So, you just had a baby. Mazel! You're overjoyed, it's the greatest. A baby! But wait, why are some people being rude? They probably don't mean to hurt your feelings, and maybe it's the hormones too, but man, can some people really say the wrong thing when it comes to talking to a new mom.
When are you due?
That’s got to be the worst one. You just asked a woman who just had a baby when she is going to have her baby. FYI, it takes six to eight weeks from the time baby is born for your uterus to return to its pre-baby size. Not to mention fluctuating hormones and additional water weight. When in doubt, shut your mouth. Do you really need to know when a stranger is due anyway?
According to etiquette expert Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas, this question is just thoughtless.
"Never assume. Even if it appears to be the obvious, always allow the woman to mention it first. There could be multiple reasons why she appears to be pregnant and it’s easier to stay silent than to remove your foot from your mouth."
V or C? Oh, wow.
Yup, that’s vagina or C section. Nosy people will ask. They usually like to say, “Did you have a C section?” And you stare at them blankly before answering…yes? Why must acquaintances, family members, and your local wine store merchant all need to know how your baby came out? Whether through the tunnel or out from under the hood, hopefully he or she is here and healthy.
When are you going back to work?
Having a baby is work. Staying home and raising a screaming, crying, poop machine is awful, terrible manual labor. It’s boring and annoying and gross and lonely — and smelly. But it’s also beautiful, and every parent promises you it’s rewarding. Don’t worry when I’m going back to work work, maybe tomorrow, maybe never. Don’t worry what my husband does or what I do or what we make or how much time I can take off. Unless you are the tax man, I don’t need to hand over my financials. When I go back to work I’ll let you know. JK LOL, it’s none of your business.
According to Gottsman, this question could imply many things.
"It could seem as if you are judging her, thinking she has taken too much maternity leave. Or, asking her because she mentioned she was going back and you think it’s too early. It could also mean you’re an impatient boss or coworker, waiting for your star to return."
Will you be having another?
You just had one baby, perhaps you even had twins, yet people still feel the need to ask, “Will you give them a sibling?” One, you don’t know how hard it is for some people to get pregnant with one baby, never mind a second. Some people choose to have one kid, maybe that’s all they can handle financially and emotionally, which is a wise thing to know about yourself. It’s a really rude question, and you’re making moms feel awful for thinking their one child will grow up alone in this world with no brothers or sisters.
Gottsman says, "When people are at a loss for words they often ask questions they shouldn’t. Asking when someone will have another, especially right after the baby’s birth, is invasive. It’s a personal decision on if and when parents will have a baby and you don’t know what it took to have even one. For some couples it’s easy, others might have had a difficult time having one."
Are you breastfeeding?
Again, you need this information why? It’s often one of first questions people ask and it usually comes from other women. It’s invasive and weird and some women don’t really have a milk supply and others have had breast cancer. Many are on medication for postpartum depression and are unable to breastfeed. Some, like myself, simply choose not to because it sounds like torture. And here you are asking how they are feeding their baby. People often like to follow up the question with advice you didn’t ask for. “Breastfeeding means a higher IQ,” is a favorite.
Diane says, "This one is simply personal and not anyone’s business."
How does no sleep feel?
There’s a reason sleep deprivation is used as a means of torture. It makes you insane. I recently said after two nights of no sleep that I would turn my own mother in if I was promised a pillow and a warm bed. Babies have wacky schedules. They keep you up at night wanting to be fed and changed. Mom is at their mercy. Don’t ask how it feels not to sleep. It feels awful. It makes you cry. You daydream about closing your eyes. You wonder why you did this. But if you’re lucky (and stick to a strict schedule) it only lasts 12 weeks and then your baby (and you!) are sleeping through the night.
I’m coming to the hospital.
Please don't. After I gave birth I wished hospitals gave out Do Not Disturb signs like hotels. Go. Away. While some new moms love the company, others, like me, wanted to be left the hell alone. Mom and baby both need to be monitored, and mom is likely on pain meds, making her groggy and not in the mood for people. As it is, doctors, nurses, lactation specialists, pediatricians, volunteers and food are all coming to your room and you can hardly catch some zzz’s with the constant traffic. Don’t assume you’re coming to the hospital right after baby is born, and please, for the love of God, don’t just show up.
Let's ask Diane. "Unless you were invited, or call in advance, don’t assume the new mom and dad want company. Mom could be tired, overwrought with visitors or simply want to have her privacy."
Can you meet for lunch?
No. I can’t. I love lunch, but a new mom schedule is insanely different from a not-a-mom schedule. I was footloose and fancy free my entire adult life, but after a baby, I quickly discover the word schedule is bible. Babies sleep, eat, and poop on a schedule, which is all leading to a full night’s sleep, the Hoy Grail. New moms aren’t trying to be difficult, it’s just so hard to get out of the house on someone else’s hours. After all, new moms are going to the bathroom with a baby in a carseat at their feet. Give them a break.
Have you had sex yet?
Holy moly, are you nosy. Best friends and sisters question only. New moms can’t have sex for six-weeks after baby is born, so let’s not go delving into their sex life. If a close friend asks, it’s always a fun conversation, but straight up asking a woman who just gave birth if she’s back to hanky pinky is a bit disturbing, no? It’s likely she feels like crap, and is wondering why her body looks like a deflated balloon, please don’t make it worse by playing Dr. Ruth.
Just sleep when the baby sleeps.
Yeah, no, that's not how it works. Before baby is born you honestly do think, I’ll sleep when the baby sleeps, but you soon find out that’s not the case. You also have to shower, get dressed, eat, work, clean, take care of your animals, run errands, find time to poop, etc. It’s impossible for an adult woman to sleep in two hour increments throughout the day, come on. When you can (kind of) sleep is when your baby sleeps at night, but new moms are waking up to feed them every three hours. If they are breastfeeding, sleeping is less frequent. Don’t; offer up advice that is silly, stupid, or makes no sense.
Do you/did you have postpartum depression?
Does it get more personal that someone inquiring about your current mental state? Unless you are a shrink or a concerned family member or friend and you notice changes in your new mom, leave it to the people closest to her. Postpartum depression serious and women who are about to or have just given birth often say it’s their worst fear. Being isolated with baby all day can be a trigger, and having bad thoughts about self or baby is one of the scariest things you can go through. Instead, a simple, “How are you doing?” works just fine.
How long were you in labor?
Maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she elected a C section, or maybe it was a traumatizing emergency C section after hours and hours of labor that didn’t result in a birth. Either way, it’s none of your business and you should never ask a new mom what went down in the delivery room. Just know it's intense and mom is putting her complete trust in strange doctors. Countless women have had impossibly painful birth experiences and really don’t want to answer your questions unless you are their OB-GYN, thanks.
You look tired.
Response: “So do you.” That will shut them up, especially since they didn’t just have a baby.
Here's what to say instead if you really can’t hold your tongue:
How are you doing/feeling?
You’re doing a great job.
Your baby is beautiful.
It gets easier.
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