Note: This article is aimed at pregnant women, however, these tips can be valuable to anyone – with or without child.
While I was pregnant I got lots of advice. Sometimes I was searching for it, most times I was not. If you have been pregnant you will agree that this is a fairly common theme in pregnancy. If you’re newly pregnant – prepare yourself. Every woman who has carried or birthed a child wants to rant, reminisce, comment on your size, and/or brag about how great they had it. Frankly, after the 5th or 6th time, I found being in public to be pretty annoying.
During my pregnancy, I had lots of people tell me what to look forward to and what to prepare myself for. Co-workers whom I barely knew, co-workers of my parents, aunts, aunts of other people, my parents, parents of other people, Wal-Mart employees, strangers on the sidewalk, the clerk at the grocery store. Name any person and I promise they have shared their stories or tidbits of advice with me.
One of the most interesting weeks I had started with a woman who approached me at an art show. As I was browsing the merchandise at a booth she came charging toward me from across the building. “Look at you!” she said enthusiastically, “You remind me so much of myself when I was pregnant!” She began stroking my tummy as I politely smiled and tried to inch away. This woman went on and on and on about how cute she was, how big she was, and how she carried her baby just I was carrying mine. In what felt like decades of small talk, the booth owner and my mom finally approached our conversation as the woman was giving me her birthing story…step…by…step. My first thought was ‘oh no, here we go again’ I am going to have to smile and nod as this pow-wow of women tell me how awesome and awful it all is (can you tell I’m getting near the end of my uncomfortable pregnancy?). I had heard it before – “birth hurts like hell but what a joy it is to meet your little one,” “he will be perfect,” “you will love him to death.” I understood that they were all excited for me, but on that day I was feeling huge, irritable, not very cute, and my lungs could barely inflate enough to breathe – let alone speak a sentence. After months of advice from everyone, I just didn’t want to hear it anymore. I was wanting to draw my own conclusions without everyone around me telling me how I would feel or how much I would love it. Well, to my surprise, as the booth owner and my mom approached, they began to rescue me from the conversation. As they chatted, I was able to turn my attention back to the merchandise and eventually the woman left.
Afterwards, the booth owner made a comment that I was so happy to hear. She knew how I felt about hearing everyone else’s birth story, getting unsolicited advice, being told how I was going to feel when I became a mom, and all the other good stuff that comes with being the pregnant black-sheep in a room full of been-there-done-that moms. She got it. She had been there. She was there to rescue me. As the day went on I couldn’t help but think things like: What am I getting myself into? What if I don’t love it? Am I going to turn into these women one day? What if my birth story is an unbearable memory instead of an amazing experience?
As the week continued, I was embraced by a woman behind the counter of a local store – who felt comfortable enough to share her in-depth birth story (as well as her daughters) with me. I met quite a few women at a different art show who shared their opinions on my body and my baby names. And finally (but worst of all) – the woman at Wal-Mart who I learned too much about.
We will call this one Kathy (short for chatty Kathy, if you catch my drift). Kathy was greeting people as they came into Wal-Mart and I, too, was standing near the entrance waiting for my mother to recycle some soda cans (you can imagine how that sticky stench of old beer and soda smells to a pregnant woman – whew!). She probably wouldn’t have said much of anything to me had I not been standing there for some time but inevitably, Kathy came at me with a hug (!!!) and a story. Let me share this story with you. Kathy was a happily married mother of four children, all boys, all but one delivered by the same doctor. Her first three pregnancies were fairly normal – each time, she was strongly encouraged by her male doctor to have an all natural birth and she did (is this woman crazy?). She talked IN DETAIL about the pain, the screaming, the blood, the length of labor, etc. Any scary thing that you can think of she was sure to tell me all about it.. Now, having been through a delivery, I know that while it is very painful, it is something you quickly forget about. But, as a first time birther this was the last thing on earth that I wanted to hear – didn’t she remember how scary this unknown process is to a first time mom? I knew I had to get that baby out of me, there was no turning back, but the last thing I wanted to hear was some woman reassuring me that I was in for a whole lot of pain! Anyways, she eventually got to the story of her fourth birth with the new doctor (somehow she thought I was eager to hear about it even though I was grimacing, nervously laughing, and avoiding eye contact). She walked into that hospital like a woman on a mission. She told those nurses that she wasn’t leaving until she had this baby and this baby was about to slip right out of her vagina (yes, she actually said these things to me). She was only there for an hour or so and the doctor had offered her a light pain medication on several occasions – all of them she refused. She made it clear that she had done this before and she was doing it again – in fact, she liked the feeling of a natural birth (I repeat, is this woman crazy?). She refused to be wheel-chaired to the birthing room, so she walked. She pushed that baby out like a gold medalist. And, despite the medical advice she was given, she pranced her little fanny back to her hospital room.. Now, regardless of all the vulgar details in which I spared you, she was quite a determined woman. She wanted to know she could do it, and she did. But the statement in which she ended the conversation with was this.. “I was all torn to pieces and my husband knew it. As I was being stitched up he leaned into the doctor and said, ‘stitch my playground up good, doc – I’ve got a lot more ideas for that thing’.” Are you in pure shock right now? Let her sentence sink in. WHO SHARES THINGS LIKE THAT WITH A STRANGER?!
The point that I am making here is that women love to talk and when you are pregnant you are somewhat of a confessional to these ladies. While scary and annoying, the stories you get from these bold women can be quite entertaining. So, what is my advice to dealing with an over-sharer?
- First and foremost, try not to let them scare you. You are carrying a baby and that really is the hardest part – your body aches and you are SO tired, SO irritable, and SO ready to get your body back. The physical challenge of birthing a baby is exactly that, a challenge – but something happens to you while you’re in labor. It’s like a switch goes off in your mind and you become the strongest, most fearless woman that ever walked this Earth. You know there is only one way to get that baby out and you give it everything you’ve got – part of you just wants it to be over so you push a little harder, part of you wants to meet your baby so you push a little faster, part of you just wants to eat and drink again so maybe that milkshake and juicy quarter-pounder is what’s driving you. Either way, you turn into Hercules. Birth seems like a fleeting moment in comparison to pregnancy. And ladies? After you’ve given birth, anything is possible.
- Pin down what they are trying to say. This person is probably trying to relay some type of message. Is it that they loved giving birth (uhhh, crazy if you ask me..)? That they are a strong woman? That they never got the thanks they deserved? Are fishing for a compliment? Whatever it is that they are trying to convey, give it to them. Feel free to politely interrupt and let them know that their point has been received.. Casually drop it in that they are awesome and you hope to handle birth exactly like they did, or, that you hope to be as passionate about your kids as they are about theirs.
- Don’t stop there – add in your own story. I know. This sounds crazy because you are trying to stop the conversation! However, adding your own story that relates back to their message will further convey that you understand what they are saying. Also, having the floor to speak allows you to make an exit. Adding a simple “blah blah blah…but, I need to go – it was nice to meet you!” while beginning to walk away might just be your ticket out of there. If that doesn’t work….
- Let them know that they’ve over-shared. Some people won’t stop talking no matter what you say but if you are finding someone to be too much to handle, don’t be afraid to tell them. You don’t have to be mean to accomplish this. You can make little jokes about ‘knowing too much’ or how ‘that baby is never coming out if you have to relive their story first-hand’. You can smile and plead ‘no-more! no-more!’ Or you can simply remind them that as a first time mom you are already nervous and they’re not helping you feel any better. If all else fails, pretend you are getting a phone call and just walk away – even if they are chasing you with flaming pitchforks demanding you listen to their story – just put one foot in front of the other and leave. And as a last resort…
- Use your pregnancy to your advantage. There are plenty of symptoms a pregnant woman can use to exit an over-sharing situation. You have to understand, right now, you have it made. You can leave a room anytime, anywhere, and not be considered rude. You’re just pregnant. We all know how miserable that can be. So what are some common symptoms that you can use to your advantage? The need to sit down? Go find a secluded place and sit. Not on your way to an appointment? Pretend you are. Craving some ice cold milk? Tell these women you are large, in charge, and ‘hangry’. The urgent need to pee? Use it. In fact, pee on yourself if you have to and claim your water just broke. ALL DRASTIC MEASURES ARE ACCEPTABLE.
Women who enjoyed pregnancy love to reminisce. And unfortunately, on top of all the other things we deal with throughout pregnancy, we have to deal with their unsolicited advice, their tummy touching, and their horribly detailed birth stories. Unless you never leave the house, there’s just no avoiding this. What you can do though, is laugh about the crazy women you’ve met, write a blog, and remember my advice to avoiding the over-sharer.
Good luck, ladies!