BY REBECCA SPARROW
It was one of those delicious rumours that spread through my hometown twenty years ago; propelled along because of its irresistibly juicy mix of perceived bad behaviour and motherhood. It was one of those rumours that many of us love: one that allows us to tut-tut another woman’s choices.
You see a very well known PR woman in town (I’ll call her Susie) had just given birth to her second child. Rumour had it that she was reading faxes as they wheeled her into delivery. And that she was annoying hospital staff by attempting to work from her hospital bed after her child was born. Think Alexis Carrington in labour and you get the picture.
Can you imagine? The nineteen-year-old me (a Communications student at the time) was horrified and appalled. What Type Of Woman can’t just be in the moment of having a baby? What Type of Mother is so obsessed with work that she’s writing media releases from her hospital bed?
What type of mother indeed.
And then two weeks ago I had a baby. And I sent a work-related email from my Smartphone just hours after my beautiful son Fin was born. Oh yes, yes I did. And then a few days later I sent some work-related tweets.
I know. HOW COULD I?
And Lord did it make people feel uncomfortable.
“Why are you working? Stop working!” said one friend.
“What is she doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” said another in a group email.
“Just enjoy your son!!!!”
“Tell me you’re NOT working!”
“Shouldn’t you be watching TV or reading or – hello? – sleeping?”
Of course, in my case, unlike Susie’s, my friends had my best interests at heart. They weren’t judging me. More concerned. A certain Sass & Bide loving woman we all know just wanted to move into my house, make me cups of tea and do my washing.
But still. Their reactions got me thinking.
It seems that when it comes to having a baby the judgement doesn’t end with how we have the baby (drugs or no drugs, Caesar or natural). Nor how we feed the baby (breast or bottle or both). Or who or how we care for our baby (Stay at home? Work full time? Daycare?). There’s also a certain way we’re expected to behave straight after the birth.
My divine son Fin was born at 36 weeks. Healthy but sleepy with jaundice. And so in my room he slept. And slept. And slept. For the week we were in hospital (as doctors monitored his jaundice) it was like living with the Purple Wiggle. As for me, I was BORED. BORED. There, I said it. While Fin snuffled and snoozed in his crib next to my bed for four-hour stretches, I channel surfed on the TV; read a few chapters of a fab novel (The Boys’ Club by Wendy Squires); and then – with Fin still asleep – I picked up my phone and checked my emails. And when a group work email came through – asking a question, I could easily answer off the top of my head – I answered it.
I promise you, Fin didn’t even notice. Didn’t feel neglected. I wasn’t madly writing emails while my son wailed beside me. Nope. He was out like grout – in the Land of Nod dreaming of well, who knows what babies dream about. Boobs, probably.
But the reaction to my “type and click” had surprised me. And for a moment, made me question my mothering skills. What kind of mother sends an email just hours after her son is born? This one apparently.
Two weeks later, I wonder if it’s weird that I’m even writing this post. It’s 7.30am. Fin’s asleep. So is Ava. Even the dog is curled up on a cushion. And I’m sitting here with a cup of tea and some peanut butter toast and I’m doing what I love: writing. And thinking about the books we’re planning to publish this year via Mamamia Publishing. And frankly I’d rather leave the bed unmade and the dishwasher un-packed if it means I can write for 30 minutes. Okay 40.
As for Susie, I wish I could apologise to her. Did she really send faxes and write reports from hospital? Who knows. The point is, it doesn’t matter. And frankly, it was none of my business.
How soon did you return to work after having a baby?