In its way, becoming a new parent is more tiring than an epic journey, more challenging than a battle with the Dark Lord and more wonderful than magic. So, since Baby Smith is now a month old, this week I'm taking a break from fantasy to share my hard-won wisdom with you: ten things they don't tell you about becoming a parent.*
1. They say sleep when the baby sleeps. What they don't add is that there will be days when the baby doesn't sleep for longer than twenty minutes at a stretch. All day. And the only thing worse than getting no sleep is dropping off for a single glorious moment, only to be woken up again by the familiar sound of wailing.
2. Your 'spare time' will be reduced to five minutes furtively scoffing down chocolate in a remote corner of the house while your partner deals with the squirming bundle of arms and legs that's invaded your household.
3. The only time 1 and 2 won't hold true is when you have visitors. On such days the baby will sleep peacefully in his cot and submit to being passed around a multitude of eager hands without a whimper. The guests will go away thinking what an angel you've been blessed with, while you return to battling with the demon-spawn.
4. You'll wear the same clothes for days on end. On a good day, you'll manage to have a shower before bedtime.
5. You'll become intimately acquainted with the daytime TV schedules. Because although you swore you'd never waste your life watching mindless programmes about feuding neighbours and botched DIY, your mind will be too frazzled and your arms too full of baby to do anything else.
6. You'll suddenly take an inordinate amount of interest in faeces, urine, vomit and other bodily emissions. You'll find yourself poring over a dirty nappy as if it's a treasure map, wondering if it's normal.
7. You'll develop the ability to be amazed by the slightest thing. (Oh look! He blinked! Isn't he clever!)
8. Instead of spending your online time searching for new authors, publishing news and interesting facts to use in your next novel, you'll obsessively Google newborn sleep patterns and what the contents of a dirty nappy should look like. (See 6.)
9. You'll sometimes think nostalgically of that distant time when you could leave the house on a whim or while away a morning reading in bed, and wonder why on earth you thought it would be a good idea to put yourself through this ordeal.
10. Despite all the above, it won't be very long before you can't imagine your life without what has become the most important thing in it.
* Or rather, they probably do tell you, only at the time you just nod and smile while secretly thinking it won't be like that for me. If only you knew …