When you run into an old acquaintance it’s customary to ask, “How are you?” The expected response is, “Fine thanks, how are you?” To which the distant relative or friend of a friend would offer an equally vague reply. This is small talk. No one expects elaborate, honest answers.
But when you have a baby, small talk changes – a baby is the perfect icebreaker and suddenly everyone wants to ask you personal questions.
We don’t answer honestly because we are still following the societal convention. The weeks that follow having a baby can be the toughest of your life, but we still want to be “fine thanks.” And perhaps, subconsciously, we also don’t want to admit the truth.
Here are some honest answers to standard questions you usually get asked:
Are you tired?
Tired is an understatement; I don’t know how I’m still vertical. If I wasn’t still running sheer adrenaline I might just become narcoleptic on you right now. This tiny human might look like she was just delivered calmly by a stork, but she’s actually just recovering from her night shift as the nocturnal demon from hell.
Does she sleep much?
Yes, she does sleep – in frustratingly large amounts during the day. So much so that I start to worry that she’s dead. People say that I should sleep when she sleeps – but I spend the daylight hours peering through the bars of her cot to make sure her chest is still rising and falling. If she sleeps longer than four hours I can’t resist the urge to wake her up, because I’m petrified that it has been too long between feeds and her prolonged slumber could be the result of starvation.
Is she a good baby?
That all depends how you define ‘good’, if you mean – does she successfully meet all of the correct tiny human criteria of having ten fingers, ten toes, a healthy thirst for breast milk, a mewling cry that rattles through every bone of your body, and a tendency to claw at her own face like a psychopath – then yes, she would qualify as a ‘good’ baby.
Are you still feeding her?
Yes. I thrust my nipple into her face so often I’m reminded of my teenage boyfriend who accused me of being too clingy. Clearly you were trying to insinuate whether I’m still breastfeeding – so, as I dutifully recite to the community nurse: “I’m exclusively breastfeeding, on demand.” I’m guessing it would have been the incorrect answer, if I had said no?
You will be subtle about it, won’t you dear?
So let me get this straight – you are happy if I breastfeed, but only if I do it behind closed doors, or under a blanket or something? It probably would be safest in my case. My little cherub and I haven’t exactly got the breastfeeding thing down yet. Apparently I have flat nipples, which means she can’t latch onto too well. So I wear these latex teat thingies over my nipples. She has a good sucking reflex and I have a good supply, so she does tend to choke a little when the milk pours too quickly down her throat. She will often throw her head back to gasp for air, which sends the latex teat flying and the residual milk left in the teat pouring down my stomach. I then have to fish around my lap for the teat, reattach it, and maneuver my impatiently grunting child back to my nipple. So, don’t worry, you won’t be seeing me whip out the ladies in a café any time soon.
Did you give birth naturally?
Yes, yes I did! I pushed her out of my vagina, all by myself. Actually, I don’t know how ‘natural’ I can claim it to be, after the cocktail of drugs that I readily accepted. The gas was good as a start – but it just didn’t cut it by the time that the contractions were so full on that I was making involuntary groaning noises that my partner likened to a dying baby walrus. The morphine might have taken the edge off – but to be honest I don’t really remember. It can’t have been too effective because they still offered me an epidural. Ahh, the epidural! It was wonderful! It took all of the stress out of the experience. I actually had a chance to rest until I was dilated enough to push. If anyone speaks badly about epidurals in my presence I will club them… like a baby walrus.
Who does she look like?
Everyone has a different opinion. My family sees my eyes; my partner’s family sees his chin. I actually see a lot of my grandfather. She has the same skinny, gangly legs, receding hairline and vacant expression.
Can I have a cuddle?
She’s clearly quite happy where she is right now, but it would be too awkward to say no at this point, so okay, I guess you can… Oh, you’ve already started picking her up, okay… But just so that you know, the entire time that you are cradling her and making an exaggerated effort to support her head, I’ll be thinking about whether you have any early symptoms of whooping cough, watching for any spittle as you speak, and lamenting myself for not enforcing the ‘no vac, no visit’ rule.
Are you reading to her yet?
She’s three weeks old. She can’t focus on anything beyond 15 centimeters and she certainly can’t comprehend the English language enough to appreciate Dr Seuss. I also haven’t had much time outside of the feed, burp, change and sleep cycle. But you’re right – it’s never too early. I should be more concerned with her language development, and ensuring that I instill in her a love of literature. I’ll get right on that.
Are you enjoying motherhood?
Everyone told me that it would be hard, but nothing can prepare you for how difficult it is really going to be. Having a baby is truly the most emotionally and physically draining experience. I get heart palpations when she’s out of my sight even for just a few minutes, and at the same time will crave a few quiet moments by myself. I can simultaneously love and resent her very presence. ‘I wouldn’t say ‘enjoying’ is the right word, but I think she’s the loveliest thing that I have ever laid eyes on and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Can you relate? Please share in the comments below.
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