All week I’ve been getting messages and calls from family and friends asking if the baby is here yet or when she’s coming, and my only answer is “no, and I don’t know.” Yesterday I told my mom I hope the baby comes very soon because I’m sick of living in a land of uncertainty.
“Well get used to it,” she said, “that’s parenthood for you.”
I was annoyed with her advice, and remembered once again that’s one thing I’ve hated throughout pregnancy. Unsolicited, often negative advice. Kids you can check on, the end of pregnancy is like a bomb without a timer, leaving you wondering when it will go off.
Through my whole pregnancy I’ve noticed there are just some ways that people treat pregnant women, and I don’t mean giving her special treatment. I’m talking about things people do that are only social norms when it comes to pregnant women, things you wouldn’t do to anyone else.
When pregnant, women can expect people to feel they have full access to and an opinion on three things.
- Your belly. In the average social encounter, unsolicited physical touch is a faux-pas. We generally consider someone awkward and socially inept if they reach out and touch you for almost any reason. But during pregnancy people find it totally acceptable to reach out without permission and rub your belly. I’ve been a little less sensitive about this late in pregnancy because the baby is so prominent, but in the weeks after my belly popped it was just awkward–I had to fight the urge to say (with bitterness), “You know that’s me you’re touching and not the baby, right? You’re not going to feel anything yet.” Can we make it a new social norm to not grab at pregnant women’s bellies without first being invited to do so? There may be a baby inside me, but I still need my personal space.
- Your appearance. When pregnant, people’s comments on your appearance go beyond the usual, “You look cute today.” They’ll say, “You’re getting huge,” or “You’re still so small,” or “You’re glowing!” or “You’re so cute pregnant.” I know some women swell up like crazy when pregnant, but is anyone going to tell them that? Sometimes these comments even come from strangers you’re just chatting with in line for a coffee (decaf, right? Um… yeah…). These people mean well, but the fragile state we’re in from pregnancy hormones just leave us feeling self-conscious. It’s a time when we can’t really trust anything anyone says about our appearance because, well, it’s nice–too nice.
- Your parenting knowledge. This one might be the most common complaint of first-time parents: the unsolicited advice. Everyone and their neighbor’s dog groomer’s aunt has something to say about what you should expect. They’ll tell you to sleep now because you won’t when the baby gets here, date now because you won’t when the baby gets here, do things for you now… because Y2K is still coming, right? Once they feel they’ve sufficiently frightened you they almost always add, but it’s so worth it. This one sucks because it assumes for new parents that we have no idea what we’re getting into. That may be true to a degree, but most people haven’t gone their whole lives without ever being around children.
For Garth and me, we’re not the first of our friends to have kids. We’ve seen the newborn stage, the awkward one year old stage, and the toddler transition into kindergartener. I’ve worked with nursery children all the way to grade 12. Needless to say, we’re far from clueless. Still, we’re totally aware that our lives are about to change but how that change will look is unpredictable. All babies are different, after all, and ours may not be easy.
Regardless of how annoying the hyper-focus on my expecting state is, I’d still say I’m grateful. Thank you to all the well-meaning people who get excited about babies just because it’s a freaking baby *squee*. Thank you to everyone who gave me compliments when I was maybe feeling a little extra cute that day, but especially on days when I just felt greasy and sore.
And really, thank you to seasoned parents who gave me advice, even if it made me feel like you have no hope in my parenting abilities. I know you only said what you did because you’re trying relate to this aspect of my life, and because you want me to be prepared. Those words might be a source of comfort when I’m in the thick of it, thinking I knew this would be hard but not this hard, and I’ll remember someone out there warned me about this. In that moment I’ll remember I’m not alone, and I’ll survive too.