“Don’t lift that”
“Drink some water as you look too hot”
“You can’t eat that”
“You should be taking it easy”
“Are you doing what is best for the baby?”
“You’re getting fat”
“You look tired”
“Are you sure you want to drink that”
“You won’t be doing that in a few months”
“You’ll change your mind”
“You can’t do that”
All those above things have been said to me in the past week and all those things have been said due to me being pregnant.
I have gone from being a person, fully capable of making my own decisions and being a respected adult to being someone incapable. Someone who must be told that what they think, feel and say is wrong. Someone who is apparently totally incapable of making sound decisions when it comes to my own pregnancy and my own child. I am also pregnant first and Rae second.
I went for a walk with the husband in the new area we live in and felt totally deflated, discouraged and unhappy. I cried. We talked about it and I realised that I don’t feel like I existed anymore and I was tired of hearing people’s unsolicited opinions. I told him that I felt like Rae has got snuffed out and replaced by Pregnant. Rae was someone who can manage £360’000 projects, buy houses in other countries, study at home part time for a degree just for fun, scale mountains, run, sail, has successfully delivered presentations in the Cabinet Office and opened jars by herself, but now is apparently totally incapable of making decisions about stuff that really and truly only affects her.
Because my pregnancy is nothing to do with anyone else. That’s the bottom line and yet by being pregnant I have become public property and not in the “congratulations, you must be excited” kind of way, but in the way that people genuinely think it’s ok to tell a total stranger what to eat, drink, say, feel, do and, worst of all, is happy to deliver all this “advice” without any justification, prompt or question from the owner of the body I.e. me.
Yes, my husband is involved in the pregnancy as it’s also his baby and he lives with me, but ultimately, it’s my body and I am the one going through all this. Only I can know how I feel. Only I will be giving birth. Only I will be carrying it for 9 months. Only I will be breastfeeding it (hopefully). Only I will be dealing with the trauma inflicted on my body, mind, career, needs and desires by carrying it, birthing it and breastfeeding it. Being pregnant is hard work as it is, so why do people make it harder by being so bloody negative, condescending, unhelpful and rude?! Can you imagine if I did the same to every person I met who has cancer? Just because my dad has died of cancer am I totally justified in offering up my unsolicited advice? No, it’s horrifying isn’t it. Imagine me walking up to a total stranger with cancer and saying “you shouldn’t be eating that” or “it’s going to get worse you know”. They’d (quite rightly) tell me to sod off! (I’m not suggesting cancer is the same as pregnancy before anyone lynches me).
I’m also sick of sticking up for myself, sick of battling people, sick of defending myself and my actions, sick of having to tell people that “actually yes, I have made an informed decision”. Sick of the constant assumption that I don’t know what I am talking about.
Even my generally supportive and helpful family have been at it. We mentioned our aim of a home birth and you’d think I’d stated we were going to adopt a lion. “You can’t do that” was the first comment. Followed by “you’ll change your mind” and a sprinkling of “it’s a bad idea” with a dessert of “you need to have a plan b”. So (yet again) I had to spend 30 minutes telling them that we’d researched this, it was an aim, but one we fully accepted may change and that home birth did not equal us being bad parents.
I mentioned our aim to use cloth nappies and got several rounds of “they are hard work” and “you’ll change your mind”.
I moved to Birmingham at the age of 20 to live with a guy I’d known for 6 weeks and no one batted an eyelid. I bought a house in Wales with my entire life savings and no one offered any advice. I got a pet bearded dragon (which was supposed to be an iguana) as it was being thrown out and no one said a thing. I left the best paid job I have ever landed due to the people running the charity embezzling funds (among other issues) and I got a pat on the back – never mind that I’d left myself unable to pay my bills or get a reference to find a new job.
Yes, I know that having a baby is hard work. I am pregnant right now and have been for 20 weeks and it’s already hard. I know that it’ll need feeding and it’ll need changing and that my life has changed. Yes, I know it’ll be hard work. Yes, I know it’ll cost money. Yes, I know that this is for the rest of my life, funnily enough me and my husband talked about it all before making the decision to keep it.
So how about instead of assuming that I am intentionally walking round trying to harm my baby with absolutely no idea how to look after it once I get it here and just backing off and asking if I need anything or if I am ok instead?
This is my body, my baby and my life and I will damn well lift a box if I think I am capable of it, I will eat a cake if I want to, I will buy cloth nappies if I want to and I will damn well push this thing out of my body at home if I can.