Being pregnant plunges you into a new state of existence when it comes to interacting with the outside world. Lots of advice. Zero privacy. Someone should do an anthropological study on the particular effect a pregnant woman has on other women that compels them to touch bellies, spout wisdom, and scare expecting mothers to death with war stories that may or may not be true.
When I’m out in the world, everyone wants to know how I’m feeling (with the exception of my husband, but that’s a different post.) There are two kinds of people that ask this question. There are the people who want to hear “I’m fine, thank you” and therefore be relieved of their duty to inquire about my health for the sake of good manners. And then there are the people who are genuinely curious, and not just for a vague answer, but for every cringe-worthy detail. These people can barely contain their excitement while they listen to my answer, the words “just wait” already forming on their all-knowing lips.
Swollen ankles? Just wait. Soon I won’t be able to wear shoes at all so I’d better invest in a good pair of slippers. Clothes still fit? Just wait. I’ll be as big as a house before I know it. I won’t fit behind the wheel of my car or be able to reach the sink to do the dishes. Back pain, sleepless nights, false contractions? No? Just wait. Just wait. Just wait.
And that’s just the pregnancy part. Now I’m getting all kinds of “just waits” about everything from post-partum recovery to E’s potty training setbacks and future temper tantrums. I’ve heard every horror story about labor and delivery, every nightmare saga of first children who couldn’t handle the arrival of a sibling. Nowhere is safe. At a coffee shop, a man once asked me if I was having a C-section while I was waiting for my latte. Just last week, a group of rowdy teenagers shouted “Congratulations!” out the window of a passing car while I waited in the crosswalk. I get advice in the post office, while I’m walking my dog, at the manicure place. Everyone has something to say.
Blogging about my experiences in pregnancy and as a mom means I give up a considerable amount of privacy right from the start. But despite that, I’m actually a very private person. I like to control what I disclose. On the written page you’ll get absolute honesty—but stop me in the grocery store and you’re likely to get a “Fine, thanks” every time. When it comes to advice, I welcome and often seek out the wisdom of parents who have travelled this road before me. But being a mom—or heck, just being female—doesn’t always entitle you to comment on my breasts, my belly, or my toddler’s emotional state.
So I’m standing up for pregnant women everywhere and saying this to all the strangers who mean well but can’t keep their mouths shut: Stop with the “just waits.” Offer advice when it’s asked for, not when we’re trying to buy stamps or dispose of dog poop. Don’t scare us with your most dramatic stories of the sister, neighbor, niece, or stepdaughter that had to deliver her breech baby alone in the bathtub because the fire department couldn’t get there in time.
Pregnancy and parenthood are pretty damn frightening all on their own. We have to worry about birth defects and growth rates and strong heartbeats. We have to decide whether an epidural is worth the potential risks. We must learn to breastfeed, or decide not to, and bear the doubts and criticism no matter which one we choose. And then we have to raise a child—a living, breathing child—and make as few mistakes as possible along the way. Maybe, just maybe, you could tell some good stories, about how it all gets easier, how it all gets better (even if you’re lying.) Some of those “just waits” are actually pretty amazing. Haven’t seen your baby smile at you yet? Just wait. Your toddler hasn’t said “I love you, Mommy” or learned to sing the ABCs? Just wait.
Those are the “just waits” worth waiting for.