Friday 22 September 2017

The joys of being a new mum: 'My boyfriend sent a picture of my nipple to his friends, family and his old boss by accident'

The arrival of a bundle of joy, says Julia Molony, means mum has to navigate whole new levels of diplomacy

Mother taking a smartphone picture of her baby
Mother taking a smartphone picture of her baby
Bare breasts over breakfast pass as normal in France, according to Julia Molony. Photo: Getty Images.
Julia Molony.

Julia Molony

It's been a month of firsts. The arrival of our son - our first-born - being the most obvious one.

But also the first time my boyfriend has ever sent a picture of my nipple to his friends, family, and, for good measure, his old boss, whom he hasn't been in touch with since pre-millennium.

To be fair, the nipple was mostly an accessory in the shot, whose primary subject was obviously the baby. Despite its curiosity value, the nipple alone would not have been newsworthy enough to broadcast, he tells me.

And the old boss, he swears, got cc'd in by accident.

I am supposed to be terribly blase now about the public airing of nipples, which in the three-and-a-bit weeks since baby R was born have been transformed from something purely decorative to a utilitarian piece of baby-feeding kit; locked, loaded and ready to fire on demand. Whether demand occurs in the supermarket or the bank.

That didn't stop me having a tantrum about the group email, of course. Not, I realised later, out of any genuine sense of modesty.

Whatever scant modesty I had before has gone out the window since going through childbirth and the first week after - most of which was spent in a state of slightly inappropriate public nakedness as my son and I got the hang of feeding.

Not since I was a toddler have clothes seemed like such a pointless and frustrating faff.

But it was when I found myself making small talk with my boyfriend's father with one breast fully exposed and cheerfully winking at him throughout that I realised I had crossed the Rubicon.

To be fair to my de facto father-in-law, he didn't bat an eyelid. We are in liberal pro-nudity France, after all. I'm working off the principle that bare breasts over breakfast pass as normal here.

Still, I wasn't about to let the group email pass without a fight. Possibly because I was hormonally primed for one at the time.

I knew that acting bashful, by now, wouldn't wash, so I focused instead on an aesthetic argument, concerning his questionable use of the zoom function.

The arrival of a very tiny new human, I have since discovered, brings not only a whole new landscape of joy, but also a whole new playing field of conflict. The least of which is a nip-slip in a photograph.

Most of it concerns who is Doing The Wrong Thing with regards to the baby. Most days, my boyfriend and I do a carefully choreographed dance of conflicting neuroticisms.

He agrees, for example, to walk very, very gingerly down staircases gripping tightly to the banister when carrying the baby in his car seat.

I agree not to roll my eyes when he spends an entire family lunch sitting out in the corridor with the child, lest the tiny, pink, brand-new lungs get sullied by the smoke from the open fire in the living room.

He bundles baby up in blankets for fear of cold. I creep by five minutes later to unwrap them for fear of suffocation.

It would be too easy if all this was only between us.

For almost every small daily decision that arises now, we have a whole panel of fiercely held opinions to contend with, covering everything from how to stop him crying, to whether he is grumbling because he is genuinely hungry or is just overwhelmed by a suffocating mother who refuses to put her breasts away.

They come in from all sides, these opinions, from grandparents, neighbours and even passing strangers on the street.

A baby, it turns out, is an invitation to hold forth.

It makes me miss the days when, if people thought you were doing something wrong, they'd resort to pursed lips and a bit of disapproving side-eye instead.

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