This week, many of us here at ChicagoNow have been writing letters and sharing our thoughts to all the new mothers out there. I couldn't let this opportunity go by without inviting a friend to join me in this venture. I have had the pleasure and honor of getting to know her over the last few months and honestly believe when it comes to talking about losing the labels, she has a voice you need to hear. You can normally find her writing at Wifeytini.com but today I am very pleased she is here sharing her advice for new moms. Please welcome Sarah Watts.
If there's one thing that all pregnant women experience (and universally loathe), it's good-meaning friends and family trying to tell you who your future baby will be.
It starts when you announce your pregnancy and your relatives try to guess the gender based on your pregnancy symptoms (or lack thereof). Instead of offering you some ginger ale when they see you hunched over a toilet, your friends and family will start offering you insight on how your never-ending nausea actually means you're having a girl. (How thoughtful, right?)
And be warned, if you're a first time mom – the insight doesn't stop there. Are you craving spicy foods? That means you'll have a smart baby, didn't you know? Is he trying to judo-kick you in the lungs, twenty-three hours a day? That's a sure sign he'll be an early walker. And God help you if you gain all your baby weight in your butt – that means you're having a boy, and everyone is going to let you know it.
Oh, Lord, will everyone let you know it.
The only thing you can do, really, is to laugh good-naturedly and take everything that people say with a grain of salt. Because as informative as people try to be, and as eager as you might be to learn something about the little stranger that's inside of you, I'm here to tell you that all of it is complete and total BS. Having a baby is a genetic crapshoot and nothing more.
It's scary, but there's really nothing anyone can say that will tell you about the child you're going to parent. Cravings, belly size, weight gain, nausea – even seemingly universal terms like “boy” and “girl” won't tell you much. A girl might not act like a stereotypical girl, trading in her ballet slippers for bare feet and preferring Spider Man over Barbie (like my girl). Someone who was born a boy may later reveal that that label no longer applies. You just never know.
When my husband and I conceived our second born, we were given dozens of labels to describe him. At a routine ultrasound with our maternal-fetal medicine specialist, we were informed that our son had Spina bifida. Handicapped was the word they used to describe him. Because his neural tube had not properly closed, he was faced with a fleet of other deformities, such as hydrocephalus (water on the brain), and clubbed feet (which the doctor described as sub-optimal).
Unfortunately, we placed a great amount of importance on these labels. We thought they could tell us everything about who we would be adding to our family, and in reality they told us very little. We knew he had larger-than-normal lateral ventricles, but we didn't know how intelligent and good-humored he'd later turn out to be. We knew he had clubbed feet, but we didn't know that someday he would pull himself up to stand, in spite of them. We knew he had Spina bifida, but that didn't give us any insight as to his quality of life – which turned out to be better than we had ever thought possible.
And some labels were downright untrue. During the course of the pregnancy, two obstetricians, independent of each other, told us that our son would be born paralyzed, devoid of any function at all from the waist down. Happily, although he has some gross motor delays, he spends most of the day crawling around and trying to shove his hand down his diaper. Paralyzed, my ass.
My advice? Ignore the labels as best you can. Smile and nod the next time some elderly woman molests your stomach at the deli counter and tells you your baby will have a full head of hair. Your baby will reveal him or herself to you slowly – and ever so slowly, you'll love him more and more every day, no matter who he turns out to be.
If you would like to read more posts from some awesome ChicagNow bloggers with their advice for new moms - you can read them all here.
And I almost forgot my post for today Letters to a new mom: letting your child's light shine