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When I was pregnant, there they sat in great dusty piles by the side of the bed, willing me to read them while I studiously ignored them. And as I got bigger and bigger, so did the pile.

I had all the usual suspects – What To Expect When You’re Expecting, The Rough Guide To Pregnancy, plus a fair few wackier purchases made on Amazon and Ebay in those desperate, early hours of the morning: paperbacks on natal hypnotherapy and hippy homebirths and spiritual midwifery. Quite frankly they all equally scared the hell out of me: the chapters slowly counting down the weeks towards D-Day, and bringing up horrible topics like pain relief choice and how to dodge episiotomies, when I’d rather have been thinking about floral maternity dresses and sweet-smelling pregnancy massages and eating cream cakes. The hippy ones scared me in a different way to the anatomical – however, hard I tried I couldn’t imagine ever being as sanguine as the women pictured in these books, with their bottles of lavender essential oil, and loose white yoga trousers.

Then there were the graphic pictures showing me the stage of development of my unborn foetus (in short, yuck), and the myriad birth positions my husband could hoist me into if he was so inclined. Did I really need all this information, and all this fodder to feed my neurosis? Wouldn’t my body just get on with it like they did in the old days, before the advent of mummy internet forums and parenting manuals? If I knew that this week it was all about growing eyeballs and livers, did it really make me feel any better? No, it just made even more worried about all the things I didn’t do properly in the early days when I was pregnant but didn’t know it.  (Folic acid supplements from week one? You must be kidding.)

Indeed, my hunch that all that methodical preparation first-timers do – birthplans with complicated footnotes, hiring birthing pools – would be hilariously irrelevant faced with the reality of  overcrowded hospitals, bad-tempered consultants, overworked midwives and the fact that most of  us just don’t possess the right physiology to just slip one out in 45 minutes in our back living room, was confirmed after a 24-hour labour that culminated not in a peaceful water birth while listening to Mozart sonatas, but a traumatic forceps delivery, the finer details of which I still don’t really care to share with the greater universe.

Then, of course, when baby arrived, I graduated onto the new mothers’ manuals and the dusty pile grew higher. The first few weeks of my son’s life was (rather predictably) spent reading Gina Ford’s Contented Little Baby, The Baby Whisperer and What To Expect: The First Year at 3am in the morning as I attempted to breastfeed. I dumbly read a book on co-sleeping from cover to cover even when my son was already in his own room, and I had no intention of taking him back into mine (I enjoy sleep too much). But I also had an admittedly slightly outdated Miriam Stoppard charity shop book that literally taught me how to change a nappy, and how to wash a newborn – with no mother or mother-in-law to help me, it was a lifesaver.

And now. Well, even now the pile continues to grow. Can a manual really help you be a better mother? I guess it can have a jolly good try.

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This blog is currently dedicated to stuff new mummies like. As opposed to stuff mummies of teenagers like. That's because we don't have teenagers yet. Give us a few years though. We're told it goes pretty quickly...

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