Pregnancy: an open forum


I’m only four months pregnant but have already received advice and suggestions via email, text message, verbally and in person. Some of it is sweet – and useful – like the link my friend Lizzie sent me to a lovely healthy eating food blog. Some of it is rude and prying. And some of it is completely batty.

A midwife friend of my mum’s recommended avoiding parmesan, which is now considered to be unsafe during pregnancy. This was helpful. I’ve added it to the very long list of ‘things to avoid’.

Let me tell you just a few of the others:

Hot baths (and saunas, jacuzzis)

Sleeping on my back

Lifting anything heavy (how heavy is ‘heavy’? Can I carry my own suitcase? Not a problem if not. I’m sure Rich will oblige).

Eating bagged salad

Nuts (if I suffer with eczema, as eating nuts can then cause a nut allergy in the baby. I have psoriasis, should I be cutting peanut butter out of my diet?)

Certain essential oils and herbal teas, which can induce miscarriage

Less useful comments have included: tips on how to keep my relationship alive after giving birth, being told I have to hear lots of labour horror stories to ‘prepare myself’ and that having a baby ruins your life.

My message to the friends and family of a pregnant woman is this: if she asks for your advice, give it. If she doesn’t, hold back. Instead of bombarding her with your ideas about parenting, ask her questions: how do you feel about going back to work? is supportive, “I can’t believe you’re only taking three months off!” is judgmental. Basically – conversations are good; a ‘know-it-all’ parent (they don’t exist) spouting advice is boring.

Every pregnant woman will have different ideas about motherhood – this is healthy. Don’t assume that because you found it easy/ hard/ tiring/ life-destroying/ life-affirming etc – she will. Everyone’s different. And stories about the really hard times just aren’t helpful right now. They might be comforting later; they’re abstract and negative at this stage.

I feel calm, relaxed and philosophical about this pregnancy and the baby. And as long as everyone lets me do it my own way – I’ll continue to feel this way. My own parents are very good at standing back, keeping their lips sealed and letting me make my own mistakes. That’s how I hope to be as a parent.

It does sometimes feel like pregnancy and parenting are open forums: open for all to discuss and contribute to. But they’re not. They’re private and individual. So show an interest but respect people’s privacy and boundaries.

Lastly – and on a lighthearted note – some of the girl/ boy pregnancy predictors I’ve come across are incredible. A few of my faves:

If you look like shit, it’s a girl (she’s stealing your good looks).

If you put on weight around your hips, bum and thighs, as well as your belly, it’s a girl. A boy will just create a neat bulge at the front and won’t spread fat into other areas. (This, I’m afraid to say, is BS. It depends entirely on your body shape and how much you’re eating/ exercising.)

A boy will kick lots (but we already know that all boys are active. Baby girls will be curled up in the womb playing quietly with dolls, or reading chick lit).

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