An A-Z of new motherhood: Bryony Gordon's heartfelt guide for Kate Middleton
Published 24/07/2013 | 05:00
You thought giving birth was bad enough? That’s just the start, says new mother Bryony Gordon. Here, she takes a break between vomit and visitors to prepare the Duchess of Cambridge for the very best and worst of what she should expect.
If you had told me a year ago that I would end up having a baby at the same time as the Duchess of Cambridge, I would have laughed in your face and told you I was more likely to end up the Queen.
But life has a funny way of throwing curveballs at you, and there is no bigger curveball than motherhood.
I don’t pretend to know everything about it, and I am learning every day – not since the night before one of my A-level exams have I taken in such a huge amount of information in such a short space of time – but here, for the Royal mother-to-be, is my guide to what she needs to know to survive the first months of the magical journey that is motherhood.
I learnt absolutely nothing from the antenatal classes we signed up for, other than that it is really easy to get a plastic baby through a pretend pelvis. Not so easy when you’re doing it for real – I ended up having an emergency Caesarean, though my NCT teacher told us nothing about those.
Indeed, it is almost pointless trying to prepare yourself for labour, much more so trying to write a plan. Your body will do what it damn well wants to, and you just have to go along with it, kicking and screaming if you absolutely must.
But here’s what I did gain from my antenatal classes: friends. For that reason, those antenatal classes were invaluable. A is also for alcohol. You will need it.
It never occurred to me, before I gave birth, that breast-feeding would be anything other than effortless.
Afterwards, as maternity nurses prodded at my boobs and attempted to squeeze colostrum out of my nipples (they ended up getting it out with a sort of syringe thing), I wondered how it could be anything other than impossible.
We spent a fortune on ‘lactation consultants’, one of whom told me that, actually, I wasn’t going to manage with breast-feeding. It was logistically too hard (I have giant boobs and had to hold my daughter almost behind my back, as if she were a rugby ball), and anyway I had hardly any milk.
I cried at this, but eventually I accepted it. We fed Edie formula, and she has thrived ever since. We reasoned that it was far better for our baby to be fed something – something made by scientists to be optimally nutritious – rather than virtually nothing.
The point of this is that breast isn’t always best. What is best is what works for you, be it boob or bottle. And don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
Colic is the thing that all mothers fear the most. It is the devil. It is, essentially, consistent crying (from the baby, not you) in the evening. Nobody knows what causes it, other than the baby, and the only way they can try to communicate that with you is by crying even more.
It is a nightmare from which you feel you will never wake, partly because you haven’t had any sleep in the first place. Like almost everything with a baby, this too will pass – only to be replaced by some other hassle, such as weaning.
You will never know if feeding your little one upright with a special bottle while burping it and running up and down the stairs made any difference at all.
When you are pregnant you will swear that you’ll never use a dummy. Dummies are for the weak-minded.
Then, on the fourth night home, you will be so desperate for something – anything – to shut up your little bundle of joy that you will send your other half out in the middle of the night to the nearest 24-hour pharmacy to buy a packet of dummies.
The baby will be very happy with the dummy. But then it will fall out of the baby’s mouth, and the baby will no longer be happy. Baby will wail and wail. You put the dummy back in. Baby pops the dummy back out. And so on and so on.
When I first got home from hospital, I thought I would be fine with visitors. Turns out I was wrong. I cried at the stress that came with attending to the first two groups of well-wishers, and then I stopped answering the door or the phone – for at least two weeks, until my other half went back to work, which is when you suddenly really need visitors.
And soon I realised that everyone falls into one of two camps: the people who bring you food, and the people who eat your food. I’m still trying to forgive the latter.
I had this problem at first. It was that I had given up my body for our baby, and now I was supposed to give up my career too?!?! Meanwhile, the other half swanned off to work every morning for a relaxing day in the office.
I count down the minutes and seconds until he returns, and cry when he is 16 minutes late. Then, when he gets home, he moans about how tired he is.
At which point I give him two options: a divorce (though we’re not even married yet), or doing the dream feed. It’s that simple, really.
There are so many tomes on parenting that you could go cross-eyed reading them. We bought them all, and have so far had time to read about three pages of each.
Instead, I Google problems on my phone while I am feeding. Then I ignore what I find on Google. It’s just easier that way.
I met our health visitor once. She talked to me about postnatal depression and breast-feeding and contraception. (What were we using when we got pregnant? Erm, nothing, hence the baby.)
Then she left, and we’ve never been in touch again.
Still, she did tell me about the local children’s centre, which I go to weekly for free baby massage classes and the company of other new mothers. It’s where I start to feel sane again.
I’d advise visiting yours as soon as possible.
Don’t be scared of these – they will hurt the baby in the short term but protect them in the long term. Whooping cough and tuberculosis may seem Dickensian, but they are very real and very dangerous.
So get your child vaccinated. OK, that’s the serious bit over with.
This terrified me – with her orangey glow, my daughter looked like a cast member of The Only Way Is Essex. Again, don’t be too concerned by it.
Edie was back to looking as pale as her mother within a week, and now we worry about the possibility of sunburn instead. There’s always something.
If, like the wonderful Romola Garai, you ended up with 23 stitches in your vagina after childbirth, then these are a really good idea.
As this is a family newspaper, I won’t go into details, but I’m sure one of the hundreds of guidebooks you have inevitably bought will help you. Enjoy!
Pre-baby, you did two washes a week and they were all colours. Post-baby, you will do several white washes a day. (Why are Babygros never black? Because everything would show up on them.) Your life becomes one long wash cycle. As we don’t have a tumble-dryer, our flat is like a Chinese laundry.
I only wish I’d invested in shares in Ecover.
AKA little squares of cotton that mop up drool and sick and anything else your little angel should care to deposit on to you.
We had eight when Edie was born – 11 weeks on we have 60 and counting. Repeat after me: You. Can. Never. Have. Too. Many. Muslins.
This is the best €10 a month you will spend (after the muslins, that is). Since giving birth, I have watched six seasons of Gossip Girl, all of House of Cards, and I have just got into 24.
You will spend so much time on the sofa feeding your baby that good television is really, really essential.
I just knew I was going to be an earth mother.
I was going to wipe my baby’s bottom with cotton wool and water and never ever put Sudocrem on it. I was never going to give her baby drugs, such as Infacol and Gripe Water (essentials, by the way, for a colicky baby).
And then I gave birth, and things changed… Don’t be afraid to embrace these things.
Buying a pram was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. Will it be a Bugaboo or an iCandy or a Quinny?
In the end we went for a Bugaboo, because everyone else in our part of town has one and we didn’t want to be shunned by other parents.
For the price, we could have bought a new car. It didn’t even come with a nanny to push it, or a particularly useful manual to put it together.
Our daughter won’t go down in it without bursting into tears, either – this means I end up putting her in the sling (see S), and filling the pram with alcohol and formula at the supermarket. It is essentially the world’s most expensive shopping trolley.
My boyfriend and I have attempted this, with my mother coming round to babysit.
We go out for dinner and half an hour later we decide to return home, because we are tired and want to use granny night care as an excuse to catch up on sleep.
Still, becoming parents has changed our relationship, and in a good way.
We have seen new, incredible sides to one another. Even if our quality time is just a cuddle as we fall into deep sleep, it’s still a million times more meaningful than it was before we had our daughter. Awww.
The postman will become the person you see almost as much as your baby.
Every morning he will arrive with a sack of cards and parcels from friends and family. Befriend him – he may be the only adult company you have all day.
Slings and swaddles
Buy a sling (we got the Baby Bjorn Miracle). The baby will fall asleep in it and your hands will be free to do laundry and sterilise bottles. You will also be able to go to the loo – bonus! – with the baby calmly attached to you.
Swaddles are brilliant in the first weeks. Swaddling a baby will make them think they are back in the womb, and they will sleep. Sadly, not everyone can swaddle – I leave it to my boyfriend.
If, like me, you can’t do it, you can always zip them into a Woombie (available from John Lewis), which my friend Chloe helpfully described as looking like ‘baby’s first straitjacket’. Whatever. It works.
I have only two words for you: Good. Luck.
It amazes me that I can spend the whole day doing laundry and sterilising bottles and picking up dirty muslins – and yet the house is still a total tip. It’s like a bomb has gone off in a Mothercare factory.
Please employ a cleaner. It is not a luxury.
I would have run a mile from sick pre-pregnancy, but now I embrace it.
I have to – it is in my hair, on my clothes, all over the sofa. It’s incredible how little fluids bother you once you are a mother.
One day I realised I had a tiny bit of baby poo on my thumb after changing Edie. And do you know what I did? I licked it off, because she was crying and there were no wipes to hand.
This is how much you will love your child.
Another mother told me this was great for colicky babies, as it reminds them of being in the womb. And it’s true – it is great.
The neighbours must think we are real clean freaks.
According to babynames.com, Xanadu means ‘Mongolian city’. You can call your baby almost anything – Apple, Harper, Edie.
Also, remember that until you’ve registered your baby, you can change its name as many times as you like!
I tried this during pregnancy in the hope of picking up techniques to get through the birth. In the end, the only technique I needed was the ability to suck on gas and air.
I have all these yoga DVDs to watch now that I’m no longer pregnant, but I have no time to exercise.
Which brings me to something important: please don’t worry about your weight. Nine months up, nine months down. Remember to respect your body: it has just done the most incredible thing.
Don’t believe it when people say that you will get no sleep. You will – it will just be a bit different. I didn’t sleep at all when I was pregnant, but as soon as I gave birth my slumber was deep and lovely.
Edie and I sleep at the same time during the day. She may wake up at 5am, but after that we go back to sleep until 10am. Anyway, who needs sleep when you’ve got your gorgeous baby? Cheesy, but oh-so-true.