Everyone loves newborn babies – they’re cute, they don’t chat shit and you can always find them right where you left them. For some reason though, people see a newborn baby and automatically assume they have the right to put their hands out and touch baby’s face! Why?!
It started with a bump
Let’s back up a bit. This invasion of personal space actually started before Evelyn was born. People would instantly feel like Kate was public property because she was pregnant, their hands would head straight for her belly and they’d just, well…rub. I don’t get it, Evelyn wasn’t a genie, Kate wasn’t a magic lamp – what were they expecting exactly? A baby to pop out and grant them three wishes?
I did it, obviously, because it was different for me. The concept of personal space between a couple is obliterated once you conceive a child, but a lot of these people were strangers or acquaintances at best. I remember vividly being stood in a beer garden. A lady chatted to us briefly then started chatting to her friend, AS SHE WAS STILL RUBBING KATE’S BELLY! She was doing it in a “wax on, wax off” fashion, using the back of her hand on the upstroke. The memory of it alone makes me pull the face people pull when they step in dog muck.
This wasn’t just limited to women though, there was also the time one of Kate’s male friends spotted her in a bar (she was on diet cokes!). This particular guy was socially awkward at the best of times. It’s not his usual style to break any social barrier or invade anyone’s personal space. Equally, Kate isn’t one for getting physically close to people she doesn’t know very well. However, as she was pregnant this seemed to be the “done thing”, so they commenced the interaction. The guy raised his eyebrows in mock surprise and unsteadily reached out to stroke Kate’s belly. Kate froze, awkwardly smiled and looked down at her bump, which was now apparently primed for rubbing. Christ this was painful to watch.
They were both going against their best instincts here. I thought two negatives were supposed to make a positive? I tried to give my most sincere “aww” smile. My mouth was smiling but my brow was furrowed and my eyes wide. This was too fucking awkward. Sip your drink Mark, it’s the only escape.
On to the matter at hand
Kate and I probably left the house too soon after Evelyn was born. We were out shopping at Liverpool One when Evelyn was only four days old. We were shopping for jeans now that Kate’s waistline had shrunk. She said she could either tuck her maternity jeans into her bra, or tuck her deflated belly into her old jeans. I took the hint, new jeans it was then.
People would look at Evelyn, then Kate, and be astonished that she’d given birth not days before! I mean…look!
Now, I have to stress here that I’m not a germophobe. I was just acutely aware that Evelyn was a new baby – recently expelled from a sterile environment which was protected from the elements. We were told to religiously sterilise bottles, so we weren’t about to take a leap of faith that people would have adequately washed their hands after their last bathroom visit. Most people don’t even bother! And what about if they’d cooked recently, handling raw meat and not washing their hands? It’s no secret that this affects the very young and the very old the most when it comes to food borne illnesses.
This won’t strengthen their immune system, it’s just dangerous.
I’ve also witnessed a dog lick its own arse, then its owner’s face, only to have the owner kiss a baby. It’s not rocket science people!
The baby talk
People would use the same phrases they use when they talk to parrots – “Hello!” and “Who’s a pretty girl?”. Admittedly, no one offered her a cracker at any point.
Whether people were in the same lift as us, passing us in the street or simply waiting in the same queue at a shop, they would invariably strike up a conversation about Evelyn. We were happy about that really, we were proud of her. But we did take exception to the amount of people who thought it necessary to reach down and touch her.
“Enjoy your first Christmas”
There was one elderly woman, probably in her late 120s if I’m being honest. I had Evelyn held with her head on my shoulder walking her round Marks & Spencers. The lady moved faster than any lady her age should ever be moving, just to reach out and stroke Evelyn on the cheek.
Now, I find it difficult to be angry at old people (unless they’re driving, then it’s piss easy!). I sort of twisted away and smiled at her. We conversed for a minute or so, and when Kate had been served we left. The lady reached out AGAIN and placed her palm on Evelyn’s head, her thumb stroking the nose and between the eyes. This time she said “Enjoy your first Christmas”.
I couldn’t help myself. I muttered “Yeah, enjoy your last!” As we walked away, which invited a quick dig in the arm from Kate.
It wasn’t just Evelyn’s face people would reach out for. They’d go scavenging – they’d pull blankets off to get at her feet before squeezing them. They’d take her mittens off and poke their fingers into Evelyn’s palm before exclaiming “SHE LIKES ME LOOK, SHE’S HOLDING ON”. No, you fucking idiot, it’s a reflex!
I’m getting carried away now, maybe the issue is and always has been with me. It’s not a common thing to hear people complain about, which makes me think maybe it IS acceptable. I can’t get my head round it though.
I learnt in my teenage years that being passive aggressive didn’t really get you anywhere in life, it just makes you a prick. I echoed that sentiment here by eventually saying to people “can you not touch her face?”. If it’s said with a placid tone and a smile it doesn’t come across as too weird, and even if it does who cares? It’s not as weird as touching someone’s newborn without permission! It takes but a second to ask, so why not ask?
If I felt the person was especially delicate I would simply say that the baby had not long gone to sleep and she would freak out if someone touched her face. This seemed to work a lot, but I felt like I was basically saying “it’s USUALLY ok to touch her face, but since she’s just fell asleep it’s not ok”. If I ever met this person again when Evelyn was awake I’d need a new excuse!
Evelyn was but six weeks old when her first Christmas came along. We went to a family gathering with her and, obviously, everyone was loving her. We offered one person a hold, who then offered everyone else in the building a hold (don’t do this, new parents do not like it!). She was swiftly passed around as we looked on in horror. We were around family and friends though, it couldn’t get too bad, right?
The game of baby “pass the parcel” finished and she was handed back to us. She was awake now, cranky and with a scratch on her face. She had mittens on, she didn’t do it herself.
Stay off her face people!
We don’t have that same problem any more, thankfully. Evelyn’s at the age now where she knows it’s inappropriate and she’ll back off and give a reprimanding look herself – good girl!
If you have a baby and you’re worried about this – then speak up. It’s important if that’s the way you feel.
Likewise, if you meet someone with a baby – don’t lunge for the face. It’s not appreciated.
That’s it. That’s literally it.
Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.