Here is a fun fact for you. Did you know that as soon as sperm hits the egg, an invitation gets sent to every human on the planet personally inviting them to give you unsolicited advice, make comments about your weight, unasked for birth and horror stories and make comments and judgments straight to your face? Science eh?
I was very quick to tell people around me that I had fallen pregnant. I am very bad at keeping good news inside and due to working in a field that subjects you to all kinds of nasty bugs and heavy lifting, I told my manager at around 5 weeks to prevent me from working with this kind of stuff, which was basically the day after I had peed on the stick. I was feeling pretty good about it all until around 7 weeks and my body decided the world made me feel violently ill and I couldn’t even stomach the smell of fresh air. At the time I was working 12-hour shifts, both day and nights and the inconsistencies with any kind of routine or basic human eating structure, made it even harder to manage the nausea. I remember one night I was with a patient on a ventilator (breathing machine), which means I have to work one on one by myself in the room. It was around 5 in the morning and all the other nurses were occupied taking their morning bloods and washing their patients for the morning staff, when I the nausea got too much and I needed to be sick RIGHT NOW, so I had to just stand over the patients bin and projectile vomit until someone came to watch my patient while I sorted myself out. It was rough. Everyone I worked with knew I was sick, but I also am quite dramatic and all I did was complain (I’m so sorry to everyone I work with reading this). I felt like I was the first pregnant woman to ever exist, because how on earth did people deal with this and still keep living their life? That is when it began. “When I was pregnant I would eat ginger” “back in my day you just got on with it” “have you tried gingerale?” “You should use those nausea bracelets” “what medications are you using?” “It’s not that bad that you need to go to the hospital” “suck it up” “this woman I know was sick the whole way through” “its probably HG” “it will only last until 12 weeks”. Although it was nice to have some ideas for possible remedies, because at that point I would have tried anything to not arrive home from work and throw up in the driveway as soon as I opened the car door or to lie on the shower floor every night spewing, so that the clean up was easier. Out of every nugget of good unsolicited advice, was a huge pile of bad unsolicited advice and judgment.
I was more tired than I had ever been in my life because my body was busy flooding with stupid hormones and making its very own build a bear and taking naps was an essential part of my day. “If you’re tired now, just you wait until your third trimester”. I was only weeks in and was now dreading the third trimester, which seemed like light-years away when everyday felt like it went for a week. Feeling like things were only going to get worse, I dreaded the progression of my pregnancy and it really took me out of enjoying what I did love about the whole experience, which was only a very short list, but it was keeping me in high spirits.
I was constantly told in the first 18 weeks that I did not look pregnant, which to a pregnant person, is probably something you do not want to hear. I was around 18 weeks when I first started to pop. I was at work one day and went on my lunch break and someone who I had never met asked me if I was having twins, which again is not something a pregnant person wants to hear. If I said I felt big, I was met with the “just you wait”. If I needed to pee right now! I was met with “just you wait”. If I was tired “just you wait”. If I had the slightest bit of pain “just you wait until birth”. If my boobs hurt “just you wait”. All this waiting for things to get worse was really weighing on me. This whole pregnancy thing was completely new to me (obviously) and I was wishing it all away because I was scared of what was around the corner. I had people I had never met before telling me to “just get an epidural” and then another stranger tell me I could do it all naturally and for someone like me, who is the biggest push over in the world, you would think I felt obliged to take on every damn piece of advice I was given, at least my options would be endless. In reality I would nod my head and smile and then go home and seethe and everyone who had the audacity to think they could tell me what to do. If I am not asking for advice, there really is no need to give it and I cannot stress that enough. It is so easy for people to give their opinion, but so hard for them to be met with a “no thank you”. Boundaries are a good start and if I knew how to set them, I would try and give some unsolicited advice right now, but I am useless at letting people know they have invaded my personal space, so instead you can read about my feelings.
Sharing birth stories is amazing and I love learning about how strong and powerful women are who birth, no matter what the outcome was. It’s a beautiful way to connect to motherhood before your little journey begins and feel a sense of hope that you too can be a boss bitch and have the most perfect birth. With all the beautiful birth stories, comes the horrific birth stories, which when you’re pregnant is probably the last thing you want to hear, but some people will tell you about how absolutely horrific the whole ordeal was, the pain, the blood, the guts and the stiches without even asking you if it is okay to share that with you. Ill spare the triggering details, but I am sure you get the idea. Post the birth of Charlie, hearing those stories would be incredible, birth trauma effects 1 in 3 women and sharing your stories with women in the same boat is uplifting and makes you feel less isolated. I myself am open to share my traumatic birth story, but with those who are not pregnant or want to listen, I won’t force my birth trauma on a poor woman who is about to go through birth. Every birth is different and you can’t prepare someone for what their birth will be, so just shhh please.
At 21 weeks, my nausea finally stopped. This was around the time I found out my daughter had a lesion on her lung and I wasn’t given a lot of information on the type of lesion and what this would entail for me/us. I had family members telling me forcefully to demand action and demand to be seen as soon as possible by the specialists, when all I wanted to do was cry and avoid hearing about what was going on. I had hundreds of questions from friends, family and work colleagues and I found myself trying to explain to people what was going on, without fully understanding myself. I still get asked what is happening with her lung and I do not have the answer, but I would rather be the one to share, than feel like I owe people anything. I get it, most people are coming from a good place when something foreign comes up and they are curious, but I cannot explain the feeling I had when I was told something was wrong with my baby and it still makes me really emotional. As the person carrying the baby, the guilt I felt in that moment was indescribable and the “what if’s” flooded in like you wouldn’t believe. I would be lying if I still didn’t wonder or worry about what might happen, I guess that makes me human. Being pregnant at the time, made me feel so vulnerable and it was like I was under a microscope, like my power was taken away and suddenly I felt like I owed my family and friends an explanation of what was/is going on. If something ever happens, I’ll be the first to tell people what is going on, but being part of space invaders, is not fun.
As my body started to fill with fluid, I shared photos of my ever growing feet onto my Instagram and would end up with my inbox flooded with worried people telling me I had preeclampsia and/or a DVT. I was in hospital every second day in the end because I was so frightened that I was going to die, purely because I thought my feet looked funny.
When Charlie was born, I was just like every mother out there who thinks it is really tiring, but surprisingly the newborn, teeny, tiny baby slept really well. “ She is such a good sleeper”, I would say only 3 days after her birth “we are really lucky”. I would be met with “just you wait, babies wake up”. “Just you wait until after she is 3 months old” “ha-ha just you wait”. She did of course learn that sleep is for the weak and probably hasn’t slept ever since, but why rain on my parade?
“Just you wait until she is crawling” “ just you wait until she is walking” “babies are easy, just you wait for toddlers” “toddlers are easy, just you wait for kids” “kids are easy, just you wait until they are teenagers”. Can I just not wait actually? Can I maybe just enjoy what I have and stop wishing my child’s life away just because you told me it gets worse? Are people not allowed to say, “today was hard” without being met with “it gets worse”? “You drink wine now, just you wait”. I find myself now when I see new mums on instagram bragging about how their week old baby is a great sleeper, trying to refrain from saying “just you wait” myself, like it is a right of passage passed on when you become a mum. A brown paper bag, filled with all of the unsolicited advice. Sometimes I catch myself, but other times it just rolls off the tongue and I can’t stop it “ have you tried?” “When Charlie had wind I would do this…”.
I do really try to be cautious though, when my friends are venting to me, I try to just hold space for them and say “I am really sorry that is happening to you”, however sometimes I do find myself sharing some relevant story about myself to sound relatable. I think we are all guilty of giving some unwanted advice from time to time, I just think it isn’t healthy to force your opinion on someone just because you think the way you do it is the correct way. I have friends tell me to sleep train and then others tell me that sleep training will ruin my child forever. I have people tell me to make sure all my food is pureed and others tell me to just go ahead and feed her a roast dinner. I am more than happy to hear about how well you went at sleep training, just as I am more than happy to hear about how good it is to co sleep with your baby. I don’t do either, but I’m not going to force my opinion on you and tell you to do it my way, because your baby is completely different to mine and no two days are the same. That’s the fun part about parenting- it keeps you on your toes. Sleep through the night one night and then awake every 2 hours the next. You do you boo boo, and I will do me and lets just call it a day hey?