motherhood

on all the advice

February 17, 2014
On all the advice - how to cope with all the advice you get given as soon as you announce you are pregnant! // Fiona Lynne

There’s something about pregnancy which opens you to other people’s opinions in a way I’ve never experienced before.

Friends and acquaintances had advice on my University choices, my work life decisions, advice when I got engaged and then married. But becoming a mama? It’s like nothing else. All of a sudden it’s as if I have a label on my forehead saying “clueless” and people are quick to start giving their penny’s worth.

I’m a first-time mama, it’s the first time I’ve gone past the first trimester, so I need help. I’m thinking about diet and stretch marks and maternity clothes. We’ve got to figure out things like car seats and baby-wraps, cloth nappies and what exactly a burp cloth is. And later, when our baby is refusing to sleep, or I’m not sure what exactly that red rash is, we’re going to need help again as we work out how to be good parents to our child.

I am not anti-advice.

But it becomes overwhelming sometimes.

I’m asked about names, about our nursery set up (do we have nurseries again now? That sounds like something from the Victorian upper class), evaluating the size of my bump (yes, it’s ridiculously small I know), cloth nappies vs disposables and then a long statement about the glories and disasters of baby poo, will I have an epidural, what about water birth or hypnobirthing, co-sleeping vs crying it out, do we know how we’ll teach our kids our two languages, will our parents come to visit at the beginning or later on, will we send it to local school or shell out for the international options…

Oh-Lord-have-mercy this child is only five months in my belly and you’re asking me about school?!

Each question is a potential minefield because it’s pretty certain the person asking has a very strong opinion about the answer and if I get it wrong, I’ll be subjected to a long monologue on why that is a huge mistake and I really don’t know anything yet and just-you-wait I’ll change my mind as soon as I realise…

I get it. I’m a woman of strong opinions myself. Get me started and I can give you studies and research to back up many of the decisions I’m taking as a pregnant woman, that I hope to take as a mama. I’m researching and learning and discovering. And so these stories are valuable to me, I need the breadth of experience of pregnancy and parenting to help me make up my own mind.

But you know what? I have no idea what kind of mother I will be, what kind of parents we will be. I have no idea what kind of child we will get, what his or her personality will be, whether she will sleep for blissful hours or keep me up crying (me as well as her) all night, whether he’ll adapt quickly to our multi-lingual existence or whether we’ll have to make adaptations to our lifestyle to accommodate his struggles.

It’s a massive unknown and I like that.

I like that we get to figure this out as we go. I like that we get to grow a new life together as a family of three with new patterns and new habits, informed by our own values and passions. I like that we get to learn together, face new challenges together. I like how adventurous it all feels.

Parents – and mothers in particular – want to tell me their experiences because they’ve learnt a lot along their journey, because sometimes they took decisions that turned out to be the wrong ones for their families at the time, because parenting can be damn hard and they want to save me some of the struggle.

Here’s what I know to be true – you can’t save us from the learning curve. It’s our own, unique to us and the child still growing inside me. We’ll get a lot right and probably we’ll get a lot wrong. Sometimes you’ll get to think “I told you so” triumphantly as we change a way we do something. But this is our journey, our path to travel as a family.

So tell me your stories, please don’t stop. But tell them with grace and a little understanding that we’re different people with different children on different paths. And what was right for you may not be right for me.

And love me when I realise I am making a complete mess of it. Remind me I am doing my best, because you are too, we all are.

//

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  • Linda

    Yes, Fiona please take your time and do it your way as that is the right and most natural way and your own. But yes, everyone will have “helpful advice” that they feel could help and or just maybe they want to talk to another mother about their experiences as they might have only had a toddler to speak to or a baby and eager to share what only another mother wants to share.lol. Who ever and what ever it is… Just breathe and know it will soon end. Laugh and remember to enjoy nature at its most precious and magical moments.

    • fiona lynne

      Good advice. And a good point about mamas needing to share their struggles. I just hope they can find a non-pregnant friend to offload onto 😉 Thankful for you x

  • Margaret Thornton

    especially sound advice for a prospective granny!

    • fiona lynne

      He he. At least I know you’re fine with me responding “yes, mother, of course mother…” xxxx

  • “So tell me your stories, please don’t stop. But tell them with grace and a little understanding that we’re different people with different children on different paths. And what was right for you may not be right for me.”

    YES. This is why I love you.
    Thank you for always telling your story with such grace.
    You are going to be an amazing mum. I can’t wait to walk through all of this with you.

  • Jo Cameron Duguid

    “Here’s what I know to be true – you can’t save us from the learning curve.”

    I’m tempted to say this isn’t just a hazard of pregnancy. When I was diagnosed with an incurable illness, suddenly everybody was an expert and I was overwhelmed and exhausted by all the advice!

    But you’ve hit the nail on the head about this being your own experience, unique to you as a family. I’m pretty sure that, if a baby is warm and fed, and has abundant love and care, it’ll all work out OK. God will send you all the learning you need as you go, and there’s no substitute for the adventure of “getting it right through the process of getting it wrong” 🙂

    Love,

    Jo

    • fiona lynne

      Thanks Jo! I can’t imagine how exhausting all that advice must have been at that moment too. But yes, it’s definitely an adventure! x

  • The best advice I have heard, both from my mom and from a very close friend was something along the lines of “ignore all the advice… your child is unique and particular. It is about getting to know her (or him) and figuring out what is best for you 3 as a family”.

    People get scary fundamentalist on all kinds of issues. And if you start researching you get contradictory advice, sometimes 5 different versions of how to do a simple thing like taking care of your nipples. (Lanolin or not? Alcohol / disinfectant? Breast milk? Do nothing or you will get closed ducts. Help! )

    Read for yourself and decide what will be best for your family, we are all different.

    Also, sometimes NOT reading anything and just going by gut instinct is the best. There are so many rules that I did not even know exist.

    And being flexible enough to bend your ideas / how you thought things would be / adapt according to the situation will come in handy.

    If I can be of help of any kind let me know. For the stretch marks (which luckily I did not get any yet, crossing my fingers, I first used a lotion with natural oils that my sister got me in Mexico, and then the pregnancy oil by Weleda

    You are so absolutely right and wise already. Every child is different.

    About the maternity clothes I made it with 2 pairs of maternity pants (khaki ones and jeans, both from the H&M), 2 bras, 1 maternity t-shirt and a dress (the one “superfluous” buy). I have to say that I was home a lot, so I also wore sweatpants around the house as I did not have to dress up for work. I was able to use some of my tunics / long blouses that adapted to my growing body. And my bump was small-ish for most of the time. I only got big mid-November, starting around week 26 , and then growing bigger from there . I could have used a coat, as it was getting tight at the end, but I did not want to spend so much on something that I would only wear for a few months.

    • fiona lynne

      Yes to listening to my mama-gut-instinct! I’m excited to watch you grow into this right now. What a beautiful “impossible thing” we believed!
      (And yes, I’m happy that I’ll be at my biggest in the summer when hopefully fewer clothes will suffice!)