Finding support in our community: people have been awesome since we’ve had a kid

Guest post by Mary B.
The gift of Giving

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.

Comments on Finding support in our community: people have been awesome since we’ve had a kid

  1. Thank you for this. My experience so far (mind you, I’m not at six months yet, but still) has been great, and I’m thrilled that other women get to go through happy pregnancies as well.

    I mean, not that I’m not tired and crabby – I am. But still, everyone has been so NICE about it that I feel very lucky.

  2. I had my baby eight months ago and I’ve found that the biggest critic lives inside my own head. I found a tremendous amount of support throughout my whole pregnancy. Some moms have strong opinions about what’s worked for them, but I’ve had almost no judgement about my choices. Even moms with very different parenting styles have been kind and supportive. The kindness I’ve encountered from other moms has actually helped me to ease up on myself and turn off that inner judgemental voice.

  3. It’s good to hear that you’re experience has been so positive!

    I think that people who go against the grain often tend to be a bit overly sensitive in bracing ourselves for criticism because of the horror stories we hear about, but in fact most people are pretty chill and supportive.

  4. I completely agree with the biggest critic being in your own mind! I am a young new mom, and not only am I not married but I left school and moved back in with my folks so that I could give my son the best childhood possible, because lets face is, spending your summers catching frogs in the pond in your yard is the BEST kind of childhood, in my opinion 😉 When I moved back I was just waiting for the snide remarks to come at me from all directions, but all those wonderful retorts I had spent so long coming up with in my head are still sitting up there, for the (vast) most part, everyone has just been really happy and supportive of me, telling me what a wonderful job I’m doing instead of what a horrible mom I must be because I’m not married yet and don’t have that white picket fence that is such a necessity for having children. Of course I had plenty of people tell me that getting an epidural is the way to go, even though I wanted natural, and yea, I completely broke down and demanded one, but you know what? He was out minutes after that, and I’ve been so ridiculously happy ever since that moment that even if those nasty comments happen in the future, it just won’t matter anymore, because breast really IS best, if you can, and all the rest of parenting really just comes down to a matter of personal opinion.

  5. I love this! I’ve been really pleased by how nice people have been, too. Here in Israel people are very in-your-face with advice (She can’t breathe in the carrier! She needs a hat!) but they’re also very warm and kind, and I find myself interacting with so many more people now that I have a cute little co-traveler. One of the neatest things has been that I’ve found myself talking to a lot more Arab parents and kids… we share the same malls, beaches, restaurants, pools, etc. but suddenly now that I have a baby, I get into conversations with the little Arab kids at the beach who want to hold my daughter and the mother in a hijab whose toddler just grabbed my baby’s rattle in the mall play area… before we never really had reason to start a conversation. It’s been so great that I’ve been thinking of writing an article about this myself!

  6. I love this article! When I got pregnant it was unplanned, and although I was married, I was young and very concerned about judgment from everyone. Instead, I felt like motherhood was this secret club I didn’t know about until I was pregnant and everyone was reaching out to embrace me. People were wonderful, sharing both emotional and material goods with me.

  7. This is a very timely post for me and something I needed to hear. I’m 4 months along and haven’t “announced” my unplanned pregnancy to my extended social circle yet because, well, I’m terrified of judgement. My husband and I already have an 18 month old, and live with my parents due to financial difficulties. They are supportive (which I didn’t expect), but the few friends I’ve told have been less than enthusiastic and I’ve been bracing to receive a load of judgement from neighbors, extended relatives and various aquaintances on Facebook.

  8. i’m so glad you wrote this! i’ve been dying to read a testimony like this one! everything i read seems to be about the “horrors” of judgement and identity crisis. and i think “but it hasn’t been like that for me at all! hasn’t anyone else found more support than dissuasion ??” awesome!! and congrats!!

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