1) The Space Invader
They could be a friend or a perfect stranger, but they have no qualms about stroking your belly, and telling you its too big, too small, too high, too low, as if it weren’t part of your anatomy at all. They will happily inform you that your bottom has got bigger, or your hips more womanly, and predict the gender of your unborn child based on a very frank assessment of your weight distribution!
How to deal with them: Comments on your size from either side of the spectrum can be hurtful and your stock response should be: “My midwife is very happy with the size I am, thank you.” Midwives monitor babies’ growth very closely and if they are concerned about the size of your bump they will refer you. If you are not happy about people touching you, don’t be afraid to say so, and remind them that pregnant women are very sensitive.
2) The Helpful Stranger
This self appointed childcare expert will see fit to accost you in the street and advice (or chastise!) on all aspects of pregnancy or baby rearing. “You’ll get varicose veins with those high heels…That baby is hungry…Don’t you know mobile phones are harmful to the unborn child?” No matter what the topic, this helpful passer by has an opinion and isn’t afraid to share it with you. For your part, you wish they’d go jump!
How to deal with them: Smile sweetly, thank them for their advice and then ignore them. If their comments worry you, don’t tie yourself up in knots: seek clarification from your midwife or health visitor.
3) The Critical Mother-In-Law
She sends you articles on breastfeeding, even though she knows you intend to use the bottle, feeds your baby chocolate cake when you’re trying to avoid sweets, and is forever telling you that “things were different in my day!” Worst of all, the minute you get home from the hospital, she says: “It’s never too early to start trying for another one!”
How to deal with them: Be very clear from the outset about the support you do and don’t want. Explain that while you appreciate her advice, opinions have changed a lot since she was a mum, and that you hope she will support you in the decisions you make. At the same time, do your best to include her in the pregnancy – send her some copies of scan pictures and tell her about your appointments – and actively involve her in the life of your new baby. If she feels included, she is less likely to stick her nose in.
4) The Baby Basher
She is the unsympathetic, childless friend who just can’t understand why you aren’t up for clubbing a fortnight before your due date and says things like, “I hope you’re not going to be one of those people who only wants to talk about babies now you’re pregnant.” She believes that having a baby shouldn’t change your life and quotes the gospel according to Supernanny whilst at the same time declaring that when she has children they will be made to fit around her schedule and not the other way round.
How to deal with them: Talk to her about the changes you are experiencing physically and emotionally and explain why you aren’t quite your old self at the moment. Equally be aware of her feelings: she may be feeling excluded, jealous or frightened of losing your affections now that you have such an important new focus in your life. Make time for her and suggest activities which will suit you both – shopping and cake eating rather than clubbing and boozing – and clamp your hand over your mouth if you find yourself talking about babies all the time!
5) The Smug Mummy
She seems to breeze through pregnancy untouched by morning sickness, stretch marks or swollen ankles. She gives birth in record time and is back in her size 10 jeans within a week. Her perfect baby is placid, colic free and sleeps through the night from day one; her nails are always perfect, her make up flawless; her clothes untouched by baby vomit. Hers is the child who will roll first, crawl before the rest, make a trouble free transition to solids and display all the latent signs of genius from the outset. And boy, will she enjoy telling you about it!
How to deal with them: Don’t be drawn into a competition and avoid the temptation to pretend that everything is going swimmingly for you if this isn’t the case. You’ll be surprised: even women who seem to be coping effortlessly can be having just as hard a time as the rest of us. They may just be too shy to say so. Be frank about any problems you are experiencing and you’ll probably find they’ll open up about their own difficulties. If not, at least it should make them realise how insensitive their boasting is.
6) The Pregnancy Perv
Usually a man of a certain age, or a spotty pre-pubescent boy, this pregnancy perv won’t stand up on a bus to offer you a seat but will spend the entire journey staring at your bump, checking out your new page 3 breasts and sneaking a peak at your plump pregnancy bottom. He is the sort of person who would say “Childbearing is kind of sexy, don’t you think?” if he could pick his tongue off the floor long enough to do anything other than drool over you!
How to deal with them: You could try the mock innocent approach: “I’m sorry, do I know you? It’s just that you were staring at me.” Or the matter of fact: “Yes, I’m pregnant, not just fat.” Or the confrontational: “Pregnant women turn you on do they?” But the best way to deal with people who stare at your bump is to stare right back. They will soon look away.
7) The Prophet of Doom
Already a mother herself, she gives lengthy and gruesome accounts of her hideous labour, and appears to relish telling you about such postnatal horrors such as haemorrhoids, perineal infections and cracked nipples. She takes great joy in informing you that once your baby is born, you can wave goodbye to your sex life, your figure, your social life, your relationship and any vestiges of optimism you still had before talking to her.
How to deal with them: Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. If you quiz someone about their birth experience or postnatal difficulties, be prepared that the answers they give may not always be reassuring. If the scaremongering is unsolicited, politely say that, whilst it is great to hear about other people’s experiences, you are already feeling quite nervous and there are certain things that you feel uncomfortable talking about. She has probably just forgotten what it feels like to be in your position and will respect your honesty.
What our midwife says:
Take it from the professionals
When you are pregnant or a new mum, everyone seems to be free with their advice. It’s important to be aware that advice you receive from friends, family, or even strangers, is not always constructive. Try to differentiate between opinion and fact: if someone says something that concerns you, discuss it with your midwife or health visitor. Health professionals will be keeping a close eye on your progress and that of your baby, and it is their opinion and no one else’s that you should be guided by.
Don’t be put off by others’ birth stories
Bear in mind that while other people’s experiences are valuable, they will bear no resemblance to yours. People have different pain thresholds, expectations and models of care. They will always tell you the horrid bits, but look how many of them go on to have second or subsequent children. Labour probably won’t be a highlight of your life but the end result is certainly worth it.
Be realistic about motherhood
It is the most fantastic thing, but it is not easy and you shouldn’t assume it will be. When you are meeting other new mums, it can be hard to admit you are struggling, but try to avoid one-upmanship. Don’t be afraid to voice concerns. If you are honest, you may even find that even the most intimidating mothers reply “I’m so glad you said that – I’m going through the same thing.”
Join a forum
Pregnant ladies and new mums are particularly sensitive, but people do not always realise. Why not seek forums (like ours!) where parenting can be discussed in a positive way. If you do get bombarded with unwanted advice, thank people for their comments, but in the end, listen to the experts and ignore the grapevine.
“I get irritated by people who don’t help you lift your pushchair up steps, but push past you to emphasise that they are far too busy to help. If people are rude, I tend to be on the charm offensive. If you ask nicely, people do tend to help and I think they feel better for it.”
Kate, 14 weeks pregnant and mum to Daisy 14 months
“Once I was browsing in an expensive maternity wear shop and the assistant asked me how many weeks I was. At my reply, she said in a loud voice audible to all in the shop: “Gosh, you are huge!” I just smiled and walked out. I won’t shop there again.”
Catherine, 33 weeks pregnant
“My son threw a huge tantrum in the supermarket the other day. It didn’t help though when some so-called ‘helpful’ woman took it in turns to try to amuse him, only raising the pitch of his screams. My son is shy, but people think they know best. It can be hard to stay polite!”
Claire is mum to Alexander, 8 and William, 4
“When you’re pregnant, strangers think it is their business to ask you personal questions. I always answer them politely, but think to myself ‘It’s really none of your concern.’ When I was overdue with Sean, I had friends and neighbours saying to me all day, every day, ‘Still not come them?’ It was quite frustrating enough, waiting, but that drove me mad!”
Leloo, 16 weeks pregnant and mum to Sean, 15 months
“I breastfeed Dillan and now Jack. People come up to me while I am feeding and peer into my baby’s face or stroke his head, before realising that they are looking straight at my boob. I don’t suppose they mean to be so intrusive but I’m not sure who is more embarrassed: them or me!”
Heather, mum to Dillan, 20 months and Jack, 15 weeks