There are many questions you are asked as a new mother… some are asked very innocently and in a well-meaning way, and yet, they can be the most irritating questions known to man. Some even have the power to make you feel like an utter failure.
Many mum-bloggers have written about the irritating questions that people ask and this is simply my own variation on the same theme!
Firstly, and arguably, the MOST irritating question – is she good?
“Good”? What on Earth do people even expect a new mum to say in response to this? What do they even mean by “good” anyway? Google defines ‘good’ as “to be desired or approved of” or “having the required qualities; of a high standard”… surely by this definition all babies are “good”? In any new mother’s eyes, her baby is good if we go by this definition. BG certainly is… she was very much desired and I certainly approved of her safe arrival into the world. She has the required qualities of a baby and in my opinion, she is of a very high standard!
What people actually mean when they ask this question still baffles me, but I took it to mean “Does she sleep well? Does she eat well? Is she settled? Does she cry a lot? Is she happy?”… the responses being “Yes, Yes, Yes, No, Yes”.
Basically, people are actually asking “Does she disrupt your life as little as possible?” – which is at best a personal question and at worst, incredibly rude and assumes that having a baby has been a massive inconvenience to your life! Ok, not everyone actively chooses to get pregnant, some children are happy accidents but still… to assume that a child would be an inconvenience is a horrible assumption!
On my own less stressed days, I smiled politely and answered “Yes” to the “Is she good?” question. On my slightly more stressed days, I have uttered many a sarcastic remark to this, including (but not limited to) “Compared to a rabid gibbon, yes she is very good” or “Compared to Year 11s last period on a Friday, she is excellent!” (I’m a high-school teacher in case I’ve missed that somewhere!) or “No. She’s actually an evil genius plotting to overthrow the Kingdom”. Each of these gained differing responses from the questioner, usually dependent on the age of the person asking the question.
The addendum to this irritating question is people asking “Is HE good?” – assuming that as the baby in front of them isn’t dressed head to toe in insipid baby-pink and frills they must in fact be a boy… GIRLS CAN WEAR OTHER COLOURS (more on this in a separate post too I think)!
The next two questions which irritated me the most as a new mother link in to the “Is she good?” question I suppose…
- Does she sleep well?
- Are you feeding her yourself?
With sleeping… define “well” for me for a start! BG was premature. 4 weeks to the day and so had a tendency to sleep in 2-3 hour blocks in the first few weeks, waking for a feed and then returning to sleep. For a prem baby, she did sleep well and she still does (I am in fact blessed to have a 1 year old that will sleep through the night… sorry to those who don’t… if any one reading this is sat there thinking they hate me a little bit now, I can accept that!). There is phenomenal pressure, and it may be perceived pressure, to have a baby that will instantly sleep through the night. This is in fact IMPOSSIBLE! Yet, many new mums are made to feel like they are somehow failing if their baby doesn’t sleep for more than 2 hours at a time. The NHS guidance states that
“Baby sleep at 6 to 12 months. For babies aged six months to a year, night feeds may no longer be necessary and some babies will sleep for up to 12 hours at night. Teething discomfort or hunger may wake some babies during the night”
MAY is the operative word in this statement! There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to sleep and going back to the experiences of my lovely NCT ladies, each of us have had different experiences of sleeping babies… from the stories I’ve heard from them – I’ve had it easy! What are people expecting you to say? And what will their response be when you turn around and say “Actually, no, she wakes up every 2 hours and is awake for an hour before going back to sleep”? Are they passing some kind of judgement because your prem baby can only eat an ounce at a time and therefore needs to feed frequently, meaning waking more frequently? Why do they even want to know? The only thing more irritating that this question (and someone who has a baby the same age as yours and their baby sleeps better than yours) is in fact the questioner then saying “Oh, well mine slept through from X months”. Thanks. That’s incredibly helpful. Now, stand still whilst I punch you in the face!
The next question that irked me the most was “Are you feeding her yourself?”. What people mean by this is “Are you breastfeeding?”. Now, I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed my daughter. I say fortunate here because I wanted to breastfeed and I was able to. I am not in any way shape or form passing any judgement on how people feed their babies – a happy healthy baby is all that matters and I will save discussion on this for a separate post – but what answer are people actually expecting? I once told a stranger who had asked me this question that in fact no, I did not feed my baby myself, I got my neighbour to do it for me as I couldn’t be bothered (it had been quite a long week and I was quite fraught at this point!). I wish I’d taken a picture of her face. If my baby is fed, gaining weight, ‘following her curve’, healthy & happy – what the chuff does it matter whether she’s breast or bottle fed? More to the point – why is it anyone else’s chuffing business?!
I think the last question for this post (I will save some questions for other posts as they link into other topics) is “Did you have a natural birth?”… why? Why would you ask that? Do you really want to know whether or not the woman in front of your with a new born baby has a slightly mangled vagina? Or perhaps if she’s just had major traumatic abdominal surgery? Probably not. I don’t mean your close friends and family here, they would surely know (and probably won’t ask you questions about the length of your labour, how many stitches you had to have, whether you were in a pool, if you had all the drugs known to man and an epidural) – I mean complete strangers who are just being nosy! It is, in my opinion, just another thing for people to ‘judge’ new mothers about! So long as the baby got out safely – what does it matter? And again, more to the point – why is it any of your chuffing business!
I am sure that there are many other irritating questions that new mums have been asked in their first few weeks and months of motherhood that they have found equally, if not more annoying – these are my top 4. I have found this rant quite cathartic (and the lack of profanity to be quite a challenge!) so please feel free to vent your own annoyances at irritating questions below!
I may attempt to write a Public Service Announcement of “Acceptable questions to ask a new mum” – please feel free to add suggestions for that list too!