1. Are you in love
When Ella was born, every second text message contained this question. But the thing is, just because you carried around this little person for nine months does not guarantee love at first sight. Hollywood portrays birth as tear-filled moments encapsulated by overwhelming love. But in the real world, many new mothers do not feel love at first sight. They feel curiosity, terror, fear and exhaustion. For me, I was in such physical shock from labour that all I could do was lie down and shake for an hour while I recovered from the hours of excruciating pain. My husband did the skin to skin contact first. Despite our shared gene pool, she was a stranger to me for a long time. And in those first weeks and months, we got to know each other, Ella and I. The love took a while to come. First there was like. And now, mostly there is love. The love will come – after two days, two weeks or even two years.But asking a new mother that puts an unrealistic expectation and pressure onto them. As if there is something wrong with them if they aren’t swooning with love at their new-born.
2. Did you have a natural birth or a c-section
There is so much hype, idealism and fanaticism these days on both sides of the equation. In some circles natural births with no pain relief are lauded. Pregnant women often get very attached to one birthing method. They do hypno-birthing, yoga, meditation, birthing classes and visualization. And then things happen. Cords get stuck. Babies go into distress. Pelvises are misshaped. And often, these mothers are devastated. Perhaps they feel like failures, like they have let themselves down. There is regret and wasted hope. The emotions are deep and difficult. So don’t ask – don’t put them in a position where they have to explain their choice for an epidural, or anything else. And likewise there are mothers who elect for pain relief or a c-section from the word go. And that is their choice. They don’t need to defend it, justify it or explain it. They don’t need any judgement or superiority. So don’t ask.
3.Are you breastfeeding or formula feeding
Similar to the above, there is much dogma around breastfeeding. Attachment parenting dictates that we breast feed till our kids are six. For many of us, the picture of a perfect mother is one who nourishes their child from within. Many mothers have an innate desire to nurse their babies. And they will often do so at any cost. But as mothers know breast-feeding is not a pain-free, always possible occurrence. I have friends who sobbed in pain as breastfeeding was so excruciating. And one who pumped for hours only to get an ounce of milk. And the ones who are desperate to and drink gallons of jungle juice and even take medication, but still do not have enough milk. There are ones whose babies have such bad reflux that formula is the only answer. And then there are ones who hate the concept and choose bottle-feeding from the word go. And no matter the choice they make, or they are forced to make, chances are it haunts them. They probably are mired in guilt. So don’t make it worse. Don’t put them somewhere where they have to explain. If you do breastfeed, it does not mean you are a better mother. A mother makes sure their baby has exactly what it needs to flourish. In days of old, wet nurses where common. Today, many happy healthy adults were nourished by formula
Last week, someone asked me if I was still nursing Ella, my sixteen month old. And despite having worked through my own experience, there was still a twinge of guilt as I replied no.
PS. None of this applies to someone who offers you any of the above details, if they do then feel free to ask. If someone is your close friend, these rules also probably don’t apply. But if someone is a casual or even friendly acquaintance, think of some other way to make conversation. How are you feeling, congratulations and offering to help in anyway is always a safe bet