Over the past year I have searched high and low for a manual specifically aimed at the older mother. I can only conclude that others in my position have also been forced make this mysterious, rather creaky journey without guidance.
With this in mind, a pregnant friend (who, like me, is not exactly in the first flush of youth) has asked me to prepare a handbook of my findings vis a vis the combination of middle age with new motherhood. I have been only too happy to oblige.
● A is for ancient: This is how you will certainly feel when you hear the woman next to you at the antenatal clinic discussing her plans for her 25th birthday party.
● B is for burp: Something that merits as much praise when emitted by one’s newborn as it does disdain when emanating from one’s spouse.
● C is for car seat: Given you are at an age where most women are more likely to be thinking about osteoporosis than offspring, do not even consider lugging your baby around in one (see also “S”).
● D is for doggy: Note that it is wise to remember your audience and reserve such diminutives for conversing with the under-twos. You really don’t want to be discussing “horsies” and “moo cows” with your boss.
● E is for energy, and also for eBay: Alas, you cannot purchase extra supplies of the former on the latter
● F is for forgetfulness: You may have been the most organised person on the planet in a former life, but this does not mean you will be able to avoid the curse of nappy brain. Note: I have found it useful to have one’s name written on the back of one’s hand for reference.
● G is for girth: Alas the combination of age and c-section will do this no favours.
● H is for hair band: Even if your baby is a girl, do not allow it to sport a hair band unless the child actually possesses hair. Otherwise, this is a Very Bad Thing.
● I is for I love you: Which you will never tire of saying.
● J is for journey: It does not matter how long your trip by train or plane — your child will only fall asleep seven minutes before you arrive. Do not bother buying any magazines to read en route.
● K is for kak kak: This the noise that ducks make (according to my daughter).
● L is for leisure time and lie in: Ha ha ha ha ha
● M is for mucus (specifically nasal): Your baby will appear to have an endless supply. Each wipe will induce great misery from said child and so the vicious circle continues…
● N is for nappies (specifically dirty ones): Everyone tells you that when it’s your own baby they are “fine”. They are lying.
● O is for osteopath: (See also “C” and “S”).
● P is for play dates: You should be aware that these always involve copious calories. When Marie Antoinette said “‘Let them eat cake”, she was actually referring to NCT reunions. P is also for puree and posset (see steam cleaning).
● Q is for questions: You will have an endless list. This is normal.
● R is for rolling: You will be as pleased as punch when your baby first masters this ancient art. You will be less pleased when they insist on displaying their new-found skills while you are attempting a nappy change.
● S is for slipped disc (see also “C”): It is also for steam cleaning (see also “P”).
● T is for toy envy: In a previous life you may have suffered from car envy or house envy. Now you will find that the absolute must-haves, the greatest objects of desire, are made from brightly coloured plastic. You will devour the Toys R Us catalogue with a fervour previously reserved for Elle Decoration.
● U is for unbridled joy: I cannot quantify how much our daughter has brought into our lives. It makes Manchester United winning the treble a few years ago pale into insignificance. Which is saying a lot.
● V is for vision: Which can behave strangely after a prolonged lack of sleep. “Oh look,” I cooed to my daughter as my husband drove us north up the M1 and I spotted a van’s distinctive signage. “Horsies”. It was only as we passed that I realised it actually read “Hovis”.
● W is for weaning (see also steam cleaning): Your shopping list will consist solely of butternut squash and carrots and you will no longer laugh at Auntie Edie for leaving the plastic cover on her sofa.
● X is for expert: A large proportion of your elderly relatives will fall into this category when it comes to bringing up baby. Simply nod sagely with gratitude at all proffered instruction then discard as necessary.
● Y is for yes: Ensure that this is your immediate response when anyone else offers to cook dinner.
● Z is for zip it: All too soon comes a time when it is wise to keep shtum in certain situations. Recently, after being cut up by another driver, my reaction was to mutter “cow”. “Moooooo” said a little voice in the back.