Expecting the unexpected

No matter how well you think you’ve prepared for it, babies will always throw you curve balls you weren’t expecting.

Maybe your baby came early while your midwife was on a well-deserved holiday, so you had her back-up in the delivery room. Maybe on your first outing with your newborn, your carefully put-together new pram lost a tyre, because it wasn’t quite locked into place. Maybe your super-cute eight-week-old baby did such an unexpected and foul poo in the middle of mum and baby yoga class that you were too embarrassed to go back for the rest of the sessions you’d paid in advance for.

All of these things, and more, have happened to me. Miss Seven Months, my third baby, has turned out to be both exactly like and nothing like her two older siblings. Exactly alike in that she’s given me more than a few surprises along the way. Nothing alike in that everything she’s surprised me with has been new and unexpected — stuff I’ve never dealt with before. You’d think, as I foolishly did, that after two kids, I’d be an expert at this baby-raising business. Let me tell you, even though I’m a parenting journalist and have access to more info than the average mum and dad, I still go through most days trying to stay one step ahead of my children.

That’s the first mistake you’ll make as a parent: Thinking you know what you’re doing. Just when you master the art of whipping off a nappy in the middle of the night and deftly fastening a new one in place before they wee everywhere, they’ll suddenly vomit all over themselves, and you, and the clean nappy. Or when you figure out precisely the right combination of bum-patting, rocking, and singing them to sleep, they’ll start teething and nothing you do will help. 

So because I like to help bring solutions, not problems, here is my advice. Expect the unexpected. Don’t get too comfortable, or too married to your routine, or too set on your plans. Because I guarantee that the minute you start feeling confident, that baby will throw you a curve ball and it will hit you smack in the face every time. The best thing you can do is to lay on the floor for a moment like a stunned mullet, think to yourself, “I was NOT expecting that,” and then get up and deal with it. 

It’s absolutely critical that you take that moment to reflect that this new and unexpected development, whatever it may be, is something you weren’t prepared for and couldn’t possibly have foreseen. Because if you make the mistake of thinking that you should have been ready for this, or if only you, you will start to feel like a Bad Parent, and that is a rabbit hole you do not want to go down, my friend.

Take comfort in the fact that none of us are really ready for parenthood and all of its unexpected surprises. And hold fast to the other side of the saying, “Expect the unexpected”: You’ll find more joy and laughter and fun being a parent than you ever thought possible. That’s the best unexpected surprise your children will bring to you, and what will help get you through those moments when you really couldn’t have seen something like this coming.