On the third day after I’d given birth; family came to visit us in hospital. One of the first things someone asked me was whether they had accidentally “left one in there” pointing to my swollen stomach. I was so upset, that after they left I anxiously asked one of the nurses whether the swelling should have subsided by now. She said something along the lines of – you’ve carried two growing babies in there for 6 months and you’ve just been through a significant operation…it will take time.
The day after we were discharged from hospital we decided to go to a cafe in an attempt to be “normal”. A pretty young mum intercepted me as I was hobbling back to our table and told me I looked “amazing” and I should be very proud of myself that I had made it out. I didn’t look amazing, but the fact that she took the time to say something so nice really touched me; and whilst I did (of course) have a little cry about it, it made me feel immeasurably happy.
In stark contrast the countless people that stopped me when I was out to comment on the fact I had “double trouble”, or “you’ve got your hands full”, or “poor you”, or “I can’t think of anything worse” probably didn’t realise the effect their thoughtless words had on me. With one of these utterances I could go from being thankful that I had been able to get the little people out of the house, to being tearful and full of self-doubt and fear.
A while ago a new friend and mum of twin girls popped round for a play-date. She was tired and the girls were clearly wearing her down. She told me that she had received an anonymous note through her door with a link to a website for managing crying children. On the same day after a long and emotional day, her husband had relieved her of the girls and she was having a well-deserved quiet moment in the garden with a glass of wine. Whilst sitting there she overheard one of her neighbours on the phone saying that she was “sitting in the garden having a glass of wine whilst her kids are screaming inside”. My friend retreated to her bedroom and cried.
If only people knew how utterly exhausting (on every level) it is being a new parent; how destructive thoughtless words can be; and how desperate many of us are for just a kind look or a word of support from those around us.