You're probably thinking you've got a month to go. You're probably thinking you've got plenty of time to do all those little jobs like get the crib back out the loft. You're probably even thinking you'll have a chance to pack Sam off to the grandparents for the weekend soon and you'll get to spend some quality time with Liz before all Hell breaks loose.
Look at it this way, though: By my calculations, you passed thirty-six weeks yesterday. If Squiggly turns up now, the hospital won't even count him/her/it as premature.
Hope you've got that bag packed.
Just to get you in the right frame of mind, here a few things you might have forgotten about babies in the last three years:
- They're small
Look at Sam. You know he's three but deep down you still think of him as your little baby. The actual baby will make him look like a pre-school Godzilla stomping through the lounge, over-turning activity gyms, crushing Fisher-Price playsets and endangering any tiny siblings left in his path.
Dealing with this will require some mental readjustment (and possibly a cage).
- They arrive pre-filled with tar
Yep, nothing says, 'Congratulations! You're a dad again!' more clearly than a nappy full of foul, sticky, black slime.
I'm not sure what the biological reasons are for this stuff but I suspect it's some kind of survival mechanism. It means that no matter what noxious mess a parent ends up in over the following months and years, they will find solace in the fact that at least they're not trying to scrape distilled evil off a baby's bottom with soggy cottonwool. It makes everything else so much easier to forgive.
- They only sleep when you have to be awake
Like when they're being fed or pushed round in a buggy or being driven somewhere in the car or having their nappy changed. Squiggly will wake up at three in the morning wanting fed and changed. She will sleep through most of this but then wake up crying when placed in the crib as if the mattress is made of spiky ice. You will then push her round the kitchen table in the buggy trying to get her to sleep before strapping her into the car and taking her for a ride. Upon returning, she will sleep in the crib just long enough for you to doze off. Then she will wake up needing fed and changed.
You probably don't remember it being this bad with Sam but that doesn't mean it wasn't. It just means that sleep deprivation Swiss-cheesed your brain. Be afraid of what else you might have forgotten...
- They eat constantly
I've been told this is because their stomach is only the size of a walnut and so they need constant refills but really it's because:
- They vomit constantly
Sometimes it's just a little dribble on your shoulder. Other times it's a burp down your back. Often it's belch over both of you. Occasionally it's a high-pressure fountain of curdled milkiness which erupts over the entire room for several minutes. (It's truly amazing how much liquid a walnut can hold).
- They go through more changes of clothes in a day than you own for yourself
Between leaky nappies, dribbling and the vomit, there's always plenty of laundry to be done. The classic scenario is gingerly removing a kid's clothes and nappy because of an escape of toxic chicken tikka and then having them pee on the clean clothes laid out next to them. It's difficult to know what to clean first but the one certainty is that, when you are all cleaned up, the nightmare is over and you're fastening the last popper of the babygro as they lie on the changing mat, that's when they'll vomit down their neck, rub their hair in the resulting puddle and then fill their nappy explosively in surprise.
- They smell
This isn't all that surprising, given most of the above, but I just thought I'd mention it...
- They don't smile
This is actually the most difficult thing to cope with. It's usually six weeks before babies learn to smile. Up until then, the best feedback you can hope for is no crying. No crying means they're happy. No crying means you're doing your job right.
It's not very encouraging, though.
Just keep slaving on and hold out for that first smile. It makes all the rest of it worth it.
Yours in a woman's world,