A year ago today, I graduated from university and it got me thinking about accomplishments. I like to think I’ve had a decent amount of them in my time, not just academic but professional, personal and physical. However, none of those things- not even shaving half my head and dyeing the other half neon pink- were as much of a conversation starter as pregnancy.
Everyone has an opinion on pregnancy. Everyone has a personal story or anecdote, or know something that’s happened to someone else. Whatever it is, they’re just bursting to tell you. Most of it, admittedly, is well-intentioned. People might not mean to come across in a particular way. They might even think they’re being helpful.
However, as my mum always says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. They don’t exactly make for stellar advice. It’s an emotional time for any parents to be and not that we don’t appreciate it, but sometimes it’s better to err on the side of caution. I could easily double the length of this list- and I most probably will since I still have a month to go- but for now, here’s a handy list of the most common nuggets that people have shared with me during my time with bump…
Oh my god, you’re so small!
OK, bit of a cheat but I’m starting off with one that could go either way. This one isn’t terrible, depending on how it’s said. It’s nice sometimes to have people comment on you being small overall- being 5 foot 9 with gangly limbs and a slow metabolism, ‘small’ isn’t something that’s often attributed to me. “You’re just all bump” is absolutely fine. I can’t hear it enough. Making reference to the bump itself being small, though? Not so much. Pregnancy is a minefield of worry and your baby being small and underdeveloped is a pretty major one. Plus, a small bump doesn’t necessarily mean a small baby so mind yer ain.
Also- oh my god, you’re so big!
Seriously, when is this ever well-received? The other day, a woman in the shops asked me if I was expecting twins. Aye very good, how flat is your stomach after you’ve had yer dinner Maureen?
Was it planned?
I suppose, among close friends, this one might be OK. With some people, trying for a baby is literally all they talk about. Other people might’ve been trying but chosen not to broadcast it. If the recipient of this question is anything like me, the answer is ‘no’… but that opens up a whole load of awkwardness that it’s probably best to avoid if you’re not on super-close terms. The chances are, if you’re good friends with someone, you’ll know if they’re trying or not. In any case what does it matter? It’s not as though unplanned always equals unwanted. Just avoid.
Do you know what you’re having? Is that what you wanted?
The first part of this question is absolutely fine. Again, if people want to broadcast it, they’ll tell you. We found out semi-by mistake and told people that li’l bean was a boy because it meant I could refer to him as ‘he’ without watching what I said (I wouldn’t hold up well under interrogation, if I wanted to keep it a secret I’d have to not know myself).
The second part, though? Kiiiiinda inflammatory. There’s an assumption that the parents-to-be feel exceptionally passionate either way- either they’ve got whatever one they wanted or they wish it was the other. Like you can’t just be middling about it. If it’s someone’s first child, it’s best just to go with “that’s nice”. Most first time parents are happy enough just to get through pregnancy with a healthy baby at the other side. They couldn’t give much of a toss whether they’re expecting to deal with projectile peeing or explaining that it’s not a ‘front bum’ and ‘back bum’. For me, the baby’s sex was an afterthought. It was just nice to know.
Do you plan on breastfeeding?
Pregnant women are bombarded with the benefits of breastfeeding from the minute our regular bras start to feel a little bit snug. Yes, we know it’s the best thing for the baby. However, some babies don’t take to it. Some mums don’t take to it. It can be painful. There are many reasons why women choose to bottlefeed. As long as the baby’s actually being fed and growing properly, it’s irrelevant. I wasn’t breastfed and, like I said, I’m 5′ 9″ and have two degrees in my pocket. I’m not exactly stunted.
Are you scared about labour?
Am I personally scared about labour? No. Actually not in the slightest. Baby still has to come out whether I’m scared or not, so I figure it’s better to be chill about it. However, many women don’t feel this way. A lot of them are pretty scared. After all, labour is a pretty intense physical ordeal and there are a lot of ways it could go off-plan. It’s best not to poke the bear.
What kind of birth are you going to have?
If antenatal classes and generally talking to people with babies has taught me anything, it’s that things happen in birth that you can’t prepare for. A mum to be might have the most airtight birth plan, go on her due date and have a natural birth in time for the last bus home. There’s a substantial chance this won’t happen. Babies don’t run to a schedule, there might be a need for painkillers, induction or caesarean section, the birth pool might be clogged with other swimmers. Anything could happen. There’s also a lot of competition between mums, I’ve noticed: it’s as though a natural, drug-free, vaginal delivery is some kind of birthing nirvana, and mums who do so are sainted maternal treasures and their ovaries should be cast in bronze. Don’t be the sanctimummy that dangles your meditative birth over someone who had to have an epidural or section. It’s not cool, and neither are memes about how “you don’t know pain ’til you’ve given birth without painkillers”. They make me want to test that theory on your face.
Have you had [instead gnarly bodily function/symptom here] yet?
Most of the time, if someone asks this, it’ll no doubt be about something unpleasant. Whether it’s acid reflux, pelvic girdle pain, muscular discomfort or Braxton-Hicks contractions, people love telling pregnant women about painful things to look forward to. Maybe they think they’re doing a service by warning you in advance. Chances are it’s more than likely to induce a cold sweat and is best avoided. It’s usually followed up with…
My friend and/or I had an awful time of it…
I don’t care if you or a friend farted your babies out in a puff of glitter or had them wrenched out after forty days and nights of blood, sweat and tears. If you’re using it to scare me, just gonnae no?
Make the most of your [sleeping/eating/romantic etc] time, there’ll be none of it once the baby comes along!
Having a baby is intense, and a huge life change, but it’s not the dramatic 180 it would’ve been ten years ago. I’m no longer prone to staying up ’til dawn and sleeping through the day. As for couples time, don’t worry. I’m more aware than ever of the consequences of romantic endeavours and if it’s OK with you, I’ll maybe knock ’em on the head for the foreseeable.
If I might be serious for a moment… this is especially true when it comes to comments about a woman’s body. “You’ll never have a flat stomach again” or “your boobs are pretty much going to look like two deflated helium balloons hanging on a nail” are probably best avoided. You don’t know what a woman’s attitude towards, or history with, her body is like. It could be a pretty big trigger for someone who’s experienced body dysmorphia or disordered eating (like myself).
Even after all that, there are definitely still a few gems that I haven’t had the room to include in this list. As I said, I’ve still got about four weeks of pregnancy to go. I’m sure there are plenty more horror stories masquerading as advice that I’ve yet to be blessed with. And for fear of coming across as ungrateful, on behalf of other first time and/or expectant mums, we really do appreciate any tips or constructive advice- just nothing involving tearing, mm’kay?