January 10, 2020
Happy new year, and welcome to 2020, a year so weird-sounding it seems to belong on the cover of some schlocky sci-fi novel more than it belongs on my calendar. I have spent this first week back at work trying to remember all my logins and figure out how much of my DNA is now technically mince pie.
Don’t Shame New Parents For Using Their Phone. They Can Be A Lifeline
But barely had I ventured a toe into the new decade than I saw my first (but almost definitely not my last) parent-shaming of 2020. It was on Twitter. 
“I’m on SCBU with my 5 day old,” read the tweet. “This poster makes me sad.” Then, a photo of the poster in question, apparently on the wall of a maternity unit, which read as follows: “Mummy & Daddy……. Please look at ME when I am feeding. I am much more interesting than your phone!! Thankyou xxxxxx.”    Reading that poster gave me a visceral reaction. Partly, of course, because of the grammatically questionable Comic Sans-style type, that truly horrible ClipArt, and the fact it had been laminated. Also because, according to the tweet, the poster wasn’t just in a hospital maternity unit – right in the eyeline of people who may have become parents just minutes ago – but in the SCBU, the special care birth unit. You know, where they send the newborns with life-threatening conditions. Exactly the sort of place where vulnerable parents should be shielded from the unsolicited opinions of others.
The tweet has since been deleted and the account has gone, too. But I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a similar poster in my local maternity unit. And it also brought back memories of an encounter after my older son was born, five years ago. 
I was lying with my brand new, shrimpy son-baby nestled in my cleavage, and I was attempting to commemorate the occasion by photographing him with my phone. I don’t know if you’ve ever attempted to photograph your own cleavage while incapacitated by epidural, but it is not easy and I had to try several angles. I have a million blurry close-ups of my Primark nightdress to prove it.
Just then, a female hospital staff member hurried past my gurney, clipboard in hand. Seconds later, she backed up, staring at me with pronounced disgust. “For God’s sake,” she spat. “You’ve just had a baby! Put your phone away and parent your child.” Then she bustled off as though she hadn’t just blasted a hole through me.
If she’d looked, she might have seen the cannulas in my son’s hand and my own; they were there because I’d developed sepsis during labour and been rushed into surgery for an emergency C section. If she’d looked closer, she’d have seen my eyes, boss-eyed from surgery and fever, and my skin pale from blood loss. And if she’d actually seen my phone, she might have noticed I was photographing my new son. I was doing this because it had been quite an ordeal. I had thought one of us would die quite a few times, and now I was trying to mark the fact that we, you know, hadn’t.
I’ve been writing about parenting for five years now, and sometimes people ask what “essentials” they need for the first few days of parenthood. A super-long phone-charging cable, I always tell them. And a back-up cable. And three fully-charged powerbanks, just to be on the safe side. Have you been trapped under a feeding baby with nothing but the smell of their head to occupy you? Believe me, I’ve had two babies now and while their heads smell great, sometimes babies feed for an ENTIRE day, at which point the novelty wears off and you start wondering what’s happening on Instagram.
My super-long cable also came in handy those first few days in hospital, amid the strange horror that can settle over you whenever you’re left alone with your very small, totally dependent baby. I had sepsis, was going mildly crazy with sleep deprivation, and – though I didn’t know it – was plunging into postnatal depression and PTSD that would accompany me for the next two years.
(I also have no family of my own, and the dinner ladies kept coming in when I had my top off, so to be honest I was very glad for the distraction of my phone).
Since then I’ve found friendship and support, not to mention invaluable medical information while clutching my phone during feeding sessions. Not only are my two kids not neglected, I honestly don’t think I’d be as good a parent if all that info hadn’t been so readily at hand. 
Your phone can be your lifeline when you’re a parent – and an anchor to the world. So basically, up yours, poster. Also, is that message supposed to be from my baby? That’s ridiculous. My kids couldn’t communicate such complex thoughts as newborns. 
But they know “thank you” is two words, and they’d never use Comic Sans.More from Robyn Wilder No, I Don't Have A Favourite Child. But I Do Have A 'Primary' One Screaming Baby Next Door? I've Been On Both Sides Of That Wall I'm On The Cusp Of Menopause And – If I'm Honest – Totally Unprepared
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