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What not to say to a new mother

2 CommentsTuesday, 4 November 2014  |  Admin

What not to say to a new mother
I feel like I always rant a bit on this blog. I don’t mean to, but this is something that I’ve wanted to write for a while – in the hope that it might just save some poor new mother from the ridiculousness that I experienced when I had just had Millar. I don’t know what happens to people’s brains when they talk to someone who has just had a baby – they seem to forget normal conversation and suddenly say and ask the most absurd things. I know most of it is just small talk, but at best they are amusing, at worst, they can make a new mother feel pretty dreadful. So here we are – what not to say to a mother who has given birth two weeks ago!
1) How was the birth?
It was two weeks ago. Do you really REALLY want all the gory details? I could go on for some time, but to be honest, I’ve only just started to be able to sit down without wincing, I shudder when I hear the word contraction or push and I really don’t want to tell my best friend, let alone some random person, about how it really was. There will be a time when I will be able to say ‘It was fine’ – now is not it!

2) Are you going to have another one?
I kid you not. I dragged myself to an hour of a friend’s barbeque exactly two weeks after Millar was born and a lady I had never met before asked me this. I think my look of horror/amazement/disgust/outrage/amusement gave her her answer. When she carried on looking at me expectantly, I think I mumbled out something along the lines of ‘I’ll get used to having this one first!’ but what I really wanted to say was ‘Perhaps when the second degree tear I suffered has healed and the cold sweats I get when I think about my labour have gone, I might consider it!’ Just to add, I do want another one and it didn’t take too long before I could look back on my birth as a positive experience. Don’t want to scare pregnant people…!

3) Is he a good baby?
I think this might be my pet hate. I’m a first time mother. I have no idea what a baby is like. If you mean does he sleep well and not cry, then no – he’s not a good baby. But no one wants to hear that, and I didn’t want to say it. It’s not like he was being purposefully ‘bad’ – he was just…a baby! He had reflux (though I didn’t realise at that stage) and had a tough start in life. None of it was his fault. How do you possibly answer that question to a stranger in the street without going into all the details? And if you want me to just smile and say ‘yes – he’s brilliant’, then don’t bother asking – take it as a given!

4) Are you enjoying it?
For similar reasons to number 3, this is a really mean question to ask a new mother. She’s had no sleep, may well be struggling with breastfeeding if it’s in the first two weeks, has suddenly lost track of what her life is, her body is not her own anymore, she can’t imagine ever being able to leave the house on time ever again, she’s probably got baby sick on her clothes and has forgotten how to construct a sentence, and you want her to say that she is loving every minute of it? So much of being a new mother is amazing – it’s rewarding, mind-blowingly special – and yet, at two weeks post-partum, she will not want to answer this question – or at least, not honestly. I really don’t think there’s any harm in saying ‘no – not all the time. Most of the time, it’s brilliant, but sometimes, it’s really rubbish.’ But she won’t say this – she’ll say it’s great and won’t be telling the whole truth.

5) Cherish every second – it goes so fast!
For the same reasons as above, and the fact that, when I was told this (many times), I then felt irrationally guilty for not cherishing every second. Sometimes I would long for him to go to sleep, just so that I could take a moment’s peace – or I would long for Mark to come home from work so that I could get away from the baby for just a few minutes and have some time to myself. When he was screaming, I didn’t feel like I was cherishing it – and then add a dose of hormonal craziness to the mix, and I felt like a terrible mother for not loving every single second of motherhood. What I realised, is that people say this because, looking back, you only really remember the good bits. After the sleepless screaming nights have gone, you can look back on the newborn days as being filled with snuggly, squishy cuddles. I even do that now – and Millar is only six months old. The bad bits are already hazy, so you can understand why people who had babies years ago say this. But it doesn’t help at the time. Nor does being told how quickly time will pass. When you look back on it, it went fast, but when you are at home all day on your own with a crying baby who won’t be put down, it doesn’t feel like it’s going fast!

So those are my five most hated sentences as a new mother! I’d love to hear what crazy things people said to you – and what you think people should say to a new mother; what would you have wanted to hear?

Tuesday, 4 November 2014  |  22:06

It's actually amazing how terrible well-meaning people make you feel.

Sunday, 9 November 2014  |  18:42

I'm with Louise on this. It's hard to read knowing how upset other well meaning people make you feel. I think I'd explode if I got that annoyed with what people say. I lost a baby after just three weeks of life and I can honestly say I never felt that irritable with people's comments-and sometimes I had good reason to! I hope you relax more with time/age. It's a long life and tolerance is a definite requirement to a happy life x