I’ve had a few slightly awkward run-ins with strangers lately and it got me thinking about all the unsolicited advice and strong-worded warnings I got, both while I was pregnant and now. One of my best friends is due in February and I can’t stop fixating on the fact that people are going to start spewing all of their baby-related thoughts at her. When people find out you’re pregnant, that one fact quickly becomes the center of every single conversation. Whether you’re talking to friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors, that’s all anyone will want to talk about. Don’t get me wrong — being pregnant and getting extra love and attention from those around you is one of the coolest experiences in the world. What I wasn’t prepared for, though, was all of the concern people would have about a baby that wasn’t even theirs. That sounds harsh, but I was seriously surprised! I smiled and nodded, knowing that as a first-time mom, I didn’t have any of my own experiences to back up my internal eye-rolls.
Despite being aware that people can be a little nuts and lack compassion sometimes, a few of the things still ended up getting to me. It’s almost as if everyone instantly loses a filter when they see a pregnant woman or a mom pushing a stroller. I appreciated some of what people told me, but for the most part, I felt like they were just pushing me to have, or be prepared for, the exact same experiences as them. I had to keep reminding myself that everyone is different and no two women, pregnancies, or babies are alike. Just because Jane Smith refused to eat cheese, did prenatal yoga four times a week, refused all medication during labor, and now has a baby with a perfectly regimented schedule didn’t mean I had to try and measure up. She’s not me. I’m not her. I couldn’t help but think that the purest and most beautiful experience in the world was starting to feel more like a competition. Of course, women can (and should!) be proud of whatever path they take, but it was the whole shoving it all in my face thing I wasn’t so fond of.
Maybe I was just being sensitive (my self-consciousness was at an all-time high some days), but I felt a little jipped. I thought I was entering into this mama tribe, this gang you could only get into once you birthed another human, the kind of club where everyone had your back. Again, I was probably just letting my hormones get the best of me, but I was hoping for hugs and high fives, not judgmental looks and side-eyes when I didn’t have the “right” answer. Weren’t we supposed to be supporting one another and lifting the mom next to us up?
The more I thought about this, the more I realized, maybe they were. Maybe I was so in my own head that I wrongly assumed people’s words of advice were terrifying warnings meant to scare the shit out of me and make me feel like I was destined to fail in motherhood.
It wasn’t them. It was me.
I (clearly) didn’t realize this right away. It took some time for me to understand that people — mostly moms — were thrilled for me and wanted to pass along anything they possibly could to make my entry into motherhood a little easier. Of course, it didn’t always come off like that, but I’m convinced the questions and advice were mostly well-meaning. Once I figured that out, I was able to take it all with a grain of salt. Here are some of my favorites.
“You think you’re tired now? Just wait until the baby comes. Get some sleep while you still can.”
I’m eight months pregnant and sleep terribly. I can’t get comfortable no matter how hard I try, my back aches non-stop, and I’m pretty sure I pee seven times a night. Catching up on sleep right now is REALLY not a thing.
“Have you thought about your birth plan at all? You HAVE to get a doula. Seriously, it’s worth the money and the hospital staff won’t be looking out for you in the same way a doula will.”
Well, shit. I barely knew what a doula was before I got pregnant and now I should absolutely, no question about it, will live to regret it if I don’t, just have to hire one if I care at all about how my labor and delivery will go down? I’m screwed. And exhausted just thinking about it.
“Have you figured out what you’re going to do for childcare yet? Every place around here has a crazy waiting list, so hopefully you’ve already made the calls.”
Ummm, childcare? I’ve barely wrapped my head around having the baby, let alone what we’re supposed to do with him after.
When the baby was born, people started to warn me (threaten?) that things would only get worse with time.
“How’s your baby sleeping?”
Oh, he’s been pretty good. Sleeps a majority of the night.
“Enjoy that while it lasts! Sleep regression usually happens around three or four months. It can be rougghhh.”
SUPER! Can’t wait.
“Is he eating ok?”
Yeah! I’m still breastfeeding and for the most part, he’s been eating great.
“Oh, well have you introduced a bottle yet? Don’t wait too long! That’ll turn into a nightmare if he gets too used to the boob.”
Thanks, buzzkillington! One thing at a time, alright?
“Have you guys been taking him out much?”
We’ve tried to keep a sense of normalcy as much as possible with lots of walks, taking him to restaurants, going to the beach…
“Oh, gosh. Do that all now before he’s up and moving and a complete nightmare in all public places.”
Good to know we’ll soon be confined to our home for the rest of eternity because our child is bound to be awful and embarrassing.
We’re four and half months into this whole family of three thing now and I find myself doing, or almost doing, the exact things I cringed at before. I’m so excited to share all of my super-duper-expert-level knowledge (ha. ha. ha.), but I’m also hyper-aware of not becoming one of them. What has worked for us won’t necessarily work for my friends and their babies, so I’ve had to remind myself to STFU on more than one occasion. If one of my girlfriends asks about how we handled a situation or milestone, I’m stoked to tell them. But I also do my best to keep it brief with a bunch of clarifying statements about how you just never know. And how everyone is different. And how I really have no idea what I’m doing. And how I definitely did a lot of things wrong already so probably don’t listen to me. My goal is always to share as much as they ask for, but to never come off as judge-y or know-it-all-y, because, news flash: I’m not and I don’t.