Pregnancy -it’s not private!

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A few weeks ago I read a blog entry about first time pregnant woman who was complaining about the lack of privacy surrounding her pregnancy.

She had chosen not to announce that she was having a baby on Facebook -she said she couldn’t quite identify with the sheer exhilaration one is meant to publicly display on such occasions, when in reality she was terrified of what was to come. 

And, she demanded to know, why were people so nosy?  Asking questions of how she was feeling, when she was due, isn’t she looking forward to it, is it a girl or a boy… 

All I could think was, poor you, woman.  You have not realised that your pregnancy is not only a time to grow bonds with your baby.  It’s also a time to strengthen relations to the rest of the world; to the social network which will be there to support you once the baby is there.

Once the baby is there, you will most likely be even more terrified than you are feeling now.  In addition to getting up five times per night as you currently do to pee, you might have stitches in various locations, bleeding nipples, boobs like Pamela (and I don’t mean that in a good way), no energy to cook dinner, feel at the depths of hormonl despair and, most likely, feel an unequalled, unfamiliar and overwhelming urge to protect and do good for this little creature which is now resting against your bare skin on the outside, not on the inside.

If you want to go this distance alone, feel free.  But know that having a poor social network increases your risk for maternal depression, and for good reason. 

However, the original poster is onto something.  High interpersonal sensitivity (i.e. caring excessively what others think of you) is also a risk factor for postnatal depression.  Of course it is.  If you look at all the good things everyone else is doing for their kids, you will never be able to keep up.  Parents manage to do maybe 10% good and 90% mediocre, in my unscientific estimation, with the 10% focussed on whatever that parent thinks most important, may it be discipline, reading to kids or baking fancy cupcakes.  However, these are the 10% they promote to others, especially through social media.  If you put all the 10% together, you might mindlessly believe that everyone else is 100% perfect and have well behaved children who read at three and never eat an undecorated cupcake. 

Reality is of course that the cupcake baker has kids who still can’t say please and thank you at six.  If you allow yourself to care a lot about what other people think when you drop your kid off at nursery wearing non-matching clothing and their sweather on the reverse, you are in for a very stressful life.  And a lonely one, because you can’t really let anyone know you are a failure as a parent.

Which brings me nicely around to my original point.  You do not raise your children in isolation.  Despite all the western advocacy of mother being insanely and exclusively important, have a look around the world and see how children through time and different cultures have been raised by the community as a whole.  In our atomised, fleeting society, this is easily forgotten. 

But when people see a pregnant woman, their brains somehow remembers their duty of care towards infants, any infant.  So they feel compelled to stroke your belly, ask how you feel, give their best advice.  Although this can often be poor advice, it is their way of saying they care about this baby. 

You are right, pregnancy is not private, nor should it be.  When your nipples bleed, you want to have dinners delivered to your doorstep by friends who know your nipples are bleeding and that your husband is carrying the colic baby and nobody was up to much cooking that day.  When your baby smiles at you for the first time, you want to be able to tell someone who rejoices in this little event as much as you do.  You will have neighbours who never spoke to you, dropping by to give you a card and a little hat they knitted because they spotted across the street that you were pregnant.  Colleagues you barely know will ask if you want their moses basket and some newborn clothing.  By telling people for the 457th time that you are due in about 13 weeks, you allow them to become a peripheral or intimate part of this circle of people who will support you and the baby once it’s born. 

You don’t have to post anything on Facebook to do this. But really, you’ll appreciate having people who care when you are in your fourth trimester.  It takes a village to raise a child, so don’t allow yourself to think you live on a deserted island.