The Mother Myths

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015
The Mother Myths

When I fell pregnant with my first child nearly five years ago, a strange thing happened. Well, to be fair, many, many strange things happened. But one in particular struck me. I began to be subjected to what I have since called The Mother Myths, those almost universal assumptions about motherhood.

They infiltrated my consciousness from many places, such as parenting books, midwives and the mothering ether and I collected these pearls of wisdom as I went, storing them up to guide me in my new life as a mother. What a bloody mistake that was.

One of the most prevalent Mother Myths is that as a mum, you will be able to distinguish your baby's cry from 20 other wailing sprogs when you are half a mile away sporting a pair of fluffy ear muffs.

Well, that wasn't it exactly, but it might as well have been, because it is utter rubbish. Not only could I not distinguish my baby's cry from another, I am still that maternally tone-deaf that a five-year-old had to come and find me because my two-year-old son had got himself stuck on a play space climbing frame and was screaming the place down. I did wonder what that annoying noise was as I sipped my coffee.

Sub-section B of this particular Mother Myth is that very soon after giving birth, you will learn to identify the different cries of your baby and know if he is hungry, or tired, or just wants a cuddle. Total hogwash.


For months, the most frequent conversation I had with my husband was a pointless debate about why our son was crying. Again.


And if I dared to assert that he couldn't possibly have a dirty nappy because that sounded more like a cuddle-cry to me, you could bet your last nipple shield that he was lying in a steaming pile of his own poo.

Another favourite Mother Myth of mine is that you will fall in love with your baby at first sight.

Now, I can only speak from my experience here, as I am sure that many mothers gazed upon their womb-warm offspring and swooned, but mine was less of a swoon and more of a petrified grimace in case they were going to pass me that ball of wailing anger covered in fluids that I really did not need to know the provenance of, and make me hold it.

Personally, I like my newborns scrubbed, lightly fragranced and packaged in a stain-free towel.

I was peering at him over the green fabric 'shield' when I first set eyes on him because I was on the operating table at the time, and as he blew a bloody bubble and waved his tiny fists around in indignation, it was not love I felt. It was relief that he was out and I could have a kip. Which ironically, was the only decent night's sleep I have had since. Thank you, morphine.

Breastfeeding. I shudder at the word, as this is probably the most irritating of all Mother Myths: that breastfeeding is a natural skill for a mother. No. And no again.

As a C-Sectioner, I was told that my milk wasn't 'down' and so I had to initially combination feed breast and bottle. This was fine by me, as having had a midwife who seemed to have steel pincers rather than fingers try and encourage my milk out by squeezing my nipples until they fell off, I was quite keen on the bottle by that stage.

To say it was painful is like saying giving birth chafes a bit. I was told off by a midwife for bottle feeding, then told off by another for giving my son formula in a bottle, in case he got nipple/ teat confusion.


She told me to give him the milk from a shallow dish so he could lap it. Funnily enough, I didn't. Because he was not a bloody cat.


I persevered with breastfeeding, and expressed until I was just a husk of a person with sore nipples, but really, it was not for me. Or for my son, who, to excuse the pun, titted around on the boob so that a feed would take over two hours.

He could often be found punching whichever breast he was clamped too, much like someone who has put fifty pence in a vending machine and a dribble of lukewarm tea is all that comes out.

He just was not getting enough milk. To be fair, I think he was pretty much getting pure stress hormone out of my breasts, the way I was feeling about breastfeeding, which I am sure did him the world of good.

But I kept on, because that bloody Mother Myth kept coming back to me, and I was not going to fail my son.

At three months, I finally waved the white flag, burned my expressing machine, did and little dance (as energetic as my creaking pelvic floor would allow) and cracked open the milk powder.


Mother Myths are a dangerous thing. There are lots of them out there, all promising a world of wonderful, life-affirming mothering experiences, and instead creating anxiety when the reality somehow never quite matches up.


My experience has been a tad different, and so I am collecting Mothering Truths. Like birth plans are a waste of ink. That newborn babies are pretty damn ugly. That your baby's cry sounds much like the next one. That you baby is going to cry a lot, not because it has colic, but just because it can. That breastfeeding is okay, but not when it sends you doolally.

Less pearls of wisdom, more droplets of sanity.

Womb with a View, Jodie Newman's book, is out now and available from

A funny and frank account of being pregnant and those first petrifying, bewildering and milk-sodden six months of motherhood. Contains swearing and copious mentions of poo.

Catch up with weekly parenting non-advice at Jodie's blog:


Suggest a correction