You make me feel like an (un)natural woman
People are always saying ‘a baby doesn’t come with a manual’ and they are correct. It doesn’t. It comes with about 789 manuals. There are leaflets about sleeping and eating and playing and jabs and cuddling and clothes and nappies and and and.... it’s never ending.
When your pregnant you’re told not to worry, your instincts will kick in and you’ll know what to do. ‘You’ll be a natural.’ My instincts did kick in, the instinct to protect and do everything I could for this tiny human I grew. But my instincts didn’t tell me that you’re not supposed to keep them in their car seat for longer than an hour or not to store milk in the fridge or that colic can make them scream for hours non-stop.
I did learn all the things I needed to ‘on the job’ through health visitors, friends and mum but I kind of wish people had told me that actually, there is a lot of stuff that you have to learn. I’m not saying I would have learnt it all before he was born but maybe it would make me feel less like shit when I didn’t instinctively know that his poos change colour after a week. That’s the thing, the idea that you’ll just know stuff makes you feel stupid, or like you’re failing, when you don’t know.
I nearly cried when my baby got his fist jabs. And not because he was in pain (although that was hard) but because the nurse gave me a quiz on what to do once he’d had them and I didn’t know the answers.
But how would we know these things?! I’ve never taken a baby to have jabs. That’s like quizzing me on how to land a plane, I don’t fucking know, I’m not a pilot. But I am a mum, and I’ve had no training. It’s really terrifying. I think it would feel a lot better if people stopped acting like being ‘a natural mother’ means you don’t need to ask questions or read the odd book or call your health visitor if you’re struggling. ‘Oh, she’s a natural.’ What does that mean? Am I a natural because I cuddle my baby when he cries? Am I not natural because I didn’t know I’m not supposed to use soap in his baths?
Stop making us feel like if we don’t instantly know exactly what our baby needs as soon as they’re out of us that we’re missing some kind of natural motherly trait. We have to learn stuff and feel like we can get things a bit wrong like accidentally leaving the baby in the pram in the back yard for five minutes (guilty) without feeling that that means we innately aren’t supposed to be mothers.