I love me some little tiny baby feet. And even baby feet that aren’t so little and tiny. My youngest child was born with super-long feet that wouldn’t fit into any of the tiny little booties that were knitted for her. Her feet and ankles were also so skinny that socks would just fall right off. She lived in footed pyjamas until her little feet grew too long for those, even. Every visitor, midwife, nurse, and even the hospital cleaner who came into our room in those few days following my baby’s birth commented on how long her feet were.
Fortunately, I’d already had two other babies, so I didn’t immediately start getting paranoid that her feet were abnormal or that she’d grow up needing to get shoes specially made because she’d never be able to find her gigantic size in stores. I just smiled and nodded and, when the room was empty, I’d whisper to my oblivious baby, “Don’t worry, little one. My feet are size 10 and I can tell you where to get all the pretty shoes.”
Everyone has an opinion on little baby feet. I remember one of my first outings with my son. He was about a month old, and we ventured out to the local bakery. I tenderly extracted him from his car seat and held him on my shoulder while we walked five metres from our parked car into the bakery. I was standing at the till, telling the staff member which bread loaves I wanted from the shelf behind her (ALL THE BREAD, because I was breastfeeding and I was RAVENOUS), and I heard this voice from behind me.
“Your little feet must be so cold! You need some socks! Tell Mummy to put some socks on those cold little feet!”
I whipped around, certain my Plunket nurse or midwife or another internationally renowned medical luminary was standing behind me in the queue giving their professional opinion, but no, it was just some strange woman passive-aggressively handing out unsolicited advice to my one-month-old baby. Who was dressed entirely appropriately for the weather and the season (it was December and I had sweat rings under my arms just from the un-air-conditioned walk from car to shop).
The introverted part of me (95%, last time I checked) wanted to immediately run and hide, but the hormonal, indignant new mum part of me took over. “I wish strangers wouldn’t think it’s appropriate to give out advice to new mums when they aren’t asked for it,” I said in a quavering voice — not to the strange woman, but to the staff member at the till. (The introverted part of me couldn’t look the strange woman in the eye, mostly because I was shaking so hard I thought that eye contact might make me cry.) The staff member handed me my gigantic bag of bread, saying nothing. The bakery was suddenly silent. I could hear my heart thudding loudly in my chest.
That voice spoke again from behind my back. “I’m just trying to help,” she said, a bit peevishly. “I don’t mean any harm.”
Well, I’d just spent several weeks researching postnatal depression and maternal mental health and how so-called “well-meant help” was actually damaging to new mums. I was a parenting magazine editor, for goodness’ sake. I was going to teach her a lesson. So I turned to her, ready to let rip.
Then I stopped. What was happening? I was holding a newborn and a bag of bread, I was tired, my boobs were telling me it was time to feed the baby, and I was probably never going to see this strange woman again in my life. Did I have the energy for this confrontation? Did I have the stamina to get into it with a stranger in a bakery over my son’s uncovered little baby feet? Or did I just want to go home with my baby and eat my bread and take a nap?
You know the answer. Bread and naps and new babies always win. So I stalked out of that bakery, head held high, pointedly ignoring the strange woman and her uncalled-for advice. She probably went home and told everyone about the ungrateful new mother in the bakery who had her baby’s feet uncovered in 22-degree weather. (You know *I* went home and checked the exact temperature so I could feel even more indignant about the whole thing. Hormones, I tell you.)
Where was I going with this? Oh, right. Little baby feet. They’re adorable. They’re soft. They fit in the palm of your hand. They curl up when you stroke them on the bottom. You can even nibble on them if you so desire. I love little baby feet. It’s okay if you love them, too. But if you feel the need to remark on them, please, for the love of all that’s holy, just keep your comments to exclamations of how cute and precious and delicious they are. Spare a thought for that hormonal new mum who doesn’t need negativity or doubt or non-useful opinions. Tell her that her baby is beautiful and she’s doing a great job.
Also, I am not responsible if you do open your mouth in your local bakery and end up getting a French stick shoved in it. You’ve been warned.
BUMP & baby is New Zealand’s only magazine for pregnancy and early babyhood. Our team of mums and mums-to-be understand what it’s like to be pregnant in this connected age, and that’s why BUMP & Baby online is geared toward what pregnant women and new mums really want to know.
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