There are so many weird and wonderful things about pregnancy. How you find yourself eating that extra biscuit with relatively low pangs of guilt. How when TV show credits start to roll, you don’t fast forward through them like you used to but instead scour them for potential first names. How overjoyed people get to hear your pregnancy news – totally and overwhelmingly overjoyed – and that is just the lady in your local coffee shop. And how you can then get a total and absolute aversion to coffee and drink tea for nine months but still buy something in that shop because the lady was so lovely about hearing about your pregnancy.
To add to the pregnancy wonderfulness I was pretty lucky when it came to the physical ailments that can potentially happen when you’re growing a human being. My list of physical oddities was pretty short, compared to the horribly long list of possible symptoms you read about in the books – in fact I found reading the lists of possible symptoms the thing that was making me feel ill with worry, so I quickly gave up reading the lists.
While physically I was pretty good, one of the more weirder parts of pregnancy were the more mental aspects. I found my time was more taken up with two management issues: managing my mind and the fears that come along with pregnancy (for another post I think!) as well as managing how other folk spoke to me in general about pregnancy and being pregnant.
From observing my friends’ pregnancies, I did somewhat prepare myself for the onslaught of advice that was heading my way by other parents – and boy, was there a lot of that – but what I didn’t prepare myself for was how people approached the subject in general. What I found very fascinating is how quickly people forget what it feels like to be pregnant for the first time.
I only really copped what was bugging me about this after seeing what recently happened to my niece who was about to start her Junior Cert. No, she didn’t get pregnant – but she did have to deal with a lot of commentary on her upcoming exams. It was one conversation in particular that made me realise so much of the advice being bestowed was in fact incredibly useless and wasn’t really helping her. It was really noticeable how many people said to her, “Oh your Junior Cert! Ach, that’s so easy, you’ll be grand.” Another doozy that featured a lot was, “That’s not that big a deal, wait till you get to your Leaving Cert, now that’s a challenge….”
I could see her face and that none of this conversation was helping her at all. In fact, it was making her feel worse. Rational or not, she was pretty damn nervous as she hadn’t sat exams of this scale before and all she was hearing was that she really shouldn’t feel that as this was no big deal. See, she was the one that was going to have to sit those exams which for her, at that moment in time, was the biggest deal she was facing. So hearing about even bigger deals was not helping in any way shape or form.
It really struck me that pregnancy is very much like that. When you’ve gone through it, you look back on it so differently than when you’re facing into it. All going well, at the end of the 40 or so weeks, you’ll have a pink, kinda squishy, newborn baby smelling (what is it with that gorgeous smell?) baby in your arms and you’ll be baffled that the bump you were carrying around wasn’t just all those extra biscuits. There’s all the mad hormones that kick in post-labour that make you forget lots of the pain so that you’ll do this all over again. And there’s also a massive wave of relief that all worked out and with that, goes the fears that you carried for your pregnancy. Well, that’s what I found.
But before you get to that moment, when you’ve got the rest of your pregnancy ahead of you, and your first labour to go through, having someone throw a whole pile of comments of “Ach, you’ll be grand – wait till you have three to manage” or “let me tell you this horror story about my labour”, well it’s as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot.
There are many moments in my pregnancy that now, looking back on it, seem all a bit silly that I reacted the way I did. But facing into that moment, those feelings were pretty damn real. And all I wanted was to someone to ask me a few questions and ultimately to listen to whatever I was feeling at that time and reassure me that my feelings at the time were totally understandable but that things were probably going to be grand.
I’ve recently given birth to a rather lovely daughter (is there any parent who doesn’t say their newborn is lovely and wonderful and of course very advanced) and already I’ve caught myself doing some post-pregnancy thinking that would have annoyed the hell of pre-pregnancy me.
So, to the expectant mums, I promise that I’m going to think of my niece and my Junior Cert when I hear of your pregnancy. I’m going to hope that I’ll concentrate on asking you about how you are feeling heading into this and to listen to whatever you’ve got to say, rather than hurl lots of useless advice at you (too much – don’t think I’m going to avoid giving any advice…)
And I hope all other mums do this too. And if they don’t, do call them on it. It’s not totally their fault – blame those post-labour hormones. And those extra biscuits.