a while, now that's a real Mother's Day treat.