Thursday, 16 May 2013

which kind of pregnancy do you do?

I have a brand~new~so~shiny~you'll~need~your~sunglasses theory to share but it's going to take some explaining ~ not sure it makes complete sense yet, but I hope you'll stick with me and let me know what you think.  I'll warn you up front ~ it's a long post ~ it kind of had to be so I could explain properly, but there's some pretty scenery on the way, if that helps!  The entirely unrelated photos are of my garden in the sunshine, just to prove that, despite the rain, we do get some gorgeous weather here in Bristol.

It all starts, the way so many things do, during pregnancy.  You'll have to forgive the gross generalisations by the way ~ that's just the way this goes.  While it may be true that no two pregnancies are the same, it's also true that there are two broad classes of pregnant ~ just read on to find out how this works!

There's the 'I'm excellent at being pregnant' camp.

The women in this camp planned exactly when to get pregnant, often selecting the month of birth citing Swedish research linking month of birth to optimal brain development and future likelihood of either running a small country or a large multinational company.  They will not have tainted their body with alcohol, caffeine, or any processed sugars, but instead will be enjoying a healthy diet rich in folic acid, and with seven different coloured portions of organic free range fruit and veg every day.  This diet did not begin at the time of conception, but rather twelve months earlier, in order to ensure perfect receptive conditions for the sperm of her beloved.  Incidentally, her beloved has also forsaken alcohol and pizza so that he can share the pregnancy with her.  Every night he reads her flat toned abdomen a bedtime story, while she is relaxing in the warm (but not to warm) bath that he ran for her, with guaranteed safe in pregnancy oils.  Each refer to the other as their co~parent, and attend two specialist yoga in pregnancy classes each week, as well as another called how to open your flower and enjoy childbirth.  They refer to the six page birth plan as the pre~formulated story of our child's calm and peaceful arrival into our arms, and are confident that the two year course in shiatsu massage that he took prior to them falling pregnant will negate any need for intervention or drugs.

Then there's the other camp.

These are the woman who fall pregnant while still striving to lose the weight from the baby before.  If it's a first pregnancy, 'it seemed like a good idea at the time'.  She looked six months pregnant from the moment she saw that blue line or pink line or frog (you may well have guessed that I never quite got the frog pregnancy test bit) ~ possibly because she decided at that point that holding it in was a waste of energy.  She doesn't have time for the antenatal classes or writing a birth plan ~ after all, this baby is pretty much going to come out when it wants, and how it wants, no matter what you plan...  She orders two or three books on childbirth and babycare from amazon with the best of intentions, but somehow doesn't make it past page twelve . . . there'll be plenty of time to read them through later.  Those birth stories programmes that are on during the day though ~ those are just right ~ half an hour long, uncomplicated, and really let you know how this is going to go.  She'll happily eat anything that will stay down, which somewhat conveniently is often chocolate (woohoo!), and might even enjoy the odd sip of wine, before dozing off while laying on the sofa ten minutes into a film.  Apart from an occasional craving for fish fingers, nothing unusual.  She enjoys flicking through the baby name books, and blokie makes encouraging huuuum type sounds when she reads out her favourites, and if she asks him which one he likes best, he'll say something along the lines of 'you can choose, or maybe we could call it Manchester United...' so that she doesn't ask again.

You see the paragraph near the beginning?  Up there, just before the photo of Meg in the grass ~ it's in a different colour.  That paragraph ~ complete bull.  Pregnancies are complicated, full of changes in tempo, uncertainty ~ few women actually experience the pregnancy they would like to or expect to have ~ life just isn't that tidy!

In truth, most of us would probably wish for some of the elements of the first, but recognise a lot of those from the second (specially the fishfingers).  That is because every pregnancy is as unique as the person experiencing it, maybe more so, since so many of us have pregnancies that can be very different from one to the next.  But the point that I wanted to make here was that so many of us (and I include myself in this) completely fall for the hype.

We want TV pregnancies: 'I'm having your baby' followed by 'oh darling, I'd love to rub your feet' followed by 'the baby's coming', followed by 'hrump' (a single quiet and relatively restrained grunt) followed by 's/he's beautiful ~ you're going to be the best mum in the world'.  Ever heard George Clooney say 'I find nothing more sexy than a woman who keeps a bottle of Gaviscon next to the bed to swig straight from the bottle when she wakes up in the night with ingestion'?  Me neither.  (Of course there's still time George . . .)

The aspect I find interesting is that even during an average, ordinary, uneventful pregnancy, so many women seem to feel compelled to project one of two public images of their pregnancy.    Some lean towards the first 'I'm excellent at pregnancy' tinted glasses, all calm and earth~mothery, while others will happily regal complete strangers on the bus with the intimate details of their ongoing morning sickness, swollen feet and difficulty sleeping, occasionally served with a side order of constipation.

This is the beginning of comparative parenting ~ defining your own experience of parenthood by comparing it against that of others, or at least what you perceive to be the experience of others.

More on this soon, including whether comparative parenting has any links to competitive parenting.

What do you think?  What was your pregnancy like?  Or did you have one of those TV pregnancies, and I'm completely wrong?   I'd love to know what you think.


  1. Like you, I have three kids. My eldest with special needs. Not to make this comment about special needs (although it is my reality so any comments I make likely come back to that fact), but my first pregnancy was most like your first pregnancy scenario.

    It was in no way blissful, as I am a horrid puking wreck of a woman during all pregnancies. But, I was an organic-y wholesome foodie throughout. And moderate (but not too strenuous) exercise was a must.

    And how ironic that this was the pregnancy that resulted in my much loved boy with lots of health issues. I still blamed myself that I must've done something wrong (my husband did paint the basement during those nine months, that must've been it!).

    As a result, I became jaded for the next two pregnancies. Much more like your second pregnancy scenario. Occasional junk food, some caffeine, pretty much nil on the exercise front. And my next two pregnancies resulted in my typical kids, no unusual issues with those boys.

    Ah well. We try our best and live and learn, don't we? I feel blessed to have been pregnant three times, especially since many docs told me I wouldn't have kids (hormonal issues). I proved them wrong and cherish my pregnancies and boys, and all the whacky experiences along the way!

    Thanks for your blog post :-) Love your writing!


  2. Thank you so much for the lovely compliment, and for commenting too! We make a habit out of proving the doctors wrong as well ~ life's much more fun that way! I know you know on some level that your eldest son's health issues are not because of anything that you should or should not have done, but my head twirls that idea around every so often, so I know how that works. But here goes ~ sometimes it helps to hear it from someone else ~ you did nothing wrong when you were pregnant, you did all the things you could have done to give him the very best start he could have, so you have absolutely nothing to feel guilty about. Blame yourself for the giggles and the tickles and the hugs and the twinkly eyes.
    Take care Meredith, and him an extra squeeze from me today, okay?

    1. Sorry for the very late response. Tried responding on Friday, but have since been swamped by the kids!! (Sigh, you know how weekends go...)

      You're very sweet and give sound advice. I once spoke to a very prominent geneticist here in the states about my boy. I was petrified when I fessed up to the paint fumes issue. I thought for sure he would tell me that was "it" as far as causing my son's conditions. Instead he grabbed me by the arms and said very warmly: "You did not do this. You moms always try to blame yourselves, stop it." He was very kind, something that seems to be (surprisingly) somewhat rare in the field of pediatric specialists.

      Hope you and yours are enjoying your weekend. Look forward to reading more on your blog :-)


    2. I do know those weekends! Believe the experts ~ sometimes they do know what they're talking about, and I'm glad you had the chance to offload the guilt and hear the response!
      Hope you like what you read!
      Take care


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