I was warned about invasive strangers during my pregnancy, but it typically related to the likelihood that people would want to touch my belly without my permission (it happened just one time, by an acquaintance and not an actual stranger so I consider myself pretty lucky). These cautionary words didn’t, typically and unfortunately, cover how people often assume that, because you’ve had a baby, your life is now an open book that they can peruse at their convenience. Um, no. There are some things that new moms just don’t want to discuss and the fact that they've successfully procreated, doesn't suddenly mean their sense of privacy has evaporated. I'll say it again for the people in the back: just because we’ve given birth, does not automatically mean all that the details of the ordeal are up for grabs. And yes, the fact that I called it an “ordeal” should tell you everything you need to know (and everything you get to know) about my own birth experience.
To be fair, I’m all for sharing stories and relating to other humans (I mean, I'm a writer so it's kind of my thing), but there are limits and there are mothers who don't spend their time writing about motherhood for the internet. For me, personally, how much I’m going to reveal depends on the topic, the person, my mood, and other intangibles like: weather, if I’m feeling good about my fingernails, and how much I agree with the choices being made by the current Bachelor or Bachelorette. In other words, it varies greatly. That said, here’s a handy cheat sheet featuring some gross generalizations on what topics may or may not be well-received by the moms in your life.
Her Legitimate Fears
Parenthood is scary. Motherhood is scary. Have a newborn baby in your home is scary. These are (mostly) indisputable facts but, even so, I always tread cautiously when discussing the legitimate fears that every new mother (and, well, any mother) has, since I didn't want to dwell on how serious some of them actually were.
Exception: You’re her pediatrician and/or mental health professional.
Her Illegitimate Fears
Um, wait, isn't everyone afraid of leaving your baby in the same room as batteries? No? Okay, that's fine. Please just stop staring.
Exception: You’re her BFF.
How Her Ladyparts Are Healing
A simple, "and how are you doing?" is more than sufficient if you're legitimately concerned about a new mom's body. You don't need to go into specifics, and you certainly don't need to ask, "Can you sit down yet? Are you still using one of those spray bottles? Let's talk about stitches!'' Seriously, just because someone has either pushed and/or had a baby cut from their body, doesn't mean their body is something you can question or feign concern over in order to get details. Nope. Those aren't for you.
Exception: You’re her partner or her doctor/midwife/doula.
Her Embarrassing Netflix Binges That Are Required To Keep Her Awake During Night Feedings
Let's just say that I'm jealous of people giving birth this summer, because you guys are going to have access to the second season of UnReal, whilst I didn't even have the first. But I did have Dance Academy, so...actually, wait. No. That just proves me point.
Exception: You’re a fellow anonymous online commenter.
Her Crazy, Embarrassing, Ridiculous Questions About Baby-Rearing That She Feels Like She Should Already Know
There is not enough information on the internet about appropriate baby poop colors. Trust me, I tried.
Exception: You're Google.
Her Big And Dangerous Mistakes
We all make them. We've all been there. But, you'll have to forgive me for not wanting to bring them up in casual conversation because, well, there's a lot of self-inflicted guilt to deal with and, honestly, I am just not in the mood.
Exception: You’re a Poison Control or 911 operator (is it normal for them to know you by name? Asking for a friend).
Her Innermost Feelings About Politically Charged Topics
Vaccines? Maternity leave? Breastfeeding? Crying it out? Co-sleeping? There are plenty of ways to have your feelings heard about these topics. Hijacking a conversation with a new mom probably isn't the most effective anyway; she's too tired to remember what you tell her.
Exception: You’re one of her nearest and dearest.
This should be a no-brainer but, sadly, it isn't so it's worth mentioning. At no time should you ever discuss a new mother's weight. Or any mother's weight. Or any woman's weight. Or any person's weight. Don't ask if they're going to lose the "baby weight" (they did, the baby is no longer inside of them) and don't ask them if they feel uncomfortable in their "new body" (they didn't trade it in, people, their body just did a new thing).
Exception: You're her doctor/midwife/doula.
Her Labor And Delivery Experience (Sometimes)
Some new moms are more than happy to discuss the way in which their little entered the world. Others, who either had a traumatic birth experience or want to keep that moment for just them, don't. Honestly, I would sit back and let the new mom bring it up if it is, in fact, something she wants to talk about.
Exception: None. Her doctor/midwife/doula would have been there, her parenting partner (if she has one) would have been there, and anyone else she wanted to experience that life-changing moment, would have been there.