I’m still recovering from post-birth baby brain, though I’m tentatively noodling around with book edits again and getting ready to tackle the submissions process. I actually drafted this blog when I was pregnant with my first child and never posted it. I was getting flustered about having the same conversation every day. And then I felt bad and didn’t want anyone to feel called out. And now I don’t remember who that could possibly be, so if we had these conversations: no worries.
Bizarrely, I didn’t have this experience at ALL while pregnant the second time! Do first-time moms exude some air of uncertainty that invites the opinions of strangers? Or do second-time moms exude some air of weary impatience that staves OFF the opinions of strangers? I may never know!
With a baby around the corner, I thought I’d reflect on the public interaction part of pregnancy so far.
Because, ah man, I would have been happy to only let my friends, family, and immediate coworkers know that I am expecting, but it hits a point that you are too physically obvious and strangers want in on the excitement, too. I work with the public, which means new people want to weigh in on the situation every week.
I’m being good-humored and taking it for what it is: polite small talk. It’s an easy topic to make chit-chat about because everybody at least knows somebody with kids. If I don’t want to answer something I laugh and hand-wave it off, but I try not to be rude because I know it’s coming from a polite place.
The most common opening question trifecta, understandably:
- When are you due?
- Do you know if it’s a boy or girl?
- Is this your first?
1-2-3 this is basically every conversation I have with curious patrons. I have been tempted to lie on number 3 and say I already have kids, because inevitably once I admit that this is my first baby people get the urge to gleefully explain some aspect of childbirth to me. The most bizarre thing that I didn’t anticipate: folks really want to tell you every childbirth horror story they know, all culminating in, “And then you end up getting a C-section.”
This has happened repeatedly:
“Are you planning to give birth naturally?”
“Well… I mean, I’m intending to, yeah.”
“It doesn’t matter what you plan, you might need a C-section.”
Everybody also wants to tell me how exhausting it will be, how you are never really ready, how your life will change, etc. They really play up the downsides. Meanwhile, my childless friends get the opposite barrage: questions about when they are planning to have kids, and insistence that “your biological clock will kick in and then you’ll do it!” But apparently once you actually get pregnant the rhetoric switches to convincing you it’s going to be terrible. Make up your mind, general public!!
There has also been a major fascination with prying out my symptoms. During the first half in particular, these were the most common questions:
- Have you been throwing up?
- Are you having mood swings?
- Do you have any crazy food cravings?
Not only did people ask me this repeatedly, they asked my husband too! I finally figured it out: there are a zillion and one pregnancy symptoms, but these three are TV and movie STANDARDS, so if you don’t know much else about pregnancy, you know, “Morning sickness, mood swings, and cravings.” The reality involves a lot more issues with the digestive tract, it is wholly undignified, don’t even ask what’s going on down there, okay the answer is gas.
I don’t want to share my medical history with strangers, so when people get even more detailed (have you had this? that? any of this other thing I’ve heard of?) I kind of give a blanket denial. It isn’t that I want to perpetuate an illusion that all is going swimmingly, but I’m not keen on talking about my bodily functions at work either! So I say everything is fine even if ten things are bothering me that day. We’re just making small talk, I’m not going to start droning, “Sinuses are stuffed, feet are swollen, my boobs leaked last night and plastered my shirt to my chest”– America, is this really what you want to hear?
Now in the second half it is mostly questions about my future plans: am I going back to work? am I going to breastfeed? Again a bunch of stuff I don’t feel the need to explain to strangers, but by this point in the conversation they’ve noticed that I keep laughing and waving my hands and not answering questions. It’s starting to get weird. Find a way out, find a way out!
Ask your friends a bunch of questions about their pregnancies (I, too, am always eager to compare complaints! I have many!). Ask your coworkers, even, if you’re friendly enough. But think twice before peppering a total stranger with all your horror stories, especially customer service personnel who are trapped into that polite smile!