The first piece of unwanted advice I got during my pregnancy came the day I officially found out I was pregnant.
The very first day. I had done the whole pee-on-a-stick thing the night before, but that day I had a doctor feel around my uterus and take my blood, then come back in the room to confirm I was indeed carrying a baby. Going into the appointment, I was 99.9 percent sure I was pregnant; so, I felt like I would handle the confirmation with style and grace.
Turns out, I didn’t. The doctor, whom I was visiting for the first time and disliked immediately, was rambling on about prenatal vitamins and spotting when suddenly I felt overwhelmingly panicked.
I looked at my husband, and although it may be a projection, I could’ve sworn he was turning paler than usual. Would he resent me for getting pregnant and gifting him with a little bundle of stress? Would we change as a couple? Would we still cuddle, still have sex, still fight about things that have nothing to do with the kid?
Forget that, let’s focus on me. How fat will I get? Can I change my diet enough to make my baby as healthy as possible? WIll it like me? Will it be happy? Will I get sick in the coming months?
“Any questions?” My doctor was finished with her speech and I was more than ready to get the hell out of the building and, if at all possible, the state of Virginia.
“No,” I said.
She handed us a baggy full of pamphlets and brochures. We loaded the elevator with another couple. The woman was very skinny with a baby bump the size of a small blimp. She looked incredibly uncomfortable.
I dug into my baggy and pulled out a brochure on Cord Blood Banking. “What the hell is Cord Blood Banking?” I asked aloud to my husband.
The massively pregnant woman turned and said, “It’s extremely important. Make sure you read everything you can about it. You must bank your baby’s cord blood.”
Little did I know that this would be the theme of my pregnancy—unwanted advice. I bought every baby book our bookstore had, and asked every question that came to mind to doctors, midwives, doulas and other mothers. I loved getting advice and hearing stories of what to expect. What I didn’t like was the advice, assumptions and foretelling that every single mother seem to have that I hadn’t asked for.
A few that irritated me the most:
You’re going to have…
Old wives’ tales are stupid. I had a girl because my chromosomes met up with my husband’s chromosomes, and together they decided to make a girl. The fact that I got acne, had heartburn, had terrible morning sickness or whatever had nothing to do with it. Proof? One day, well into my third trimester, a tiny Chinese lady at Costco said “You have a boy.” I said, “No, it’s a girl.” She said, “No. A boy. You carry low. It’s a boy.”
Wrong, little Chinese lady. Wrong.
You will opt for the epidural…
Having a natural childbirth was extremely important to me. It was by far the most painful thing I will ever go through, but it was important to me. So the number of women banking on me changing my mind was beyond annoying. Support, remember?
You’re going to be so happy your baby is here, you won’t care about anything else…
They were sewing my vagina back together: I’m going to care about it. The fact that so many people said this to me affected my labor in a way that made me very sad. Because I was worried about what they were doing down there while my baby girl was on my chest, I felt like a bad Mom right out of the gate. Am I really not supposed to feel them pressing on my stomach and poking me with local anesthesia simply because my child was out? Was there something wrong with me?
And that is why people need to keep these things to themselves.
Because if you don’t want to work out during your pregnancy, the woman who plopped her little one out on the stair master will unintentionally make you feel bad about it. If you want to formula-feed, the woman with her twins hanging off of each boob like a pair of earrings will make you feel bad. Don’t want to go back to work? Don’t tell the lady accidentally filling her coffee thermos with her expressed breast milk. Want to name your kid something unique? Don’t tell John, Sarah and Pat’s parents.
Every single pregnancy, labor and child is different. So is every parent. Some people aren’t doing it right, but just because you are doesn’t mean you’re the only one. In such a divided world, I think it is more important than ever for mothers to support each other in whatever they decide to do with their bodies and babies.
And in case you were wondering, I never banked O’s cord blood.
It costs a shit-load of money that I’d rather spend on hair bows, footy pajamas and those weird bulb syringe thingies.
So, sue me.
Like elephant journal on Facebook.
Assistant Ed. Kerrie Shebiel/ Ed: Sara Crolick