spoiler alert

I have many pregnant friends and acquaintances right now.

Ladies, on behalf of all of your mom friends, I would like to apologize for what I think of as the most irritating habit on Earth.

We just cannot help but tell y'all how it's gonna be.

Pregnant mama: I'm so nervous for labor!

Parent friend 1: You should be. Labor is the worst.
Parent friend 2: It honestly is the worst thing I've ever experienced in my life. I think. I blacked out after nobody answered my pleas for a merciful execution.
Parent friend 3: I blacked out after I vomited. The third time.
Parent friend 4: Make sure you get to the hospital early so you have time for your epidural.
Parent friend 5: But not too early though, because if they have to induce you then you'll end up with a c-section, and that's MAJOR ABDOMINAL SURGERY.
Parent friend 6: The nurse dropped my baby. Don't let the nurses touch your baby.
Parent friend 7: I had a water birth at home and it was magical and don't let any of these people tell you that labor is going to be awful because, okay, yes, it hurts more than anything else ever, but it's also a moment of true connection with all of woman kind. No but if you do go to a hospital then you'll end up with a c-section for sure, and probably also a traumatic birth experience and your baby will never trust you. Just don't go to a hospital because hospitals are for illnesses and pregnancy isn't a disease and your baby isn't a symptom.


Pregnant mama: 22 weeks along and I feel great!

Parent friend 1: JUST WAIT.
Parent friend 2: You don't even look pregnant. You don't even have a baby bump. I don't even know why you're posting pictures like you have something to be proud of.
Parent friend 3: YEAH, 22 weeks is nothing. Soon you'll be fat and miserable.
Parent friend 4: I felt great at 22 weeks too. At 23 weeks I got hemorrhoids. Just don't get cocky.
Parent friend 5: You look great! LOL Not like me! I looked like an acne-ridden hippo! LOL! I was so ugly! And fat! And miserable! LOL! My husband was like when will you be pretty again hahahahaha! He said that yesterday! LOLOLOLOLOLOL


Pregnant mama: Does anyone have any recommendations for strollers/car seats/travel systems?

All of her friends: The best stroller/car seat is the stroller/car seat that I have that none of your other friends have. Mine is the only acceptable model. All of the other strollers/car seats except my stroller/car seat are not only crappy, heavy, and overpriced, but are also deathtraps that WILL blind your baby before they decapitate him/her.


Newborn baby mama: Chloe just smiled! OMG, only 2 weeks old and already smiling! Our angel.

Parent friend 1: She wasn't smiling at you. Babies smile reflexively in order to win goodwill from their caregivers. She won't smile out of happiness until 8 weeks or so. But awww! So happy you're enjoying this!
Parent friend 2: Just wait until she starts talking! That's REALLY magical!
Parent friend 3: She's probably pooping. Was she pooping?
Parent friend 4: I remember those days. :) God, they're so easy when they're that little!

___

Fellow parents, hear me now. This. is. not. helping.

I understand the urge to share your experience. I am so guilty of offering unwanted, inappropriately timed advice.

I have detailed, for 10-weeks-pregnant friends, my five-point-plan for introducing solids, with the smug magnanimousness of a person handing a New York Times to a homeless guy: It might make me feel good to give it, but it doesn't really help the recipient. This guy needs a toothbrush and a cheeseburger more than the op-ed section, and our knocked up friends need unconditional support more than to be drafted, against their wills, into the listening end of our therapy sessions.

You have to read this book. It's amazing. It's a parenting bible.

Wow, okay, but, I've got some time, right? And I'm not sure I know what kind of parenting style I'm going to have.
I haven't even met my kid, you know?

No you need this one. Trust me. 


Thank you? For... thinking of me? But, I'm like 8 weeks pregnant. I literally just found out. Ten minutes ago. And then I called you.

Ohmygosh I am so excited for you!!!
It's going to be amazing!!! 

Especially when you read this book and do everything in it.
There's a really good chapter in here on potty training.
I've found the most important thing is to SET A SPECIFIC EXPECTATION.
Do you have a pen?


Uh... no...

I'll wait.

Fellow parents, we have to stop with the "oh, just wait until [wherever I am as a parent.]" "Oh just wait" translates to, "your experience is nothing compared to mine."

We have to stop with the "let me tell you how your birth is going to go." Because for reals, we have no idea what is going to happen in and around our friends' vaginas, and thank God for that. 

We have to stop with the "you must have [this piece of equipment.]" You remember how it felt to select, carefully, the first gifts you would ever give your child? Give your friend the same gift. 

We have to stop with our well-intentioned belittling of our pregnant friends.

You don't win a prize for accurately predicting your friend's misery. Best-case scenario, you become a sterile, distant version of a friend, someone with a proven track record of knowledge who she can text at 10 pm without a $25 after-hours nurse line charge. That co-worker who always has a stapler remover. Worst-case scenario? Your friend can't talk to you anymore. End of friendship.

At the end of the day, we who have been there carry a heavy burden. We know, or think we know, what lies in store for our friends, and we want to help them avoid some of the hardships that accompany pregnancy, birth, and new babies. We know some neat tricks. We have some perspective. We want to give those things, sometimes out of love, and sometimes because it feels good to be the expert. It can be so hard to keep our mouths shut.

(via text)
Baby shower gift!!!
Take it off your registry biatch.
love u mean it xoxo

But when we're tempted to unload the sum total of our own expertise on our unsuspecting fellow breeders, we have to remember two critically important truths:

1. Each person's pregnancy/birth/postpartum experience truly is different.

2. Each person's pregnancy/birth/postpartum experience belongs to her, and her alone.

It is not our job to protect our friends from their experiences, or attempt to press them into a shape that is easy for us to recognize; it's our job to stand by them and say, "that's incredible," or "I understand," or "I know you can." It's so easy to say, "don't do that, do this," or "just wait, this is nothing," in the hopes of showing our friends a shortcut to a resting place, the spot where she can look back at the rocky ground she's traveled and say, "that was hard, but I think I've got more in me."

We're trying to say I love you, but all we're doing is saying, "you need help," when the last thing she needs it to be told how obvious it is that she's struggling.

All we're doing is sowing seeds of worry and judgment.
All we're doing is unintentionally hijacking their lives.
All we're doing is giving our friends their first taste of what it means to be the target of disapproval and a presumption of ignorance. We don't mean to, but we do.

All we're doing is initiating our friends into the Fight Club of Defensive Motherhood, in which you cast doubt on your own judgment, undercut your own gut, undermine what you want for yourself, lash out prematurely at mothers who don't roll your way, because you can only hear patronizing advice so many times before you start to strap on armor over a body you used to think of as capable of walking because hey you've walked a lot of steps over a lot of years, but that was before everybody told you that you're walking wrong and they know how to use your legs better than you do.

Here's what we should do, in my humble opinion, which you didn't ask for, and which might make you feel bad despite the best of my intentions. (See, I told you I'm the worst!)

Instead, let's initiate our friends into the Sisterhood of the Divine Gut-Trusters. Let's teach our friends that they are the CEOs of their families from the moment that "+" pops up on the ept. Not their friends with more kids. Not the pediatricians. Not the nannies at Barnes & Noble.

Let's show our friend that her victories and missteps both belong to her, like tattoos, like scars, like her breath. Those choices, win or lose, and the way they prove her grit, compassion, humanity, are the most profoundly important part of the crazy gift of becoming a parent.

Soon enough she'll stand somewhere like where you are now. She'll be scrolling through Facebook and spot a status by a college acquaintance: "31 weeks in - our baby could come anytime! Eeek!"

If we've done our job, then she won't say "In your dreams, principesa. You've got 2 and a half more months of mouth-breathing left. Buckle up, if you can find your seatbelt extender." She won't say, "I think you have a typo. You meant 41 weeks the baby could come anytime, right?"

Instead she'll remember when you said, "The clock is ticking! Can I take you out for a pedi before she comes? Better make it soon!" She'll remember how you said, "How are you feeling?" and really listened to your answer. She'll remember how it felt to be heard rather than spoken to.

And she'll do us proud.

0 comments:

Post a Comment