I’ve been waiting.
Waiting for the snide remark, the sarcastic comment. Waiting for rolled eyes and dirty looks. Waiting for the “you’re crazy,” the “you don’t know what you’re doing,” the “you’ll see.” Waiting for disgust, shock, and anger. Waiting for all the judgment that comes with any major life decision, but especially with the big bad world of parenting.
It’s been a year since we announced I was pregnant, and five months since Georgia was born. And for the most part, I’m still waiting. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised.
True, it hasn’t been all smiles and sunshine.
Our decision to have a child certainly raised a few eyebrows, in part because Jason and I went “off script,” and also because our pregnancy was a surprise to most friends and family members. An old lady once yelled at me when I used the priority seating on public transit, but she couldn’t see my basketball belly under my heavy winter coat. And my baby shower was filled will all kinds of helpful “advice” on breastfeeding (it didn’t work for me so it won’t work for you so quit while you’re ahead), on birth (you’ll be screaming for an epidural in seconds flat so don’t be a hero and just get the damn needle), and on cloth diapering (don’t put yourself through the extra stress, poop is gross).
Mostly I just smile and nod, say “Thanks for the advice,” “We’ll give it a good try, and change plans if we need to.” Occasionally I play the “You snark at me, I snark at you” game, but only when my patience is exhausted and I just can’t take it any more.
The fact of the matter is I was expecting a whole lot of judgment and instead I was blessed with a whole lot of support. I thought people were making assumptions about me, but in reality I was guilty of making just as many assumptions about them.
I assumed my mother-in-law wasn’t going to be supportive of breastfeeding, because she lives in a province where breastfeeding rates are low, and she had her children in an era known for formula feeding. Turns out she breastfed both sons and was thrilled that I would be breastfeeding our daughter.
I assumed that the parents from my mum’s old daycare would tsk-tsk since I was having my daughter “young,” because they were all in their late thirties and early forties and even fifties when they had their children. Instead I was met with “You’re so lucky to have your baby when you have the energy to run and play! Georgia is going to have an amazing childhood!”
I assumed my great aunt and uncle would be appalled that I was going to see a midwife for prenatal care, and *gasp* that I even wanted a homebirth! Well, my great aunt was born at home, and both of them agreed that midwives were excellent care providers, and that the government really needed to expand access to midwifery.
I expected to be told off for nursing in public. People smiled and congratulated me. I expected sideways glances and backhanded comments when Georgia screamed in the changing room at the YMCA. Mamas and Grannies and high school students have all offered to hold her while I change. I expected to be isolated from the rest of my prenatal class, because everyone else was “established” and we were not. I made friends, and have people to talk to when things are tough.
Do people still judge me? Of course they do; that’s human nature. I make my own judgments: some good, some bad, some right, some wrong. Sometimes those judgments can lead to wonderful conversations and new ideas, and other times it leads to an “agree to disagree” or stony silence.
I often think that I get my back up over nothing, that I put on the defensive before anyone has even said “boo.” I’ve heard so many horror stories about pregnancy and parenthood that it’s obviously a given that I will be treated with scorn and contempt. Reality has proved otherwise.
The comments and actions of my community have shown me time and time again that I am respected. I am loved. I am supported. Everywhere I go, people are constantly defying my expectations and challenging my assumptions. And I hope I do the same for them.