When pregnant with my first child in 2012, I did not reallize how important it was to have proper etiquette with pregnant women. When my loving community found out i was pregnant, I feel like most people were happy for me and had great intentions. However, that did not keep me from getting annoyed by the constant barrage of questions and instructions and horror stories. Mentally, I wrote so many articles about the subject, most were laced (no, probably dripping) with sarcasm. I am currently in the last month of my second pregnancy and feel like I have mellowed out a bit and have gotten over myself.
Now I feel like I can write about it with a pretty good attitude. I’m gonna start at three months, since that is about the normal time pregnancies are made public. The most common response is a small squeal of delight, a heartfelt comment of being excited or happy for you, and then the questions: ‘How far along are you? When are you due? Have you been feeling okay? Have you been to a doctor? Are you gonna find out the gender?’ After you politely answer all the quetions, then comes the advice. Take this for nausea, make sure you rest, take this herb, this pill, and this test, don’t go to this doctor, and so many others. And if you haven’t managed to slip out if you are talking to a veteran mother, you will most likely get a horror story.
For the most part, I don’t mind the questions until they get to the parts about revealing gender, and doctor\visits and such. I don’t even mind those if you are my mother, sister, aunt, friend, or at least some one I see on a regular basis and actually have a close relationship with.
The first thing I did after I found out that I was pregnant for the first time, I went to the local library and brought home every pregnancy book they had. I read about the hippies on the caravan train from California that eventually settled in Tennessee in the 70`s or 80’s. They had a paramedic on the train, and thier babies were delivered in the family’s bus. When they settled, they formed thier own little clinic with a midwife who made house calls. Baby’s were born in cabins or even outside, with little to no complication. I read all the facts in the mayo clinic book, the ‘What to Expect’ book, I read about the Bradley method, hypnosis, epidurals, pitocin inductions, C-sections, breech, multiple births, any complication you can think of, it was mentioned. I read in the Bible how the Isrealite women were lively after birth, and about the women in communist countries who are expected back in the field immediately after birth. There are also cultures who take care of thier women, with wonderful customs that cater to new moms. Some look out for the baby’s health by reccomending not leaving the house for thirty days post partum. Online I read real stories of different women’s experiences in the reviews of a few facilities I checked out. I learned that Kentucky has a high C-section rate at 30% of all hospital births resulting in what amounts to a major operations. In the end, I concluded that a woman’s body was made to deliver baby and based on what I had read, mothers who had no interference, little stress and were in thier own comfort zone were more happy with thier birth experience. I was pretty unbiased and my husband said he would support me either way, home or hospital. The deciding factor for me was actually pretty petty. I sat on the couch in the ‘birthing position’ that was decribed as the normal for hospital birth. Let me say, there’s nothing modest or dignified about it. Then I imagined all the doctors and nurses scurrying about having a party, and I put my feet down and said no no no no no! And thus my decision for home birth was made.(Later discovered not much about birth is dignified, but when your midwife handles everything discreetly and gracefully, there’s nothing shameful about it)
So when people started asking all those personal questions and discovered I was planning a home birth, EVERYone had a homebirth horror story for me. My family was okay with it and supportive enough. I think they thought I was a little weird, but my mom birthed six babies in hospitals with no painkillers, so she didn’t think it was gonna kill me. I do feel for all the women who do not have good birth stories in the hospital or at home. Its no picnic to begin with and I always feel emotionally and physically traumatized for two months afterwards. I can’t imagine piling any more complications or rude staff\help on top of that yet.
Since I was so diligent in reading all the stories, books and articles I could find, I am now your veteran mother who could talk to you all day about the pro’s and con’s of this, and the benefit of that. I don’t like to talk about all the details of pregnancy and labor while i’m pregnant, due in part because I do not enjoy being pregnant or in labor. I don’t mind talking about it when I am not pregnant. I tend to dread the labor and delivery and feel a little claustrophobic while pregnant.
I have learned from myself how to treat others during this time. If you love talking about being pregnant while you are pregnant, you may not get this next part, but please consider it anyway.
Ettiquette to expectant mothers:
1. Don’t ask personal questions. All that is necessary upon discovering she is with child, is a simple congratulations. Feel free to smile and communicate that you care for her without pressing for details. If she wants you to know the name, gender, race, of her unborn child, she will tell you. If not, check facebook. If you can’t find it there, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Shh, its none of your bizness, Sally May. It might not even be that she doesn’t want you to know, but being pregnant is overwhelming enough at times without having to answer the same questions from ten different people at the same social function. If it is really important that you know all the details, take her to lunch and pay for the privilege.
2. Her baby, her birth. By this I mean, don’t pressure your opinion. Your experience is your experience. She has choices to make that will be her experience, for better or worse. There are pros and cons to most things, hospital or home birth, breastfed or formula, vaccine or no vaccine, scheduled c-section or unmedicated natural delivery. Circumcision or uncircumcision. Pampers or cloth diapers. There really is not a wrong choice in these, but they don’t always have the same outcome. Encourage first time mothers to make educated decisions. Offer support. If her unmedicated natural delivery turns into a c-section or 48 long hours of labor, she is no less a mother, and does not deserve an I told you so. If she really wants your opinion, she will seek it out, just let her know you are there for her.
3. Save your horror stories for never. Along with all the other overwhelming emotions going on, fear is also present. For some reason, I noticed people especially enjoy telling the ones that involve homebirth or midwives. I believe there are actually fewer injuries sustained in the midwives delivering, than in hospitals, but it seems they make the ‘front page’ quicker. With my first baby, I labored a long long time. My midwives were there for more than twenty four hours. Looking back, I think alot of it was due to fear. Not all of it, but it sure didn’t help. I was tense and in my mind, I was terrified that letting go was gonna be worse than holding it in. New momma’s need to know, they are courageous, and yes, they have the dreaded labor to look forward to, but they can do it, and you really do not need to add to thier fears. For me, labor and delivery was worse than I had imagined, but it was better than I imagined. And it only took about 30 days for me to quit saying ‘never again’. There is something empowering about delivering a baby, after its all said and done. You could have told me that day after to go move a mountain, and I would have said ‘yes ma’am, I can do that! I AM SUPER WOMAN, an I will tackle that mountain. (Please just let my banana split heal:-/)’ THAT, my friend is exactly what an expectant mother needs to hear. She needs to hear that she can do this, she is super woman, and she is gonna have that baby. The Lord does not give us the spirit of fear, and you, as a friend, shouldn’t either.
4. Keep it modest, keep it clean. To me, being pregnant and delivering a baby is intimate. A very private part of my body has become pregnant from a very private act. Intimate details between me and my husband. Pregnancy, very obviously, bears witness to the love between us. When it comes to our private parts, God has given instructions for modesty and keeping covered. When someone describes thier labor and delivery in detail, it paints a word picture. I know a few women who would squirm with embarassment if the sex discussion would come up, (Or maybe not exactly embarrassment, but modesty,) deeming it an inappropiate topic, but have no shame in discussing thier pregnancy, labor and delivery in amazing detail. Try not to make your word picture too immodest. Most people dont want to imagine you in that position, yelling those words while this and this is goin’ on down there. Just saying…
There are more ways you can be more considerate and good mannered to the pregnant moms you have the privilege of knowing. It is very likely they are quite unlike me, and don’t get burrs all up in thier saddles every time they get pregnant, but at least let them decide how much they feel like talking about it. Ask if it bothers them before diving into the extremely deep and wide conversation of pregnancy an all that it entails.
I promise I’m not gonna bite your head off just for being interested in my pregnancy, I just could help but notice the trend toward nosyness and letting it all hang out during pregnancy, so I decided to address it from my view point. Modesty is more than the covering up of body, and caring is more than asking questions.
From the crazy mom with the cool kid, have a lovely day!