My advice to women about to have their first baby? Ignore everybody’s advice — and watch out for men who want to grope your bump, says Daisy Prince
THIS IS MY final column before crossing the Rubicon into motherhood. I’ve been lucky in my pregnancy and have gone through it relatively smoothly, albeit with the occasional midnight leg cramp and killer headaches in the first three months. Clean living seems to have suited me to the point where some ‘friends’ have said: ‘You ought to stay pregnant, you look better,’ and my husband’s been thrilled that I’m now the first to want to leave a soirée.
I do sleep better than I did in the old days; at night my pillow is the best party in town. Pregnancy does have its privileges — people are often a little nicer to you as a result, and the kindness comes from the most unexpected sources. For example, on my morning walk through the recently tidied Washington Square Park, the homeless guys will always give me a big shout out when they see me. ‘Way to go, honey!’ or ‘Don’t do too much in this heat!’ they will say. Sometimes they ask: ‘Is it a boy?’ When I confirm that it is, they look extremely pleased and then slip back into a light slumber.
Still, I can’t say that pregnancy is something I’d like to live through every year. I can’t even get my head around doing it more than once at this point. So I’m always puzzled by women who come up to me and say: ‘Oh, I wish I were pregnant.’ I have to confess I think they are totally mad. The only way I can get my head around it is to liken pregnancy and childbirth to climbing a mountain. Maybe some people enjoy the process of climbing a mountain, but more likely is that they are looking back on their experience with happiness and joy. Or perhaps there are people out there who really like getting night sweats and having to go to the loo four times in an hour.
So, in terms of physical inconvenience, I have found being with child a little annoying at times but basically bearable, and even fun and strange (like when you can feel your baby hiccuping inside you — weird but cool). But there have been a few things that I’ve really struggled with, namely the curse of OP (other people). From the moment you announce your pregnancy, it’s like opening Pandora’s Box — a huge load of advice-givers fly out. These well-wishers will give you far more heartburn than the spiciest Thai food ever could.
The most common are the ‘Overshare Bears’, those well-intentioned people (usually women) who seem to think that what pregnant women really want to hear are absolutely horrifying tales of pregnancy ordeals that happened to them/their best friend/their colleague from work/their sister-in-law. Right? Wrong.
Towards the end of pregnancy, some of them morph into ‘John the Baptists’, because they think they’ve found the ‘right’ way to raise their children and will happily proselytise to you about their child-rearing philosophies until you want to run screaming from the room. (Note: this is not to say that all advice in pregnancy is bad. For example, my husband’s cousin told me to try pregnancy yoga, which turned out to be a godsend for my aching muscles and aching mind.)
The second group of gadflies is the ‘Tummy Touchers’, and they tend to be men. Most of the time, when you’re expecting, men are great. OK, so they do stare at you with awe and a certain amount of fear, as if they might catch pregnancy if they look at you for too long. But they never overshare, unless it’s to tell you what the best kind of stroller is or what car seat you should get. (Men love pregnancy kit — they see strollers as smaller, more affordable Ferraris and can talk about them endlessly.) However, some do touch your stomach without asking permission.
I was at a cocktail party at the Brook Club in New York and was talking to a tycoon who had recently moved back from the UK. When he noticed I was pregnant, out went the hand, giving my stomach a quick grope. I was too taken aback to say anything, but I couldn’t help thinking: ‘Uh, would you touch my boob as readily too?’
The third group is the ‘Pre-School Panickers’, the couples who have already signed Junior up for every pre-school on the island of Manhattan, thereby making the application process more arduous and significantly more stressful than trying to get into Harvard.
With these gadflies buzzing around in your head, it’s hard to get a sense of peace and calm before giving birth. One of the hardest aspects of this journey is that, while you can intellectualise and prepare for the process of becoming a mother by reading and discussing the whole thing ad nauseam, you can’t feel the happiness of being a parent until you feel it. So you have to trust in the universe that everything is going to go OK and that life will be better on the other side.
As a wise friend of mine who is pregnant with her second child says, ‘Daisy, if it wasn’t absolutely incredible, no one would do it more than once.’