I never glowed. It's not like I turned into some horrifying hellbeast for the duration of my pregnancy, but I didn't all of a sudden transform into Beyoncé at the 2017 Grammys, either. (I'm still not over how amazing she looked.) When people said it, I didn't mind though, because, as a society, we have established one polite narrative for pregnant women, and it involves saying the words, "You're glowing." However, there were lots of things I needed to hear when I was pregnant that had nothing to do with my perceived luminosity.
Pregnancy is a really interesting time for a lot of people, emotionally, physically, and otherwise. Having a child is a huge decision and even if having a baby doesn't change you (and it doesn't always) it will invariably change the way you live your life. Pregnant people are aware of this, and it stirs up a lot of feels, which are in turn often either belittled, inappropriately joked about, or ignored. The emotional depth and range of pregnancy is not a subject that we, as a culture, have really delved into, which should shock precisely zero people since pregnancy is a topic associated with women and women aren't allowed to have complex and emotional lives (at least not if the majority of pop culture and literature is to be believed).
But, since we do have extremely complex and emotional lives, I thought we could go beneath the glowing surface of a person's gestational period and talk about what I (and I'm guessing at least a few other people) would have liked to hear while pregnant.
Discussions About Books, Movies, TV, Politics, And Current Events
I often found, especially during my first pregnancy, that when you are with child people only want to talk to you about how your uterus (and it's new inhabitant) is doing. Seriously, folks, I still have a brain. No one new is technically living in it, but there are a lot of thoughts in there that make for more stimulating discussion than how my hormone levels are triggering my gag reflex.
Look, I definitely appreciate that you're interested in what's going on in Wombsburg (that's what I've just now decided I'm going to call my uterus), and chances are I'll want to discuss it sometimes, because it is occupying a lot of my physical and mental energy these days. However, I'm also really invested in other things, too. For example, I've been rereading Game of Thrones lately and OMFG you will not believe how much George R.R. Martin set up from the very beginning. Can we talk about this, too? Because I have so many theories about how Jaime Lannister is going to save King's Landing at the end.
"Take Advantage Of Your Child-Free Life Right Now"
People tend to say this (or something like it) in a really obnoxious way. Like, "Sleep now, because you're never sleeping again!" or, "Congratulations! Your life is officially over!" These people are annoying and stupid and they need to knock it off.
However, at the very core of their obnoxiousness lies a kernel of truth, and that is this: people who do not have children cannot appreciate the level of freedom they have at the moment. That's not to say that children imprison you or anything, but once you have a child you're always responsible for that child, so you always have provide or arrange for care, both of which can be draining and incompatible with doing other things. So I encourage soon-to-be-parents I know to make an effort to do something special for themselves before their little one joins them.
"Parenthood Can Be A Lot Of Fun"
People never say this, at least not as frequently as they share their parenting horror stories. Having kids is a blast. First of all, you get to do fun kid stuff again without people judging you. You can run around a playground, have water gun fights, finger paint, buy toys, and play Disney songs at top volume in your car. It's the best.
Even when a kid is an infant they're still massively entertaining, both in and of themselves and also because they're a pretty pliable prop in any number of hilarious situations. For example, I have a friend who routinely dressed up her baby like famous people and took pictures. Her baby just sat there like an adorable little lump and let it happen, because he was a baby and what else can he do? His total passivity actually made the photos all the funnier. (Though they're still funny now that he's a big kid because, yes, they're still at it.)
"How Do You Feel?"
Not just as perfunctory, "How are you?" as a way to move conversation along. I mean more of a, "Hey, do you need space to talk about your feelings or just have a particularly meaningful b*tching session because your sciatic nerve has been hurting you for the last two months?"
Pregnancy can be overwhelming at times and it comes with a lot of feelings. Unfortunately, a lot of people will judge you if you're feeling anything other than excited, loving, and grateful joy. Any time someone opened up a safe space for me, giving me social permission to go a little deeper, I sincerely appreciated it.
"You're Going To Do Great"
Self-doubt has the nasty habit of inhabiting the brain of a pregnant person and slowly gorging itself on their confidence. It's easily done, since most of us have a sort of tenuous grasp on it to begin with. This is particularly meaningful when it comes from a seasoned parent.
"Adjust Your Expectations"
I find something that was jarring (and often unsettling) after I had a baby was adjusting how I looked at things like success, accomplishment, and progress. Babies don't really conform to our timelines at all, and that isn't limited to their horrible sleep schedules. Your ability to get anything done with a child in your arms is significantly diminished, but from the baby's point of view, they're like, "What? We're both just chilling here and I'm growing as we speak. I'm fed and happy. We're doing exactly what we're supposed to."
It would have been nice to hear that balancing baby's needs and your personal needs (and the needs of your home, office, and other people in your life) will eventually fall into place. It just takes some time.
"Projectile Poop Is Real"
Guys. I mean, my son managed to get poop on a comforter that was over a foot away. How. How? Why did no one tell me that this was a possibility?
"Something That Worked For Me Is..."
Established parents, in their experience and enthusiasm have a tendency to share a whole lot of unsolicited advice with future parents, and sometimes it can come of a bit condescending and obnoxious. When their personal experiences are stated as universal truths, their remedies come off as the only "right way" to deal with a given situation. Maybe that worked for them just fine and that's great, but maybe there's another way to approach an issue. Maybe what they did 30 years ago is frowned upon within the medical community these days. (For the last time, grandma, I'm not going to give my 1 week old rice cereal.)
However, established parents have stores of useful information they can share with the newbies. It's all about how one frames that advice. So experienced parents can help pregnant moms by refusing to just spout this stuff willy-nilly. Instead, wait for a good time to bring something up, and when you do, acknowledge that you can only speak from your experience and that results may vary. In short, treat parenting advice like an ad for prescription medication, full of disclaimers and warnings.
"No One Really Knows What They're Doing When They First Start Out"
I feel like this should be sung from a mountaintop by a professional choir at regular intervals any time a pregnant woman starts to feel an overwhelming amount of self-doubt. Sure, there are things you can (and should) do to prepare for a baby, but when it comes down to it, pretty much everyone is going to be clueless. Parenting is a job where there are no perfect prerequisites, just on-the-job training.
The good news is, you become an expert on your baby pretty quickly.
"Do You Need A Seat?"
Because people sometimes forget how exhausting lugging around a baby (with accompanying placenta) is, particularly on swollen-ass ankles. Get mama a chair (and maybe an ottoman, too).
"Onesies Can Be Pulled Down After A Blow Out"
I still resent the fact that no one told me this until after my oldest stopped getting crap everywhere. Have you ever tried lifting a snug-fitting onesie over a babies head when it's covered in poop? It's terrifying and disgusting and often requires everyone bathe afterwards. I did it because I figured it was the only way to get those suckers off. Yeah, that's not true. Ever notice how the material sort of criss-crosses at the shoulders? You can easily stretch that over baby's torso et voila! No poop on their heads (which, incidentally, wrecks the otherwise amazing smell of their little noggins)!
Staring down the barrel of parenthood can be simultaneously exciting and scary. Helping someone balance those emotions, by encouraging their excitement and validating but soothing their fears, can initially seem like a tall order. However, with a little forethought you can be a pregnant woman's cheerleading hero angel.