6 May 2011
One of the great things about being pregnant is that lots of people give you a barrage of advice. All of which conflicts with the last book you read or what the last person you spoke to told you. Some of it is laughable and some of it is reassuring. Some of it useful and some of it just bloody annoying. Breast feed, don’t breast feed. Sleep with your baby, don’t sleep with your baby. Massage your perineum, don’t massage. Pick up your baby. Don’t pick up your baby. Let your baby cry. Don’t let your baby cry. You get the idea.
It seems the further away from the birth of their own child the person is themselves, the more freedom they feel to dispense general mothering advice or take liberties with your person. Yes you, seventy year old bloke at the bus stop, please, feel free to tell me how enormous I am and how I must wish the baby would come soon. Dear person at work with no idea of personal space, press up against me in the kitchen and then pat my belly when I try to squeeze past. Hello woman in Target, thanks so much for the tips about how I am buying all the wrong sort of newborn outfits for my baby.
The reverse is true for people you know; the closer they are, the more specific and detailed the advice gets. This advice barrage does not stop once you have the baby either. On and on it goes. It is enough to send a soon to be first time mother into suicidal despair. Having survived both a 40 week plus 6 days pregnancy and a 38 and a half hour labour with no pain relief* and now sixteen months of motherhood, I have been given an awful lot of advice.
In the first weeks of life, the newborn human has only one mission – to stay alive. It will do whatever it can to make this happen. This may involve lots of crying. You, its hapless parent, on the other hand have approximately nine million things to do. Really you only have one enormous task. The baby does not know that you have no idea what you are doing, and it should remain this way for as long as you can possibly manage, preferably until the child is old enough to know everything; at around thirteen.
There is almost nothing you can do to prepare yourself for dealing with the advice siege, with the shock of the newborn with its singular mission; as well as the subsequent ‘rest of your life’ campaign of motherhood. There is no mental adjustment that can be made ahead of time, not much physical preparation you can undertake in your pregnant state, your spiritual preparation won’t count for much faced with someone telling you how to deal with your screaming infant. You can prepare witty responses to unhelpful quips. You can steel yourself for disagreements with the other mothers. You can develop a ‘please don’t go there’ look for your partner. You can read a few books. None of this will help to shield you from the advice barrage.
Luckily, in the early weeks of motherhood, while you are attempting to retain control of something, anything, there is one source of advice you can turn to. It is a place of relief for the new mother under siege from advice. It provides both useful, actually helpful information and an unique opportunity for you to vent your frustration. It saved me regularly when faced with the challenge of motherhood.
This one place to go for advice is Twitter. The comfort that Twitter can provide a new mother can’t be underestimated. Just type the words ‘my baby won’t go to sleep’ and you will be instantly inundated with support, all of it limited to a pithy 140 characters. Most of the advice on the topic of sleep will exhort you to drink wine, or gin. Or both. Tell everyone your day has made you want to lie on the floor and cry and messages of support will flood in. Any issue you can think of, there will be someone, somewhere in the community on Twitter who will have been there, or will know the perfect thing to say.
If you are feeling somewhat under appreciated for your skills you may say something like this:
Or if you are searching for ways to cope with the boredom, tiredness and tedium of motherhood – you may get messages of support such as these.
Read a lot. Lie down a lot. Drink lots of coffee. Drink lots of gin.
Perhaps after a long day you think that wine may just be the answer? Twitter provides with Wine O’clock.
Wine makes mummy clever.
Counting down the minutes to wine o’clock.
Is it wine o’clock yet?
No really, is it wine o’clock?
Twitter even caters for a more elaborate plan like this:
Sleep is always a hot topic on Twitter. Mostly it refers to mothers sleeping, not children. But sometimes there is some advice.
Don’t sleep with your baby.
Do sleep with you baby.
Do whatever you like; as long as you sleep.
Sleep is for the Weak.
The number one topic of mothers on Twitter would have to be maintaining your sanity. I have encountered some excellent tips.
Get out of the house as much as you can.
Go for coffee.
Do not go to the park.
If you can’t leave the house, stuff around on Twitter instead of doing the dishes.
Sometimes it is good just to vent your frustration. Like this:
Having been under advice siege now for a while and having made a careful study of Twitter, to save you some time, I have condensed down all the advice I have ever received about having a baby to one neat point.
Do not ever let your baby see your fear.
* Yes, really. I went into labour at 8-00am 26th December and my son was born at 10-37pm 27th December.
** To protect my innocent ‘sources’ I have paraphrased some of their finest work. You know who you are.