I've learned a lot of things in the last nine months, from books, friends and experiences. I've concluded that women need those nine months just as much as their babies do, for emotional development and education about babies and motherhood. When I got pregnant, I thought I was ready for a child, but I really wasn't- at least, not completely. I'm grateful for the whole process and emotional journey, because it was something I needed to get to this point. I just can't wait to meet this baby, and I'm not afraid of what comes next.
I was surprised to encounter some setbacks along the way, though, and even more surprised at the form those setbacks took: other mothers.
If you had asked me nine months ago what other mothers' responses would be upon learning that I was pregnant, I would have predicted surprise, delight and encouragement. But while everyone expressed surprise and delight, I was shocked by the number of mothers who then immediately went into what I'm going to call "negative-cliche mode."
Here are some of the things I heard over and over again, from many different women- mostly acquaintances, but some strangers and even some friends. Here, also, is my inner response to these negative cliches.
1. "You're due in the summer? Oh, that's the worst! You're going to be so miserable." (Have you ever head of air conditioning? Or swimming pools? And truthfully, even in the intense heat of this July, I really didn't have much of a problem. I just stayed indoors more, drank a lot of water, and used up more electricity.)
2. "Enjoy that sleep now while you can! You're never going to sleep again once that baby comes." (I'm pretty sure that I will, in fact, sleep. Will it be when I want to and for long periods of time? No. But does that phase eventually end? Yes. At some point, the baby grows into a child who you can teach to stay in his room and play quietly. They even have alarm clocks now that change color at the time when it's ok to wake Mommy up, so he doesn't need to know how to tell time.)
3. "Oh, it's a boy? You need so much more energy with a boy." (Well, I have nothing to compare it to, but I'm a pretty high-energy person myself, so I think I'll be okay. Also, extra calorie burn! Yay!)
4. "You'll be exhausted all the time. You'll never have any time for yourself." (This one was my favorite, because it just seemed so mean. And while I'm sure there is some truth to this, I also don't believe any mother LITERALLY has no time for herself. After all, they have time to post on Facebook, read parenting articles, and spout negative cliches at pregnant women, don't they?)
5. "You say your husband is taking great care of you now? Don't get used to it. As soon as the baby comes, it's all on you, honey." (I feel sorry for you and your marriage. My husband and I have a great relationship, and he's going to be a fantastic dad. We also have amazing family in the area who can't wait to extend their support. Not everyone's situation is the same.)
6. "You're going to get so fat. Everyone gets fat with their first." (To be fair, this was only one person- the evil nurse-receptionist at my endocrinologist's office. She also swore up and down that I would be having a girl because I was so sick during my first trimester. It was fun to tell her she was wrong the next time I saw her after the ultrasound.)
I experienced these Negative Nancys often enough in the course of nine months that at times, it truly did make me feel like being a mother was going to be a terrible experience. However, I also had a lot of wonderful, true friends and mother role-models to give me support, encouragement and advice, and they got me through. I do believe that most mothers really love being mothers, and love their children more than anything else in the world. I'm not sure why some take the negative route so automatically, especially toward an innocent pregnant women, who is on the path to motherhood whether she's ready or not. Given the opportunity, why do these women choose to tear her down, rather than support her? What good does it do?
I hereby give my pledge to all my future mother friends and acquaintances that no matter what my experience is with my own child, I won't project any negativity onto you. I will support and encourage you, because that is what you need. I will only give you advice if you ask for it.
And I will never, ever tell you that you're going to get fat.