MIA FREEDMAN: My best advice for freaked-out pregnant women and mums of newborns.

So many of my friends are having babies. These friends are obviously younger than me because my first baby is about to have a baby of his own.

Like every parent, I have seen endless things and learned countless lessons about babies and some of them are even worth sharing.

Because I think we can agree that the one thing all pregnant women and new mothers want is more unsolicited advice from a stranger on the Internet. Please tell me what to do. Tell me harder.

Since you asked, here are the four best things I learned about new babies from having three of them.

1. You will doubt the living hell out of yourself.

This is normal. 

It doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t know what you’re doing. Well, you don’t, obviously, because you haven’t done it before but remember this: your baby hasn’t either.

You may be comparing yourself to Insta-mums and articles on parenting sites and imagined perfect mothers who know everything but they don’t exist and also your baby can’t read them because his thumbs are too tiny to scroll and he doesn’t have his own phone yet.

2. You will never ‘crack the code’ of your baby.

I used to believe that if I just did this and this and also this, in the right order at the right time, my baby would sleep more or cry less or be somehow… solved. Fixed. Unproblematic. And I would spend every waking hour trying to work out my baby’s Da Vinci code.

Occasionally, I would totally crack it and the relief was epic. Briefly. 

For a short time — maybe a day, maybe a week — I would feel like I had nailed it. Except then my baby would tell the code to get f**ked. That’s when I realised that babies — and then children — are like glitchy hardware. Just when you think you understand them, they begin to malfunction, and require a software upgrade except, unlike, say, Apple, your baby does not provide you with one. You have to guess what the upgrade is which is enormous fun and not at all grounds for despair. 


Two cliches that have been the key for me to unlocking parenthood: Expect The Unexpected And You Cannot Control This S**t.

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3. Your baby is not a ride.

When I had my first baby, I thought that when people came to visit or met him for the first time, I had to say: “Do you want a cuddle?” And even though many people indeed did not want a cuddle, what kind of monster can say ‘no, I do not wish to cuddle your baby’ without getting side-eye, so they would say 'yes'. 

I didn’t want to hand over my baby but to not do so, when they had come specially to see him or had expressed positive feelings like “oh, he’s so cute!” seemed somehow… churlish? Inhospitable? Rude? 

There’s also something primal, I think, about wanting your tribe to bond with your infant. On some level, it seems important for them to be emotionally invested even if I hated handing him over and hated the way he often smelled of their perfume or aftershave when they gave him back.


Here’s another thing I noticed: He would always comply at the time and wouldn’t cry as he was passed around by people often unused to holding babies. They all smelled different and held him differently and sure enough, when we got home, he would cry his head off. I quickly came to understand that crying is the only way a baby has to process things. I too feel like crying when I have to make a lot of small talk with strangers. Imagine if those same strangers were holding me. 

Your baby has been inside you for nine months. They are highly sensitive to smells and sounds and how their tiny bodies feel when they’re held. As soon as I realised this, I became unapologetic about not passing my baby around and as a result he was far more settled. Remember that you don’t owe anything to anyone but your baby and yourself.

4. The people who have the worst experiences speak the loudest.

From the moment you announce that you’re having a baby, they come. With dire warnings. With horrific tales. 

They want to share every detail about their traumatic birth story and how two holes became one, and they needed a c-section anyway because the baby’s leg got stuck. They hold your arm tightly and insist that breastfeeding is even more painful than labour and their eyes go wide as they urgently impress upon you that you’ll never sleep again, ever.

And look, I understand why so many women do this. 

It used to be that we were all implicitly discouraged from telling the truth about motherhood but now that bottle has been uncorked, there is a lot of unfiltered stuff flying out of it. 


These women mean well, honestly. They felt unprepared for their bad experience or even just the complex realities of being a new mother and they want to pay it forward. They want other women to be forewarned. There is merit to this. However, the women who have good or even just neutral experiences don’t feel that urgency. 

I realised this after my first child. The pregnancy was great. So was the birth. My epidural came in time and worked a treat. The first few months were a circus-on-fire, but I was so young and had so few clues about what I was doing that I had no expectations so I sort of just rolled with the punches. 

I realised that the same compulsion to share positive experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood doesn’t exist. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you are actively discouraged from sharing positive stories in case you come across as smug or insensitive. This means that pregnant women can get a warped view of what’s to come. All horror, not enough happy. The truth lies in the middle. 

There will be some hairy bits but there will also be love in a shape you could never have imagined and you will muddle through and it will be OK. 

Better than OK. 

So back yourself.

Image: Supplied + Mamamia.

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