1. A large selection of plastic tat. Before your child is born you will discuss with other pregnant friends and anyone who will listen the importance of traditional wooden toys and how you plan to never let any plastic rubbish over the threshold of your house. You will purchase charming items like this:
and marvel at how seamlessly they slot into the chosen decor of your house. Several months down the line you go to put the baby down for a sleep, slip on a half chewed Sticklebrick and land on a VTech Sing and Discover piano, which immediately starts playing to itself, waking the baby up and causing you to to sit, head in hands, snivelling and peeping out from between your fingers at the vast array of hideous, beeping, whizzing, flashing, all singing, all dancing technicolour plastic crap that has taken over your house. Never fear; by the time your child is a year old you'll have surrendered yourself and your home to anything that keeps him or her quiet and out from under your feet for more than five minutes at a time, commercial plastic rubbish included.
2. Vomit. Ah, vomit. Get used to that cheesy stench because it's going to be following you around for a long long time. You go into motherhood with the knowledge that babies spit up a little bit of each milk feed for a few months. You grow to learn that it's not always just 'a little bit' and you will soon develop a good understanding of the word 'projectile'. You will have baby sick in your hair, down your cleavage and in your knickers. It will collect in crusts on your upholstery and there's about an 80% chance of finding a blob in your shoe at any given time. This is to ease you in gently, because when they're on solids you'll be picking chunks of cauliflower cheese out of your bra on a regular basis. You get used to it. I have an absolutely crippling phobia of vomit, but I managed to deal with even the most epic of baby puke incidents, and even regurgitated food. I still absolutely lose the plot over tummy bug hurling and have to draft in somebody else to deal with it, but I coped admirably in the face of the baby sick phase and if anybody ever feels like crafting me a small medal to reward me for services to a spewing child in the face of adversity, it would be gratefully received.
3. Exhaustion. For the last month of pregnancy, you are convinced that you are desperate to get the baby out of you ASAP. You're seriously uncomfortable, you can't get out of bed without someone to winch you up and there's likely to be stomach acid bubbling out of your nose at some point. Damn it, you're knackered and hot and enormous and you want that baby out of you.
When the baby is a couple of weeks old, you will seriously consider shoving it back up from whence it came just so you can sleep for a couple of hours. This gets better as your child gets older, but you will never sleep soundly again. Not everyone has the sort of child that causes the sort of tiredness that makes water fall involuntarily from your eyes with the effort of keeping them open, but all of them have the ability to run rings around you and leave you gasping, hollow eyed and wondering if feeling rested was all just a beautiful dream.
Here is Richard demonstrating eye bleeding exhaustion with a 4 month old Rory
4. Noise. They come out crying and rarely seem to stop. This is followed a few months later by a phase in which they learn to make a repetitive high pitched shrieking noise like a cat that's just been kicked up the arse. Then comes babbling and jabbering, and then there's the screaming phase. Eventually they learn to talk and then they never shut up, especially when you have PMT and a migraine brewing. Most of the conversation will be about Thomas the knobbing Tank Engine (see below). At this point you will begin to think wistfully of the cat that had been kicked up the arse phase.
5. Germs. Number one on the list of things that nobody ever tells you about having a baby is how they're always ill (although it's jostling for position with how it's a seriously good idea to stick a pack of maternity pads in the freezer before you give birth). Rory spent the entire first year of his life sniffling, coughing, whining, overheating, going limp and floppy, puking, having diarrhoea and getting mysterious rashes. Richard and I also spent the first year of Rory's life sniffling, coughing, whining, overheating etc, only we did it on three hours sleep a night. I had no idea that small people were ill so often. He seemed to pick up germs from nowhere and would generously share them with us. The weekend that we all got the Winter Vomiting Virus remains the worst few days of my entire life. If you think being ill is bad, then try looking after an ill child. Then try looking after an ill child when you're ill yourself. Then try looking after an ill child when you're ill yourself and so is your partner.
6. An Interesting Variety of Stains and Smears. You see that pristine white wall over there? Not for long you don't. Children's artwork is precious, absolutely precious, but not so much when it's a mixed media collage of make-up, glue and faeces on your sofa. And even though Rory impressed me deeply with his early knowledge of colours and geometric shapes, I was not filled with pride and joy when he toddled over to tell me that he'd drawn a green triangle on the television. Likewise, the day that he lined his wax crayons up on top of the hot radiator was not a high point of motherhood for me.
7. Thomas the Tank Engine. You will grow to loathe this odious little bleeder and his colourful chums. "Well bust my buffers", said Thomas. Oh, just cock off.
8. An extensive knowledge of CBeebies and Milkshake. For the uninitiated, these are TV channels for small children. I don't want to hear that your child is never going to watch TV. Go away. I give you six months before you cave in and about two months after that before you have formed an opinion about all the programmes and the presenters. "Oh no, it's the spider episode of Auntie Mabel and Pippin again" you'll say as you wait expectantly on the sofa (it's called 'Come Outside' really, but we insiders all know it as 'Auntie Mabel and Pippin'. Because we're cool like that). You will also begin to leer at the presenters like a dried up old crone who's just been put on a mega dose of HRT. Mr Bloom seems to be the current mummy favourite, with a slightly lesser but ardent following of admirers for Chris off Show me Show Me and Andy whatever his name is who does the continuity links. Mister Maker rocks my sad little world. I know it's wrong, I know it's dirty, I know he's irritating and he looks about 12 and wears a really bad spotty waistcoat, but oh my God, I totally would. Sigh.
9. Miscellaneous: Headlice, a selection of sticks, leaves and stones that they find on their travels, headaches, scabies, rampant consumerism, bruises all over your knees from constantly being down on the floor making robots out of Duplo, toy car related injuries, marital discord, at least one trip to A&E in an ambulance, guilt, an empty bank account, an unexplained trail of ripped up bits of tissue that have been chewed. I could go on, but I think that will do for now. Children: Aren't they brilliant?