Following on from my previous post, I have decided to do a list of advice for mums on how to deal with pregnant women.
I’ve only been a mum for 9.5 weeks, so I claim no expertise, but I do understand where a lot of you come from. I’m not berating you, but just hoping that this post will help you to help others through their first pregnancies. I’ll try make this as succinct as possible.
Pregnancy to a first-time mum, is an incredible experience. Some may find it terrible, some may find it amazing, but most of us find it a roller-coaster of new experiences. A friend’s response to my pregnancy announcement was ‘congratulations on becoming a living science experiment,’ which is absolutely true. Every pregnancy is different and most women want to share that experience. It’s the biggest thing that’s happening in our lives at that time (if we’re lucky) and we may find it difficult to talk about anything else.
Expectant mums know that you know better, but what’s happening inside of us is huge. Let us experience that and tell you. I found it increasingly difficult to finish a sentence after announcing I was pregnant. I was constantly interrupted with unwanted advice or someone else’s pregnancy story. I remember one morning announcing that I felt like death. I wasn’t able to continue because I was interrupted with a lecture that started off with “Hah! You think you feel bad now, wait until you’re 9 months pregnant.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that only a half hour later was I able to interrupt the tirade with ‘I feel like death…because I have a cold.’
It had nothing to do with pregnancy. Try to realise that you may know more about pregnancy and childbirth, but that sometimes, we just need to talk and you may not know what we’re about to say.
2. Wait until…
These words were incessant throughout my pregnancy. As I mentioned in the first post, you have experienced your first pregnancy, let us have ours. The tiny flutters you first feel when you start to feel your baby moving are possibly the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you. The last thing we want to hear is “wait until the kicks start, then you won’t be smiling.”
Some women experience intense round ligament pain. The appropriate response to this is not “wait until you give birth, then you’ll know what pain is like.”
Likewise for new mothers: what we feel when our little human grabs our fingers for the first time is indescribable. We don’t want to hear “Awww, wait until s/he gives you their first smile, then your heart will melt!” It’s melting now. Let us experience every second of this amazing journey, in the moment – not waiting for the next milestone to amaze us.
3. Horror stories (expectant mums please skip ahead)
Come on, guys. You know the drill – don’t bombard pregnant women with horrific child birth stories. You all know this, and yet, that’s all I seemed to hear when pregnant. We know it’ll be bad, we know we are completely unprepared, but your stories certainly won’t help us sleep at night.
I heard some doozies during pregnancy: blood on the ceiling, near-death experiences, stillbirths (Seriously? Mentioning miscarriages or stillborn babies around a pregnant women is completely unacceptable. I shouldn’t have to tell you this) and botched c-sections. I heard one positive birth story in the whole ten months.
I now understand where you’re coming from, having my own horror story. Part of healing after a trauma is talking it out of your system and birth can be extremely traumatic. Mine was and I talk about it all the time…to people who have been there before, or people who were there. I found myself retelling the story to a friend who hasn’t any children yet and I really regret this. She did ask and she was well aware it was a bad birth, but it’s still not something she should know. There are plenty of easy births that happen. On the day I gave birth, there were two women that I know well who gave birth to two healthy little boys, in under three hours. It’s not uncommon.
So, quit using pregnant women as your psychologists. Seek counselling and heal yourself properly – don’t spread the fear.
4. It’s still early
Three of the harshest words you could say to a pregnant woman. Does the fact that I’m only 7 weeks pregnant make my pregnancy null and void?
You are basically telling me that there is a high probability of me losing my child.
5. Sympathy goes a long way
As aforementioned, every pregnancy is different. Your round ligament pain could have been a light ache, whereas another women’s could land them in hospital. Don’t assume that the woman complaining about pain at 7 weeks pregnant is experiencing the same pain you experienced. Try to sympathise with her and realise that she isn’t being a hypochondriac; she, quite possibly, is in agony. I felt like I was being split in two when John started to move, as the adhesions caused by my endometriosis were literally tearing.
Morning sickness is not amusing. I remember rushing to the bathroom every hour and when I returned with mascara running down my face and blood-red eyes, people would laugh. And yet, when someone came down with a bug and vomited once, there was endless parade of people ‘checking up’ on them. I felt isolated and as if my pain and discomfort were somehow less important than that of a non-pregnant woman.
Pregnancy doesn’t make it easier to deal with sickness, pain or discomfort.
Perhaps this wasn’t as succinct as I’d hoped. There are many other snippets of advice given to pregnant women (sleep while you can? What a joke.), but, in short, just try for a little compassion and put yourself in her shoes.
It is simultaneously the worst and most wonderful time in a woman’s life and it’s okay for her to feel that way.