My son was just 8 weeks old when he needed an operation. He was tiny, medically just 2 weeks old and even then he was small for his adjusted age.
With a shaky hand I signed the papers explaining I understood he could die and the general anaesthetic could cause complications (which it did) before we went to the operating theatre. As he screamed and fought while they put him to sleep, the nurse turned to me and told me to "kiss him goodbye".
It was my tipping point.
I had worried, not slept and felt sick for days before we took our so-very-little boy to the hospital. I cried in the morning in the bathroom, away from his dad and sister but outwardly I was holding it together. Until she said those words.
I know what she meant, I knew then too, but what she had just said was what I was so afraid of - that this might be goodbye.
My now 15 month old son went through a lot in his first few months, NICU, SCBU, minor procedures, too many appointments to count at the hospital and then an operation - you would never have known to look at him, he couldn't stop smiling and seemed to find most things absolutely hilarious (still does!) but the pain those words caused stayed with me for a long time.
It was certainly the most awful, but definitely not the last time people said things that made me question if the connection between their mouth and brain had been severed. To the medical professionals out there how about "Give him a kiss mummy, we'll take good care of him for you"?
And to everyone else, here's a handy guide for the next time you encounter a mum / twin mum/ mum-to-be ... It's actually really lovely that you want to chat to a complete stranger / vague acquaintance, and I found it very touching (mostly) but please, choose your words carefully!
(And yes, they all happened to me!)
Don't tell a pregnant woman she looks massive. She is almost certainly far too aware already. And a raging ball of hormones.
Please don't tell someone with twins that it is your idea of hell / a nightmare / you'd never stop crying. Those are my kids you've just insulted and I am a raging ball of hormones!
Never ask when the baby is due. Sometimes it's already hatched. You have just made a knackered mum devoting all her energy to keeping her little one/s alive feel like a failure. She is not, she is a human whose body has just done something pretty incredible. Be kind. See 'hormones' above.
Don't ask twin mummas if they had IVF. It's none of your bloody business and if they did, they almost certainly don't want to discuss their difficult road to motherhood with a complete stranger in public. Feel like discussing your last smear test in detail with me in tthe middle of Sainsburys?
Don't ask loaded questions - you are going to breastfeed aren't you? It's up to her and you shouldn't project your choices onto someone else. (N.B also none of your business actually)
Don't offer unsolicited advice. No, we have no bloody idea what we're doing, but self-doubt plagues us day and night and pointing out we may be doing it all wrong isn't as helpful as I'm sure you mean it to be.
Don't tell a new mum she looks tired. She IS tired, exhausted and just about hanging on by her fingernails. And ask yourself what you're hoping her response will be exactly? "Me? Noooooo this baby business is a doddle, I'm just lazy, slovenly and feckless, thanks for noticing!"
Don't ask a twin mumma with a blonde boy and a brunette girl in a pram marked "Bro & Sis" if they are identical. You will look very silly.
Don't say "make the most of it, it goes so quickly." I know this is true, but when it feels like your bra is made of concrete, you haven't slept in weeks (or months) and getting out of the house takes 2 days of prep and several very strong coffees, we're actually hoping this bit will fly past in the blink of an eye.
Do tell us when we have baby sick down our back, especially if you happen to have a wet wipe to hand!
Do tell us it gets easier, that we're doing a great job and that our baby is gorgeous / cute / has lovely hair (just pick something , anything OK?)
Never, EVER talk about when your baby started sleeping through the night. "My baby slept though from 4 days old" is like stabbing us through the heart and screaming "you're a failure" at the same time.
And if it took you 11 years and your son still doesn't sleep well at all, I am truly, madly, deeply sorry for you. But all I heard was "you're staring down the barrel of another ten years of no-sleep hell." Can you imagine my response? Did I mention hormones?
If my twins could text ...
TWIN 2: "What's up with mummy?"
TWIN 1: "Don't know, she got upset when the lady told her she was brave for having twins and one on the way."
TWIN 2: "What's one on the way?"
TWIN 1. "I don't know but she told the lady she was wrong and rude and then she picked me up. It was really fun - she swung me right round and then we went fast in the buggy!"
TWIN 2: "And at what point did she realise she had left me behind."*
TWIN 1: "Just before we went REALLY fast in the buggy"
* Twin 2 was actually building a sandcastle with daddy, who I'd also left behind!