Mindful Thoughts on Advice & Motherhood
by Chelsea Becker, Editorial contributor
I’m officially 2 weeks out from my due date and feeling like it’s a good time to wrap up my lessons during pregnancy. From learning how hard it is to accept my changing body to more deeply understanding the ability of women, it’s been nine of months of pure lessons. And among the best crackers to keep nausea at bay and oil to keep skin comfortable, one of the biggest things I’ve learned surrounds mindful advice.
Pregnancy is obviously a time when everyone from your family to the woman behind you at the post office thinks it’s a valid time to shed advice. I’ve also caught myself giving “advice” to friends who are further behind me in pregnancy, like I know something they don’t. Which got me thinking about the mindful way to go about thoughtful advice surrounding pregnancy. A few things that stick out…
“Just wait until…”
From the second a friend said this to me before she went into warning me about the third trimester being worse than the first (which wasn’t the case for me, by the way), it didn’t sit well. I’ve since had endless people use “just wait until…”, almost as a threat of what’s to come, and each time it’s left a negative taste. I’ve promised myself that I’ll never say this to expecting mothers, or anyone for that matter. Everyone has a different journey and every feeling is valid, no matter what’s to come.
I was at dinner with friends recently and there was a woman I hadn’t met before. As the topic of pregnancy came up (she was also expecting), I asked if she had other kids. She said ‘no’ and I went on to talk about “first pregnancies” and everything that comes with them. A few minutes later, she quietly told me that this was actually her fourth pregnancy - she had lost the previous three. My heart sank and I felt horrible, apologizing right away. She was incredibly cool about it but it was a lesson I’ll never forget. This goes for assuming people want to have children, haven’t been trying if they don’t have children yet, and so on.
She might not know it, but Neha has been such a beautiful example of how to provide thought advice to an expecting mama like myself. Between her and other friends, I’ve learned a handful of tips and reassurance via resources. Whether it was Neha sharing an essential oil remedy that helped her with anxiety after I told her about my own, or another friend sending me a direct link to a natural wood crib - that kind of information has been invaluable. Not pushing any thoughts or sending over an overwhelming list of things you “must do” during pregnancy. Instead, a direct, one-off idea to a problem.
Offering help instead of advice
During my first trimester, I had a friend bring over a huge batch of homemade soup. She didn’t stay to tell me all her advice for getting out of the nausea stage, or any advice for that matter. Instead, she brought the soup, filled me up a bowl, walked my dog and left - letting me get back to the couch. It’s an act I’ll remember always and one I hope to mimic to another expecting mother eventually. In a time when advice is all we hear, it was cool to get an act of service that felt much more valuable.
Understanding privilege + blanket advice
This is a sensitive subject but one I’ve become more aware of during pregnancy. I’ve noticed my own privileges in having a healthy pregnancy, being able to work for myself at home, what it feels like to have the support of a partner and family, and so on. I’m incredibly privileged.
On the other hand, I’ve had people tell me to “take at least 6 months off” or to “hire a nanny” which I can’t afford to do. I’ve had people tell me not to give up on breastfeeding - something the doctors don’t think I’ll be able to do due to a breast reduction I had to fix back issues years ago. I’ve read articles about how staying active is “crucial” for the baby’s health during the first trimester (when I was literally too sick to walk to the kitchen, let alone around the block 10 times), etc. Similar roadblocks to many of you reading this, I’m sure.
My lack of certain privileges are nothing compared to some, which I’m so, so aware of, along with the range of privileges across the board for expecting moms. Everyone has SUCH a different pregnancy, situation, and so on, that blanket advice isn’t always the most supportive act.
Instead, if you truly want to help in a situation, spend time with someone and ask about their situation - helping to develop a more catered approach to what they're going through - if they ask for it. Definitely noting this for myself for the future, too.
Any thoughts to add on mindful advice? Have you experienced the above?
Chelsea Becker is a San Francisco based writer, creator of becker editorial, and on the editorial team at MU. She’s expecting her first child any day.