It’s often said that mothers never tell expectant women what truly awaits them in the delivery room.
The code of female conduct quite clearly forbids any member from frightening the maternity pants off of another with graphic and gratuitous descriptions of contractions, forceps and stitches, just weeks before they are due to experience at least one of them.
And quite right too.
What kind of world would we live in if it was social acceptable to reduce pregnant women to emotional rubble with information that can only serve to haunt them as they approach their due date.
(Seemingly watching One Born Every Minute whilst nine months gone is fine and the floods of tears it brings on therapeutic – at least for my wife)
But there is another parental area where information is withheld, where the utilitarian concept of the greater good is invoked, where the tough stuff is left out.
And it revolves around the Baby Bomb – by which I mean the impact a 9lb nappy wearing bundle of joy has on your relationship from the second it lands.
Everyone expects some level of change or disruption, of course they do – but nothing we can’t handle, how bad can a few broken nights sleep be after all?
The answer, as all parents reading this will know is very, very bad indeed. And that’s just if it’s a few. Which it won’t be.
But we’re not merely talking about lack of sleep here, or a dwindling bank balance – we’re talking about the fundamentals of the very relationship which brought this baby into being in the first place.
Thirty years or so ago the rules of engagement were pretty clear and had been for hundreds of years – Dad at work, Mum with Baby.
This unhappy arrangement has led to many a father missing out on their little ones growing up, but as we know this has been changing for the better in recent years with many a modern relationship now being built on shared responsibility.
That equilibrium extends way beyond childcare too – a world where men come in from work, put the housekeeping on the table, inform the wife that they have booked the family for a week in Skeggy before tucking into the pipping hot meal ready on the table for them is more like science fiction than social history to many couples now.
Holidays are booked, cars are bought and carpets chosen jointly – and as for cold hard cash, figures show that the number of households where the female is the major breadwinner are on the rise every year.
We increasingly live in a society where, at long last the two genders of our troublesome little species are at least starting to live in something resembling equality.
Amen to that sister – and indeed brother.
Then along comes baby. A evolutionary unit unchanged in thousands of years. It’s not read much Germaine Greer, is hungry and likes the smell of the one with the smooth face.
Suddenly for the lady of the house it’s 1953. No matter how helpful her partner is and intends to be, for a good long while the rest of her life can go hang according to the insufferably beautiful but downright demanding dot in the cot.
Unsettling, unnerving and seemingly never- ending as this feels to mum, it often has a knock on effect on Dad too as the otherworldliness of the situation changes attitudes and temperaments.
His efforts to help can be dismissed as pathetic, his pleas that a tough day at work means he is tired too can be scoffed at and his bewilderment at how to cope with not one, but seemingly two new people in his life can be absolute.
I can hear the female violinists from here.
In truth though a new baby changes everything for both partners and requires a fundamental readjustment in how their relationship works. The fact that this period also coincides perfectly with trying to learn how to parent too, makes for a period of massive instability which requires patience, good humour and understanding on both sides.
Rare commodities indeed after three nights of no sleep.
And no one tells you! The other couples already in the family way never mention it, save for the odd coded comment or hidden smirk.
Perhaps it’s for the best though, most of us get over the shock and find a way through – and once we do, it’s our turn to give the knowing looks.