Between unsolicited opinions and being inundated by what columnist Suzette Martinez Standring calls stories from the “Pregnancy House of Horrors,” I can see the appeal of being hidden away for nine months like they did in the Victorian days.
It’s difficult to navigate opinions and advice in regards to your pregnancy. You’d think these opinions came from the one who helped you conceive and not family members, peripheral acquaintances, and perfect strangers. During the holiday season we see a lot more people, and more people means more opinions.
If we take a moment to step back and understand what prompts such strong invasive reactions to our pregnancy, our compassionate sides would see that all of these opinions come from a genuine place of concern. No matter what your birth experience consists of, it’s also life-altering. Mom and opera singer Jill Enders (pictured here) says, “I think women share their horror stories with other pregnant women because no one else wants to hear the most significant story they have to tell. That's what I’ve concluded anyway to keep myself from snark. But I too, try to tell the happy parts of my birth stories.”
Compassion goes a long way here, but some people don’t understand the anxiety they are causing women who are having a child. Mom, Jane Slavin remembers the stories she’d hear from moms about their horrific experiences. “I was only 23 at the time. It was cruel, and made me have bad dreams, right up until the time the baby was born.”
There are some outlandish comments that do warrant a retort. Sarcasm is only thinly-veiled contempt. Your pregnancy and birthing experience is up to you, your doctor/midwife, and the person with whom you are raising your child. Maybe one of the following comebacks - or comebacks they wished they had said - will come in handy for you.
Mom Kadi Prescott remembers, “People always sarcastically asked me if I knew what caused pregnancy upon learning that I have seven kids. I got sick of politely laughing so I finally just started replying, ‘Yep! Sex and obviously I really like it!’ It shut a lot of people up.” She's pictured here and if you ask me, she labors beautifully.
Joey Catilla Bacon wishes she had had a good reply to the reaction people had when she said it was her plan to breastfeed the twins she carried. Some people in her family said that she’d never be able to do it. “But I was honestly worried that I couldn't do it,” Joey says, “So, I would just say we were going to try our hardest. It was more fuel for me to work hard and not give up.” When asked what she wished she had said, Joey says, “I guess I would say, that's why I have two boobs.” As you can see from the photo on the left, she succeeded in nursing her twins. These two set of eyes gazing up at their momma, is her reward.
Mindy Wells Hoffbauer recalls the assumptions people make in regards to a mother’s state. “Right after I married a man with good dental insurance, I finally got braces as a 24-year-old,” she says. I got pregnant within our first year of marriage, and then got so bloated, my wedding rings no longer fit, and my face was perpetually broken out. I looked like an unmarried teen. One time, a woman was collecting signatures for a petition and when I answered the door, she was all smiles, until she looked down, saw I was pregnant and then looked at my unringed fingers. She scowled at me and then asked if my mother was home. (I was 25.) I replied that I had no idea; she lived about 20 miles away.”
What if Mindy had been a pregnant teen? Is it anyone’s business as to how that may have happened? Would the father be publicly shamed? Does anyone see a pregnant teen and think, “Who did this to you?” All pregnancies are to be supported to the degree in which the mother wants and needs.
Mom Amanda Wooden had to deal with discussions of her birth circumstance while at work. “A woman came into the office for a meeting,” Amanda remembers, “She made small talk about how many kids I had and then asked if I were having a c-section. I said yes. She went on to talk about how she didn't understand why so many women have C-sections, like it was the worst decision ever.”
Amanda responded, “Well, based on the circumstances of my first delivery, and the fact I had to have an emergency C-section, and the conversations my husband and I have had with my doctor, we feel this is the best way to deliver this time.”
Pregnant women are embarking on what is the most thrilling and possibly the most frightening experience of their lives. We know where to find support and if we don’t we’ll ask. Advice from trusted individuals is welcome when we ask. But we also know that many people have home remedies for everything from heartburn to hurrying along labor. Mom Joy Steele learned this the hard way. She was ten days past her due date at the end of a long hot Texas summer and so ready to deliver her baby. A well-intentioned individual shared a trick with Joy’s husband she decided to try it. They had advised her to drink castor oil and then take a long walk. Joy says, “It delivered something, but not the baby.” Joy is pictured to the left in her adorable overalls.
While expecting moms work on having compassion for the judgements of the opinionated this holiday season, I ask that you well-intended advisors out there please have compassion for these women as they embark on the most frightening, exhilarating, and important journey of their lives. Be kind. Don’t judge.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of two.