by MEG MASON
If I had to pick the exact moment I realised that my pregnancy and future baby-raising were matters of public interest, I’d say it was … yep, probably the time a dude I didn’t know from the Accounts Payable department of my work put both hands on my pregnant stomach in the office kitchen while I waited for my lunch to heat up and said: “This baby does not want to be so near that microwave.”
How did he know that?! My baby could have been loving it. But more importantly, why did he feel entitled to tell me so? Why do any of us feel entitled to say what we say to new mothers?
Especially when exactly zero-point-no per cent of it helpful for the super-vulnerable woman in question. Herewith, a point-by-point guide to the very worst things to say to the lady with the baby, based on my own real life experience:
1. NOT LONG TO GO NOW!
Guessing how long a woman “has to go” is a favourite pastime for strangers everywhere, and while it was annoying when I was only 20 weeks but “all out the front”, it was so much worse after I’d had the baby. Yes, I do look pregnant and yes I am wearing maternity jeans because my other ones still don’t fit but, to the man in the car who drove past me on Kensington High Street and shouted “ANY DAY NOW, LOVE!!!”
I say, you missed a significant visual clue, sir: I WAS PUSHING A STROLLER. It is always best to check for a baby in the vicinity of a mother’s arms before making any out-loud remarks as to the imminence of her due date, especially if you will be shouting those comments out your car window.
2. IS SHE GOOD?
What does that even mean, I used to wonder when old ladies – for this particular question is an kind-old-lady-special – leaned into my stroller and asked if the angelic-looking gift of a baby sleeping inside was “good”. Good at what, old lady? Tennis? Excel? Or do you mean good like, morally upstanding?
Much later, I learned that my geriatric inquisitors meant “good at sleeping”. And so to them, I latterly answer: of course not! She’s a baby. A very good bad-at-sleeping baby.
3. THAT BABY SHOULD BE WEARING A HAT/SOCKS/A VEST/NO HAT/NO SOCKS/TWO VESTS/A TINY SOMBRERO AND EYE GLASSES
My daughter was born in London at the beginning of a particularly vicious winter. For the first three months of her life, the outside temperature stayed below freezing so every cafe or department store we visited on our first tentative outings had the heating dialled up to the “Carribean” setting.