From the moment you let the world know you are pregnant, you get advice and comments thrown at you from every direction. 97% of it is unsolicited. You hear horror stories about someone's own barfing quest during the first trimester, or a cure for a whole set of pregnancy ailments you don’t even have yet. You get comments about how you are glowing - or maybe not so much glowing - and lots of other interesting opinions about your rapidly changing body. An elderly neighbor of mine told me exactly the moment she thought my legs were starting to look fat. 31 weeks, if you were wondering, is exactly when my legs started to look fat.
And while the comments about appearance or advice can be pretty annoying, there is one thing said to a pregnant woman that is worse than all the rest.
This comment was said to me about a million times during my pregnancy, from just about everybody. And yes, I know they were all well meaning humans -- sure, fine, blah, whatever. But it was this one statement that kept me up at an night in a sweat of anxiety (or pregnancy sweat -- who can even tell at this point), asking myself: what have I done to my life?
The number one worst thing you can say to a pregnant person is:
“Oh you think it is difficult now? Wait until the baby actually gets here. That is when things really get tough”
Um, excuse me? So these past several months of pain, gastric distress, bad sleep, crazy hormones and heartburn that makes me feel like a 76-year-old man who just completed a chili dog eating contest is the EASY part? How comforting. How freaking comforting to know what I have coming down the docket is: labor, which from books I am reading that include very graphic photos of women from the 80’s spread eagle and bloody, does NOT look like a quiet stroll in the park, and then after that being thrown up and pooped on, and not getting any sleep for the next 7883 months. Awesome. You just single handedly made my pregnant state seem even worse, which I didn’t even think was possible.
My friend and I were waddling our way through a walk one afternoon and talking about just this. She was also pregnant, and felt overwhelmed by the “oh girl, crap is about to get cray” comments that kept coming her way. We both had to ask the question: If it is so bad, why do people do this? Why do we put our bodies and marriages through this stress, just to at the end achieve a grand prize of even more stress, and worse sleep? It makes no sense. There has to be something that keeps people coming back. Because some people - bless their procreating hearts - even do it AGAIN. They have ANOTHER kid, and then, sometimes -- gasp! -- even more after that. So it can’t all be sleepless nights and crying in a closet while hiding from your screaming toddler, right? So then why do people keep reminding us of that part?
My friend and I decided the reason was this: camaraderie. They know our growing bellies have thrown us down into the trenches, a trench they were once in too. They want us to know that “hey - been there, this is tough, and the next part is also tough. You are not alone in this.” Cool thanks. Except this plan backfires. Because instead of giving us something to look forward to at the finish line, it just acknowledges how much this part sucks, and then offers nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders and a “sorry good luck dude” kind of a look in reference to the next. It doesn’t help anyone. There has to be a light at the end of this tunnel. There has to be.
Later that friend of mine went to a barbecue. It was deep into the suburbs, in the center of a perfectly paved cul-de-sac where there were babies and kids running everywhere. Her belly was a main point of conversation among the moms, who had all “been there done that now pass me the wine.” And while she did receive the fair share of “oh you sure you ready for this mess?” comments between bouts of yelling at their precious little ones to stop licking the dog or slapping the neighbor boy, one woman said something different. Something, for goodness sake, that was actually helpful. Refreshing. Comforting. This one precious woman said to my friend “It might all seem crazy, but I am so excited for you. There is no greater joy you can experience than kids. It is such a gift.” And then she got all sparkly, a light from above shined on her, doves descended and a distant choir of angels sang out the Hallelujah chorus.
Wait, was that…encouragement? So you mean that while this growing and raising a human thing of course may have its insane moments, there is indeed a positive payoff? Thank you, sweet cul-de-sac oracle for being that voice. Sure, she was realistic and gave a quick nod to the mess, but she highlighted the beautiful, something so many people forget to mention between their comments about infant horror stories. And while this joy the woman spoke of may not be fully realized yet, or maybe not even until the baby starts sleeping through the night, or smiles at you, or the first time they snuggle into your shoulder, it will come. So, to the suburbia mom in the cul-de-sac who I never even met: thank you. May we all be more like you, steering a little bit farther away from the negative and remembering to remind the poor pregnant folk know about the good that is to come. Because it has to be about more than 40 weeks of heartburn and stretch marks. It has to be.