Two women with prams were happily chatting at the post office about their weekends, their work, their husbands and their babies. The perky blonde mum abruptly ended the conversation with “I’d better go home. Mrs X says I have to feed him at 11.30 everyday and I can’t be out of the house while he naps”. Mrs X is one of those “baby whisperers” who makes a shartload of money by giving mums a strict timetable for their new babies to follow with the apparent aim of lots of sleep. She has been used, with mixed results, by a few women I know. I wanted to somehow drag these women at the post office down the street to a coffee shop and yell: “HAVE A CHAT. BE DAMNED YOUR BABY’S PRECIOUS “AT HOME” NAP. HERE, MOTORBOAT AN ENTIE BLACK FOREST CAKE.” But I suppose that constitutes common assault, so I let them go unharmed.
When I hear Mrs X’s name, a chill goes down my spine. I picked up some of Mrs X’s advice by osmosis via the women I know and, for a fortnight or so, I tried to force Cordelia to sleep when she didn’t want to, for longer than she wanted to. Of course, it didn’t work, Delia screamed a lot and I felt like a failure. I knew I had to stop when one day I was so obsessed with her sleep “routine” I forgot to buy falafels for the falafel rolls I was going to make for dinner and cried to J-man, “I am a terrible wife and mother. I can’t even remember to get falafels, the primary ingredient for falafel rolls. I’m no good at anything”. A tired J-man sighed and said: “For fuck’s sake, it’s just falafel.” He is a most excellent and smart man.
I feel like the falafel tantrum of summer 2014 is an excellent example of why a mother’s mental health and wellbeing should be of utmost importance. When Cordelia was two-weeks-old I got a visit from a community nurse who asked me a series of questions, which I now know to be a test for post-natal depression. I cried while I answered questions about whether I cried more than usual. The nurse got to the end of the test, brightly said “perfectly normal!” and left my house. When I took the same test a couple of weeks later in my doctor’s office the result practically flashed up on her screen as “totally fucking miserable”. Over the course of a few months, a lovely psychologist talked to me about why women can struggle with depression after having a baby. All of the things that lift the spirit and are recommended to ease depression – seeing friends, going outside, exercising, reading books – are virtually impossible when you have a small baby.
Sleeping well is also crucial part of feeling like a functioning person. And that’s exactly why these “baby whisperer” d-bags get loads of customers. They are cashing in on desperate mothers hoping to get some control back in their lives, feel even vaguely normal, and maybe eat Cheezels with their girlfriends once in a while, so they pay someone to tell them what their baby “needs” to be predictable and unconscious. It worked for some women I know, but not for most because those alleged baby needs involved being at home all the time with fgew interruptions to their important little infant schedules. Yeah, well, what about what a human woman needs? Some company, variety, excitement, mental stimulation and some godamned falafel.