Things Pregnant Women Secretly Want to Hear

I’ve been doing some lurking in forums and, cobbled with my own experience, I think I’ve come up with a pretty decent list of things you should really say to pregnant women.

First of all, offer all the unsolicited advice you can think of. Especially if you haven’t had a baby, but have maybe seen one sometimes, or if you have had a baby (because really all babies are the same), or if you had a baby thirty years ago, or if your neighbour had a baby. And make sure to use the term “making a rod for your own back” lots of times, if the pregnant woman even thinks of doing something you don’t agree with.

Share your horror birthing stories. A woman shouldn’t have gotten pregnant if she can’t handle what she’ll be in for. Sure, making her more stressed out about her birth could lead to a longer, more painful labour, but just think what a favour you’re actually doing her – she can now join the ranks of people with a horror birthing story! Just make sure never to mention the people you know who had a quick, easy, drug-free birth – that’s nowhere near as mentally stimulating.

Let her know whatever she’s going through in pregnancy is nothing. She might complain about being tired now, but that’s just ridiculous. Offer no sympathy. She needs to understand, multiple times, that pregnancy insomnia is just preparation for a sleepless baby, which of course every woman has. Any stories of babies sleeping through the night before they’re, like, two years old is a myth. Comments like, “HAH! Wait till you have the baby!” should be repeated often.

Be sure to let her know how you really feel. If you are upset because she is pregnant and you’re not, that is totally her fault for being so insensitive. She should have waited for you to fall pregnant first. It is okay to write snide obscure comments on Facebook that may or may not be directed at her and her working womb. Goddamit, she should have known better anyway.

Announce her pregnancy for her. Truthfully, she is probably wondering the best way to do it and working herself up into a tizz, so do her a favour and let everyone know before she has to (social media is a good way to reach all of her friends, family, and acquaintances at once!). If she doesn’t thank you, don’t worry, she’s probably too overwhelmed with gratitude.

Start some rumours. Everyone loves to be the centre of attention. She will secretly delight in knowing people are discussing how she probably just wanted government money for staying at home. It may be a pittance compared to what she was earning, and a baby may be a 24/7 job, but come on, don’t let truth get in the way of a good story! In fact, throw in there how she probably deliberately trapped her man into a relationship by getting pregnant. Because everyone knows it’s the woman’s fault anyway. Look, she may not show it, but even negative attention is attention, and she’ll love it.

If she’s struggling, let her know your pregnancy was worse. If she has had to take some days off work or even quit entirely because she can’t get her head out of the toilet bowl, the self-centred cow needs to understand that you managed to work all the way through your pregnancy, as well as studying, running an international charity, and training for Iron Woman.

Don’t invite her to social events in the daytime. If she can’t go out drinking at night like she used to, that’s her problem. In fact, she should probably go out with you more often at night, because now she can be your designated driver. It’s perfect, really. So if she says she’s “tired” or asks to meet up during the day instead, just fob her off and find some new friends that actually care about your social life.

Remind her that she needs a sense of humour. Okay, she may claim pregnancy hormones, but seriously, nothing is funnier than asking her, “Are you sure that’s not twins in there?” If met with a blank look, it may be just baby brain making it slower for her to understand, so repeat it again, and again, until she gets it.

Let her know abortion is an option. Especially if she hasn’t mentioned it herself. But if you feel she is financially, mentally, or emotionally unstable, or if you feel she will regret this baby later and should be following career and travel plans, or even if the baby may have something wrong with it and she has decided to go ahead with the pregnancy, please let her know she is actually being pretty selfish. She has obviously come to the decision to keep the baby very lightly, and needs your guidance. If she starts avoiding your calls, send e-mails. In fact, send her links to reputable clinics.

Ask to be present at the birth. Especially if you are her partner’s relatives. Go on – she really would love to share the moment with everyone! If she says otherwise, she’s just being shy. Too many people at the birth could make her tense up and have a long and painful labour, but afterwards I’m sure she’d love the relaxation of sitting back while everyone else handles her baby before her and gets their smell all over it and makes the moment about them. She shouldn’t keep such a precious time to herself.

If this is her third plus time she is pregnant, ask if it’s an accident. No-one would willingly want more than two children. After all, these days we have contraception. (Also, see this as an opportunity to start some more rumours, and call her a “breeder”.)

Let her know how grateful she should be. If she’s unsure about her pregnancy, bang on repeatedly about how at least her ovaries work, and how so many people want to conceive.

Dissect her baby names. Let her know how you, personally, really don’t like the names she’s chosen. After all, you represent society. In fact, suggest some of your own. Just not the ones you want for your own baby. If she comes up with a name that you wanted to use when you possibly have a kid ten years in the future, let her know you bagsed it first and she can’t use it.

Put her in her place. Everyone knows that when someone gets pregnant, their mammary glands are automatically open for discussion. If she chooses to exclusively breastfeed, let her know she is being incredibly selfish for keeping that bonding to herself. She needs to learn that this baby isn’t about her.

If her house is messy, she would appreciate knowing it. She may be “tired”, but that’s all the more reason to gently let her know her place has gotten out of control. She may have simply mistaken all the fluff on the floor as the dots from lack of sleep dancing in front of her eyes. Don’t offer to help her clean up, though – remember, women want to be independent. Just make your comments, leave the cup of tea she made you sitting on the coffee table in its little ring where you accidentally sloshed some, and go, so she can think about how embarrassed she must have made you for having to mention anything.

In summary, pregnant women do not make very good decisions. All those hormones floating around mean our baby brain makes us incapable of thinking about anything but what colour we want the nursery. We need as much guidance and advice as possible. Really.

(*Any sarcasm is directly in proportion to the seriousness of the reader. If in doubt, print out and iron to show the secret messages, then wash on a cold cycle and dry under the light of a half-moon.)

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Things Pregnant Women Secretly Want to Hear

The Black Dog in Pregnancy

I really wanted to write a positive post, but I seem to be being guided from some things I’ve seen and heard lately to write about this instead.

Pretty-much everyone has heard about post-natal depression. It even has its own initials – PND. There are websites and support services geared towards helping women through this after the birth of their child. But although antenatal depression is a real thing, it seems not many people have heard about it, and thus don’t understand what’s happening.

Depressing during pregnancy is not selective. It doesn’t just go for women who accidentally find themselves pregnant and are unsure about it. Your hormones are running wild, and so it can even happen to women who have dreamed of motherhood for years. They might have an image ingrained in their minds of how they will feel when they first see a positive line, how fulfilled and happy they’ll be going nursery shopping. But if that dream finally happens, and those little hormones kick in and turn everything upside-down, they feel confused and start to wonder, are they a horrible person? Other pregnant women are beside themselves with joy, picking baby names already, talking about what prams to buy, saying they are too excited to wait to announce but have to do it now. The woman with antenatal depression feels unnatural for feeling the opposite way or for not feeling an instant bond; she retreats into herself, fakes excitement, spirals further down. She worries she will be a bad mother, that she is even now damaging her baby psychologically with these feelings. She may even feel the baby will be better off without her.

There is a lack of conversation around antenatal depression that makes things so much harder. The stigma around depression in general has lessened a lot over the years, due to a greater understanding and more openness. However, antenatal depression is still a different ballgame. Why?

I’d never even heard of it when I fell pregnant with my first, and when it hit, I had no idea what was happening. I was probably a fairly good candidate – I was already prone to depression; I was helping one family member who was recovering from cancer and another from a stroke; I’d had plans to move overseas which had already been put on hold, and were now totally impractical; I succumbed to such extreme vomiting and tiredness that I had to quit work, volunteering, and my social life; I was in a new relationship that was now rocketed into a whole new sphere, and then moved further away from friends and family to an area that was the complete opposite of what I’d wanted. Actually, I don’t regret any of this – my little girl means everything to me; I love her and my partner, and wouldn’t change the way things turned out. But it was a lot of life changes at once. And then crippling depression hit on top.

It was the kind of depression where you stay in bed all day, not wanting to move, knowing you’re just making it worse really, but seem unable to help yourself. (Actually, the vomiting and tiredness meant I really couldn’t move some days.) I had no idea what was happening with me emotionally. I felt awful for not feeling a bond with the baby. At the five-week dating ultrasound, I hoped and hoped for a feeling of reality, but it was like the little dark blob on the screen that was the gestational sac belonged to someone else. I then secretly hoped the 11-week ultrasound would be It – the moment I looked at the forming baby on the screen, and realised this was mine. But again, I felt nothing; it was like just watching a movie on the screen.

I felt pretty low. What kind of woman doesn’t bond with their unborn child?!

I tried to speak to others about it, but realised that for most people, it was like a big taboo. Even people that are okay with speaking about general depression seem to feel incredibly uncomfortable when faced with antenatal depression. They really just want to be able to squee over your tummy and say, “Congratulations!” and move onto what you’ll call it and if you’re going to find out the gender and will you have a baby shower. If you don’t participate with enthusiasm, you can kinda hear the crickets. There’s a feeling that you’re actually pretty ungrateful for not giving thanks for your functioning ovaries. Even some medical professionals can sort-of be douches about it, which is just fantastic for women who already feel they have nobody to talk to about their feelings.

Finally I Googled depression in pregnancy, and was surprised to find it is actually a thing. I actually burst into hysterical sobs, because I was so incredibly relieved to know I wasn’t the only one.

And you know, the feelings passed. It happened suddenly, somewhere towards the end of four months. One day, I was vomiting and tired and depressed, and the next day I wasn’t. I still didn’t quite feel a sense of reality about the pregnancy until I felt my girl moving, but I realised that actually I’d loved her all along, just hadn’t known it because of those damn hormones. But every decision I’d made since falling pregnant had been to protect her.

Even with this second pregnancy, although I didn’t have the same severe depression, I did have moments of sheer terror. Personally, I thought that was understandable – I hadn’t wanted any more children, but now found I was going to have two babies fairly close together. It’s pretty daunting. But again, I discovered it was taboo to share my fears. Apparently I should have been grateful that my ovaries functioned not once, but twice.

Regarding gratitude, there’s a blog post I adore, from Boganette (“I Am Grateful, Now Fuck Off“), which expresses my feelings in a much more eloquent way than I possibly can. Boganette points out that telling people to be grateful can actually be dangerous. Yes, dangerous. It “leads to those parents shutting down and never sharing how they truly feel. It leads to parents not having support networks. It leads to parents walking into parenthood without any idea of how hard some moments, some days, can be. It leads to such unfair expectations on parents – enjoy every minute or you’re a fucking monster. It leads to feeling like you’re doing it all wrong.

We need to allow pregnant women to talk about how they feel. We need to not assume every pregnancy announcement is a joy-filled moment, that every woman is only thinking about whether the nursery should be pink, blue, or unisex. Would you tell a paraplegic, “Be grateful you’ve still got use of your arms”? Would you tell a blind person, “Be grateful you’re not deaf”? Would you tell someone who lost their home, “Be grateful you’re not in a third-world country”? Okay, growing a life is a different issue. But how come it’s okay to defend a woman’s right to a termination, yet when she opts to keep her baby despite misgivings, she gets no kudos for that? Why do women struggling with antenatal depression have to ask questions anonymously online, even creating separate profiles?

To those struggling with antenatal depression, be kind on yourselves. Your body is doing one of the toughest jobs it will ever do. Women raising a baby these days are taking on the job of what used to belong to a whole village, sometimes also working and even studying at the same time. You’re not alone and you’re definitely amazing. I just wish more people would say it to you.

The Black Dog in Pregnancy

The Commercial Bandwagon of the Firsts

There’s something pretty amazing about your baby’s firsts. Like, the first time they smile at you and you nearly drop them in surprise and delight. The first time they try to imitate your laugh. The first time they experiment with sounds (and then never shut up). The first time they realise they can use their hands, or move about. Even their first solids poop is kinda cute (though that grows old fast). You want to gush about it all like your baby is the first in history to ever do these things. You feel a bit gooey inside, like a Cadbury crème egg, which happily for most is out this time of year.

Actually, this time of year is part of the problem. Because along with the firsts come things like baby’s first Christmas, baby’s first Easter, baby’s first birthday.

I’m not so bah-humbug that I have an issue with people making a big deal of their baby’s first events, if that’s what they want. The photos can end up really gorgeous, of babies in outfits that make you just want to eat them. (Not a sentiment I ever expressed until I actually had a baby and realised how yummy they can be and that I do have a maternal bone in my body.) But it seems to me as though the Commercial Bandwagon strikes harder than usual with mothers. It’s another form of mummy guilt – if you don’t spend an exorbitant amount of money, buy costumes they will only wear once, and hire professional photographers for each occasion, your baby will be forever scarred by the fact that they don’t have memories (of being under one?), or at least photographic evidence of it (even if it’s one cajoled smiling moment in a day of tears).

Okay, I am a bit bah-humbug. But I have always been concerned at the Commercial Bandwagon, how it sinks its claws in and creates worry and stress, sucking the joy out of what should be a happy occasion for those who are guilted into succumbing. I just didn’t realise until now how much it applied to mothers of babies in their first year.

First event for Little Miss and those around her age was Christmas. I started to feel guilty because other mothers talked about buying not just a walker, or a jolly jumper, or an activity centre, but the lot. The cost of Christmas presents for some was starting to run easily into the hundreds, for babies that weren’t even yet crawling. And here we were, telling everyone that we weren’t fussed and that Little Miss had plenty of toys already. I started to feel as though our baby was Harry Potter in the broom cupboard, watching while Dudley got only 36 presents. I was surprised no-one called DoCS, what with that and my lack of a Santa photo. We had foolishly thought waiting in a queue and then paying for a pic of her crying with separation anxiety in a stranger’s arms would not be “cute”, but apparently, as I was informed in shock many times when I stated my decision, “A Santa photo is how you get to see how much they’ve grown each year!” I guess the other daily photos of LM didn’t count.

As if our behaviour already wasn’t bad enough, whilst other mothers tried frantically to appease both parents and in-laws or thought they should hold two Christmases, my partner and I decided last-minute to bugger the whole thing and go away, just us three (and Peanut, who we didn’t know about yet thanks to a faulty pregnancy test), staying near a quiet beach. I kept an eye out to see if LM showed any signs of missing pine trees or tinsel, or distress at her lack of reindeer antlers, but she persisted in practicing her rolling, ignoring the presents others had given her to make merry with the wrapping, grinning her head off. On New Year’s Eve, she even somehow fortuitously decided to fight sleep and got to see the town’s nine o’clock fireworks from the balcony, a “first” we didn’t expect but which turned into a nice surprise, shared by just her immediate family.

Then Easter hits straight after Christmas these days. Frankly, I never gave it a thought. When asked what we were going to do for Easter, I blinked and said surely a baby that’s still commando crawling and not eating chocolate wouldn’t be going on any egg hunts? But again, the Commercial Bandwagon through its mouthpieces told me everyone else was buying bunny toys and bunny books, and look it wouldn’t hurt to also pop her in a basket in a bunny costume in hopes that a professional photographer could capture a smiling moment without her trying to eat the bunny ears and crawl out. I ended up feeling like Petunia Dursley again for saying, “Well, we don’t really celebrate Easter, and actually, she has more things than she knows what to do with, and I don’t want her thinking the year is an endless parade of presents.” I felt too guilty to explain that she would probably throw any gifts aside to play with the mobile phone, TV remote, laptop mouse, well anything she shouldn’t, really. As for books, she ignores the hundreds she already has to pick the same one every night for Daddy to read. (Apparently she loves his silly Wombat Stew voices. Me, I just get handed the same five-page counting book over and over – “Oh, look, one puppy. Two puppies. Three puppies. Four … oh, you want the beginning again? One puppy.” Sometimes I vary it by saying, “That puppy’s brown,” but I’m running out of options.)

And then comes … The First Birthday. The Event To End All Events.

I naïvely thought this was all about the baby and what would be least stressful for her. Maybe an informal little backyard gathering, a few friends and rellies, organised a couple of weeks in advance, everyone brings a plate. She can have a nap in peace and quiet when she needs it, and not be poked and prodded and overstimulated till she cries. Because it is for the baby, right? OH, HA HA HA.

The amount of talk about first birthdays has actually had me confused as to whether we are, indeed, talking about birthdays or weddings. I think some parents are taking out a second mortgage for it. They are planned months in advance. You need to pick a theme, complete with themed custom-made invitations, and hire a theme-decorated hall for hundreds of friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and organise activities to keep their own children occupied. (I have no idea what theme Little Miss would prefer, considering a highlight of her day is being cheered when she does a poop in the potty – yes she’s only 9.5 months, but we’re trying elimination communication, okay.) You again need a professional photographer to dog your baby’s every move. And you need to order, not just one cake insanely expensively decorated, but two. I had never even heard of a “cake smash” before I had a baby, but apparently the major thing is for them to be photographed bashing their way through one. Even mothers who originally hadn’t been going for it have been guilted that “everyone’s doing it”. Anyone who dares to suggest that it might be wasteful, or possibly even unfair as the baby can’t eat the cake (unless it’s made sugar-free), gets lambasted severely for being “negative” and wanting to ruin the memories of babies everywhere, and just for good measure, they probably drown kittens and tie the ears of bloodhounds together as well.

I’m really glad for the few mothers that have secretly confessed to me that they actually just wanted a backyard BBQ with a handful of people. It makes me feel less like the ruiner of my baby’s psyche. I did make it to my mid-thirties before it occurred to me, with all this happening, that there are no photos of my first Easter, Christmas, or birthday – although I’m not sure if that can be tied into any of my life problems. Maybe I should ask my therapist. Then again, it’ll be nice to explain to Little Miss that her bank account remains open and intact, as she sucks on the laptop mouse whilst banging the phone and remote together.

The Commercial Bandwagon of the Firsts

This Wasn’t The Plan

I had a preconceived idea of motherhood. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes other women did. I wasn’t going to make life All About Baby. I wasn’t going to put a million pictures on Facebook, and talk about nothing else. I would still hang out with the girls (and boys). I would keep working from home while it slept. The baby would fit in around my lifestyle. I didn’t see why friendships had to change or why some mothers only hung out with other mothers. I would still be me – just with a baby.

Ha.

Actually, I realised early on in pregnancy that I wasn’t going to stay “me but just with a bump”. Debilitating vomiting, tiredness, and depression kept me virtually bedridden for a few months, so badly I even had to quit work. Maintaining a social life was impossible, when I couldn’t even maintain myself. I began to get invited to less and less events.

I also realised I was changing inside. (Apart from the obvious.) I had no idea how protective a person can feel of a baby before it even leaves your body. I had always been a bit of a pushover and eager to help, but now I grew more hard-arse. Suddenly I had no tolerance for drama. Anyone wanting to cause trouble was given the immediate flick. Because it wasn’t about me anymore. The life growing inside me deserved as stress-free an environment as possible. I was, very soberingly, going to be someone’s role model.

And when Little Miss was finally born, my life soon became about the “mistakes” I’d sworn to avoid.

LM was all-consuming. Sometimes I think she was sent to test and challenge me, trial by fire, buffing my edges, pressure on this lump of coal. (Friday 13th full moon baby, remember.) I certainly had to learn that my life was no longer about me, and never would be again.

In a lot of ways, she wasn’t a difficult baby. She didn’t have health or development issues; she loved people; she was smiley and bright. But my little Gemini had a flipside to her.

I soon discovered I was going to be in a routine, something I’d always tried to avoid, or else Little Miss could get very agitated. Whilst I saw other mothers gaily chucking their baby in a sling and going about their business, I was unable to move until LM had had her long morning nap, which had to be at home. Going out after that, she would try to take as much as she could in, and become overstimulated and scream her lungs out, to the point where sometimes we just had to leave. She knew when six o’clock approached that it meant bath, boob, and bed, and woe betide if we were out instead. I couldn’t leave her with my partner, as she refused bottles. She was not a “sleep through the night” baby, so there was no telling how soon she’d wake up for another feed, and most of my friends lived about an hour away. (Anyway, I was getting too damn buggered and sleep-deprived to go out.)

If I did take her out in the day to visit friends or family, I had to leave before schools ended and peak hour began. If traffic was slow or there were too many red lights, LM would scream in frustration, unable to get to sleep, for a journey that could last up to an hour and a half. The distraction of my nerves being shot and a feeling of guilt that all her screaming was doing LM harm meant poor driving decisions, including a red light fine which I didn’t believe possible until I saw the photo.

It didn’t help that other people (including some mothers) would say things to me like an incredulous, “Can’t she sleep in the car?” or a stern, “You have to teach her who’s the boss.” Yes. Thank-you for the judgement on my parenting. I tried to explain red lights to Little Miss, but you know what, she just wasn’t buying it.

I began to despair of ever having a social life again. And started to realise why some mothers do nothing but talk about their baby. When you don’t see friends much, have to turn down events, and don’t work (ha, yeah, I know, you mums out there were ROFL at my “work while the baby sleeps” plan), you, um … kinda end up with nothing else to talk about. I had done it; I’d turned my life into All About Baby. She wasn’t fitting into my lifestyle, I was fitting into hers. Any photos that went on Facebook were, well, the baby, because they were kinda the only photos I had.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t resent Little Miss for this. I knew it wasn’t her “fault” and that it wouldn’t be forever. I knew that whilst exhausting, this was the most important and rewarding job I would ever have in my life. Yes, I sometimes wished I could be baby-free for a day, but in the end, nothing compares to the huge beaming smile I get every morning from someone so secure in my love.

But I also discovered why some women make the “mistake” of having mainly only mum friends. Sometimes the only person you can text at 2.00 a.m. to express your frustration at your sleepless baby is another mother. Most childless people would rather drink ‘slippery nipples’ than talk about sore ones (hell, can’t blame ’em). Sometimes mums are the only ones that get that when your baby is finally taking a bottle and you finally have some free time after whinging for months that you haven’t gone out, you choose to spend it … in the bath. They’re the ones that tend to get that life doesn’t begin and end at social media anymore; when I went off Facebook, they still were texting, remembering my birthday, even remembering my baby’s monthly “birthdays”. They understand “baby brain” and don’t get offended when you reply to a text in your head but forget to actually send one, because they do that all the time. (Most of my SMS’s these days begin with, “I’m really sorry for the delayed reply … ” about a week later.) They remember that even if you can’t go, it’s still nice to be sent invites, to anything from major events to just Chicks at the Flicks. They don’t cancel on you to hang with “cooler” friends. They understand visiting is a two-way street and not always easy. They don’t make “subtle” comments about the mess at your place (in fact, they’ll probably congratulate you for keeping it so together!). They don’t expect you to have lunch on hand or to be thrilled about being left with a pile of washing-up.

This is not to diss friends that aren’t mothers. And I actually get that faced with a choice of, “Do I go clubbing this weekend, or hang with Sore Boobs no-alcohol-because-she’s-breastfeeding-and-pregnant”, Option 2 is the road less travelled, because I would strongly lean to Option 1 myself. I have been blessed with some amazingly understanding childless friends who have made a big effort to be there. Even though I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m a pretty boring friend right now. And probably will be for some time, seeing as No. 2 is on the way.

But one day I’ll look back and realise that although this time seems interminable, it was actually quite short. I’ll realise that even if I seem to have lost some things, I have gained so much more. I will get back to work again, I will be able to do the things that make me Me. But I will be a Me that I had never dreamed of being – someone with more strength, determination, and love than I ever believed possible.

This Wasn’t The Plan

Mummy Guilt

One thing I’ve noticed from online baby forums is … the excessive amount of mummy guilt.

Once upon a time, mothers did things in a relatively guilt-free way. They smoked and even drank sometimes during pregnancy. They probably did have some soft cheese with their wine. They left their babies to cry it out at night. I don’t agree with any of these things (well, except maybe the soft cheese), but it seems the pendulum always swings from one extreme to the other, and never stops long enough in the middle.

The mummy guilt (and judgements) start early in pregnancy (when you soon realise having a baby isn’t about you, but everyone else … apparently). Women are terrified because they drank before they realised they’d conceived. Smokers don’t know whether they’re supposed to quit, or if withdrawals will make things worse for the baby. The list of “What Not To Eat In Pregnancy” has grown ridiculously long … Women stress that they may spontaneously miscarry because their omelette had miniscule pieces of ham in it. For everyone who tells them not to worry, someone else will pop up with a story of how their neighbour’s uncle’s best friend’s dog’s previous owner’s wife had contracted listeria during pregnancy from soft cheese, or how the postman’s second cousin’s nanny gave birth to a baby with foetal alcohol syndrome when she swore she’d “only had a couple of drinks the whole pregnancy”. Women who will scoff all the junk food under the sun during pregnancy will say self-righteously to anyone who dares admit to half-a-drink on their birthday, “You wouldn’t give your baby alcohol once it’s born, so why would you do it in the womb?” Well, I kinda didn’t think they’d give their baby chocolate or chips once it’s born either.

The mummy guilt continues in ways that I never believed possible. When I see friends doing something with or making decisions about their baby that I personally don’t agree with, I think, “Is it directly endangering the baby’s life? No? Maybe I should mind my own business then.” Apparently, that’s not a common sentiment. (Not even from the very people I’ve held my own tongue with.)

I’ve seen women castigated for electing a caesarean, even when they have sound medical reasons, and being told they’re “too posh to push”. (Most of these things are, of course, done online, from people who wouldn’t dare say it to their face.) And on the flipside, I’ve seen women who intend a natural birth being talked out of it as natural is “barbaric”. (Encouragement is usually not a big thing with guilt-trippers.)

Everyone apparently has the right to know if you’re going to breastfeed or formula feed. If you say formula, watch out. If you say breast, you will be asked how long for, and told either it’s not long enough (WHO currently recommends 2.5 years), or that you should only aim for six months because you’ll be sick of it by then. (Like I said … encouragement is not the theme.) Some women, incredibly, have even been told they’re selfish for breastfeeding, because it takes bonding away from other family members, and now the grandparents will have to wait to babysit overnight until you have finished producing booby juice naturally, like HOW COULD YOU TAKE THAT AWAY FROM THEM. (I can’t imagine that when I’m a grandmother, the first thing on my mind will be, “Yay, I would love my sleep disturbed every couple of hours by a newborn again, and please make the nappies extra-pooey because I MISS THAT SO MUCH!”)

Don’t even get me started on vaccination debates. They never end well. Apparently both sides are child abusers who either want to see their babies die of horrible diseases or of horrible ingredients. Yeah, ’cause we all set out to do the worst we can as a mother. (Oh, and everyone thinks they have the right to ask you bluntly about whether you will or not. “None of your effing business” should be a suitably blunt response.)

There are so, so many other things to feel guilt over. Do you co-sleep? Depending on who you listen to, it’s either a SIDS risk or SIDS prevention, and your child will either become secure and emotionally healthy, or will form a disturbing attachment that’ll see them still in your bed at 21. Are you going to feed solids at four months (“Too early – digestive system not ready”) or six months (“Too late – iron stores depleting”) or even later (“Aren’t you worried you’re STARVING your BABY?”)? And what solids will you start with? Iron-fortified rice cereal (“You need to build up your baby’s iron stores, which magically deplete at six months”) or plain fruit and veg (“Baby rice cereal is so outdated, starting them on a carb is bad habit, and plus it’s processed”)? Purees? Well, yes, if you want to delay speech development and make your baby dependent on spoon-feeding till they’re 15. Baby-led weaning? Well, I hope you know first aid because your baby may choke.

Baby falls asleep at the breast? You’re creating bad habits for later and a rod for your own back. Baby doesn’t fall asleep at the breast? You’re going against nature, as breastmilk releases a chemical specifically to help babies do just that. Rock to sleep? You’re creating a rod for your own back. (I seriously want to ban that phrase.) Don’t rock to sleep? That’s so cruel, don’t you know the baby has just been rocked to sleep for nine months inside and now you expect it to go cold turkey.

When your baby’s crying of tiredness, someone will insist it’s hungry. When it’s hungry, someone will tell you it’s just wind. When it’s wind, someone will say they’re cold. Apparently even strangers on the street will know your baby better than you.

Everyone seems to have the answer on why your baby isn’t sleeping, without having spent one night at yours. Tizzie Hall is either the saviour of all babykind, or the dangerous antichrist putting babies at risk. Whatever the case, if you don’t help your baby get the “proper” amount of uninterrupted sleep per day, you are DESTROYING THEIR DEVELOPMENT. But if you do try sleep training, be prepared to be told how cruel you are. Your baby shouldn’t be allowed to cry for a second. In fact, don’t even go to the toilet. Wear a nappy yourself. If there’s something on the stove, let the kitchen burn. A baby being allowed to cry for one second is a baby being neurologically DAMAGED BEYOND REPAIR.

Actually, all I want to ask is … is your baby alive and relatively happy? WELL DONE. You are surviving a difficult part of motherhood. Now go have a coffee. (Unless you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Because that is … oh, what the hell.)

Mummy Guilt

Pregnant Again

The first thing everyone said, when I told them I was pregnant again, which was by accident and completely how-the-hell-did-that-sneak-in, and that I was freaking out about it, and didn’t know how I’d cope when I struggled with one as it was (they’d be 15 months apart), and had previously decided I wasn’t going to have any more than one, and that I was so tired and suffering anxiety, was … “Congratulations!!!” I wasn’t sure they heard me right, but anyway.

I had spent six months with Little Miss Sleepless, who was not so bad when she wasn’t going through developmental leaps, teething, or trying to practice rolling or crawling during sleep-time (so about 5% of the time I could be guaranteed of an okay night’s sleep, though never all the way through), when I fell pregnant again. Ironically, I was just out of sleep school and Little Miss was starting to sleep better. Also ironically, the paediatrician at sleep school had told me the contraception I was using might not be the best, and I’d said, “It’s worked just fine so far.” She’d basically said, “It’s your funeral,” (or perhaps, “As long as you would be okay with falling pregnant again”) and I had thought, “Ha! It hasn’t failed me so far.”

I also kept hearing from all these women with babies the same age as mine, how they couldn’t wait to fall pregnant again. I thought, “Are you mad? I would have a nervous breakdown and cry for weeks!” Well, close enough.

(I should say, despite my initial denial, I am loving my Peanut now. The bond kind-of snuck up on me, same way pregnancy did. I even find myself being positive about having two kids close together sometimes, before I remember that I’m supposed to be filled with self-pity.)

I often hear from people how having two children close together is a great thing. There are definite positives. They will always have a playmate. (Or someone to torture and dob on; whatever.) I will feel safer knowing they’re looking out for each other. (Or egging each other on). Apparently, they will entertain each other so I have less work to do. (Or demand double the attention.) I will get all the “baby stuff” out the way at once. (Though without benefit of a much older child who could possibly be a helper.)

But oh, my gosh, the hormones. Save me from the hormones. Don’t talk to my partner about the hormones. I feel like I’ve said, “I’m sorry, it’s the hormones,” so many times that it should be just a given by now.

Leaving aside the bone-crushing first trimester tiredness, the feeling that I’m not entertaining my Little Miss properly because I can’t muster up the energy, the vasospasms whilst breastfeeding in very early pregnancy which thankfully passed, the changing and diminishing of my milk which has seen Little Miss stop breastfeeding as much and instead devour all of her food and then mine, the pregnancy nose which means I gag during nappy changes and banish my partner to the couch if he so much as breathes in my direction after garlic … SAVE ME FROM THE HORMONES.

One night, I’ll feel all loving and maternal. I’ll look at my girl and think, “Gee, she’s sweet. She’s so beautiful. She’s growing up so fast. I could cry. Oh, don’t you cry, honey – here, I’ll feed you and pat you till you fall asleep. There, there. You’re my little angel. I love you. I’ll sit here all night with you if I need to. I know, I know. You’re just a baby. I’ll stroke your little downy head and sing you a lullaby.”

Next night, an internal (I stress, internal) monologue goes on in my head, something like this: SERIOUSLY? Are you frickin’ SERIOUS? You’ve been outside as long as you were inside, and you haven’t learnt to sleep by now? You know I’m pregnant, right? You know Mummy needs sleep too, right? Can’t you think of Mummy? I think of YOU all the time. Yeah, yeah, okay, I’ll feed you. Oh holy crap DID YOU JUST BITE ME? Okay, now I know you’re just using me as a dummy. Aarrrgh, stop screaming my ears off, they’re bleeding. OMG, you do know you have all DAY to practice crawling and standing and babbling, right?

There are nights I could cry myself to sleep from exhaustion. Then morning breaks; I hear a little noise from the monitor. I sigh, and resign myself to getting up and starting it all over again. I go into her room. She gives me the biggest, happiest grin, so excited to see me; that smile that says, “You’re my favourite person in the world.” And I melt, and think if I get two lots of that smile, maybe that ain’t such a bad thing.

Pregnant Again

About this blog

I’ve been a mother for a total of nine months. Yep, nine months. I came into this having no previous experience of babies (my own or anyone else’s), and the first thing I quickly realised was … babies do not come with a manual. Why the hell not? Because they’re crafty little buggers and quickly disprove any parenting theories you might have or books you might read. But they manage to be slightly adorable along the way. It’s their survival mechanism. They need it.

Enjoy my blog (when I manage to keep it up in sleep-deprived moments) … and add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of pepper, and microwave for three minutes in a bowl of goat’s milk, before feeding to your cat upside-down.

Thank you 🙂

About this blog