I've noticed a phenomenon about pregnancy and impending motherhood. Everyone seems to have an opinion of how to either BE pregnant, GIVE birth or RAISE a child. And when I say everyone, I mean it sometimes feels like every person you come in contact with, from family to the cashier at the grocery store, have some tidbit of advice to "share" with you about how to care for your child, lest your precious little miracle turn into the uni-bomber or the leader of their very own cult by age 8.
I spend some of my zillions of hours in bed on a message board for pregnant women/mothers where women post inocuous questions like "How much weight did you gain by week 20?" or "When did your feel start to swell?" or share their feelings like, "I"m terrified of labor" or "I'm afraid to start trying again since the miscarriage." These types of questions and comments ellicit a veritable sisterhood of goodwill, as women are more than happy to moan and groan with their pregnant counterparts about the aches and pains and difficulties of pregnancy--let's face it; after a few weeks of kvetching to our friends, they are pretty sick of us and we run the serious risk of alienating them forever. We are also not very likely to ask our friends about our leaky boobs, but the internet message board provides support for even the "ickiest" of topics.
What gives me the creeps about the message board is the zeal with which some women assert their philosophies and opinions on mothering. Perhaps it is the anonymity of the internet that allows women to spit venom at each other if they disagree with any of the following "controversies" in birthing/childrairsing:
--epidural vs. unmedicated birth
--breastfeeling vs. formula feeding
--to circumsize or not to circumsize
--eating deli meat while pregnant
--the occassional drink while pregnant
--piercing a baby girl's ears
--co-sleeping vs. "crying it out"
--vaccinations vs no vaccinations
but women who, three posts down were commiserating with eachother like long lost friends about how to tell their bosses that they are expecting, become bitter rivals when the topic of breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding comes up. And I don't mean a simple, "I'm right, you're wrong" disagreement. I mean accusations of ignorance and incompetence and "unfit", like one party wants to take the other to court for faulty parenting techniques. Regardless of my own feelings and my own plans of how to feed my child, do I have the right to hurl metaphorical piles of poop at some women who disagrees with me?
I read another blog daily where the writer shared her story of sleep training her baby. I didn't necessarily agree with her technique, but I also realize that, last time I checked, I wasn't raising her child. And until I am the primary care giver of her baby, I can keep my mouth shut. But she received almost 400 comments on that one entry from women who HAD to share their opinions of her technique. Now, some of them were supportive and encouraging, which I liked, even though I, personally, wouldn't emulate her sleep training style. But some of the responses were so scathing and intentionally hurtful ("what you did is child abuse", "your child is scarred for life", etc.), the anonymous eyes of judgment were so piercing in some of these comments that it made ME all but hyperventilate and it wasn't even my blog!!!
Why do women feel the need to insist that there is ONE right way to parent? Why do friends, relatives and strangers alike not realize that, for the pregnant woman, the options are no less overwhelming when 1000 different voices try to tell you which ONE way is the ONLY way to ensure you don't screw your child up for life (which, from the moment you see the + on the pregnancy test becomes your most all-consuming fear)? Why do they assume that their child survived only because of a particular choice they made in regards to birthing or feeding or sleeping or clothing and that your child is doomed to disaster if you don't do the same exact thing? The feeling of judgment is crushing and does nothing to promote the self-esteem of the pregnant women when it comes to her confidence in raising her child.
When husband and I first announced that we were expecting, a friend of our said something to us that I have carried with me ever since. He said, "I have one piece of advice for you. Don't listen to anyone's advice." ahhhhhhhh, that's a piece of advice I can live with.