01 December 2007

"Aw, Is She Teething, Luv?"

I've had it.

I never want to hear those ill-informed words ever again. "Aw, is she teething, luv? She's biting her thumb - they do that when they're teething. Look, she's even sucking on her shirt. I'd definitely say she's getting some teeth!"

I'll set a few things straight now.

  1. Babies mouth things. It's a great way to get tactile information when they're young.
  2. Babies suck things. It's what they do.
  3. Teething isn't a great event, a rite of passage, or a developmental milestone. It just gives mothers something to talk about when they've got nothing better.
Perhaps it's just that I'm cranky and impatient at things in general. Or perhaps it cheeses others off as much as it does me. Either way, I'll snap the head off the next person who asks.

Having a baby who likes sucking fabric and chewing on her left thumb hasn't done anything to help me avoid constant questions about the progress of Chubbity Bubbity's dentition. At least Sonny Ma-Jiminy didn't mouth things so much, but as his first teeth came at nine months I had to suffer about seven months of the insistent assertions of many people that the Great Expected Coming Of Teeth was indeed imminent. And they'd called it first.

Have you met people who ask questions and make comments like this? All they have are a few scraps of knowledge mixed with a handful of Wives' Tales, but they act as if they have a dual qualification in obstetrics and paediatrics.

Your baby moves a lot inside you? Easy - it's a boy. Never mind individual differences.

It's your first baby? Simple - you'll have a long hard labour and difficult birth. Never mind that many first-time mums don't (including me and every other woman in my maternal family tree!)

The baby mouths, sucks and cries? Sorted - younger than three months: it's colic (or hunger). Older than three months: it's teething (or hunger). Never mind that all three are normal baby behaviour.

Your baby turns her head and opens her mouth when her cheek is touched? Obviously - she's hungry. Never mind that she's just finished a feed and has a full tummy, and certainly don't worry about the rooting reflex or the sucking reflex.

And what if my diagnoses are proved wrong? No worries at all - the most important thing is that I've impressed everyone for a minute with my knowledge on pregnancy, birth and looking after babies.

Sometimes you're told something so outrageous that it goes past Patronising, way on beyond Offensive, and ends up in the Just Plain Absurd.

The most notable of these was a Retrospective Non-Self-Fulfilling Wives Tale that actually came from the mouth of a Midwife who certainly should have known better.

Now I hadn't heard the wives tale that if you have a lot of heartburn, you'll have a baby with hair. So I was unprepared when a midwife who saw Chubbity Bubbity's full head of dark hair reversed the "illogic" and said, "What a lovely lot of hair. You must have had a lot of heartburn when you were pregnant."

It was hard to resist the temptation to laugh out loud. The huge potential to be proved horribly wrong right then and there had completely escaped her.

I said, "Oh dear, until now I thought that I didn't have any heartburn, but if babies with hair give their mothers heartburn, I suppose I must have had it."

Even more amazingly, she accepted this and agreed with me!

But unfortunately, I have little or no tolerance for people who assume that they must know more about Chubbity Bubbity's hunger, body temperature, level of tiredness and development of teeth than does her mother who spends every hour of the day living in sync with her.

My great challenge is in responding to odd comments with a perfect combination of grace (so I don't insult them and later regret being so rude) and reality (so I don't allow them to smugly believe I agreed with them, causing me to later regret being such a wimpy doormat.)

Do you, my massive reading public who now numbers approximately eight, have any suggestions (rude, wimpy or perfectly-balanced)? How would you respond to a complete stranger who meets Chubbity Bubbity and immediately says those ghastly words,

"Aw, Is She Teething, Luv?"


Crazy Sister said...

My solution is very boring - I shake my head and emphatically say, "No." It's a conversation stopper. It's also fun to see people scramble to either support their argument or find another solution. If pressed, I add, "She just likes chewing" or "He's grizzled since the day he was born" or "No, I slapped those little cheeks red myself."

Givinya De Elba said...

I've tried all those except the "slapping those cheeks myself" argument. The day after I first told someone flatly "No" - Chubbity Bubbity WASN'T teething, her first little tiny chopper came through. I try telling them that my kids suck and chew and grizzle all their lives, but I think I'll try the confession that I slapped the cheeks red myself. I'd love to see the reaction.