The pile of books hitting our kitchen table nearly breaks the bloody thing in half.
“There you go. That’s all the baby books I could find,” announces Susan, peering at me from over the peak of Baby Book Mountain. “Megan from NCT said there’re loads of things to we need to consider before our baby comes, things like routines, and methods and stuff. She’s doing something called the ‘I Know! Baby No!’ routine.”
I have absolutely no idea what Susan is talking about. I pick up one of the books. There is a picture of a happy shiny woman holding a happy shiny baby on the front of it. There is no picture of a dad but I can deal with that, it’s no biggie, but next to the shiny happy woman is a picture that looks a lot like this - £15. I scan the number of books before me.
“Talking to Megan seems very expensive. How about we don’t do that anymore?”
“Conner, this stuff is what everyone says we need to be doing. It’s what’s best for our baby, apparently. Plus, I don’t want to be the only one at NCT without a routine, or the only one whose baby doesn’t sleep, or the only one whose baby can’t do cartwheels on command, so we need to read these, all of them, then pick the one we think we’ll fuck up the least.”
Looking back I think that was our first real experience of the concept of other people telling us what’s best for our baby. At that point our world was full of excitement, and fear, obviously, as we were soon to be the proud owners of a new human whom we would be responsible for keeping alive, but excitement was always the overriding emotion. But even before we got to the happy and smug new parents stage, which is where we are now two days in to getting little Niamh home, we were well aware of a growing feeling of pressure shadowing our every move.
And I’m not talking about the pressure that comes from looking after a new baby, or even the pressure of being filmed 24/7 as we do it either, because we expected that, we signed up for that – God knows we spent a fair bit of time pre Niamh scrambling around trying to ‘get ready’ for her in the first place, kind of like you see people doing on the news before Hurricane Tarquin hits, you know, boarding up the windows and doors, securing anything that looks like it might blow away, just before the storm comes and rips the fucking roof off (which is what Niamh has pretty much done). No, this extra helping of pressure comes from outside our triangle of chaos, this is what I like to call ‘People Offering Opinions’, POO for short, or ‘Pressure Of Others, so ..erm… well, POO for short as well.
And it was this steaming load of POO that came at us from all angles (Megan being Chief Poo Thrower, but she wasn’t alone, not by a long shot) that lead us straight into the arms of Professor Jane (no point Google’ing her, it’s not her real name, or is it, who knows? Well, I do, obviously, but Google doesn’t. Neither does Siri, Google’s slightly deaf, slightly stupid cousin). Now I have to say at this point that the idea of pinning all our hopes of surviving parenthood on the advice and guidance of ‘baby experts’ we’d never actually met, and more importantly, ‘baby experts’ who’d never met our baby, was just plain odd. I’m not saying what they offer and the advice they give isn’t useful, I guess my issue is more to do with the assumption that unless you are ‘doing a routine’ then you’re a bad parent, or lazy, or you’re doomed to failure.
I also struggle with being told my baby is unique but then being handed a routine supposedly fit for mass production, which makes me wonder that when/if at any point we’re struggling with one of these routines will the emphasis be on us as parents not being up to the task, rather than the routine itself? I’d wager that the baby experts themselves, if pushed, would admit that their routines don’t work 100% of the time, but then I suppose they’d be less likely to sell a truck load of books with the strap line, “my methods work a good 65% of the time. The rest of it, well, just wing it….or ask Megan what she’s doing.”
And now here’s where things get a little more interesting, because we’ve actually met our ‘baby expert’. So, does that make a difference to the whole process, I hear you ask, does that make it more personal? I don’t know yet, is the honest answer. It doesn’t make the whole thing seem any less odd in my eyes, but that’s primarily because our baby expert is, Susan likes the phrase 'alternative', I like the phrase 'fucking crackers'.
Anyway, Professor Jane is where all that constant POO has led us. How we met her is for another post, the fact is we did, and we’re now doing this. Contradictory, given all I’ve just said on my issues with the whole ‘baby expert’ thing? Yeah, sure it is, but regardless of how I feel about the experts I’m obviously desperate to do our best by lovely Niamh - I mean, what parent wouldn’t? And as 'out there' as Professor Jane seems to Susan and me she is still an ‘expert’, one who has sold tonnes of books on the subject so there must be something in it, surely. So I guess that’s the point, and it’s why we agreed to do the whole filming thing in the first place. She seems to know her stuff, and at the minute we don’t; we’ve just had a baby for Christ sake, we seem to mostly spend our time confused about stuff, but at least now we get to be confused on camera so the world will get to watch and judge us.
Which is nice.
So now we’ve committed we will be 100% behind everything Professor Jane tells us. I’m whole heartedly in, just as long as it feels right for Niamh. And this is how it’s going to work. There’s no camera crew living with us through our torment of trying to look in some way competent as we follow Professor Jane’s routines.
“We want to keep everything natural and organic, haha yes?” she’d explained to us at the beginning. “So no intrusion, we’ll just place cameras in each room and you can go about your business as normal, just be yourselves, haha yes?” (Natural and organic? FFS! The only thing natural and organic about life as a new parent is fear. We have a natural and organic fear of pretty much everything right now – check if she’s breathing; oh shit I’ve woken her; is she warm enough?; does she feel too hot?; if we give her a dummy now will she still be using it when she’s sixteen?; Professor Jane’s gonna go ape-shit if you keep cuddling her to sleep; do new parents usually drink this much wine?)
Anyway, like I was saying, there’s no camera crews, just fixed cameras filming us, we have regular calls with Professor Jane to see how we’re getting on, and then once a month we go in and review the footage with her. Simple.
Yeah, hmmmm. You see, there is something else. It’s just one last thing I’ve picked up on in only this short time of doing this. Niamh, our baby girl, is magical (not in a Harry Potter sort of way you understand, that’s not why we’re being filmed – she’s magical to us, just thought I’d clarify that), and when we give ourselves a couple of minutes to think about it we go all warm and fuzzy and proud – look what we did, aren’t we amazing, aren’t we lucky, isn’t she just the best, do her hands seem awfully big for a baby, and her feet, Jesus she’ll not fall over in a hurry - you know, that sort of thing, but even at this early stage I’m noticing a difference between where we are right now and where we should be according to Professor Jane’s guidance, even this soon into it all. I know, I know, early days, but there does seem to be a lot of rules and routines that we’re expected to squeeze our little girl into, and at the minute none of the rules or routines seem particularly baby shaped.
But then, like I said earlier, we’re no experts and so we’re going to give this our best shot.
After all, you grab on to anything you can in the midst of a hurricane don’t you, and we’ve grabbed on to Professor Jane and The Regimental Baby.
So, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Oh, and remember, this is just between us, right?