I'm now in a strange limbo time. A week ago, I started maternity leave. I'm too huge to do stuff, apart from napping and eating, both of which I am proud to say I am now practising at Olympic level. Even if I wasn't, my partner, family and friends greet any sign of activity in me with cries of, "Think of your womb!" so I'm more or less forcibly confined to quarters. (Not as much fun as it sounds.)
The result is that I've cast about for ways I can consider that I'm productively using this time, and one of them is to cast my mind back to the early days of bringing up Eldest, the existing small person (now aged six), to make a list of useful baby stuff to remember. And in the spirit of sharing, here they are. (This is about as far as the spirit of sharing goes with me, I'm afraid. It's not like you're getting any of my Easter eggs.)
A musical cot mobile is a brilliant thing
I bought a hideously bright circus-themed mobile for Eldest that played a tune. This was indispensable for the first year. It stopped him crying, gave him something to look at when he was awake and something to soothe him at night. I won't exaggerate, but I heard that tune at least twenty times a day, right up to the point when, aged fifteen months, he pulled it down off his cot and broke it. In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I presume.
A change of scene can stop a baby crying.
The first thing that stopped Eldest crying was to be taken to look at the trees outside the front window. Outside is even better, or just going into another room. I was a big fan of walking round with Eldest in my arms when he was feeling grumpy. Must remember to try that this time.
Don't buy any toys that make a noise
The abovementioned cot mobile is exempt from this, but generally, toys that make a noise or play a tune are A Bad Idea. Eldest was given an Activity Baby Walker push-along toy with a panel of buttons to press at the front. He loved this so much that I still have nightmares about it. From this helltoy I learnt that a) a six-month-old can work out easily how to turn a toy back on when you've turned it off and b) that toys that encourage babies to push buttons and turn dials are a bad idea when your gas cooker has a row of shiny brass dials on the front within the reach of the newly toddling twenty-month-old. I have never moved so fast IN MY LIFE.
The more you talk, the more they talk back
Common sense, but still a surprise when they greet the morning nappy change with a pained cry of "Oh my Goddddddddd...." (That doesn't go down well with grandparents either.) So be careful what you say. The flip side of this is that it's seriously awesome to say, "Today we're going to feed the ducks," and hear your tiny toddler say, "That'll be fun, won't it?"
You need to put the muslin over your shoulder *before* you pick them up
You have sicky babies, or you have pooey babies. Eldest was sicky, a born posseter. I had no clean clothes for approximately two years, firstly due to posseting, and once posseting stopped, due to sticky banana handprints at knee level. Muslins save a lot of washing, and also stop your entire wardrobe smelling faintly of Roquefort ever after.
I can't remember a lot else. Sleep deprivation was not severe, but it was enough to stop me setting down a lot of memories for the future. Hence why I'm writing down what I *do* remember now, while I still have a working memory, and while I can still look at the healthy, boisterous, functioning result of these lessons and remember that I haven't completely bombed as a parent yet. And before I end up lying on the floor of my mucky house, surrounded by dirty dishes and with a boob falling out of my top, like I will do in about six weeks' time.
Oh yeah. One more thing I do remember about the baby years. They're awesome.