On Unsolicited Advice

It used to bother me when people offered advice I clearly didn’t ask for. And that makes me a giant hypocrite, because I do that to other people all the time. It’s a condition I think, where I start talking and I come across as a big, blubbering know-it-all. I can see it in other people’s faces as the words spew from my mouth. Something I say rubs them the wrong way, their eyes register annoyance then glaze over, then they let the subject drop because they don’t want me talking anymore. I recognize the technique because I do the very same thing.

Now I’ve become more accepting of people and their opinions. Because people are always going to have opinions. And they’re often going to present them as fact. But the thing is now that instead of those imposed opinions ruffling my feathers, I’ll maintain an underlying level of doubt about what they say. When people say something like, “Babies pee purple until they’re three months old” or “Dancing will not only hasten delivery but make the baby more coordinated coming out of the womb” they can be sure that I won’t wholeheartedly believe them.

Nobody’s said those things yet, but there’s still time.

But I’ve mellowed out quite a bit, because I’ve recognized my own vast ignorance on the subjects of pregnancy and parenting. It doesn’t bother me as much when parents look at us and make the strangest remarks about what seems to be rather predictable things.

“Just you wait.” Wait for what? We are waiting. I’m closing in on my sixth of nine months. And while we’re waiting, we’re talking, reading, asking people what their experience has been. Are we waiting for a baby that pops out like a jack-in-the-box? Are we waiting for a labor that requires more waiting, except more intense? Are we waiting for Baby’s first blow-outs and spit-ups? Wait until our child starts smarting off at us? Wait until she’s a teenager? Or until she goes to college?  Or until she starts spouting advice of her own? There’s a difference between waiting for some big surprise to completely blindside us and anticipating possibilities in development and preparing accordingly. Or are you saying we’ll never be prepared? Because I can prepare myself for that kind of news, too. Or maybe you’re saying to wait for the constant feeling of failure as a parent. We plan on doing our very best all the time, and maybe you are too, but that doesn’t mean you have to  be so negative about it.

third trimester. Next month begins my third trimester, and I feel whatever you’re warning me against falls under the “just you wait” category. We’re taking everything in stride, just like we did when we decided against guessing at the baby’s gender. We would have been just as thrilled for a boy.

Second trimester has been a relative breeze, except for occasional lower back pain. Reilly and I have watched my tummy grow; I’ve felt our daughter moving around. I’ve played my clarinet for her and Reilly has told her stories.

Third semester promises swelling, more back pain, and the resurgence of tinkle frequency. Third semester also promises a wonderful baby in our arms.

pregnancy brain. Why people feel compelled to warn us about this, I will never know. It’s true that I have lapses: I forget to turn out the lights; I forget the name of a movie or song or actor or book. But there are other cognitive thingamabobs that seem to have gotten better: certain reasoning skills and the connection between my heart and brain. This connection helps to explain why I cry at nearly everything, like Hallmark Channel movies and these videos:

“It’ll change your life forever.” Really? Devoting attention and energy as parents to a brand new human being while maintaining our relationship as husband and wife will make our life different forever? Someone, please explain this to me, because I thought we’d be able to continue every single aspect of our life as usual.

“Have you thought of names?” We are going to leave a big blank on the birth certificate. And then maybe we’ll call her Blanky, not to be confused with the nickname Blanket, formally Prince Michael Jackson II.

People are thoughtful enough to tell us to be careful of the names we choose. And then we decide not to name our daughter after these people.

“Girls are so awesome!” People declare this to us because:

  • girls seem to have calmer dispositions
  • girls as first children can be very helpful with raising subsequent children
  • girls are funner to dress

I guess those reasons are legit? People tell us boys are awesome, too, because:

  • boys can be calm, too
  • oldest boys can protect their younger siblings
  • boys can be just as fun to dress

Again, we would have been thrilled either way.

doctor/hospital vs. midwife/homebirth. Boy howdy, I’ve researched both sides of what seems a pretty heated debate. And I’ve asked people about their experience, which has spanned the entire spectrum. There are parents who’ve had horrible and wonderful home births, and there are parents I’ve spoken to who’ve had amazing and terrifying hospital deliveries. And there are studies upon studies upon studies. And then there’s a ton of fearmongering.

vaccines. Some people just love to debate and attack people for thinking differently. Or just plain thinking.

breastfeeding. Same.

“I’ve done a lot of research  into [important subject]. [Or I haven’t, but…] If you have any questions, we can talk.” I love this, and I think more productive conversations would happen if people used this approach more often. There are entire communities out there who engage in important parenting discussions and gain insight about their abilities as parents as well as their children.

I heartily admit that we don’t know everything about being parents, but we’re also not complete idiots. We’re not totally oblivious and unobservant. We’re not going to let an army of ants carry her away into their anthill to crown her the queen ant. That would make me jealous.

I appreciate parents who are passionate enough to share what has worked for them. And I’m willing to listen and try to see what will work for our daughter. But we will also trust in our own intuition and be specifically attuned to Baby’s unique needs. We have been fervently praying to be as prepared as possible, and if that preparation comes in the form of wide-eyed, über-zealous parents trying to tell us what to do, we can deal with that. But if it comes in the form of people who know what it’s like but want to let us figure some things out on our own, we’ll take that, too.

A little discussion.

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