Last week one of my husband’s very good childhood friends had a beautiful baby boy. He and his wife and are in their mid 30s and this is their first child. The first photos of the babe reached my husband through a private messenger chat page quite early. There’s a shot of him being cleaned up, an adorable shot of him stretching and crying, plus pictures of a relaxed, smiling mommy and a joyful daddy. And then there was a shot of the babe with a soother in his mouth.
“Already?!” I gasped, hovering over the photo with hawk-like precision. “He’s like a minute old, why would they put that thing in his mouth so soon?” My husband said nothing and went back to whatever he was doing. I walked away, only to grab my computer and tweet:
i haven’t had a newborn since 3 years ago, but is it common practice to give a day-old newborn a soother?
TWITTER FRIEND: They give them in hospitals here, which make me gag. A lot.
ME: for sure it’s one of those personal parenting decisions that we must respect. still i find it a bit unsettling. what abt a boob!
TWITTER FRIEND: Exactly! If a newborn wants to suck, that’s what it should be sucking!
ME: i have an overwhelming desire 2 tell my huzza’s very good friend 2 tell his wife what *i* think, but i won’t. it’s so not my place.
TWITTER FRIEND: Yeah, it’s a bite your tongue and look away situation.
ME: very much so. plus, i’m sure she’s getting all kinds of unsolicited *advice* right now. and i just wanna smell new baby! woot!
The irony, of course, is that if there’s one thing that we moms often promise ourselves that we won’t do, but inevitably end up doing, it’s giving unsolicited advice to moms – new or otherwise. Don’t lie, you’ve done it. And often against your better judgment (“judgment” being the operative word here)
Advice, even though well-meaning, is often self-serving judgment in the guise of good intentions. Which is often based on a formula of how we personally live our lives or how we personally do certain things. The option to take the advice or leave it, of course, is up to the person who is the recipient of said information, but when it comes to mothering and babies, boy do we suck at cordially walking away when we’ve been told, “Thank you, I’ve got this.”
When I had the first of my two beautiful daughters six years ago, I recall a visit from my two sisters – both mothers – in the hospital. Mere hours after my c-section, they kept insisting that I breastfeed my baby. I couldn’t tell you if I was supremely overwhelmed, overly-confident or oblivious to hearing what I “should do” with my baby, but I wasn’t hearing it.
“Are you going to feed her?” they casually asked.
“No, she’s fine,” I replied.
They exchanged knowing glances. “Okay,” came the response, and they gently backed off.
And then, moments later, “Do you think she might be hungry, now?”
“No,” I said, “she’s fine.”
Meanwhile, my daughter was sucking in her lips and rubbing her face with her hands. My sisters proceeded to exchange more glances. My older sister finally stood up, walked towards me and firmly said, “Bolaji, I think you should feed your baby.” She then turned and sat back down. “Well, I just fed her before you arrived, but, alright then.” Her tone implied that the advice wasn’t to be debated but taken. I immediately acquiesed. My daughter promptly latched onto the breast.
In hindsight, it’s obviously very funny because while there may be umpteen parenting manuals and well-meaning friends who think they know what’s best for you and your baby, nothing can replace the trial-and-error steps a new mom takes to getting to know her own child. At the same time, it really makes no sense to argue with certain kinds of advice, particularly when it’s dispensed from an “experienced” mother.
Days later, our friends brought their little son home and, of course, I couldn’t wait to visit! We came into the home and greeted everyone, newborn last. I made the joke that it’s typical for people to burst into a room where there’s a new baby and all eyes and welcomes are on the newly-arrived and parents immediately fade into the background. They laughed, and agreed. Moments later, my eyes made a beeline for the baby, who was resting peacefully on his maternal grandfather’s arm. He wasn’t swaddled, but he was wearing a little hat and what I perceived to be a flimsy onesie. The room was warm enough but I couldn’t help thinking, When are they going to swaddle him?
New Mom was sitting back on the sofa looking pretty and blissful. Wow, I thought to myself, she’s so calm. I can’t believe she’s not itching to hold her own baby! Grandpa then got up, walked towards me and said, “Here, I know you want to hold him.”
“Yes,” I replied, “but not before I swaddle him, babies like to be warm and secure and cuddly, you know.”
And so it began. There’s nothing like holding a newborn. My eyes rested on his little eyes, his little nose, his delicious smell. Perfection, I thought as I cooed to his sleeping face while rocking him back and forth. And then the new mom’s older sister, herself is a newish new mom with a 10-month-old under her belt, casually walked by and said,“Are you sure he’s not too warm?”