As I was writing this post, sitting in my living room, 39 weeks pregnant, wondering if anything and everything I feel could be the start of labor (what about that burp? Is this indigestion or labor? Why do I feel extra swollen- is it labor?!?!?) I was reflecting on what a great pregnancy this has been.
I’ve had almost no sickness or nausea to speak of, was able to somehow dodge colds and flu going around despite the fact that my husband has been mega-sick a few times in the last 9 months, weight gain has been on track, no gestational diabetes, blood work always came back normal… so what would I change, if anything?
After careful consideration of what I would have liked to have done differently, it seemed to come back to one thing: I wish I would have been more assertive about my boundaries.
Pregnancy is a curious time in a lady’s life when she goes through some sort of bull-sh*t puberty all over again (hormonal mood swings, curious leakage, swollen/uncomfortable breasts, acne/skin changes) but it also signs a time of when the lady stops being a person and transforms into a public entity that people love to concern themselves with.
Now I do recognize that there are natural curiosities and generally people don’t mean any harm when it comes to asking a woman about her pregnancy. (questions about gender, how you’re feeling and what not are par for the course) However there are a few topics I regret not being a little more forceful about- I like to think I did an OK job at setting boundaries and making it clear that there were certain topics I wasn’t going to discuss, or physical limits I enforced regularly, but here are a few areas/topics that I would handle differently with the general public and co-workers. Hopefully if you are embarking or about to embark on the wonderful journey that is pregnancy this will give you some ideas about what you want and how you want things. If nothing else I hope reading this at least makes you smile.
(though before I go off I want to shout out that my family and friends were amazing about boundaries, being mindful of topics/questions and overall made things easy for me!)
1- Touching the Belly
This is a no-brainer; it is generally considered a terrible faux pas to touch a pregnant woman’s belly without her consent. As someone who has one wicked resting b*tch face, I never had a stranger touch my belly or even ask about. (probably because I walk around looking like I’m seeking revenge upon the man who has 6 fingers on his right hand). I can’t say I regret anything about this topic because apparently I don’t look very approachable unless I’m actively involved in a conversation. What I’ve heard from other pregnant ladies is that sticking your hand out in a “stop” signal really deters people about touching you without having to say, “keep your damn hands to yourself!”. It’s also off-putting when someone physically puts a barrier between you and them so don’t be shy about giving it a try (or in my case, continuing to march about your day like you will cut anyone who tries to touch you)
Since I don’t have any regrets or bad experiences about this, let’s move on.
2- “You’re Going To Breastfeed Aren’t You?”
Personally, yes I plan on breastfeeding, provided I am able to and my milk supply keeps up with the demand of the baby’s nutritional needs.
And when I was asked this question I gave that answer. Yet I wish I would have said something assertive yet polite like, “That’s too personal to discuss with anyone other than my husband and doctor.” and left it at that.
I found that giving any sort of response beyond a “that’s too personal” invited ALL SORTS of further unsolicited advice, opinions and criticism from people who were not qualified to provide such info. Looking back I really wish I wouldn’t have invited that topic to be more widely discussed because I wasn’t interested in discussing it with anyone other than my doctor and husband. (to be clear, it’s not because I don’t support breastfeeding- I do, but what I don’t support is breast-feeding bullying from others when they chimed in with, “if you don’t breastfeed then you’re just taking the easy way out. Some mothers can be so lazy!!” and yes, someone seriously said that to me. But fear not, I had some choice words for that person along the lines of, “you should come to a La Leche League meeting and show all those lazy moms who struggle how it’s done then and diagnose their milk supply issues since you’re clearly qualified to do so.” SHUT DOWN!!!)
3- Oh you’re having a boy- are you going to circumcise him?
I must confess I took the easy way out when this came up – I said “I don’t know what we’ll do.” and walked away. You’d think that it would signal conversation is over, but I actually had quite a few people follow me like I wanted to walk and talk baby gonads with them to which I would excuse myself to go to the bathroom and we would part ways.
What I wish I would have said was, “that’s not something I want to discuss with you.” or along those lines.
Your baby’s genitals are nobody’s business but yours and your doctors. You are absolutely entitled to shut down this topic (can I still call it cock-blocking??) because otherwise the debate on if you should or shouldn’t can get quite heated. (Even when I gave a non-committal answer and did not participate in the discussion, there were times the crowd around me continued to debate it because they felt I needed to be informed with their opinions!)
4 – What’s your birth plan?
None of your f*@king business. <- I didn’t actually say that but my face tends to react with expression before my mouth expresses a response; I know Ia few times I made faces and then said, “the birth plan is to get the baby out however I am able to while keeping myself and baby safe.”
Now if you’re up for the discussion on births then this is an easy answer to give and promotes a communal chat which can be helpful and engaging. Bur If you aren’t up for having a chat with the person or people asking then you might want to shorten your answer to deliver a “not up for discussion” message- there were times I didn’t want to talk about labor with certain people and this answer definitely gave the impression it was fair-game to talk about. Looking back I think I would have liked to set a more definite “no fly zone” message with a few key people and said something like, “We’v had discussions with our doctor and will cross that bridge when we get there.”
5 – You’re not going to get an epidural are you? OR You’re going to get an epidural aren’t you??
Before I delve into this let me 1st pass on wise words a wonderful woman passed on to me: whether or not you get an epidural or feel every single contraction does not mean you will love your baby any less, or be any less of a mother.
Her point: pain tolerance or medication doesn’t determine anything about how you will love and nurture your baby. If you want one and can have one then it’s perfectly acceptable to get one. If you don’t get one or don’t want to get one, that’s perfectly acceptable too!
I must say this is a topic I’m pretty good at deterring, though I also admit I did it in kind of a b*tchy way. (regretfully in some instances)
Initially my answer was often, “I don’t know.” but as more and more people asked the question over and over again, my answer turned into, “Why? What’s your medical expertise and background on epidurals?” <- this made people VERY uncomfortable since it was obvious that unless you were a doctor giving me actual info, you need to keep your opinion on medications to yourself.
I wish I would have been more positive rather than so aggressive. Something more along the lines of, “I’m indifferent at this moment and won’t be making any decisions until labor arrives so I can discuss the option with qualified medical personnel.”
6 – birth horror stories
Women, namely older women, LOVE to tell you what went wrong with their labor. I’ve pondered this many a time and have decided it’s because it makes the mom feel like she really went the extra mile enduring whatever it was that she did, survived and raised a baby. (which does deserve kudos! But doesn’t need to be shared and scared into expecting mothers)
My grandma is no exception to this- she thought it would be a good idea to tell me how her 1st delivery almost resulted in death (that is until someone stepped in and said, “that’s not an appropriate story to tell a pregnant woman.”).
I like to think I did an OK job at stopping people from telling these stories but I definitely let a few slide that I wish I hadn’t because the stories loom in my mind and I find myself getting kind of panicky as my due date nears.
I really wish I would have hit the brakes on those stories upfront with a nugget like, “I appreciate you feeling comfortable enough to share that with me but please save your birth stories, good or bad until after I’ve experienced birth for myself.”
There are no doubt more instances where I wish I would have made boundaries more clear in an up-front sort of way but that’s for another time.
The point of this is: your pregnancy, delivery, after-care, info, etc. is not for public consumption. How you pregnant is between you, your birth partner (if you have one) and your doctor. (AKA your birth-circle of trust)
You do not have to share anything with anyone beyond that birth-circle of trust if you don’t want to. Even if people are adamant that you need to share, you don’t have to share with them!
Take care out there mamas!
(If you have any nuggets of wisdom about keeping your pregnancy your business I’d love to hear about them)