When you have a baby, everything changes. You can no longer watch a film or TV drama about kids going missing, or getting hurt. You lose the ability to form grammatically correct sentences. You struggle to remember names, dates and ages – including your own.
One of the biggest changes for me was that people no longer spoke to me through a ‘socially acceptable’ filter. As soon as it became apparent I was pregnant/ had produced a human, normal polite conversation ceased and blunt, uncensored chat began.
I’m sure this happens to us all. At some point, we are all going to care less about what people think and say what’s on our minds. I had always been under the illusion that this would be in our later years, where we had some serious life miles under our belt. I had not anticipated it would be directed at me during the most life-changing, emotionally testing time in my life.
During pregnancy, and those first few sleep-deprived months of having a baby, I think I experienced every emotion under the sun – all at light speed. A cataclysmic minefield of happy, sad, scared, excited, nervous, proud and a million other contrasting feelings went through my mind. Constantly. It was exhausting, and nothing and no one can prepare you for it.
Despite feeling unprepared, I was aware that I was entering unchartered territory, and subsequently, I expected people to tread carefully when broaching sensitive issues. They must be able to see the bags under my eyes? They must have noticed my unwashed hair and vacant stare I wore like a mask, just trying to hold it all together until numbing, blissful sleep (that only came on occasion).
Some people were kind, especially those who had experienced it, but some either saw right past my obvious vacancy or just didn’t care. And now I wish, I really, REALLY wish that I had been strong enough to give those people the responses they deserved.
So to honour tired, anxious, struggling me from 2013, here are my responses. If you’re reading this and experiencing anything like I did – remember them, feel free to use them, and be assured – IT WILL PASS. Time flies. You won’t feel so bamboozled ALL the time. Just some of it.
Stuff I wish I’d said…For the purposes of anonymity, let’s call the insensitive people in these scenarios a “Designated Individual Citing Knowledge”. Or D.I.C.K for short.
D.I.C.K: “Have you been trying for long?” ME: “Bit weird discussing my sex life with you, isn’t it? When was the last time you went at it? How many times? See – WEIRD.”
D.I.C.K: “Are you looking forward to the birth?” ME: “In the same way that one looks forward to wisdom teeth removal. Especially if the wisdom teeth are ten times too big for the place they’re being extracted from. Can’t freaking wait.”
D.I.C.K: ”I’ve heard labour is horrendous!” ME: “I can’t imagine it’s going to be a walk in the park. More of a marathon where the participant is repeatedly kicked in the vagina. Thanks for adding to my crushing apprehension though!”
Those difficult early weeks
D.I.C.K: “Did you labour naturally?” ME: “I produced a human being from my body, so the method of his/ her exit is kind of irrelevant. Plus I’m not hugely confident talking about my vagina or major surgery with you so let’s just go with ‘Yes’.”
D.I.C.K: “Oh what a cute baby. Can I steal him?” ME: ” Good one. Why not joke about taking away from me this fragile little human who I spend every second of every waking hour caring for and worrying about? Try it sunshine. I’ll go all Liam Neeson on you before you’ve come within an inch of that bassinet.”
D.I.C.K: “Oh your combination feeding (breast and bottle). That’s interesting. I’m a big fan of EBF (Exclusive Breast Feeding). ” ME: “I am genuinely glad you can exclusively breastfeed. Not all women can, or want to. My baby is fed, growing well, producing the appropriate amount of crap (korma coloured and after every feed, if you’re interested) and developing as a weeny baby should. As long as he is happy, I can choose to feed him however I want.”
A few months in
D.I.C.K: “Oh he is already sleeping in his own room? That’s brave. I’m too scared of SIDS.” ME: “We are all scared of SIDS you insensitive tool. The implication that I’m not makes me want to cry and scream all at once. He is in his own room because we all sleep better in our own space, it’s a mere 3 strides from my room and he is monitored in two ways, with a breathing mat and a high sensitivity baby monitor. But go ahead, passive-aggressively judge me.”
D.I.C.K: “Is he asleep?” (lifts muslin covering pushchair and sticks head a mere centimetre from baby’s nose) ME: “Well he was… after an hour of walking around at a constant speed, avoiding noisy roads, navigating curbs and crossings with care and willing the universe to give me a break and ten minutes to drink a coffee in peace. He’s not anymore though is he? Here, jot your address on this napkin and I’ll be sure to bring him over at 5am and once I’ve opened your curtains and got in your face, you can continue this conversation then.”
D.I.C.K: “I was back in my size 6 jeans in a month! Maybe you need to stay away from sugar.” ME: I have never been nor will ever be a size 6. My baby is weeks old. The last thing I should be worrying about right now is the size of the jeans I’m wearing (or battered old see-through leggings…). I MADE LIFE IN THIS BODY. Please don’t make comments like that, because right now caffeine and sugar are all I have.”
Upon discovering second pregnancy after 6 months…
D.I.C.K: “You’re pregnant already? Don’t you have a TV?” ME: “Yes, we have a TV. We also have a bed, are married and on occasion turn off Game of Thrones to do the no pants dance.”
D.I.C.K: “Haven’t you heard of contraception?” ME: “Yes. Have you heard of tact? It goes hand in hand with “STOP ASKING ABOUT MY SEX LIFE YOU NOSEY $*&#!”
And finally, “TESCO D.I.C.K”… so called as the checkout lady in Tesco said these exact words to a 8 month pregnant me with a just turned 1 year old in a pushchair… “You’re brave. They’re going to hate each other in a few years.”
ME: (I really wish I’d said this one) “F. Right. Off.”
These are a handful of examples, I have many more in my worry locker. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Parents. We may be subject to all sorts of nonsense, but we’re not alone.