Okay everyone, now that the royal baby’s born, it’s time to move on to the next stage. Having provided such good advice through pregnancy, we now need to tell Kate how to be a mother. Because she’ll have no idea. She’ll need thousands of us who’ve done it before to tell her what to do. And don’t worry if you haven’t actually had children; I’m sure you know something about it. In this new role, which some people stupidly start out thinking might come naturally, what you really need is many voices shouting in your ear.
For a start, there’s no such thing as good-enough mothering. You can forget that, dear. It’s never going to be good enough. And it begins in pregnancy. People touch you, lecture you, about smoking, drinking, what you eat, wear, how often you walk, swim, do yoga. You are suddenly sharing your body not just with a tiny human (yes yes, amazing, dear) but with all humanity. You are all of ours, and we won’t let you forget it.
When you first meet the healthcare professional who’ll be looking after you (a treasured time, yes dear), you’ll learn that like the rest of us, they have beliefs that infuse everything they do and say, except with a glowing bossiness they call an evidence base. The obstetrician who’ll look at your feet before pronouncing that your hips will not admit a baby’s head. Unless you’re choosing homebirth. You’re not, are you? For God’s sake, don’t. We read constantly about those women and their midwives. How could you be so selfish? So your place of birth will be a hospital and that will be fine, so long as your feet are wide enough to fit the baby through. Mind, the birth will be what it will be. Don’t plan. Don’t think. And whatever you do, don’t listen to Tuvan throat music because that will give the game away.
Once he’s outside your body, I wouldn’t trust the baby to help you know what he needs. He’s a baby, after all. He doesn’t know anything. I think he needs breastfeeding. (We don’t do formula here, dear). Make sure his mouth is a Special-K shape flush on the breast (as opposed to… a rice bubble?). And if you’re worrying you’ll suffocate him, for God’s sake don’t tell the lactation consultant (yes dear, "lactation" "consultant"), who’s just as likely to call Children’s Services (latent desire, dear). Don’t let him sleep with you, or away from you. Just let him cry it out, or don’t. You’re not seriously going to use disposable nappies, are you, with the environment the way it is? And as for discipline, don’t smack, or perhaps do, just a little, and don’t use time out unless you’re not coping (and, of course, don’t tell anyone if you’re not coping). Just quietly, I would never, ever have let a child of mine…
And on and on until he’s of an age, about eleven, I should think, when they’ll lose interest, or roll their eyes when you tell them about his amazing little life.
Pregnancy and early motherhood mark open season. You become a target for every nutty belief on the planet. Why is that? And poor little George is a public baby so imagine how much harder it must be for his mother, and for his father, how much louder in their ears the voices must be. He’s going to be King. (They know that, dear). In these first weeks, we’ve had everything from her post-birth body – “so brave to come outside with a mummy tummy!” (Did they think she might leave it inside the hospital instead?) to his apparent failure to secure a vehicle restraint (complete with a closeup), and, of course, whether her mother the “air-hostess-turned-millionaire-party-planner” will be a good influence.
When my son was small, the person I most liked being around was his godmother, Louise, a nurse and mother of four who’s just happy. She sometimes gave advice but more often than not she just smiled and told me what a lovely time we were having and how gorgeous our little boy was. It was like a quiet corner in a very noisy room and just, well, refreshing.
Based on the column published in The Courier-Mail Qweekend on 17 August 2013. I write mainly about writing, education, birth, health and the thrill of parenting. You can Get in touch, tick the box to receive emails, Like Writer Mary-Rose MacColl on Facebook or follow MaryRoseMacColl on Twitter. Have a great day!