New mothers: this is for you!

Following the recent birth of her second child, our resident Slattern Margaret Cabourn­-Smith has returned with a handful +1 of useful tips for anyone taking the baby plunge.

One of Margaret's children as a babyWhen my daughter was a year-­ish old, I was hanging out with some friends who were at that time, child­free. The landline rang (it was a few years back) and my friend answered it to find it was another mate of ours who had a very new baby. I hadn’t spoken to her since she’d had it, and when the phone was handed to me, I immediately said: “Isn’t it AWFUL?”

Two things happened. In the room, I saw the jaws of the assembled (and now horrified) group in front of me drop. On the other end of the phone, my friend joyfully exhaled:


We had a comradely chat and, I think, both felt better at the end of the conversation.

Of course this isn’t always the right thing to say, but in the right circumstances, you can make a fellow mother feel a lot better about the general feelings of panic and inadequacy she is almost certainly feeling.

The realisation and acceptance that the rose-­filtered mummy of the month statuses on Facebook offer a ridiculous picture of early parenthood, akin to Father of the Bride II, is a massive relief.

So when you’re sobbing: “I do love her, I just find her frightening and boring,” (as I was) you know you’re not on your own, or indeed a freak of Mother Nature.

Margaret's two childrenOf course it must have turned out OK given I’ve just had my second child, so while I’ve been reacquainting myself with under-eye bags, dry shampoo and the unmistakable odour of wet wipes mixed with baby poo, I thought it might be helpful to pass on a smattering of things I’ve learned so far to anyone planning to have a crack at the carousel of parenthood.

1. It’s not what you think of as work

With my first baby, I kept a notebook filled with ongoing details about how long she slept for and when; how long she fed for and when; what she threw up (with an accompanying colour chart) and when, etc.

Pages and pages of scrawled, tear­stained numbers.

I think I was hoping they would reveal to me a magic formula of how to “solve” the baby. My mathematical aptitude isn’t spectacular at the best of times, so the idea that in a sleep-deprived, hormonal state these notes would be anything but a hindrance to my mental health is laughable.

My health visitor took one look at them and put the notebook out of my reach.

“Stop doing that,” she said, not pausing to look at me as she bustled about. It was helpful for me to remember that this was a human baby, not a howling alarm clock or torture device. We’re all just feeling our way together. This is a LOT clearer the second time around.

” I had pages and pages of scrawled, tear­stained numbers. I think I was hoping they would reveal to me a magic formula of how to ‘solve’ the baby.”

2. You will never again do anything you quite want to do

The good news is you will do the stuff you REALLY want to do. Having a baby is really just a way of working that out.

3. It’s all a phase. Every phase passes

The bad news is, this is true of the good phases too.

4. Find someone who understands

In the early days, your brain is mush and you need someone to translate. I remember trying to talk about my baby’s cradle cap to my sister (also a new mum), saying: “It’s her…cat…scalp…griddle?”

She immediately replied: “Got it – move on.”

5.Do not ask the internet anything

If you have health worries particularly. Whatever you type in, the internet will reply:


My rule is to only use the NHS website, or preferably, ask a doctor.

6. You know nothing

If having one didn’t teach you that, the second will. GOOD LUCK!

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Written by Margaret Cabourn-Smith

Margaret is a comedy writer performer popping up on your TV and radio who over thinks and over talks.