I’ve found in general that projecting my own life experience onto others is a Very Bad Idea unless I know the person well enough to make a highly educated guess plus an explicit admission up front that they know what they are going through better than I do. Though this should be well known, there are certain circumstances, in which in our society apparently dictate that friends, acquaintances and even strangers give ‘well-meaning’ advice which they assume holds as true for you as it does for them. One of those circumstances is pregnancy, and even more so my third, unexpected pregnancy. Which meant the first question on many folks’ lips was:
Have you considered an abortion?
At the age of 42, on the brink of moving to a new country on a reduced income to study journalism and with two kids at school age already…yes, yes I did consider abortion (although “consider” would be an understatement–more like agonized over it and continued to agonise over it for many weeks). I don’t know of any reason which would have been appropriate for the person who asked. I know that I considered hundreds of different pros and cons–for me, for my partners and for my children. But short of sitting down and explaining the complexities of my pregnant psyche, my formative years, current influences and prospective possibilities, I didn’t feel like I should have to justify my choice to continue the pregnancy. Or not. Why ask?
Enjoy this time before he/she comes…
There are plenty of mothers who enjoy pregnancy, no doubt. I’m not one of them. If the stress of moving country and changing career wasn’t enough, the upheaval of my life plans prompted me to seek help in the third month and I ended up with depression medication and sleeping pills (which cascaded into more judgements about my ability to make ‘healthy’ life decisions). The sciatica, the nausea, the workload, the anxiety, supporting my two kids who now attended new schools. Not to mention the medical bureaucracy in a foreign language has made this time very difficult to enjoy, no matter how many positive thinking memes have been thrown at me on Facebook. Stop. But hey, you know what I’m really looking forward to? Meeting my brand new child and enjoying their company.
“Not breastfeeding then?”
NOYGB. It’s my new acronym for None Of Your Goddamn Business. But by all means stranger-manning-the-till-at-the-chemist, let’s discuss the horrendously conflicting emotions that my body goes through during nipple arousal, society’s sexualization of women’s bodies and shame of us public breastfeeding. Then you can add the sleeping medications which would get passed through the milk to the baby, the permanent exhaustion of pumping every two hours if I’m not available and the loss of identity to which I’m particularly prone with Borderline Personality. Didn’t care to know about the abuse from my past? Well, why did you ask then?
If you eat too much you’ll have difficulty losing the weight afterwards
Cravings are a thing as well as nausea, hormones, insecurity and all that jazz. Give a pregnant woman a break, she’s on a life changing, body changing journey. So let her eat cake. Or my preferred alternative, cheese doodles. She knows what she should be eating–it’s been rammed down her throat far too many times that she’s now a vessel for new life. Even worse, don’t claim it’s because you care about her. Like my boyfriend during my second pregnancy who told me categorically that I shouldn’t be eating any cheese doodles after the previous pregnancy’s experience of big butt syndrome.
“Is that caring about me? Or about your own normative fatist attitudes?” I snapped.
My body does not exist for him… which might have been why 20 minutes later I was eating the most ginormous packet of Cheese Doodles…the cheesey wafery bits ground under my nails, the 23 E-packed cheese powder caked round my mouth and in between my teeth and 7 cheese doodles melting on my tongue sticking to the top of the roof of my mouth. The birds twittered, the leafy sunlight dappled my skin and the bag was finished within quarter of an hour. Heaven.
(And he’s never said it again).
You need to exercise more
…in response to my complaint that my entire lower half was aching.
It’s called pelvic girdle pain. That thing your oh-so-clever body does, where the ligaments attaching the four parts of your pelvis loosen in order to make it easier to give birth. Sometimes your oh-so-clever body does it far too early. And for me which each successive pregnancy, earlier and earlier until my hips were unstable from around three months onwards when I had to start playing hoopla with my knickers onto my feet. The pain cannot be solved by exercise–at least not during pregnancy–only worsened (but that wasn’t the forthright directive of my childless, non-medically qualified acquaintance).
But you’ll be sixty when he’s eighteen…
This one irks me more than I care to admit. Firstly, because no one says exactly what they mean. The judgement which lies behind this is whether I’m selfish to be an older parent. Secondly, because the decision to continue with the pregnancy might have been mine (at least finally), but the act of conception involved a man, the father and no one says it to him.
There are disadvantages to being an older parent, but according to extensive research there are also advantages. Moreover I would not want any child to experience me as a younger mother. Quite simply, I was in too much pain to be emotionally capable of raising a child back then. I was not in a healthy relationship with myself let alone anyone else. Then again, maybe two children would have been sufficient, but as an unloved, unwanted child, the love I feel for them is the most beautiful feeling I have ever had. And a loved, wanted child is always a joyous thing.
More Radical Reads: An Updated Birth Announcement, 22 Years Later For My Transgender Kid
“A natural birth is best for baby”
Fuck that. I was brainwashed into believing that the natural birth was best for my first child. But a traumatic birth is neither good for the baby, nor good for the mother, nor good for the bonding process. My own experience of precipitate labour and dismissal of my pain affected me and my daughter. Like any trauma, the wounds are long to heal. For my second, I took the epidural for the sake of myself, for my daughter, for my newborn son and for my family. It was the right choice. And with a delightful new baby arriving in two short weeks, I’ll make sure to do what’s best for all of us.
[Featured Image: A gray scale image of a person’s pregnant belly wrapped in a white sheet. Source: Marcos de Madariaga]