Drowning in Advice: When Everyone Has Pregnancy Tips For You
Having a baby means dealing with less of a lot of things. There is less sleep, less quiet time to oneself, fewer evenings out as a couple, and less savings after the exorbitant cost of diapers and other baby paraphernalia.
But there is one thing that there is a lot more of once you become a parent: Advice.
This is particularly true in India where everyone has an opinion and everyone feels compelled to share it with the conviction of an expert. From the moment that the pregnancy is announced or imminently visible, the floodgates of unsolicited advice open up.
“Do this,” “Don’t do this,” “You really shouldn’t,” “This is the best thing for the baby,” – these are pregnancy tips you hear almost incessantly.
“Which doctor are you going to? Heavens, are you really going to let a male doctor deliver you? That’s crazy! I will call my daughter’s gynecologist and have her see you.”
Given that a male member of the species contributed to the pregnancy in the first place, going to a male doctor for the delivery doesn’t seem that ridiculous. However, letting an expectant couple make their own decisions is an unheard of concept in India. And the poor couple that tries to do it can face even more stress.
“Do you really think you know more than we do? We had kids and raised them long before all those parenting books came along. Listen to us beta, after all, we only want what’s best for you and the baby.”
You know that the last statement is absolutely true and so you retreat and wait for the next trimester and the advice that it will bring.
There is something about a pregnant belly that makes it impossible for even complete strangers to refrain from commenting and sharing their opinions. While some of the advice may be based on scientific evidence and be focused on nutrition and general well being, there will be much more that will leave you scratching your head.
Some of the more memorable ones that I heard included:
“Don’t turn around when your sit, or else the baby’s cord can get twisted.”
“Make sure you don’t have any sex when you’re pregnant. The baby can see everything, you know.” God forbid, the first thing your baby sees be a home porn production!
“Avoid tea and coffee completely.” I thought this piece of advice was for caffeine avoidance, but then the person elaborated further: “In fact, you should only have white-colored liquids. That’s the secret to having a fair baby.”
I guess genetics may well be damned!
“You should consume a lot of butter and olive oil, because that helps with labor; the baby just slips out.” Seriously – I did hear this one. I couldn’t possibly have made it up. In that case, I might as well have some banana peels, too.
“Make sure you see a good looking person the first thing in the morning so that your baby becomes good looking too.” Hmmm, the first person I usually see is my spouse. Who would you suggest I sleep with instead?
One of the best ones I heard during my pregnancy was: “Make sure you only think happy thoughts. Happy thoughts make a happy baby.” At that moment, my only thought was to strangle the person who was showering me with her opinions. But since that thought did make me deliriously happy, I figured the baby would be all right.
You naively believe that once the baby is born and the pregnant belly deflates, the incessant advice will stop. Turns out that if there is anything that attracts more advice than a pregnant belly, it is a new baby!
Not only does it keep pouring in, it’s often conflicting.
“You should exclusively nurse,” from one person, and “You should use formula as top-up,” from another.
“You should start solids by four months,” at the same time as. “Don’t even think about starting solids until six months.”
“Make sure you sleep train your baby. Let her cry for a few days – then she’ll get used to sleeping by herself.” But then I also heard: “You would have to be cruel and cold-hearted to let the baby cry in her crib. You should sleep with the baby.”
“You should make sure that you get intimate as a couple again.” Well, hello, what about the baby that’s co-sleeping with us, thanks to your advice?
“You should make the baby spend a lot of time with smart people, so that she gets smart too.” Note to self: baby should spend no time with this particular advice-giver, if this is indeed how intelligence is transferred.
“You should feed on demand.” In other words, be a lactating cow on standby at all times, or, “You should feed only on schedule.” And then be judged as the cruel mother that ignores the screaming and hungry baby’s cries.
The never-ending and conflicting pieces of advice have the potential of driving you crazy. Not only that, they can undermine your own intuitions when it comes to handling and raising your baby.
Opinions come from very close quarters: mothers, mothers-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, grandparents, close friends and co-workers. It’s much easier to ignore unsolicited advice from a stranger in the mall who feels compelled to offer her two bits on how you should be raising your baby. But how does one deal with the reams of advice from close friends and family, who only have your and the baby’s well-being at heart?
At the risk of contributing to the barrage of advice, here are some of my thoughts: For those who live in nuclear families, it’s a little easier to deal with the onslaught. Smile politely, thank the giver for their advice, and continue to do exactly what makes you comfortable. If the advice works for you, take it. If it doesn’t, just quietly ignore it.
However, for those who live in larger, joint families, there can be little respite. You are likely to be engulfed by persistent and unrelenting advice around the clock, along with follow-up measures to ensure that it is taken. Your only hope is that someone else in the family gets pregnant soon so that some of these best intentions get redirected. Until then, good luck deflecting!
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