Traditionally, people start to share the news of their pregnancy after the 12th week. But whenever you choose to 'go public' you can expect others to start telling you about their pregnancy and birth experiences. And this is just the start of 'helpful' stories and advice that will keep coming well into your parenthood journey. Some will be beautiful and positive and some will be visceral tales of trauma. So why do people do that, and what can you choose to do about it?
Giving birth and parenting are some of the most profound experiences in anyone's life, so it's natural that people want to talk about them. But they often do so without being invited to and certainly without considering its impact. They might be trying to encourage you with their beautiful experience or hoping that you'll learn something from their traumatic tale. Maybe they haven't processed their birth experience properly and so they keep repeating it, hoping for some recognition in their experience. There can even be a little bit of competition behind these stories - who was the sickest in pregnancy, who had the best/worst birth, who's baby never slept/slept like a dream, who weaned/rolled over/walked/talked first/last..... it goes on.....
But each pregnancy and parenting journey is individual and their experience will never be yours. You might want to hear the stories people have to tell you - you could find them interesting, or connecting, or useful information. But you also might not; and if you don't want to hear them, then you don't have to. You don't have to 'be polite' or passive - it's ok to ask people to respect your environment and journey. The language and information we take in (consciously and unconsciously!) is important and will impact your experience, so how can you protect your environment? Here are a few suggestions:
"Shhh.... baby's listening....." - this can be a lighthearted way to stop any negative tales and remind the storyteller that their words have impact (I first read this tip in an article by the lovely Katrina Zaslavsky and I love it).
- "Oh, I'd love to chat about childbirth - but after I've had my baby. Can we leave it until then?" - birth matters and it's important to connect and relate to other women through shared experiences, allow women to process their experiences and support each other through this time. But it's best left until you both have experience to share and support each other with.
- "Thanks, but I need to work out my own experience" - oh the never ending, well-meaning advice. Some of it will be invaluable but most will be useless. You're walking your own path, trust your instincts.
It's an exciting time, be mindful of who/what affects your experience. I'd love to hear from you if you have any alternative ideas or perspectives - feel free to use the comment section below or find me on social media and connect with me there. With Love, Samantha, x