One of the things that really annoys me about how pregnancy is portrayed in the media is the amount of conflicting advice and judging that goes on about mother’s and mothers-to-be’s behaviour. Actually one of the things that really bothers me about get off my internets (which I’ve actually kind of grown to like, and have got into the habit of checking once a month or so) is all the judgement heaped onto mothers. Actually not so much the posts themselves, which do usually just draw attention to some mommy blogger giving completely ridiculous medical advice based on nothing whatsoever, but the comments underneath them.
While I’m sure many of people that are the subject of people’s slagging are supremely annoying, I basically don’t think comments accusing people of nearly killing their children for probably not great but hardly lifethreating things like spraypainting stuff in their vicinity or letting them run round in just nappies are acceptable. I remember one post about someone thinking ultrasounds were unnecessary and choosing not to take all the ones they’re offered. Now I don’t share this person’s belief that ultrasounds cause deafness (which I think it was) but neither do I think missing some is playing russian roulette with your baby’s life. On the NHS we just get two scans, at 12 and 20 weeks, unless there are indications that something might be wrong. While of course more would be nice, people have babies and as far as I’m aware there is no marked difference in child mortality/illness compared to other European countries where they have loads more scans. Anyway, not the point.
The point is that there is so much conflicting advice about what you should and shouldn’t do, and so much pressure to get it right, when there is no agreed definition whatsoever of right. I challenge anyone to have a clear position on every eventuality of parenthood. I certainly wouldn’t claim to have anything but a vague idea of what I’m doing. Just the other day I had to make a decision whether to have the whooping cough vaccination. I was given a leaflet which strongly urged me to, but this leaflet also told me that the vaccine has not been licenced for pregnant women, although it appears to have been given to enough people for them to state that there is no evidence of any side effects in either the UK or US (which sort of makes me wonder what the point of licencing is?). Neither the nurse nor the midwife were able to give details and both stressed that while the official advice was to have it, this was not their advice to me individually and the decision was ultimately mine. Now I could have gone away and made a doctors appointment to ask them or found some research on this vaccine. But of course I didn’t, I just signed the disclaimer and had the vaccine because the risk of whooping cough death seemed both more likely and more serious than some undefined side effect that is preventing/delaying the licencing. But someone else might not have. And I really wouldn’t want to judge them.
Thankfully, I haven’t been on the receiving end of much judgement in real life. Most of the people that surround me are aware of the ludicrousness of vilifying parents (or mothers, actually) on the basis of vague or made up evidence, and if anything the most commonly given advice I’ve got is to not worry too much.
But I did get a bit of judgement last weekend at the wedding. I was speaking to another pregnant woman and we were taking about how our diets have changed. She was saying how she ate ‘a few more’ carbs (being Candaian and conforming to stereotype of North Americans being scared of carbs), but loads of protein and berries and other superfoods. I said I mainly just eat my normal healthy diet, plus loads of chocolate and cake*. She did not look impressed.
The funny thing was though that this same person was on the receiving end of some fairly major judgement from Dave and I because of her alcohol consumption. She had a large glass of wine the night before the wedding and two glasses of wine plus two glasses of champagne at the wedding itself. We overheard her saying that a doctor friend had told her that as long as she wasn’t getting drunk it was fine. Ehm, yes. I’m pretty glad I wasn’t actually in that conversation or I would have had difficulty hiding my disapproval from my face. Alcohol and smoking are the two things where I will sort of let myself judge a little bit because the evidence is so strong and consistent and has been around for decades.
It’s difficult to stop yourself from making these judgements, at least in the comfort of your own head, much as you try not to. But I think as a minimum you should not go round publicly accusing people of endangering their babies life, unless they actually are.
* This is true. I was putting on weight so slowly/not at all at the start, and I figured that as long as I was getting my nutrients, I might as well take advantage of being able to eat delicious things with impunity, since I’ll probably never be in that position again. It’s going to be some adjustment post birth.