There’s something about pregnancy and motherhood that seemingly invites unsolicited advice from strangers about your personal life and your body. As if pregnancy and childbirth weren’t hard enough, a lot of people feel the need to remind you of what horrors lie ahead, how HUGE you look, and what you’re doing wrong. Thankfully I’ve emerged from the hormone cloud of the past few months and am learning to laugh at these things, but I definitely had my moments. Here’s a list of the biggest offenses I’ve heard over the past year.
- “Oh just wait until they’re teething/sick/in the terrible twos…etc”
This one in particular rubs me the wrong way. Here I am, a new mom who’s (let’s be honest) already scared shitless about motherhood. I’m incredibly relieved that my baby seems happy, and she consistently sleeps for long stretches. But the second I say “Things are great!” to another parent I’m met with a look of amusement and pity. Their face is saying “oh you poor thing, you have no idea what you’re in for.” Relax, other parents. I’m not going to discount every good day I have with my smiley baby girl while waiting for her to transform into some demon spawn.
- “Get all the sleep you can now, you’ll never sleep again once the baby arrives!”
As if expectant moms aren’t tired enough already…Sure, the first few weeks home from the hospital were tough; I was recovering from labor and my partner had to return to work immediately after our daughter was born (not to mention I was too HUGE to sleep for the last month of pregnancy.) But after a few weeks and some luxuriously long naps with my baby on my chest (best feeling in the world, by the way) things leveled out. I know every baby is different, and some have a harder time sleeping than others, but in my personal experience, you start to get really skilled at waking up, changing/feeding/comforting baby, and falling back asleep super fast. Plus coffee. COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE.
- “She’s not REALLY smiling; it’s just gas.”
My daughter started smiling the day she was born, and hasn’t stopped since. There’s nothing quite like raining on a new mother’s parade by saying her baby isn’t happy, just farting.
- “It’s just a little morning sickness, it will pass after your first trimester.”
Man oh man. “Morning” sickness for some can be ALL DAY sickness for a poor few, and there was nothing “little” about it. For Hypermesis sufferers like myself, it can be completely debilitating and last well past your first trimester. I was losing so much weight I was ordered to modified bed rest around week 18. I finally stopped vomiting daily around 30 weeks, but was nauseous my entire pregnancy. You should ask my poor fiancée if it was “a little morning sickness”; he had to watch me vomit several times a day at all hours for months. Needless to say, I was about to slap the next person who told me to drink some ginger ale and wait for it to pass.
- “You’re eating _____? Aren’t you worried about ____?”
One of the worst parts of pregnancy is the list of things you cannot eat. Sushi, rare meat, cold cuts, soft cheese, unpasteurized juices…the list goes on and on. BUT there are some women who take this to another level. When I was sick with HG and losing weight rapidly, the only two things I could stomach (besides Ensure shakes) were pretzel rods and McDonald’s chicken nuggets (I know, gross.) I was at the office choking down pretzels in between pukes when a coworker walked by. She stopped when she saw me and literally WAGGED HER FINGER and said “tsk tsk, those pretzels have way too much sodium for baby! Not good!” and walked away. I would have thrown up on her right then and there if I could.
- “You better live it up now, your social life will never be the same”
Well of course your social life is going to be different, but that doesn’t mean it will be nonexistent or terrible. When I got pregnant and had my baby, I experienced the biggest outpouring of love and support from friends, whom I love, but hadn’t seen in ages. Having this baby has especially helped me rekindle the strong bonds with the women in my life, and instantly made clear the people who were NOT real friends (as they disappeared without a trace as soon as I announced my pregnancy.) Sure, Saturday nights are no longer spent in crowded clubs and bars (not that I was ever much of a “club” person to begin with) and I’m awake and starting my day by 6 on Sunday mornings. But look on the bright side; you save money, you’re healthier, and you realize who your real friends are… because they’re sitting next to you on the couch watching garbage TV and getting to know your new tiny human.
- “Your maternity leave is going to go by so fast, you’ll be back in the office before you know it!”
It absolutely did, and I was constantly anxious and hyperaware of just how fast it was flying by. I obsessed over the number of days I had left with my baby instead of relaxing and enjoying each day to the fullest. The last week of my leave was spent crying whenever the thought of the office popped into my head and I wasted precious time feeling sorry for myself (and the rest of the working moms in America.) I know I was lucky to even get any paid leave at all, but after reading about other countries’ Maternal Rights, it’s hard not to feel frustrated and sad about leaving my baby when she needed me most. So please, spare us the reminder of how quickly we need to be back to work.
- “Woah, are you sure you’re not having twins?!”
No, you asshole. Do NOT comment on a pregnant woman’s size (even if she IS having twins) unless you want to a) see her break down in tears, b) get slapped, or c) have a death wish. I know you think you’re joking, but when I was pregnant I was an emotional WACK JOB. All it took was a weird look to send me spiraling into hysteria. We are constantly aware of our hippo size, so save yourself the chaos and just tell us we’re “glowing.” Even if we look like this:
- “You’re just being sensitive because you’re hormonal”
OH IS THAT RIGHT? YOU WANT TO SAY THAT A LITTLE CLOSER, FRIEND? “Hormonal” may as well be a curse word when arguing with a pregnant woman. Like yeah, we KNOW we’re hormonal, but we’re also busy CREATING A HUMAN LIFE IN OUR BODIES. Forgive us if we’re quick to cry or get frustrated, and try to understand that it’s nothing personal if we get upset. Chances are we’ll be laughing again 5 minutes after a breakdown. P.S. Pregnant women can use being hormonal as an excuse for being irrational; non-pregnant people should not hold it against them or call them out on it. Just one of those pesky double standards, ya mean?
- “You ARE breastfeeding, right?”
First of all, regardless of if a woman is breastfeeding or not, this is a very PERSONAL question. In my case, I breastfed my daughter for the three months I was on maternity leave, but my supply completely VANISHED after returning to work for a mere few days (Thanks, America.) Stress can dry up your supply REAL quick. I tried everything to get it back; pumping for hours, eating oatmeal for every meal, taking Fenugreek supplements, meditating…you name it, I tried it. So when people make this assumption, I feel pressured and judged when I tell them my daughter drinks formula. The assumption that every woman can breastfeed exclusively for a year or more makes those of us who can no longer produce feel guilty about “depriving” our babies of the best thing for them. Instead, I like to focus on my thriving and happy baby girl, who doesn’t like me ANY less for nourishing her in the best way I can.
- “So, when is baby number 2 happening?”
I can’t help but laugh when people ask me this. Not because it’s funny, but because I am so completely consumed with my first (4 month old) baby, and I’m still emotionally and physically recovering from my pregnancy that ANOTHER baby is the furthest thing from my mind. Sure, there may be other babies down the line, but I’m going to enjoy this one for now. It helps being in my mid-20s, as my clock won’t start “ticking” for a while yet. Which leads me to…
- “You have a baby? But you’re just a baby yourself!”
I understand the women of my generation, and the generation preceding mine, are waiting to get married and have their children later in life. As a 25-year-old (engaged, but still unwed) mother, I do face challenges that older, more financially secure and established mothers may not. But young mothers should not be underestimated – the love we have for our babies is just as fierce and consuming as any other mother’s. We may have to hustle a little harder, and we may have to get a little more creative, but we are just as capable of raising happy and healthy kids as our fellow 30-something mothers are.
Phew! Man, it felt REAL good to get that out. Pregnancy and new-motherhood is a whole new world for many of us. It doesn’t help that people universally feel the need to give you their advice and opinion on what’s happening in your own body, especially if you didn’t ask for it.
I feel so lucky and am so grateful to the women in my life who gave me the support and comfort I needed through out a really tough pregnancy, and I’ve experienced a really beautiful beginning of motherhood because of them. They withheld judgment and spoke from their own experiences. They took my hands, dried my tears, and told me to give myself a break; “You’re doing your very best, which is the very best thing for that baby.” THOSE are the voices you need to listen to and cherish. Pregnancy and motherhood are strengthening experiences that have helped me understand what is truly important in my life as a mother and a partner. My skin is thicker and my head is held higher, because as annoying or hurtful as some people may be, the only thing that truly matters is your love for your child and your respect for yourself.
Keep these things in mind when you next encounter a new or expectant Mom; we wouldn’t want you to get hurt 😉