How can I maintain ownership of my body while I’m pregnant?

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Maternity Photoshoot I’m expecting my first child at the end of the fall. It will be the first grandchild on both sides of a very on-beat family. I’m blessed to be surrounded by the love of family and friends during this time and they are all VERY excited about our coming child.

However, I’m experiencing a bit of a problem — it seems like everyone wants to “own” my baby. What I mean by this is the off-hand, “Hey that’s my grandson in there, be careful,” when I walk down the stairs, or “My nephew should have an apple,” when I’m picking out my lunch. I know it is coming from a place of love but I’m struggling both with the immediate reaction of “What if I don’t want a freaking apple?” and the lingering feeling of flags getting staked on my belly from people claiming my child before he is even born.

How best can I deal with the already strong “ownership” (of the baby and as a result, my body) presenting itself from my mother-in-law, sister, and friends? — Kristin

Did you experience any loss of “body ownership” while you were pregnant (or in other situations)? How did you handle it?

Comments on How can I maintain ownership of my body while I’m pregnant?

  1. My husband was my best ally in this matter for many reasons. He ‘translated’ a lot of the frustrating comments I received about my choices for our baby (trying natural childbirth, sleeping choices, health, etc). From his point of view, his family made comments like “you aren’t going to make it without drugs,” “you’ll need bottles for sure,” “don’t do too much!” etc, because their own experiences never stretched beyond that.

    After three generations or more of women having babies/being born according to a certain standard experience, the fact that I was doing so many different things didn’t match up to the ‘family knowledge.’ It’s taken a lot of patience on my part, but instead of reacting directly to their comments, I make sure to talk energetically about every midwife appt, every amazing piece of information I read, anything that applies to my experience.

    My husband and I also made sure to answer the question “how’s baby doing?” by always referring to my health or status first. “Mama’s feeling pretty good today, but rested a lot this morning. Baby must be real busy!” “Well, I craved spice cake last night, we had to go on a midnight outing! Bet baby loved the new flavors.” This brings focus every time back to the fact that you are carrying the baby and doing what you feel is right.

    The best way I found was involving people in YOUR life. I am very uncomfortable sometimes talking to people over the phone, but my husband encouraged me to do so. I would make myself call and talk to a family member to tell them about my day, or something that I looked forward to doing, such as canning peaches for winter or sewing a cradle for baby. That way they don’t just have the baby as the only subject to talk about and they know I am actively doing things for our child.

    I wish you good luck for sure. No matter what you decide, I agree with many others above that you need to start taking action now so the families can become awesome support instead of a source of stress.

  2. I know this feeling! My father-in-law was doing it before DH and I were even married! I was helping DH move and my father-in-law was like “No carrying heavy boxes! You need to carry my grandson some day!”
    Oh my… When I got pregnant it just got worse. Not that he’s here… ugh
    My mother-in-law constantly talks to the baby and says things like “I would love to spend more time with you, but your mom has the monopoly on feeding you and won’t share!”
    Yup, I’m breastfeeding. Sorry I’m doing what’s best for my child.
    I usually just laugh it off, or say something like “Well, if I didn’t have to feed him you’d NEVER give him back” (said with a smile, of course).
    I haven’t figured out how to really combat it. For now I just let it roll off.

  3. I do not put up with that kind of talk. My dad is the only one who tried doing that. He was telling me how he didn’t want HIS granddaughter being left alone with my MIL because shes pagan and he thinks shes a “witch”.

    That just made me mad. NO one tells me or my husband what our child is allowed to do. I really don’t like other people laying claim to my baby girl like they own her.

  4. ughhhhh regrettably I am now well versed in this topic! The two most important weapons you have when dealing with bossy/opinionated/controlling family would be, a completely united front between you and your partner, and truthful calm calling out of uncool behavior. Asking someone if they have time to talk and addressing your grievances in a calm manner usually diffuses the drama and asserts your power.

  5. Not suggesting it, but I unloaded quite loudly on my mother-in-law after she insisted on calling our eldest “My baby” even though I’d politely asked her to refrain from using that particular term of endearment. She didn’t bother me for all of three days (a record for her) after I said something like: “Bub belongs to Rugz and I. You didn’t spend 72 hours without sleep and in labour to deliver her face-up with her arm up next to her head, *I* did! I’m the one that feeds her in the night, I’m the one that was woken up after 3 hours of sleep by random family members trying to lift Bub out of the crib next to my hospital bed and Rugz is the one that is looking after the both of us! She’s our baby, so cut out that ‘My baby’ nonsense right now!”
    The second time around, she said ‘My baby’ once, received a glare from me and a lecture from our eldest about sharing.

  6. “I want to change the first diaper!” “Well I want to be the first one to hold it after it’s born.” “Call me as soon as you’re in labor, I want to be there!” “Hurry up and pop out my baby already!” (All by people who weren’t me, or the Dad.)

    No need to really be rude or Lay Things On The Line, because that either opens you up to comments about hormones or some other dismissive crap, either way they won’t really stop.

    But y’know.. it’s your baby. You don’t have to call/include/visit/inform anyone of anything, ever. So they can demand lots of behaviors, but they can’t enforce them.

    However in the moment say, “YOUR baby..? I didn’t realize WE had sex!” You can scale it up or down in explicitness for impact.

    • Yeah, my MIL has insisted we call her as soon as I get to the hospital. Not going to happen, but there’s really no reason to have a big confrontation about it–we just aren’t going to call anyone until we are ready to receive visitors!

      • Yeah, my MIL did this too. We texted her an hour or more each time after the babies were born because I just couldn’t deal with her being in the delivery room. While I was in labour, I actually left a list of approved people with the charge nurse and a list of people that weren’t allowed to bother me regardless of their reason. Since the nurses asked for the list ahead of time with both babies, I think that it’s a part of their standard operating procedures.

  7. I’m not pregnant, but a friend of mine loves to claim ownership over things in my power. Chose someone else to be maid of honor? Major passive aggressive comments to maid of honor. Not cool. She then informed me that it was okay that I didn’t make her maid of honor, because she was “definitely going to be godmother” of our kids. Um yea….about that…

  8. Infringements on women’s autonomy really push my buttons, as does the infantilization of mothers. I can’t help feeling like other people’s comments overidentifying with the baby (both before s/he’s born and when s/he’s small) are attempts (even small, inadvertent ones) to do both.

    Perhaps it’s too blunt for some people, but one option is to straightforwardly say: thank you, but I don’t want an apple, and since it’s going in my mouth I’m the only one who gets a vote.

    It’s really frustrating for me when I have to remind people that I’m an autonomous human being – not just somebody’s mother. You’d think they’d be aware of it by the mere fact of my being alive and in front of them. Still, the best way I’ve figured to handle it is to just be as straightforward as possible. Some people get it, some don’t, but it’s the best solution I’ve found for my own sanity.

  9. I got this from my folks AND his. Mine started even before we were married. My mother went as far to say, on my wedding video, that she “couldnt wait to hold those little mulatto babies” ( OMG SUPER FUCKING OFFENSIVE) and my father even said ‘ all we care about is babies”. So I didnt even tell them I was pregnant and they didnt even hear about my daughter until she was 4 months old, and they still have not met her. ( I had multiple reasons for this, not just the wedding video crap) But as soon as I was engaged my mom started with the My Baby stuff and the “I know better than you about raising kids” crap even though she didnt raise me at all.

    His parents are baby trainers and wouldnt let me lift a finger during my pregnancy. In both cases, our respective parents wouldnt listen to us, so I had to tell his mom to stuff it, and he had to tell my mom to stuff it. Our own parents think of us as children still, so hearing it from the spouse made them shut up a little bit more.

    I also didnt tell his folks I was in labor until baby was born. I didnt want any visitors. Ive found not telling MIL about things I dont want advice on is very helpful.

    • Holy shit on the mulatto babies comment! I’ve had mixed friends refer to themselves that way jokingly, but totally not something you call someone else! Yikes!

  10. This may not be for everyone, but I read a quote somewhere that said something along the lines of:
    We do not own our children, they are a gift loaned from the universe (aka God, heaven, nature, etc. etc.) to accompany and teach us on this journey.

    • There’s a similar sentiment about children expressed in the book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran that says, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.” And it goes on to describe their autonomy very beautifully. You can read the entire book here:

  11. What about using the truth like:
    ‘Hey, I know you are saying that from a place of love, but it makes me feel uncomfortable.’

    If they ask for a reason you can say: ‘it makes me feel like you are claiming me’, or you can simply say: ‘it just makes me uncomfortable.’

    Then ask them if they would like you to buy them an apple. 😉

    (This is sort of an “I statement”, a better write up is here:

  12. Looking back on what I went through with my in-laws when I was pregnant, although it pushed me to the brink of insanity in my hormone-soaked state, it really was a valuable experience for learning to deal with the same issues after baby was born. My methods:

    – take a lesson from the guys in the family and just nod and smile,

    – use the good ol’ “My doctor said…”,

    – when things get really intense, get my husband to step in with his family and ask them politely to back off,

    However there are still times I just have to go a little crazy then take a deep breath and go on.

    The other part of it is learning to let go a little and realize that it’s very important for my son to have these people in his life, and not to let my problems with them get in the way of his relationship with them. A huge part of being a parent is learning to slowly let go of our children.

    That said, I think that protective, almost possessive feeling we feel when pregnant is natural. That’s how you’re supposed to be feeling. Let yourself feel that way, but know that in time, you’ll find it easier to let go a little.

  13. Lay down that law, and do it now. I have a textbook nosy/controlling mother-in-law. The first time she started a “I’m not sure MY grandbaby should…” argument, my response was simply “I appreciate your opinion, but when I want or need advice for how to care for MY child, please know that I will ask you.”

    She hated it, but thankfully my awesome father-in-law and even awesomer husband reiterated to her – repeatedly, and not in the heat of a tense moment – that she can’t claim ownership or try to be controlling by doing so. I also found a quiet moment to share with her that, which I will ask for her advice and definitely appreciate her input, she shouldn’t be offended if I don’t do what she suggests. Now that she knows that I will at least consider what she says (even if it is nuts, which many of her ideas are: yes, it’s safe for me to eat locally-grown, organic produce!), things have improved drastically since then!

  14. My father makes similar comments to me and it makes me cringe. I have found with him, the best thing to do is make very specific and clear boundaries on what is and isn’t appropriate for you. It doesn’t matter if their intentions are good or in jest, the fact of the matter is, if it makes you uncomfortable then they need to respect your wishes and stop. I’m also thinking that if they do this type of stuff to you, they’re gonna try and pull it on your kids too. If they know you won’t put up with this nonsense now, you’ll probably spare your kids from future manipulation.

  15. I too am due in the fall and since me and my husband are both only children this has been very very interesting…I will say that when they comment on me drinking diet rite caffeine free cola as though I am harming the baby…I just remember that they love me and this baby so much they forget to hold their tongues. I also remind them that these are my decisions and I set firm boundaries; for me no one is allowed to set foot near the hospital until I am ready and call and schedule a time. For me it is more about modesty and having time to adjust after birth where I can re-coop and not have to entertain or be annoyed. So good luck and set some rules down before it is too late!

  16. I’m childfree, so people giving me unsolicited baby advice already grinds my gears, but when it comes to my body it makes me insane. I was twenty when my aunt pulled me aside at Christmas and told me to lay off the sushi or I would give my babies mercury poisoning, and 22 getting a pelvic for birth control when my doc told me to get on a vitamin “For baby’s sake, just in case.” I try to be nice, but the second you tell me what I can and cannot do with my body for the sake of a hypothetical pregnancy I don’t want, I get really snappy. Both times ended badly.

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