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Kerry McLean: Sometimes it's best to say nothing when it comes to those hugely embarrassing 'mum moments'

Kerry McLean with children Tara, Dan and Eve
Kerry McLean with children Tara, Dan and Eve

By Kerry McLean

I'm old-fashioned when it comes to keeping the fridge full in our house. I try as often as I can to head off on a Saturday and get a big shop done and, apart from milk and bread, that usually does us for the next seven days. I say usually because at the minute, with the children all at home and off school, I'm being eaten out of house and home on an almost daily basis which results in paying a visit to our local supermarket most evenings when I get back home from work.

It was on one such visit this week, when the only volunteer to go with me was my three-year-old, that I had an embarrassing encounter.

With the warm, humid weather we've been having, the majority of customers wandering up and down the aisles were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. Also, thanks to the warm, humid weather, the pollen counts have been very high and my little girl Eve has been feeling the effects of hayfever. When she feels a sneeze coming on, I've taught her to turn away from whoever she's talking to, cover her mouth and let rip.

When a sneeze of epic proportions crept up on her in the supermarket, she remembered the first bit of advice, turning to the side, but not the second. Unfortunately, right at that moment, a gorgeous young woman who looked to be in the final weeks, if not days of pregnancy was passing by us. She was wearing a T-shirt which, thanks to her bump, looked more like a crop top, exposing her belly which unluckily was exactly at Eve's head height. I'll not go into the gruesome details, just in case you're eating, but suffice it to say, I handed over an entire pack of wetwipes out of my handbag for the poor soul to clean away the evidence of Eve's sneeze from her stomach. The young woman looked absolutely horrified, understandably, but as I was offering my profuse apologies, I couldn't help but think, 'You may get used to a bit of snot because there's a lot more of that and worse coming when you become a mummy'.

That's what was running through my head but there was absolutely no way I'd have let those words emerge from my mouth.

If only the customer in a coffee shop in London had held back in a similar way, she wouldn't have been at the centre of a Twitter storm this week. If you haven't already come across the story, what happened was that a mum-to-be ordered a coffee, only to be chastised by the woman behind her for drinking caffeine. The pregnant person's response was, 'But…I'm not pregnant…', a statement made with the intention and result of leaving the poor soul in the queue thinking she'd insulted the young woman's size.

I was torn when I read about this encounter because, as someone who's had three children, I know the amount of effort it takes to keep smiling and ignore unsolicited advice instead of turning into a raging, hormonal version of Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator.

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On the other hand, I still carry the deep emotional scars from many decades ago, of asking a woman when her baby was due only to get back the response, 'Two years ago'. It's hard to say which of us was more mortified by the end of that conversation. But it taught me a valuable lesson, to always think twice before opening my mouth when it comes to a woman who may or may not be expecting.

I think we have to give women a bit of credit. From the moment you get those little blue lines on a pregnancy test, the list of dos and don'ts come thick and fast.

The majority of mums-to-be would do anything and everything to ensure that their little ones grow as safely and healthily as possible. Most become ultra-careful about what they eat and what they put into their bodies, ensuring the right vitamins and minerals are provided for junior. The odd cup of coffee isn't a crime (the NHS allows for two instant cups a day), so hold back on the advice and trust that mum usually knows best when it comes to her bump.

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