From the Blog

Pregnancy Rant Number Three: Stupid Pregnancy Advice For Fricken Idiots

This one is a doozy. I’ve had four months to think about this. And since we had very little actual medical guidance in the beginning (see Goddamned Pregnancy Rant Numero Uno) we jumped into the steaming cesspool of pregnancy advice early.

There are, of course, a zillion books about pregnancy. There’s a mountain of them. It’s hard to know where to even start climbing that mountain. Usually, you start with what you know, or whatever might be a part of our collective consciousness, meaning, whatever books have been around the longest, or whatever books have been written by celebrities. I am a stubborn contrarian, and a bit of a snot. So if a book is wildly popular with the masses, I’m going to assume there is something wrong with it.

I did start with some of the classics on pregnancy, with a healthy amount of skepticism. I don’t need to name which books they were, you’ve probably heard of them. And sure enough, they had a scolding, fear-inducing tone. I know I’m a pregnant woman, so I am the targeted demographic. Except that most of those books seemed to aim a bit…lower. Pregnant? Yes. Young and uneducated? Um, no. Nervous and scared? Uh, not at all. In need of a soothing authority figure? Certainly not. Prone to accepting conventional wisdom and old wives tales? Uh, who in the hell is reading this crap?

I was warned that there were awful books out there. I moved on from the classics, only mildly surprised that they were worse than I was expecting. We went to the library and spent some time looking over the titles. I picked whichever ones seemed informative and not woo-woo, non-medical, or flippant. I just wanted facts. Some looked like giant encyclopedias, with graphics and stock photography and all the weeks of pregnancy piled into a giant book. We brought these home.

These were a little better. I glossed over the photos of vacant, smiling women looking into the middle distance and holding their bellies. I read some new stuff I didn’t know. They felt like coffee table books, but for pregnant ladies, not urban hipsters. I gave Dave one of them to read because there were a few things in it that were interesting.

He couldn’t get through it. He looked at one book for ten minutes and tossed it aside. “I can’t believe how condescending it is,” he said. I looked again, because these books were actually better than a lot that I had read up to that point. I realized, these books are written primarily for women. They frequently have a chatty, conversational tone that you might find in a women’s magazine. They each had at least one photo of a woman in her PJs, somehow smiling while drinking a tall glass of water at the same time.

Dave may never have read a book or magazine that was meant specifically for female readers. I don’t often read them either. But I’m familiar with that tone. That casual, glossy, lighthearted and vapid tone that seems to want to tap into some universal “sisterhood.” Like we all understand each other. “Constipation is the worst, isn’t it, ladies? And how about when our men don’t pick up their socks? I know, right?” I wouldn’t say I’m a consumer of this genre, but I know how it works. And I’m sort of used to it. I’d like to think I block it out, or I am not affected by it.

But I didn’t even recognize that tone in the books I was reading. I’m so used to it. I read the information I thought was useful, and I didn’t think twice about how “glossy” it was. Dave recognized it immediately. It’s condescending. It has a whiff of authoritarianism. It has a lot of statements assuming the reader must be nervous or concerned about this, this, this, this, this, this, or this! Look at all the things you should be nervous about! There are more things in the world to be nervous about now that you are pregnant! You should be nervous about every bite of food! You should be nervous about every stranger on the street! You should be nervous about sleeping on your back! Bleeding gums! Farting! Drinking water! Ohmygod, drink water! Drink water! Drink more waaaaater! Waaaaaaaaater! But, ohmygod, not if it’s chlorinated! Jesus Christ, don’t drink that!

Have you ever gone on The Internet? The BEST advice is the advice you go find yourself. So I casually started to look, especially when we learned we were having twins. Wow. The shrillness was earsplitting. And that same condescending tone from “experts and authorities” escalated to cartoonish levels. I read up on some of the changes that take place in your body when you become pregnant. Admittedly, there’s a lot. And maybe there are some women out there who don’t know what to expect. One article talked about how some women may be more prone to urinary tract infections or yeast infections “down there.”

“Down there.” What the expert said was, “down there.” Are you goddamned fucking kidding me right now? DOWN THERE? How fucking old am I? Thirteen? Are you telling me you are writing for women who are pregnant, but might be startled to know that the opening between their legs is known as a “vagina”? Or are we too delicate to hear the v-word? Why not call it our pink flower? Or our hooey? Or Aunt Gina?

In a different article, but on the same site, the “expert” discussed how pregnant ladies may experience more vaginal discharge, and after that sentence added, “Ew.” ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? Ew. Oh yes, you can’t talk about a natural biological function, a frequent occurrence in pregnancy, without adding “ew” at the end. Ashamed, much ladies? You should be! You have gross shit coming out of you! Gross! Ew!

Okay. I get that there are women out there who may want or need advice. There are women out there who are young, scared and pregnant. I get that not everyone has the same level of education. I get all that. But the overwhelming demographic is the lowest common denominator. The dumbest possible people. And it makes me fear for the human race. Not only is there bad advice, but there is stuff out there that has no basis in fact, yet it is accepted as common wisdom.

Or you may feel perfectly calm and rational, and there are plenty of people to tell you that you should be panicked and neurotic. You could feel perfectly healthy and happy, and there are people who will tell you that you ought to be ashamed. The women who most need advice are likely the most susceptible to this sort of condescension.

I was thinking I was pretty attuned to this sort of messaging. I generally get super frothy pissed off when I feel like someone is attempting to manipulate me, either personally in my life, or in the giant sense of the universe, and certainly with marketing and advertising. But really, when I thought I was disregarding obvious attempts to appeal to my sisterly womanhood, I was just so used to it, I wasn’t noticing it anymore. And I wonder how much of that sneaky bullshit got through my filters.

Now I notice it everywhere. Now I’m a stark raving pregnant lady. Now I’m a wild eyed bullshit detector. Now more than ever, I’m prone to question the conventional wisdom. By the same token, I question the attitude some women get that “Now that I’m pregnant, I know what’s best for me.” Or, “Now that I’m a mom, I know what’s best for my child.” No you don’t. You’re a dumbass. Plenty of dumb people have kids all the time. You don’t get magical powers because you are suddenly responsible for a helpless creature that depends on you. You just get to boss them around, and then you become a stupid authority figure yourself.

We are responsible for educating ourselves. There’s a ton of bad advice out there. And you really have to judge for yourself. And, oh my. That’s when it gets scary for the human race. Because there are loads of “experts” who are striving mightily to keep us stupid. Because who is going to read their stupid shit if we run out of dumbasses?

 

Comments

  1. I love you.

    • Katy, that means a lot to me, especially knowing you are an L&D nurse and you are smart with such things.

  2. Clearly you and Dave need to get on this and write a pregnancy advice book.

    • Not a bad idea. There needs to be more snarky pregnancy advice out there, in a “book” form, which means someone thinks it’s smart enough to cut down trees for it.

  3. Honeychild, wait until you get into PARENTING advice. Because the people who stay quiet lest they have to talk about Aunt Gina* do not stay silent on that. SO much terrible, contradictory, misinformed information. (Much like what you’ll get from me!) Here’s my oversimplified rule of thumb when that day comes—observe the advice giver’s kids. If they are good kids who make you feel hopeful about humanity, soak in what mom and dad have to say, then apply as you see fit; if the kid is eating a book or winning in a noise contest while the parent tries to talk over them, nod and remember you have a doctors appointment—in fact, you’re late.

    * I had never heard this euphemism. It’s now my favorite.

    • Bill, I know you are right. I haven’t begun to think about that yet. I know my “smile and nod” muscles will get worked to death.

      We should set up a text hotline for whenever we are stuck listening to bad parenting advice. You text the number, and someone calls you to tell you “Your bus full of penguins! It’s on fire! You need to stop talking to that person immediately and come save the penguins!” Aaand, you get to leave AND be a hero.

      Someone will give us start up money for this. Especially in Portland.

  4. Jennifer says:

    Oh, bless you for this. I am pregnant now and I have not been on basically the same journey through the Land of Weird Advice as you have. Our library has a book titled “The Orgasm of Birth”. I couldn’t even open it.

    The thing that weirds me out the most when I occasionally read message boards about trying to conceive and being pregnant, is the horrifying abbreviations that flood every comment. For example, it took me forever to figure out that “DTD” meant “do the deed”. As in, Have Sex. Because for some reason, not only can we not say that, we can’t even say the full euphemism without reducing it to harmless letters that won’t tarnish our Ladyness.

    Arg! :)

  5. Yes, what Bill says is true….pregnancy advice is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to parenting advice. And just wait until you are pushing around a double snap n go around town. People get even stupider when they see twins…you will be amazed at what people say (if you haven’t seen this yet, it gives you a sense of what you will be your everyday at least for the first year or two: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT-lgB_HGEE) And I did have a nurse ask me when I was in the hospital for a non-stress test if “they were put in me?” You think a nurse might have a better way of asking if I had IVF….

  6. Your post does give me hope for the gene pool. As someone who hasn’t had children I realize many feel I have no standing in the conversation (fuel for a very long rant). However I was once a baby. And I often find myself in the same place with babies. Well, only if there isn’t room in the bar. I digress. I think the best parents I see are the ones who are aware that their children are humans. Unlike those who speak of children and old people like they are a different species. As to pregnancy in the information age, oy! Talk about overload. You know women of all colors, shapes, sizes, intellegence and social class have successfully given birth for millenia. How there can be so much new crap on the topic is truly a burden for the currently expecting. By the way, Aunt Gina – I like that as long as it’s pronounce GYNA. I try to use that pronounciation for all words that end in ina…

    • PamC, you have a heck of a lot more “standing” in the pregnancy conversation than a lot of mindless people with stupid opinions who happen to be pregnant. I’ll accept your perspective any day over someone who suddenly thinks they’re an expert because they fertilized their egg. I’d like to add that, as someone who was a nanny for years, has six siblings, and is 35, I spent many years both loving kids and thinking it would be great not to have any. I still think it would have been great not to have any, and I’m pregnant with my first and happy about it. For some people (like me), they’re both positive life choices. I doubt I would have regretted either one. I resent peope who think I for instance would have more in common with some random person who procreated, than with someone who actually thinks about things like you and has a brain and has no children.

  7. “Let’s Panic about Babies!” is awesome.
    “Sippy Cups are not for Chardonnay,” was also enjoyable .
    “The Baby’s Owner Manual” is the husband’s favorite because it is delightfully devoid of emotion.
    …But you didn’t ask for any reccommendations, so sorry about that.

    Mary Sue is spot on, you really should write a book! I would have purchased it in a heart beat. For serious.

  8. I thought about writing a pregnancy book for people of average to above-average intelligence who just wanted the facts, along with a little humor, but without the “ews.”

    Seriously – I read things like “you should be ashamed if you’re passing more gas than usual.” Ok, thanks? It hadn’t occurred to me to feel shame about that yet. Very helpful.

    Or, the book that had “for the dad” section (let’s just ignore how hetero-centric that is) that talked about how he needs to start thinking about the budget. Because that’s the man’s job. Also – “for the dad” – “don’t tell her that she looks fat.” I passed that advice onto my husband, and he was SHOCKED that I wouldn’t want to hear that.

    AHEM! Not that I have issues with this.

    ANYWAYS – congrats on the twins! And thanks for this post.

  9. Its not just the books! The more I read of your “rant” the more apparent it became that ever since I became pregnant, I’ve really been treated like a moron. Clearly since this is my first child, I’m too ignorant to possibly know that being a parent isn’t going to be easy. Its the doctors, the nurses, and shameful to say it, even my own mother. I’ve never felt so disrespected in my life. I find myself doing the “smile and nod” throughout the entire day and I want to scream! My doctor actually tried to convince me that when I had experienced vaginal bleeding, that I, myself decided that it was rectal! He actually argued with me! “Yes” I should say, ” I’ve never been pregnant before so, I suppose you’re right, I don’t know my ass from my vagina!”. I’d also like to comment on all the “medical facts” that aren’t actually factual. I was told I would gain 25-30 pounds while pregnant. FALSE. I’ve gained 50 and am 36 weeks. I’m a small girl so I quickly learned for myself that it varies because we as women, are all different. I’ve read that this misinformation has been given to most pregnant women. Sometimes I truly feel that I have sacrificed my independence and self worth, because I wanted to have a child. The reason I feel that way is because I have to rely on these people to have a safe pregnancy and delivery. Its sad for me and any other woman out there going through this. We’re just little women doing our part in the world, birthin them babies.

  10. I finally had to take a screen shot of your post becaue I love it so much, and because it is necessary that I read it immediately after I see or hear some stupid pregnancy advice, which can happen anywhere– even in dark, underground places the internet does not reach. Today I naively attempted to do some quick research for leg cramps and restless leg syndrome during pregnancy. I got no scientific information, not even a good pseudoscientific theory– but I did get repeated admonishments not to concern mysef with my leg cramps because it will “all be worth it when [my] little bundle of joy arrives.” Puke. You know, I really liked babies and children before I became pregnant and had to hear all these mawkish and condescending comments about the mother and her fetus. And when did we decide that a mother’s love should somehow trump science? “How dare you seek actual knowledge, you ingrate. Don’t you know God made you pregnant for a reason?” If pregnancy books and forums have taught me anything, it is how desperately people want to police women’s bodies and how obsessed we all are with each other’s reproduction. And here I think I may add a well-placed “Ew.”

    I hope you keep posting. Thank you for this.

  11. Hello,
    I just stumbled upon your blog because my mother in law sent an article to me re: comparing your twins. I too have twins, fraternal girls that were born 2/8/2012. About the time you were experiencing the above. I have read all of your pregnancy posts through this one and you are making me LOL. It is all so true and refreshing. I don’t have any friends that have had twins and I no longer feel alone in the world! (this sounds sad and mopey and I am not either sad nor mopey, but it’s true)

  12. Reading through the pregnancy forums is the stuff nightmares are made of. The idiotic abbreviations that you need some sort of primitive key to figure out, the ignorance, the horrible spelling. I leave those forums having learned one thing and one thing only and that is “These people should not be breeding!” The only thing more terrifying than getting terrible advice from an idiot is knowing that that idiot is spawning, and probably at exponential rates. Sigh.

  13. I just found your blog and I haven’t returned to doing any work at my desk since. We found out about two months ago that we were having twins. Some of the statements make me feel like you’re reading my mind.

    Thank you for writing what a lot of us are probably thinking.

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