“Ooh, he’s going to be a big one,” said one helpful grandma sucking her teeth with glee and staring at my vast stomach on discovering I had more than four weeks to my due date.
This didn’t send me into a spiralling panic as it may have done with my first, but it did ring in the back of my mind whenever I thought about labour and my disquiet was compounded when I next saw my midwife, who upon measuring the bump found it was bigger than anticipated for that week. Fortunately she has a sense of humour, so I told her about it and we laughed it off together, making me feel a teensy bit better.
But today I faced the crowning glory of unhelpful comments. Again, from an elderly lady.
“Ooh, you don’t want to know what we’ve been talking about,” she started, laughing, as I entered the upstairs waiting room at the doctors surgery for my 38 week appointment.
“Erm, I’m not sure I do,” I replied, anticipating some pearls of wisdom about birth.
“Well, let’s just say, you’ll be ok if it’s your first,” she said, nodding at my tummy.
“It’s not,” I said.
“Well,” she carried on, “my advice is, you may well live to regret having a second child.”
Cue uncomfortable silence in the waiting room as all the other patients, who had clearly been laughing along in good-humour until this point, stared in fixed mortification at the rippling uterus underneath my t-shirt.
“I bet that’s not what you wanted to hear,” said one, timidly, in attempted solidarity.
“Not really,” I said, in resignation.
Then luckily the old witch woman was called in for her appointment (hopefully to have a giant wart removed from her arse without anaesthetic) and everyone felt comfortable enough to nervously smile at me before picking up a conversation about young people and phones.
But seriously! What is it with old ladies and completely unhelpful comments?
When small fry was a baby I remember helping a friend whose eldest was in hospital with a fairly serious illness. I went to meet her in order to pick up her baby son and take him out in their double decker pushchair for a couple of hours while she stayed at the hospital and her partner got some rest.
My daughter went in the ‘lower deck’ of the pushchair, meaning her view was mainly the underside of the upper chair. This, she did not like and as a result she screamed mercilessly for about 90 minutes of the two hours. But with two babies who were unable to sit or walk but were big enough to be too wriggly to pick up at the same time, occupying the two seats I had no choice but to just crack on and let her cry. I couldn’t do a swap and I didn’t have the confidence to ask anyone for help.
On arriving at a cafe after dealing with an hour of outrage from small fry I was choosing a drink when an elderly woman came over.
“That’s right dear, you cry if you want, you let her know,” she said, bending over my purple-faced child, before standing up and saying to me: “It’s the pushchair, she doesn’t like not being able to see what’s going on, you should have a different style so she can see.”
I was flabbergasted, which was probably a good thing as otherwise the old dear may have found herself covered in hot chocolate and cream.
And there was the woman who used to come into the newspaper office where I was editor who, when I was in late pregnancy with small fry, made a habit of regularly popping in and taking up 30 minutes of my precious time per visit to rattle on about something unprintable, before finishing with the words: “You think you know what hard work is, but you don’t. You’ll find out what hard work is when that one comes along.” EVERY TIME.
In some ways she was right. But my god, did she need to be so bloody smug about it? Where’s the sisterhood at lady?
The only consolation out of all of this is that most of these women have misplaced good intentions or are barmy. I just hope I don’t turn into one of them when I’m old and shrivelled. If I do, please bestow my arse with a giant painful wart which may remind me not to be such an old bag to young mothers who could probably do with a cup of tea and a hug rather than a shitload of crap advice.