Katie McCarthy: Everyone has advice for the new mom

March 29, 2013 

The thing about being pregnant, or toting around your infant, is that everybody wants to give you advice. Especially if they have children of their own.

I've been on the receiving end of this advice for the last year or so, and I definitely understand where these women come from -- recently, I've found myself doling it out a bit as well.

While I've read about and heard lots of women complain about unsolicited advice during pregnancy and new-mommyhood, I always relish the opportunity to talk about my pregnancy, my birth experience and/or my baby.

For those keeping track, five of my last seven columns have been in some way, shape or form about my baby.

It's almost a compulsion.

But being a parent, especially a mom for the pregnancy/birth aspect, is a hugely unifying experience. I love hearing about others' experiences and sharing mine.

I assume this feeling is what leads to the tendency to bestow advice on expectant/new parents.

But there are some touchy subjects when it comes to pregnancy/parenting talk, compounded by the fact that the person you're advising is likely already suffering from an extreme learning curve.

While I was pregnant, I had more than one person tell me, enthusiastically, to "Get the epidural!" During my nine months of pregnancy, I never found a way to say, "Actually, I'm planning for an unmedicated birth," without sounding a bit condescending or naive.

When you've never given birth and you're telling someone who has that you've taken classes and researched how to manage the pain without drugs, it tends to come off as both.

This made me feel uncomfortable. But it also led to some interesting discussions in which both parties learned something new.

But something amazing happens when you actually have your baby -- you somehow just know what to do. You know what advice to listen to, what to disregard and you know how you want to raise your child.

I imagine I've got a lifetime of people trying to give me advice ahead of me -- most new parents do. No matter who you are or what decisions you make, there's always going to be someone telling you how that didn't work with their child or how they know the best way to do something.

But we all think we know best.

I saw something online recently bashing the "iPhone mom" who is busy texting or checking email instead of experiencing a few precious moments with her kids; I also saw a refutation about how stay-at-home moms need a few precious moments to themselves as well and we should be lifting moms up instead of tearing them down.

It made me realize how judgemental society is of moms.

So maybe instead of more advice what we really need is a little understanding.

Katie McCarthy, kmccarthy@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8515.

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