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12 things I wish someone had told me before having kids

You can live without sleep, but you cannot live without coffee, writes Claire Micks.

1.  THERE’S A REASON that the site’s called ‘Rollercoaster’. After having kids, you will experience highs and lows like never before. You will have times when you love them so much you could just eat them up, and others when you want to lock yourself in the bathroom for just 30 seconds peace. You will love the bones of them like you have never loved anything before, and yet, at the same time, they will incite frustration levels in you beyond anything you thought possible.

2.  You don’t need to understand every stage of the birth. That baby is coming out of you, one way or another. Regardless of how much pre-reading you have managed.

3.  You will look like crap after the birth. And more than likely feel like you’ve been run over by a bus. But that’s okay. That’s the way you’re supposed to feel. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong. And you will recover. Just not as quickly as the world around you might imply. Oh, and somehow, despite the fact that you never seem to manage to even finish a meal, those baby pounds aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. Turns out, that extra girth wasn’t fluid retention after all.

Worry not. They’ll find their way off you eventually. Just not as quickly as they do in the magazines. Or they did in your sister-in-law’s case.

4.  Time becomes a commodity. Which is priceless. There is never enough of it. For sleep. For food. Even for personal hygiene. Your existence will be pared back to the bone, and you will inevitably barter with your partner over even the smallest of luxuries. Ridiculous arguments will be had over who took longer in the shower, or who gets to escape the house next. And you will survive it. And be all the stronger for it. And you will never again take for granted the luxury of an uninterrupted toilet break. Or a meal that hasn’t gone into the microwave three times before eventually being finished. Yes, there is nothing quite like children to give you a renewed appreciation of the simple things in life.

shutterstock_183386132 Shutterstock / Kotin Shutterstock / Kotin / Kotin

5.  You can live without sleep. But not without coffee. Even if you are breastfeeding.

6.  Learn to love mornings. Being greeted, first thing, by the luminous digit ‘5:’ will no longer be unusual, or the stuff of Red Eyes. Anything after ‘6:’ will become the norm. ‘7:’ will be a good day, and ‘8:’ will be virtually unheard of. You have little choice but to embrace it. And it’s not all bad. There is something kinda special about being up and about at cockcrow, and having the whole world to yourself for just you and your little people to explore.

7.  In those early weeks of relentless feeds, you will long for certain periods of time to be over, will literally wish the weeks away (how many times did I hear mention of the ‘Magic Six’ or ‘Ten’ or ‘Twelve’ week ‘mark’ at which point ‘It will get easier’). And yet, once those stages are passed, you will long, with a potent nostalgia that almost hurts, to be back there. For whilst you were in the thick of it, in ‘the Tunnel’, just getting through the day and surviving it and on into the next, you wonder did you ever really manage to appreciate the magic of a newborn in your arms, or the warmth of them asleep next to you in the bed? Or were you just too knackered to notice? Remind yourself every now and again to try and commit to memory those precious times, those occasional little moments of joy and calm that somehow manage to punctuate the harder ones. Because soon enough they will be gone.

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8.  Sippy cups are designed to enrage. You will lose the random plastic inserts, and they will inevitably leak, which is made all the more frustrating by the fact that they are bloody impossible to open. Always assume with any child related item that, A. it will not be standardised, or in any way uniform or intuitive, and B. That it will not be idiot (or parent surviving on two hours sleep) proof. In fact, most of the time, quite the opposite will be the case. You will spend hours of your life battling with buggies and maxi cosi’s and car seats. And you will never find the time to actually read the Instruction Booklet, choosing instead to just plain fight with whatever contraption you’re faced with.

Invariably in full public view.

9.  On a related note, it’s okay if your buggy’s worth more than your car. For the moment at least, a fully functioning, easy to handle, bells and whistles Phil & Teds is worth far more to you in real terms than a decent set of (adult) wheels. And in a way, it’s a just an appropriate reflection of your life priorities at the moment. Sad as that may be to admit.

10.  Dr Google is not your friend, particularly when it comes to kids. Within a few clicks it rapidly transforms the symptoms of the common cold into suspected meningitis.

11.  You will learn to ignore the filthy looks of non-parents. And in time, become immune to them.

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12.  Babies cannot be categorised. Or tamed. No matter how much the book costs, or how well recommended it comes. No matter how carefully you log their behaviour. Or yours. No matter how militant the routine you impose. They are, by definition, individuals. And the earlier you realise that, the better. For both of you.

Remain true to yourself. Regardless of what the books say. Or other mothers for that matter. Don’t underestimate the credibility of your own maternal instinct. It is there for a reason. And has kept the human race going for generations before us. And it’s likely to be far more relevant to your particular situation than p 467 of ‘What to Expect?’. Remember, we are not the first to do this (although you’d swear from a quick glance at the web that we were).

In spite of everything, your kids are Christmas morning, every morning. I still get that excited feeling whenever I see them even after a short spell away. For all my moaning, they are a delight. They are priceless. They are a gift. (Even if I experience regular moments when I wish they could be returned).

And, for that, all of the above is worthwhile. Living this life with them along for the ride makes it all the more interesting. Life without my little buddies would be a lot more straightforward. But it would also be a lot more mundane.

Read: Will I ever adjust to the fact that my mother is gone?

Read: Hundreds of Irish babies were breastfed in public yesterday and nobody noticed

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