“You must have been so relaxed”
They stare pointedly at my sleeping infant. He permits this - as he permits all incursions into his personal space – with alarming good grace. He might have his father’s perpetual creased brow and the beginnings of my Resting Bitch Face but this baby is all chill.
Cuddled & cooed at, passed around the circle like a party favour, he is bemused but accepting.
A friend, on hearing him emit a squeak in discontent, was perplexed. “Is that him crying?” she asked.
“Of course” I replied, slightly distressed as - having previously silently scorned those with noise-making children in public spaces - I am now oversensitive to being one, which is of course as ridiculous as it is inescapable.
“God, it’s more a mewl than a cry. He’s good, isn’t he?”
And he is. I say this not as the opening of some torrid spiel on the gloriousness of my child but because no fewer than three people in the last week (including a complete stranger in a coffee shop and my builder) have commented on how my baby’s inner state of constant Zen must indicate my own state of Zen during pregnancy.
“Calm mothers make calm babies,” the well-meaning stranger tells me. It’s meant as a compliment but I feel my hackles rise.
Not just because it’s absurd. This I know firsthand having spent my entire pregnancy in a state of near constant agitation.
It wasn’t all internal; 2017 was a big year for me – I moved house twice, renovated, worked two jobs, helped run a 3-week festival attended by over 70,000 people, took two simultaneous & overlapping full-time intensive courses during the university break and a full-time load during semester. Those were externalities.
But there were also internalities. I hated being pregnant. I hated the ceaseless incursion into my body and agency. Despised the knowledge that my body was no longer primarily mine or interested in supporting me but had been co-opted into sustaining the alien life form in my abdomen. I detested the way my swelling self seemed to come with constantly swimming eyes and the highwire act of my emotions.
I didn’t feel glowing, I felt invaded.
That it was not a good time for me would be an understatement. Indeed, a good day came to be one in which I did not cry. I haven’t had such a low bar for emotional wellbeing since my days of practicing commercial law.
I say this both because it is therapeutic to do so and because I wish to make it plain that any calmness of this baby is entirely his own - just as any anxiousness of character would have been his.
To blame (or credit) mothers for the disposition of their unborn children is both ludicrous and unkind and likely to do nothing but seed those first seeds of maternal guilt.
I was seriously stressed. He is conspicuously chill. Go figure.