Turning up at your first parent and baby class, you may not know what to expect. You might feel like you need an idiot (and sleep deprivation) proof guide – please read my five hints below to having the perfect bonding time with your angelic, smiling, coo-ing darling (spoiler alert – this won’t happen – and that’s ok.)
1) Make sure your precious one is napped, fed and burped – the trifecta: The amount of stress I felt doing endless mental arithmetic of nap and feed times and attempting to force Piglet to stuff herself when she probably wasn’t hungry just isn’t worth it! If your baby needs to feed during a class, take some time out and feed them! If they need a little snooze, go with it. The temper tantrums, tears and grizzling just isn’t worth it (and that’s just you). Yes it’s nice if they’re awake, smiling and coo-ing through a class if you’ve managed to nail the trifecta of well rested, well fed and burped beforehand, but as you’ll know by now, no matter how much you plan (and usually when you’ve really tried too hard) it’s highly unlikely this will happen.
2) Set off early – no, even earlier than that: you’ll already be well aware that leaving the house is not the simple process of grabbing your keys and phone (remember those halcyon days?!) but now involves complex check lists, transferring half the contents of your house to your car, and potential poo or vom-canos involving an entire change of clothes just when you NEED to leave. Don’t start the class feeling flustered by rushing in after the start, but above all, if you are late, DON’T WORRY. Going from a professional mindset where tardiness is frowned upon to a world where events beyond your control can cause an entire clothes change due to poo leakage (baby’s outfit and indeed yours can need salvaging) as soon as you get into the car is an extreme gear shift, but you must embrace it. Other parents in the class will exchange sympathetic smiles as you dash in, apologising profusely. Don’t let it ruin your day.
3) Bring a cushion: whoever thought that making women who have just given birth sit or kneel on a cold floor in some god-forsaken church hall for an hour was a good idea is clearly some sort of masochist. I found this out the hard way – rocking up at my first ever class with Piglet 6 weeks after a third degree tear I definitely wasn’t prepared to casually sit, kneel and get up and down with my new ever heavier baby, let alone try and smile through it and act as though my insides weren’t crying out in agony. And be warned – getting up and down isn’t the easy breezy manoeuvre of old. Now you need to squeeze as you rise. Trust me. Be the envy of all the other mums there – bring a little cushion. And wear a maternity pad.
4) Wear comfy clothes: look, I will be frank with you. There will be mums there who look like they’ve just stepped out of a magazine. They will have clean hair, a full face of makeup, and even be wearing an actual outfit. You may vaguely remember at one point before your bundle of joy came along, you might spend some time putting together inventive ensembles using different creative combinations of your wardrobe – whereas now you just throw on leggings and a baggy t-shirt that smells sort of clean but inevitably has an unnoticed patch of baby sick or wet blob of milk which you won’t find until after you’ve been out all day. These glam-mummies will be wearing – whisper it – lipstick. They will look so put together you will feel actual bitter-tasting jealousy and incredulity – HOW on earth are they managing this?! Fear not. Look around the rest of the class – you are crawling round on the floor, wincing as you sing an inane nursery rhyme with frankly problematic lyrics and trying to master counter-intuitive hand signals to stimulate your little darling. You are doing an amazing job – leggings and a t-shirt is perfect.
5) Learn the words: it will feel as though every other mum knows more nursery rhymes and random songs than you do. As you wonder how their sleep deprived brains are retaining all this information, let alone managing to smile and get their baby to gaze adoringly up at them at the same time, while your baby wriggles and looks anywhere but at you, do not stress. The lyrics of a lot of nursery rhymes are extremely problematic – Knick Knack Paddy Whack anyone?! And don’t get me started on Polly Put The Sodding Kettle On…so by not knowing the exact words you can change them to match your own views, or indeed just muddled through the fug of lack of sleep by just singing la la la to the tune, interspersed with your baby’s name now and again. Singing to your baby is fantastic to help their brain develop – but in all honesty it doesn’t matter if you know the words, or even the tune. The frightfully earnest Mum next to you at class who knows all the words AND the hand actions will never know the pure joy of catching the eye of a similarly self conscious mum who hasn’t sung out loud in front of anyone sober in decades, and exchanging an eye roll.
There is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ mum and baby class. There will be tears, demands for food and poo/wee at awkward times (and that’s just you). Accept that this is the new world order, and embrace those precious moments where just for a second, your baby makes eye contact and smiles during the millionth rendition of Old Macdonald.