Sunday, September 12, 2010

What It's Like to be Pregnant

When you are pregnant two extremely annoying things will happen. One is that everyone you encounter, both people you know and total strangers, will feel compelled to tell you their own pregnancy horror stories which will frighten you. The other thing that happens is that everywhere you go people will try to give you advice on things to do, or more often NOT to do in pregnancy or in caring for your child. This advice doesn't just come from actual people though. It is pervasive in our culture. It's all over TV, in magazines, rampant on the Internet where we don't even have to seek it out because it's just everywhere, and in the newspaper. Every single day, without actively searching, I come across at least one, but usually several, warnings and words of wisdom about babies.

One theme, one message, screams loudest. You hear it from friends, from family, in the grocery store, on the 24 hours news and on the local eleven 'o' clock news. You hear it on talk shows, in the doctors office and it yells off the pages of your favorite magazine.

We live in a dangerous world. Everything is going to kill your baby and mothers, it's going to be all your fault.

Obsessed with cults, I've read a lot about Jonestown. Towards the end, Jim Jones, in an effort to frighten and brainwash his follows which apparently worked quite well, played constant loud, repetitive messages, 24 hours a day over multiple loudspeakers throughout his compound. Rumor also has it that this is a common enhanced interrogation technique that the US military uses to scare the living crap out of prisoners while simultaneously driving them nuts in order to soften them up to get information. I feel like I'm being forced to listen to the same, horrible, anxiety and guilt producing message over and over wherever I go and that no one except other pregnant women and mothers can hear it.

Everything is going to kill your baby. It will be all your fault.

Here is the short list of things that I have read or heard are harmful to babies (by harmful I mean will cause cancer, autism and rejection from Ivy League universities):  Everything

Here is a long and actual list (all jokes aside) of things I have heard or read that will cause cancer, autism, rejection from Ivy League universities, misery, despair and death to one's offspring:

Vaccines, a mother's obesity, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, mercury, video games, watching TV, too much rain in any given year (seriously), BPA, vinyl shower curtains, perfume, flea killer, all pesticide, feeding your child conventional, non organic produce, hormones in meat and milk, dental fillings, fluoride in water, lack of fluoride in water, folic acid, lack of folic acid, the mother's being RH negative, the Rhogam shot given to mothers who are RH negative (so I'm totally screwed I guess), linoleum floors, paint, pretty much anything from China, lead in the ground, sodium lauryl sulfate, iPhones, iPhone cords, wireless service, laptops, radiation, diesel fumes, living near power lines, electromagnetic fields, talking on cell phones during pregnancy, Baby Einstein, pthalates, the burning of fossil fuels, gestational diabetes, thyroid disease in the mother, autoimmune disease in the mother, two nerdy parents, food dyes, melamine, gluten, dairy products, second hand smoke, first hand smoke, bad genes, fertility treatments and fertility drugs, the medium in which embryos are created and grown outside of the body, use of pitocin, C-sections, not letting the umbilical cord stop pulsating before cutting it, traumatic birth, epidurals, anti-depressants, any child rearing technique other than fanatical Attachment Parenting, not breastfeeding, not breastfeeding exclusively or long enough, eating tuna while pregnant or nursing, too much caffeine, air pollution, Measles virus in the vaccine which has now had the mercury removed, foreign proteins in genetically modified foods, nail polish, hair dye, microwaving in plastic, the existence of plastic period, chlorinated water, bottled water, tap water, not drinking enough water, having children too old, having children too young, formaldehyde fumes coming out of your furniture, microwaved food, glues used in car manufacturing, babies no longer sleeping on their backs, past parental drug use and heavy drinking (such as in college), not going outside enough, vitamin D deficiency, too much testosterone in the womb and flame retardants.

I'm sure I could find more if I tried, but I'm not going to try. It is overwhelming. Many of these things are unavoidable so it's easy to see how a pregnant woman can become hysterical with fear.

In the beginning I was hysterical with fear. I imagined everything as a potential neurotoxin. I was scared to leave the house because of the toxins I might encounter and then I was scared to stay inside the house because of all the toxins at home. It was too much. I have taken reasonable precautions. Many people would say that I am extra-cautious. I won't drink a diet soda or eat a can of tuna. I've decided to hold off on manicures and covering my greys. I switched to Dr. Bronner's soap because I like the smell, but I can't control everything and I don't want to live a life of fear and that's partly because I don't want my child growing up a terrified, neurotic headcase who's afraid to live her life, risks and all.

We can't be that fragile can we? How has the human race possibly survived? I know that in the past 40 years we've been exposed to far more chemicals and toxins than ever before, but most people seem to be generally ok, right? Is it really accurate to paint such a bleak and dangerous portrait of the world to expectant mothers and their children? And aside from being accurate, is it the kindest thing to do to saddle women with so much guilt and stress and blame, as if parenting doesn't bring enough guilt and stress and blame?  Why do we always have to blame someone or something anyway? Whatever happened to just plain bad luck? Sometimes bad things and accidents just happen.

I don't want to hear it anymore. I'm stuffing cotton in my ears so I can't hear the loudspeakers.


Anonymous said...

I have a question, and I assumed this would be up there with the 2. Don't people want to touch your belly?

Wide Lawns said...

Surprisingly no. I haven't had that happen and out of the people who know me only a couple of them have asked and I've let them. I actually don't mind. I thought I would, but I haven't. I find that people are mostly interested in using it as a way to talk about their own horrifying pregnancy stories.

Diana said...

You poor thing. The crazies can be hard to ignore, can't they? What helped me was to remember that the human race has been doing this for thousands upon thousands of years. Babies are really hard to break, and because you are invested in being a good mother (and not a crack addict), mothering will come naturally to you. Don't let yourself become distracted from the beauty and joy of mothering by the fear nazis. In fact (I wish I'd known about this before I had my baby) there are plenty of Natural Approach to Parenting groups around - peer groups that would have helped me relax and be comfortable with my healthy decision to ignore the fearmongers and just do what came naturally. If you are into groups - and once your babe gets old enough for playdates you probably will want a group - these might be some ladies to look up in your neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

What's going to happen is going to happen, you do your best and that is all you can do. You need to meditate a little with some nice music and look at books with happy pictures or that make you happy. Start a gratitude diary and you'll turn your focus in another direction.
Imagine if you felt like this all the time and weren't pregnant; this is what a lot of people suffer from with compulsive fears. Maybe this is a chance to embrace your compassion for others.

Handy Man, Crafty Woman said...

ugh, don't listen to them. I know they are insistent, but change the subject, talk over then, walk away, WHATEVER you have to do. It's worrisome enough to be pregnant, never mind having to listen to people and all their horror stories that scare the POO out of you.

You are going to be ok.

I also had to stop reading those pregnancy books...some of those books about "what could go wrong" scared the CRAP out of me!!

Anonymous said...

Nearly every single one of those things you listed is there because someone has a vested interest in making you fearful.

I was very lucky when my eldest was born, I joined a group of (mostly) first time mums and we went walking. We were called Prampushers and we walked, chatted, commiserated and enjoyed our kids together. Those women are still my friends now, ten years later, and it's because they are all down-to-earth, funny, wise women who supported each other through all the 'stuff' that happens. It helps to know that pretty much everything that happens with your baby is normal for someone!

Remember, the crazies are louder, but we still outnumber them (at least for now) *grin*.

Green said...

Fear is dramatic (consider the Lifetime for Women channel) and drama catches people's attention.

I think a good plan is to arm yourself with a few core people whose advice you trust, and only listen to their opinions. For everyone else, pretend you're midwestern and just smile while nodding, "That's certainly interesting." You can always add that you'll consult your doctor about how breathing in the fumes flowers give off with make your baby retarded, or whatever the alarmists pull out of their asses.

P.S. Once, when out with a friend's baby, a woman came up to me to start telling me about the evils of goldfish. I interrupted to say I was just giving my friend a break and the woman backed off instantly. So you can always lie and say "Oh, I'm just the babysitter," about your own baby and they'll save their tirades. :)

Joyce said...

Sheesh. I'm glad I had my kids in the '70's! I'm an NICU nurse and know a little something about babies. They're hard to break. That's the truth. They're made of cartilage and you would really have to try hard to break something.

Next, read up on how and why the vaccine/autism thing got started. NOT vaccinating your kids is MUCH more irresponsible and dangerous than vaccinating them. Please.... read up on it.

Read this blog:

This lady makes so much sense and tries to make you less fearful of our world and our children's place in it. Her goal is for everyone to get out and get to know their neighbors and their neighborhood.. and be safer in the long run. She says LET kids play outside!

Finally.... relax. You and baby are going to be fine. Take it from this old nurse. Most babies don't see the inside of my unit. Yours probably won't either.

Anonymous said...

That website is for you. You can thank me later. :)

debra said...

The best advice that I ever received was from a labor/delivery nurse many years ago - - always go with your gut feeling, if it doesn't feel/sound right then it probably isn't. And ignore the nayslayers.

Breton Wench said...

SHEESH! My mother raised 7 of us and never once cared about the World Toxins Danger. Neither do I.
Joyces' comment is SO great - they are VERY hard to break. My twiglets weighed in at 4lbs each - and 10 years later they are executing judo throws on the kids at school. :-o

Kirsten B NYC said...

So, I had my son young. When I was 18. He's now 23. NOW, all my friends are getting married and having babies. And now I get to start feeling guilty because I had him vaccinated, I let him sleep in my bed, then I didn't let him sleep in my bed, I didn't start a charter school when he was two years old so he would have a school to go to that wasn't a standard public school, etcetera, on and on and on. But y'know what? My son is fantastic, and healthy, and smart, and kind. Eff all this pressure. All you can do is the best you can do, and mostly just give your child love. The end. You'll be great.

mcgrimus said...

You do realize sticking cotton in your ears will cause your baby to have a low birth weight, don't you??

Anonymous said...

How many months along are you? And are all those things you listed true? That scared me, like a lot.

mcdonoughgirl said...

I have no idea whose blog this is and no idea what time any of this was posted. The only thing I do know that it was started in 2011 via the website designers signature at the bottom of the page. However, I have been pregnant and both times I had this problem. I am a responsible adult that, in every situation where children are involved, I consciously keep the child(ren's) best inerest priority #1. After saying that statement, which is a stern statement, I acknowledge that and own it.
The constant advice is ridiculous and annoying as hell. I always wanted to say to them "If you think that I don't think about this fragile beautiful person inside of me all day, then you are a fu***** idiot and if you think that, whatever little "fact" you know,I haven't done a ton of research and I have made the best plan for me".
However, I have also used being pregnant to my advantage, My mom cleaned my house, my family's given me furniture. Every cookout/holiday is centered around a menu that is condusive to my likes and what doesn't make me throw up (I puked a lot for 5 months). My co-workers had to put up with hearing that all day everyday. I never carried anything. I got treated like VIP so I can handle the dumb advice. It is sort of a trade out! lol

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