It’s the night before my amnio. I’m wearing shoe tracks into the carpet. I decide to call a friend. “Oh!” Lonnie wails. “My doctor stuck the needle in three times, and on the third try, he poked my daughter in the leg! She still has a hole in her shin six years later!”
It’s hard when you’re pregnant. I don’t mean the swift kicks to the diaphragm, the swollen ankles, the acid reflux. I mean the people. Perfect strangers — even friends — seem compelled to corner you with their horror stories about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and beyond.
It isn’t right. I mean, you need to hear how manageable labor is, not how someone howled like a coyote for 72 hours before her emergency C-section. Or how she couldn’t sit down for three months after that fourth-degree perineal tear. You do not want to hear about fetal distress, spinal headaches or feet-first deliveries.
It isn’t as if you seek out these people; your belly’s a magnet for them. First they congratulate you, maybe even (ack!) touch the Great Bump, and then the madness begins. As they regale you with every imaginable detail of their pregnancy, you think, Hey! Hey! Hey! Whoa! Can’t you see I’m pregnant?! Instead, you offer a faint smile and back helplessly into the cereal boxes on aisle five.
It isn’t enough that you’re assailed by tales of terror when you’re pregnant. No, people seem to rabidly pursue you well into motherhood.
Don’t Phone a Friend
Week 2. I’m staring at my beautiful son. Boohooing at his tiny toes and long brown lashes. Blubbering over dental floss. White-knuckling it through the first few days of breastfeeding. I call a friend for a boost.
“Don’t nurse for too long, or your breasts will end up looking like tube socks,” she advises.
I call an acquaintance who breastfed each of her two children for a year. A beacon! A mentor! A source of support!
“Make sure you nurse enough on each breast,” she warns, “because if you don’t, your milk could curdle.”
If they aren’t blitzing you with sci-fi details about pregnancy (morning/afternoon/evening sickness) or the fetus (sure there’s only one in there?), they’re preparing you for delivery (five hours of transition) and breastfeeding (inverted nipples). Then they want you to know about the baby’s crying (six months of “colic”), your sleep deprivation (forever) and how your marriage changes after having a baby (can you say “platonic”?). And your body, well ...
My friend Tina’s washboard abs were a sight to behold before she got pregnant. By her second trimester, people were urging her to say a firm goodbye to her figure. Never mind that she was and still is a prenatal-fitness instructor.
“They’re jealous,” Tina scoffed.
Maybe so. And maybe they’re projecting. Grandstanding. Bursting your bubble to match theirs. And maybe, just maybe, people are trying to connect. You know, share. I honestly don’t think they mean any harm. They probably just don’t realize the impact their stories have on a pregnant woman’s imagination.
Maybe the horror-storyteller would get the message if, in the middle of her spiel, you muttered feebly, “I’m not feeling very well ...” and passed out. Then she’d have to explain herself to the paramedics and throngs of bystanders gathered around your belly-turned-speed-bump in the parking lot outside the bank.
Now, there’s a horror story she’d never forget.