As a new mother, sometimes I feel like I have a never-ending list of questions, many of which feel like they could never really be answered unless I found a psychic who could read my baby’s mind (wouldn’t that be dreamy!). I sometimes see other mother’s with little ones slightly older than mine and I want to bombard them with questions I’ve been building up – what things can I look forward to in the next months? What terrible milestones are we about to be broad sided with, and how should I prepare myself? How many vacation days should I save for days when I’m a zombie after a sleepless night of teething?
On the same token, sometimes I feel like I’m being asked never-ending questions, too, and it’s like being pregnant — questions vary slightly, but the general answers are always somewhat the same. Here are my top five favorite questions as a new mama, in no particular order:
1.) Isn’t birth beautiful? About 24 hours after my son was finally born (I say finally because I was in labor for four days, pushed for four hours, and then ended up having a c-section anyway) I was on the phone with my grandmother. I explained my labor to her and she paused for a second, then in all seriousness simultaneously exclaimed and asked: “Isn’t birth beautiful!?” I was floored! How could I possibly think of the beauty of birth while my whole body felt like it had been raked over hot coals and then dipped in acid for FOUR days? The idea of creating life and bringing a new life into this world is beautiful, of course, and perhaps in 55 years I too will recall my first birth experience as beautiful. It’s probably going to take me that long, if not longer.
2.) Is he sleeping well? It seems like people ask me and my husband this question on the days we are most tired, and I want to just scream, “DOES MY FACE INDICATE HE SLEPT WELL LAST NIGHT?!” The reality is that everyone asks this questions, family and strangers alike. The root of it is unfair -why is the gold standard of “sleeping well” sleeping through the night? A lot of adults I know can’t sleep through the night, but we expect infants to. All babies have good sleeping days and bad sleeping days, just like adults and older kids. Sleeping a solid five hours at night is actually considered sleeping through the night for an infant, but this question and its partner question of, “Does he sleep through the night?” makes new parents think that they are doing something wrong if baby isn’t holding their same sleep schedule. It’s hard enough to deal with the sleep deprivation as it is, let alone with every stranger and family member inquiring, too.
3.) Is he a good baby? Yes, we are lucky enough to have a good baby. But if we didn’t, I think you’d know by both his screams and mine. What is a “bad” baby anyway?
4.) How is he eating? There are two ways to answer this one: “He’s eating well” or the more sarcastic, “He’s eating with his mouth these days!”. Covertly, this question seems to be asking about whether the baby is formula fed or breastfed, which each come with their own set of baggage and follow-up questions. My grandfather once asked me WHAT my son was eating, and without thinking twice I blurted out “diet coke!” as a joke. Thankfully he got my subtle hint that I didn’t really want to discuss my breast milk with my 80 something grandfather.
5.) Has he (insert random milestone here) yet? People are obsessed with comparing babies. Half the time the milestone is grossly inappropriate for the age (someone asked me last week if my 3 month old was crawling yet, no joke) and the other half of the time they’re asking to compare stories of sorts. Of course there are milestones babies meet, but there’s no need to stress people out with added pressure of these expectations. Babies aren’t predictable robots – that’s why some diaper changes end up with more pee on the table/baby/adult/dog (not like this has ever happened to me or anything) than the diaper. As long as the pediatrician is happy with baby’s progress, then chances are good everything is fine.
My suggestion for handling these questions? Smile, take a deep breath, and take it all with a grain of salt. Or invite the question askers to spend a few hours with baby while you relax so he or she can answer all their own questions.