• Expecting unpredictability and a very different lifestyle could put you in good stead for parenting. (Getty Images )
New mum Kimberley Gillan shares why hearing parenting horror stories and expecting the worst worked in her favour.
By
Kimberley Gillan

9 Feb 2018 - 10:59 AM  UPDATED 9 Feb 2018 - 2:09 PM

When my parents announced they were going on holiday a few weeks after my first baby was due, I fretted.

I've been writing about women's issues for the past decade, covering everything from mastitis to postnatal depression to diastus recti and I was under no illusions about the wrecking ball that was about to smash through my life (and vagina).

The consistent message from the mothers, midwives and psychologists that I've interviewed is that a newborn baby can tear your life and nipples apart and you will be lucky to eat anything better than WeetBix for the first four months without some outside help.

“I need the village around me!” I sobbed to my mum. “Don’t you realise how hard this is going to be?” 

 You don't want to panic about impending parenthood, but expecting unpredictability and a very different lifestyle could put you in good stead.

"Darling, I'll be there for the first three weeks," she replied. "Then you'll be glad for your own space. I know you're scared, but you are so capable and you will be surprised at how wonderful this experience is going to be."

I grunted a defeated reply about her rose-coloured amnesia and took things into my own hands, spending my final three childless weeks configuring elaborate pillow positions for twice-daily naps to try build up a sleep bank for the sleep deprivation coming my way.

So it came as a pleasant surprise when our delightful little fellow arrived. Yes caring for him was challenging, especially during that gruelling two-hourly feeding period, but the silver lining was that it gave me hours to stare at his angelic little face. I expected the tough bits – the rocking, the pacing, the trouble latching – so whenever he slept or fed well or just chilled in his bouncer, I celebrated the win.

At the same time, I took the advice from all of the women who had said to me, "Forget the housework", "Ask for help" and, "The broken nights will be over before you know it". Amen, sisters.

"I thought it would be so easy compared to working. I was so wrong."

My girlfriend was due a few weeks later and had completely different expectations. She was thrilled to be having a winter baby, with visions of snuggling with him on the couch while a roast dinner crackled in the oven. Without full-time work to rob her time, she would be able to keep the house pristine and catch up with girlfriends for long lunches.

"Nobody tells you it's going to be this hard," she lamented as she white knuckled through the early days of feeding, changing and settling that looked nothing like the bliss of a nappy ad. "I thought it would be so easy compared to working. I was so wrong."

It's got me wondering if expecting parenthood to be so tough actually worked in my favour.

Expecting unpredictability and a very different lifestyle could put you in good stead.

Associate Professor Julie Green, executive director of the Raising Children Network, says you don't want to panic about impending parenthood, but expecting unpredictability and a very different lifestyle could put you in good stead.

"We are talking about a huge adjustment in people's lives, physically, emotionally and financially," she tells SBS Life.

"Talking with your partner about issues that might present themselves ahead of the birth does give parents a bit of a head start."

She suggests really working on open communication during pregnancy to put good practices in place for life with a baby when you're tired, your household roles have changed, sex takes a back seat and money is tighter.

"Make a list of the changes you are about to face," Green suggests.

"Prepare to include another person in your relationship. [Consider] what if one person wants more or less sex than the other? How are we going to manage financially once the baby is born?"

And once the baby arrives, Green suggests trying to roll with the newborn punches as much as possible.

"Every baby is different, their temperament is different, the birth experience is different," she says.

"It's impossible to predict how it is going to go [so] try and be open to what is about to unfold. Going into a big change to the family in a very rigid way is not going to be helpful."

For that reason, it may be worth leaving your career brain or house pride at the figurative door for a little while.

"Just know that it's important work looking after a new baby," Green says.

"A good day might look like just feeding, comforting and caring for the baby. Getting out of your PJs or having a shower might be a bonus and that's okay."

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