What Advice Should You Share With Expectant Mothers?
My first grandson was born recently. During his mother’s pregnancy I made some observations and had some startling revelations.
Experienced Mothers’ Share Pregnancy Woes
Once a pregnant mother attains the appearance of being pregnant she is accosted by perfect strangers (men and women) giving her advice: “Never do this!” And the “Always be sure to.. !” There is even a YouTube of some of these multitudinous tidbits.
Experienced Mothers’ Share Battle Stories
I was surprised as she shared how everyone, (often the same women mentioned above) had to share their mostly hard, long, terrible labor stories. Since she would never have requested such woeful tales, I am puzzled as to why “experienced mothers” feel the compulsion to share their horror stories of their labor. Why do we do this to a young mother?
Rarely do you hear one of these seasoned mothers expressing her deep joy after the baby was born or how wonderful it was to hear the baby’s first cries. These comments would certainly be more helpful for an already anxious pregnant mother to hear.
I must admit I did share my pregnancy story with my daughter in law, because it was an easy and positive one, just to encourage her. Later I realized that my “sharing” how I used Lamaze to have my son could have made her feel bad if she had needed a Cesarean Section, epidural or couldn’t use Lamaze. My mistake. I remembered hearing how some new mothers were devastated and felt like failures if they didn’t breast feed or have “natural” childbirth.
In the big picture shouldn’t we be asking the mother “How are you? How are you feeling about being pregnant? Tell me about the baby’s room, shower, plans, etc.” This is a time the mother needs to talk without having to hear frightful or potentially challenging stories to fill her with fear and dread or give her anxiety about how “womanly” she is or isn’t, depending on her labor or feeding methods.
Experienced Mothers Share Advice
Then there are the “words of wisdom” from the experienced mothers (and perfect strangers male and female) about everything from the baby’s feeding, training, sleeping, crying, discipline, pacifier and all kinds of other nuggets of wisdom. True everyone knows something about these topics; at least from childhood to adolescence…well, then you’re on your own! If the mother asks for advice that is one thing. The funny thing is, how many times does a new mother ask for this kind of advice from strangers?
And I have to admit that I, unasked, offered advice from my own experience about feeding,…and about sleeping… and about helpful positions for when the baby has gas. But in my defense, I am the kind of person who loves to share from my experience about anything that might be helpful. I am the motherly, (now grandmotherly) type. (See my post on my rescuer life:) Rescue the Rescuer. Okay, I am just as guilty as the next woman on this one, I see that now. Next time, I will do better.
Why the compulsion to render unasked for advice?
Some of my reasons I know now. Giving advice comes from a genuine desire to help and to share wisdom from experience that might save some stress later on for the new parents.
The experience of pregnancy and giving birth recalls an ancient “sisterhood” of women. In ancient civilized times, it was the older woman (women) who helped the young women give birth because they had “been there, done that” and knew what worked.
Information was handed down by first observing births and later by word of mouth, then much later by the written word. For the mother to be regaled with advice was kind of an expected behavior from the other experienced women in the family/community. A mother’s pregnancy and baby birthing was a “sorority of mothers” kind of experience shared by a community of women.
The world was a much scarier place for very young mothers, it was not uncommon for mothers and babies to die before, during or after their births. Since most women probably did not know how to read in ancient times, even unasked for advice was likely welcomed in the hopes of preventing unforeseen complications. Then advice was truly a life saving help. Maybe this behavior is inherited from mother to daughter?
Personally I found that sharing my story of my son’s birth brought back many pleasant memories and feelings of joy and love. I wanted to feel close to my daughter in law during this time because this birth was a new bond between us. When I held my new grandson those feelings of love and joy were rekindled for this little person about to be a big part of my future. Those kinds of emotions are good to share with the mother and father.
Five Guidelines for Experienced Mothers in Talking with New Mothers
- Ask if she feels like talking. She may need to vent some of her own fears and anxieties or she may want to be quiet.
- Ask if she has already received a lot of advice and how she felt about it? Any advice funny or unusual?
- Find out what she knows already and what infant care she feels comfortable doing.
- Ask her if she is worried about anything in particular. (If you are close to her.)
- Tell her you would like to help in whatever way she might need.
So next time you are with a pregnant couple or woman, think about your motivation for sharing your pregnancy woes, battle stories, and advice. Then let the mother take the lead in the conversation and listen.