During pregnancy (I'm now in my 9th month) I have learned quite a few things about myself and others. Other people, other moms, other parents, other families. I've spent a lot of time considering the dos and don'ts of parenting. And I've come to the realization that I know nothing more than anyone else does. We are all guessing and taking our best shot at parenting. But no one has it 100% perfected. If they did, they'd also be raising perfect children, and isn't the idea of "perfection" pretty subjective after all?
Let me preface this blog post by saying I definitely don't have all the answers. I probably don't have even 50% of them. I'm nervous, anxious, scared and upset at times that I'm bringing a new life into this world with little to no idea of how I will provide for this child and who he will turn out to be. All those unknowns raise doubts and defensiveness in my mind. But like anything else, I suppose I'll have to take it one day at a time.
Moving on to what I've learned during pregnancy. Shall we begin?
1) People will give you a shitton of advice
And you have to be able to filter out the bullshit. In actuality, when people are giving you advice, it's because whatever they have done or tried or told themselves or have been told by others has either worked for them or it hasn't. While I do believe that advice always comes from a caring place ("Don't make the same mistakes I did!"), I also believe that the sender (advice giver) is primarily talking about themselves when giving advice to the receiver (me, or Matt, or anyone else about to have a new baby). That's not meant to sound rude or condescending - but think about it. What may work for the sender will probably not 100% work for the receiver. While advice is helpful and entirely necessary for first time parents, I've struggled with intake of advice. Talking to too many people or reading too many books or forums (a piece of advice to new parents: NEVER READ FORUMS!!!) will just add stress to your life and your own decision making. Some people are naturally good at standing their ground and knowing exactly what they intend to do with any given situation. Me? Not so much. I may seem to be well versed in standing my ground, but in all honesty, I'm an insecure first time parent just as much as anyone else is. Bottom line? Know what advice will work for you, and consider the rest white noise.
2) People will say things that they think are helpful... but aren't
Along with the unsolicited advice you receive from extended family and friends, people will also say things that they think are helpful. People will say a lot of insensitive things, not realizing (or not caring) that said things may be perceived as hurtful, unnecessary, or fear-inducing. For example, most people who already had children felt compelled to tell me their birth story. In the beginning, I was like a dry sponge soaking up all this information - is natural birth better for me and baby? Are vaccines really that bad? Should I take the epidural or leave it? Is pain medication terrible for me? Breastfeeding or formula? Along the same lines of being bombarded with advice that left my head spinning, here are some of the most annoying comments I heard during pregnancy:
"How are you feeling?"
Okay, admittedly that's not strange at all, but imagine that you were ill and everyone knew that (and could see it, visibly) and they asked you that every. single. day. You would certainly tire of hearing "How are you feeling?" and feeling compelled, yourself, to beat them with whatever seems like it would inflict the most pain while simultaneously answering "I feel GREAT!" and flash a fake, plastered grin just to get them to go away.
"You don't even LOOK pregnant!"
So you're insinuating that I just look fat then, right? Thank you - thank you for that. I was feeling pretty cute today until you came along.
"Let me tell you MY birth story."
Please, tell me how you were an emergency c-section after 24 hours of laboring in extreme pain, how all the nurses were awful to you in the hospital, or how you had to pull over to the side of the road and give birth to your baby on a major highway. I'm all ears!!!
"Are you planning to breastfeed?"
How is that any of your business? And are you going to judge me if I'm not? Or better yet, tell me a nightmarish story about how dry and cracked and infected your nipples got during feeding?
"You're planning to go back to work?? Who will watch the baby?"
I guess because I'm a woman, I shouldn't work, right? Because women have never returned to work and raised perfectly normal children.
"You're thinking about staying home? Watch out, you will get REALLY bored."
Thank you! Boredom sounds a lot better than pushing paper like I have been for the last 10 years!
"Ugh, I can't imagine going through that. I'm not sure I'll ever want kids for that reason."
Just keep it to yourself. Really.
In all honesty, these comments aren't really weird or strange in any way. They just... annoy the shit out of me. Let me clarify that those who have told me their birth stories, I most likely asked them - it's the ones who tell me because they feel compelled to share that really get on my nerves! Pregnancy is such a strange and special time in a woman's life (and the partner's, as well). It's an extremely delicate, uncomfortable, beautiful, scary, emotional, nerve-wracking and amazing time for anyone who is going through it - be it by yourself or with a partner. And unwarranted or thoughtless comments and advice can make that transition harder on anyone.
3) There are some things about being pregnant that are enjoyable.
- Eating whatever you want. Yes, some foods are off limits, and yes, gestational diabetes or morning sickness may play a role in what you want to or can eat. But for the most part? Go for the extra slice of pizza or chocolate sundae. Pregnancy isn't a free pass to binge, but it certainly is a time to enjoy yourself and live it up. I'm a firm believer that no foods are ever "off limits" even when you aren't pregnant - but the quantity of those foods is more limited when you're not eating for two!
- People are nicer to you. After reading my first two blurbs about unsolicited advice and rude comments, you might be thinking "Wtf are you talking about, Becky?" BUT let me explain. Once you are very pregnant, around the third trimester when people can visibly see your baby bump, people ARE nicer to you! I was at a restaurant recently where a nice older gentleman offered me his seat. One of my coworkers brought me fresh fruit whenever she had it (delicious pears). Another coworker made me a delicious cake and brought in baked goods. Another bonus: men don't make cat calls or hit on you during pregnancy. I'm not saying I'm Kim Kardashian or anything, but it's nice to get no attention from men who otherwise don't know (or ignore) the fact that you're married. Also, both men and women hold the door open for you, and are generally more patient with you when you're shopping. I've had people help me lift heavy things in the grocery store, and offer to help carry almost anything.
- Feeling your baby kick, roll and tumble! Seriously, it's probably the most fun thing about pregnancy. Although, towards the end, it loses it's appeal somewhat. This ecard sums it up pretty well:
- Creating a life inside of you. It's just pretty cool when you think about it. A woman's body is designed for it. No offense guys, but... what can your bodies do that's THAT incredible?!
I've learned a lot more than what I mentioned in this post. I've learned more than I ever wanted to know about female anatomy. I've watched birth videos, both natural and medicated, on YouTube. I've exposed myself to things I probably shouldn't have or didn't need to. I've read far too many blogs, websites, books, articles, and forums that only really exacerbated my anxiety about birth and parenting.
All in all, pregnancy has been a pretty incredible experience. I think back on the days when I wasn't pregnant, when I was single and "carefree"... and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Although pregnancy has its ups and downs, literally and figuratively, I am excited to meet my son and bring him into the world - even if it means he pees, poops, farts, burps, and spits-up all over me. If it means rearranging my career or education goals or putting certain plans on hold, so be it. I couldn't be happier to be starting a family with my loving and adoring husband. We joke a lot about being peed and/or pooped on, never getting any sleep, and how our son will drive us to the brink of insanity by asking questions that we won't know how to answer or waking us in the middle of the night because he had a bad dream. We already laugh at the thing we think he will say, or whose personality he will have more of.
I think just having an open mind, being able to joke about the absurdity of it all, is really the key to making peace with all the stress to come. To quote the philosopher Albert Camus (who my husband recently made me aware of...)