(Ahgg- forgot to add the badge.)
Thanks again to our host Perpetua and to Accidents for the amazing badge!
Check out other ControverSunday posts:
Accidents will happen.
I Know Why You’re Single
Allison @ Partial Disclosures
Now You’re In The World
The Mothering Life
Rather appropriate timing, as I have been reminiscing about how a year ago I was 9 months pregnant and ready for A to be born ANYTIME! I was at the point at which being pregnant was really not fun anymore. Little did I know it was way easier being pregnant then those first three months for sure! (Actually I did know in principle that having a baby would be harder then being pregnant, so maybe it is better to say that I didn’t really understand that to its fullest extent.)
Anyway, despite the fact I have been reminiscing, I am still totally stumped as what to write about ‘The Culture of Pregnancy.’ Do I look at the insanity of all the things ‘they’ tell you to do/not do? (I was really pissed off at ‘they’ for banning the three things that make life worth living: good cheese, wine and sushi.) Or the crazy list of stuff you are ‘suppose’ to buy to prepare, only to find out that most of what you got isn’t the right stuff or isn’t necessary? Or the way that all of a sudden you get asked about your personal details by a random person at the supermarket, thus preparing you for the shock of motherhood, where all of a sudden, all things personal are now on the table for random conversation with strangers? Or the insanity of pre-natal classes that focus so much on labour and delivery and not enough on the challenges of the first 3 months? (which is pretty much the equivalent of teaching someone how to turn on a car and not how to drive it.) Do any of these things really get at the ‘Culture of Pregnancy’? Wow, apparently I could write more the one post.
Um, enie minie moe…… personal conversations with strangers it is!
Seriously. The minute you start to show even just a little bit people start talking. They start looking at you and they start asking you questions. At first it seems innocent enough:
“When is your baby due?” Not that bad, eh? I mean, it is just date, not all that personal I guess.
Then you get:
“Is it a boy or a girl?” First of all, they have made the assumption that you know. Which is a whole ControverSunday topic all its own- to know or not to know. And then, you feel (or at least I felt) obliged to explain why you do or don’t know. (Lots of ultrasounds, all ‘inconclusive’, meaning they can’t see that it is a boy, so it is possibly a girl, but you never really know with these things….) Anyway, a wee bit personal, depending on your reasons for knowing or not knowing, but still, not all that bad.
Then you start to get questions about what you are going to do:
“Are you giving birth at the hospital?”
“You’re going to breastfeed, right?”
“Have you bought a crib yet?”
“Are you going to go back to work after your leave?”
“Are you going to get an epidural?”
“You are going to have a natural birth, right?”
“Have you picked out a stroller?”
ALL FROM STRANGERS!! Am I the only one who found that really really weird? I mean, I have always preferred to not stand out in a crowd. But if you are pregnant, you can’t help but stand out in a crowd. And not only do you stand out, but you and your pregnant state become a topic of conversation.
And then, to top it all off- PEOPLE START TOUCHING YOUR BELLY! Okay, I will be honest, this never happened to me. Probably because any stranger who got close enough to touch my belly got the ultimate stink eye. But I have heard it happen to many friends and it is so crazy.
So my question is: What is it about pregnancy that gives strangers the impression that it is appropriate to question you/engage you in conversation about a whole range of very personal choices and decisions? As if your pregnancy is somehow public property or something. I mean, I get that we women, have a very strong emotional attachment to the idea of babies and when we see a baby growing in a tummy we just want to talk about it. But seriously!
And this insanity that starts at pregnancy seems to just continue on once baby is born. I can’t tell you how many strangers asked me if my daughter was born vaginally. How is that anyone’s business, let alone an appropriate conversation starter?
Do we perpetuate this because we like to talk about our kids? I mean, it doesn’t just go one way. I light up when someone tells me my daughter is cute and wants to know her name and how old she is. I find myself telling complete strangers if she just learned to something new or if she refused to eat anything so far that day. As I walk away I always think, ‘Why exactly did I feel the need to share that?’ Because I am proud of her and think she is amazing? To have someone to commiserate with when she is driving me nuts? To engage in conversation with an other adult after months on maternity leave with limited adult contact? A little from each of the above? I don’t know.
Regardless, it seems to me that there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Along with the questions often comes unwanted advice or implied judgment. People are communicating to you what they believe is important when they ask you those questions. You are getting a glimpse into the struggles of the first year with baby, but because you aren’t there yet you can’t really evaluate what they are saying. So you just feel bombarded with opinions and questions in a very personal way.
On the other hand, there is sometimes something kinda nice about making a connection with a total stranger over the topic of parenthood. It feels kinda nice for someone to acknowledge you as part of a community and engage you in the conversation. But it often goes too far… like when you are asked about your preferences for labour and delivery and then given a lecture on the benefits of natural childbirth.
What is ironic in all this while people asking you and giving you advice on feeding, sleeping and crying, they are also painting a rather rosy picture of this ‘miracle’ growing inside of you. Sure, I had a few close friends confess that first year with baby is brutally hard- but most strangers talked to me about it as if it was all lollipops and candy canes. Like if I just took their one piece of advice it would all be wonderful. And while having a baby is certainly a miracle- it is also the most difficult, frustrating, challenging, make-you-wanna-cry miracle you could ever imagine. Worth it, sure, but really sucky at times.
So all these questions, all this advice, all about a number of very personal subjects- is it societies way of shaping our parenting behaviours before we even give birth? Subtly telling us what a rough sampling of our community thinks we should be doing? I don’t know if it is as complicated as that, maybe it’s just that women want to talk about babies. But still- ITS WEIRD.