When speaking to a new parent, or parent to be, it seems to be human nature to offer advice. For most, it boils down to the same three pieces of advice. And trust me when I said, you aren’t the first person to tell them this, and you won’t be the last. We have all done it. I recognize that it really does come from a good place and there is no ill will attached. I am in no way advocating we start biting heads off (although, I have done it in a fit of pregnancy hormones. Sorry to the person who suffered my wrath. It really wasn’t anything personal). I would just like us all to think a little deeper about the implications that this advice might have.
“Sleep when the baby sleeps”
If you heard this less than 50 times between pregnancy and newborn stage you’re one of the lucky ones. It tends to be the go-to when people don’t know what to say. It’s much easier said than done though. Let’s start with the fact that it’s kind of common sense; I don’t know anyone who sleeps while their baby is awake. But saying this negates the fact that there’s other stuff we all need to get done. Unless you’re going to follow-up with an offer to come help clean the house, or do the laundry, or cook dinner or sweep or mow the lawn please remember how frustrating it is to hear. On top of all the postpartum hormones and the stresses that come with figuring out this new family member and how the family unit is changing the added stress that comment adds is just unnecessary.
“Enjoy every moment”
This one usually comes from other parents who miss their babies being little and have forgotten the hard times already. Unfortunately, this actually tends to lead to a lot of guilt in moms. For many women this advice makes their postpartum depression worsen because of the guilt they feel over being tired or stressed. It also leads to a lot of moms not asking for help because they feel like something is shameful or wrong if they aren’t in a constant euphoria. We all have moments where we’re at the end of our rope. I don’t think there’s a single parent who hasn’t had moments where they teeter on the edge of sanity; having to wake up and rock a screaming baby for an hour at 3am is not going to be enjoyable. They aren’t the same “late night baby cuddles” you miss, it’s frustrating and exhausting and no one has to enjoy those moments. Yes, we know we’ll miss the little coos, the cuddles, being able to hold our child in one arm, the smell and we do our best to absorb as much of that as possible and seer it into our memory. But we won’t miss being covered in poop, being hit in the face with pee, 1 hour of sleep because baby’s teething, 20 months straight without a solid night of sleep etc. Nor do we have to enjoy those moments.
Any horror story about birth
Birth is not inherently bad and some women do enjoy the process, and doing it naturally. If you felt you needed the epidural that’s awesome. Some women don’t want it and it’s not about being better or getting a gold star. It’s about making our birth special to us just as you made yours special to you. Even worse are the horror stories. Every single person has one and they feel the best time to share that story is when speaking to a woman about to go through the process. It’s very sad that your 4th cousin 3 times removed had to have an emergency c-section due to x,y and z but telling that story, in gory detail, to a woman already nervous about experiencing labour for the first time is cruel. Words like this send women into labour filled with fear and doubt instead of strength and confidence. And as women we should be providing support and uplifting each other, not trying to scare and weaken each other.