We went to stay with a couple of friends this weekend, who are due to have their first baby in August (and before we get started, let me just say that I did not punch my pregnant friend in the face, nor did I ever have any desire to. Just in case you were wondering).
For some reason, since having Lumpy I've felt like we're suddenly advocates for all of babykind. Which is fairly weird, as *whisper it* I've never actually been all that keen on babies. Mine, of course, is completely brilliant and lovely and wonderful and fills his nappies with nothing but rose petals and puppies. But others... to be honest, I always thought they were a bit sticky and squishy and smelly and squawky. I'm getting over that, and do now think that some other babies are okay, or even fairly nice, but it's still odd to find myself defending the little beasties.
Lumpy has, in my mind, become the representative of all babies. If he behaves, my pregnant friends will be reassured and think that babies are a GOOD THING. If he's an evil screamy grumpster, they will be plunged into despair and probably elect to abandon their newborn on a rocky hillside to be devoured by wolves.
Luckily, my friends are a bit more rational than me (not too difficult, seeing as I am a screaming loon...) and realize that even if Lumpy started waving a flick knife around and threatening grannies, it would have little influence over the future disposition of their unborn child. And (even more luckily) Lumpy behaved impeccably, joining us in the pub for a couple of pints and not starting any fights. We managed to smother him effectively during his night squawking sessions, and I repeatedly reassured them that their baby would no doubt sleep through the night from two weeks and under-eye suitcases are not an inevitable side effect of breeding.
Because I have always sworn that I will not be one of those people. One of those people with children who look witheringly at pregnant people and tell them to get as much sleep as they can, and go to the cinema, and enjoy being on their own, and going to the toilet, and breathing, etc. etc. etc. because they're not going to get the chance to ever again. What helpful, positive advice. Thank you so much! And please accept this punch on the nose as a token of our deep appreciation.
Even worse than this, though, are the people who attack those with newborns. Having a newborn is completely mental. All of a sudden, you have this person - who's not really a person, but more of a strange, noisy bug-creature - that you have to look after. For the rest of your life. And it keeps demanding things, but you have no idea what it's demanding, because it just shouts and shouts for no reason. And even when it's not shouting, it just stares at you in a blank, faintly disapproving fasion. While dealing with this cross little invader, you also have to cope with rampant hormones that leave you a gibbering, tearful, incapable idiot.
It's brilliant, basically, and exactly what you need to help make it even better is someone to tell you that it gets worse.
Less than a week after Lumpy plopped out, we went into Mr Badger's work to show him off. On our way out, someone we don't even particularly know accosted us. We'll call him Mr Twat.
Mr Twat peered into the pram.
"So this is Lumpy?" he said, the sneer already beginning to play on his twattish lips.
"Yes," we said, grinning like the exhausted idiots we were.
"How old is he?" asked Twat.
"Six days," I said.
"Oh, the easy bit!" exclaimed Twatster, a psychotic glint in his eye. "Just you wait till he's six weeks. That's when it gets hard."
And that's when I delivered a swift uppercut to his jaw and knocked all his teeth down his throat.
Sadly, I didn't really. But I should have done. Because he was lying. It didn't get harder at six weeks. Or at twelve weeks, or six months. I doubt it will at a year, or five, or fifteen. Or even when we have another one, which is the other favourite of the harbingers of doom and woe: "ohhhhh, just wait till you have two to run after. Then you'll really know how completely shit it is to have kids."
The truth is, it doesn't get harder. It just gets different. Yes, there are new things to deal with as the days, months and years pass, and if you want to be miserable and self-pitying you can decide those new things make everything so much more difficult than the marvellous, lovely, easy time you had in the past. But you'll be fooling yourself. Sure, newborns sleep a lot. But they don't always do that sleeping at night, and the rest of the time they are shouting at you. You do everything to make them happy, and the selfish little so and so's give you nothing back: not a smile, not a laugh, not a well made martini of an evening. And yes, I'm sure having two or more children is jolly hard work, but at least by the time you get to that point you've got a bit of experience under your belt and know that you've managed to get at least one child through babyhood without accidentally (or, indeed, deliberately) throwing it in a skip or flushing it down the toilet - something first-time parents really don't know. Basically, as time goes on you emerge from the hormone fog, you get to know your baby better, and you finally build a bit of confidence in your own abilities not to kill or maim your own child at every opportunity. It's very easy to look back on the past with gooey pink-tinted eyes, and conveniently filter out all of the grim bits. But just because you've managed to forget them doesn't mean those grim bits aren't very vivid for those living through them right now.
And that's why telling someone with a baby that their life is only going to get harder is both unhelpful and complete bollocks. It's nothing but bullying dressed up as informed concern, just like those who scoff at people's hopes to have a natural birth or use real nappies, or do anything that the other person didn't manage to do themselves. People who do it are just unloading their own frustration and disappointment onto others who dare to be so blindly optimistic that they think they can have children while still maintaining some semblance of themselves.
I think they all deserve punching. So do what I failed to do, and just sock anyone in the chops who dares to imply that your life is both ridiculously easy and about to gallop its way down the toilet. That'll teach them, the miserable gits.
*This rant was brought to you by Barking Badgers. Thank you for your patience.*