“Why would you say that to me?”
When it comes to new parents, it doesn’t always help to overshare.
For some reason, when you’re pregnant or have just given birth, people feel comfortable in offering all sorts of not-so-helpful information, from their own horror birth stories to the fact that they haven’t slept in a decade.
If you’re feeling a little anxious in the lead up to your first birth, the last the thing you want to hear is your friend’s account of her 30-hour labour that ended in an emergency caesarean. Or perhaps you’re exhausted and emotional during those early newborn days and someone tells you that it will be six months before you and your husband can sit down to share a meal. Parents who have been there and done that are sometimes more than happy to share their knowledge and experiences – and it might just be exactly what you don’t want to hear.
Tell me it gets better
I remember feeling somewhat shell-shocked after the birth of my first child. She wasn’t a great sleeper, which certainly didn’t help. All the babies in my mothers’ group had no problem with sleeping, while my daughter wasn’t in the least bit interested. I dreamed of the moment when she would sleep through the night, hopeful that it might be soon. Until someone told me that might not happen for a couple of years. My heart sank. It seemed that there was no end in sight.
Then I discovered the dummy which made an enormous difference in settling my daughter. However, my joy was short-lived when someone offered their personal views on the possible perils of dummy use. Adding to my overwhelming tiredness was now the possibility I was doing the wrong thing.
How quickly we forget
I would like to say that I learnt from my experience of receiving unwanted information but unfortunately, I did not. A few years ago, I went to a work Christmas party for a new client. The boss and his wife were there with their newborn and were leaving just as I arrived. When I was introduced to the boss’s wife, I admired her beautiful baby and should have stopped there. But when she said that they were so tired from being up every night, I said, before I could stop myself, “Oh well, my kids are five and eight, and we’re still up every night!”
The minute the words came out of my mouth, I saw a look of horror and disappointment on her face. I could almost hear the voice in their head saying, “What? This doesn’t stop?”
There was nothing I could do or say as they pushed their pram out of the inner-city bar and headed home for yet another wakeful night of crying and feeding, interspersed with quick snatches of sleep. Why did I say that? Why didn’t I just say, “What a beautiful baby, you guys are amazing.”
Taking care of mum
According to the Royal Women’s Hospital in Randwick, many women can feel anxious or teary in the few days after their baby is born. This is a normal occurrence affecting up to 80 percent of new mums. This is the time to look after yourself, certainly not the time to be hearing unsolicited advice or negative stories.
In my case, my daughter gave up the dummy with no problem at all and now she sleeps like a dream, so there was no need to worry. But those early days can be so incredibly intense, fraught with questions and concerns, it’s hard to not to listen to what people say. It’s important to choose who you turn to for advice. And to also find a way to protect yourself from the barrage of unnecessary comments that do more harm than good. Then hopefully, unlike me, you’ll remember all about it, years later, when you bump into your boss’s wife with her newborn baby.