Throwing “What to Expect” Across the Room

Hi Readers — I just loved this comment to the “Driven Crazy by Pregnancy Perfectionists” post. And her phrase to describe the over-the-top precautions mom-to-be are advised to take — “mindless acts of pointless martyrdom”  — is so wonderful, it deserves to be embroidered on a million Baby Boppies. Voila:

Dear Free-Range Kids: I literally threw What to Expect When You’re Expecting across the room after I cracked it open for the first time to a random page and read, “We don’t have any evidence that coloring your hair harms the fetus, but we don’t have any evidence that it’s GOOD for the fetus, so sorry, Mom, but it’s just one more sacrifice you’re going to have to make.”

My blood pressure shot up so high reading that, I’m surprised I didn’t go into pre-term labor.  The only thing that saved me was knowing that the book was a hand-me-down and I hadn’t contributed to the personal fortune of its author.

So we preggos are supposed to give up everything that has not been proven to be beneficial to the baby even if there’s no evidence that it’s harmful? I refuse. The amount of love I feel for this little guy kicking my bladder is better measured by my determination to raise him to engage intellectually with the world around him than by mindless acts of pointless martyrdom.

“If we haven’t proven it’s good, you have to stop doing it” is the easily the most incredibly irrational, anti-intellectual, anti-scientific, anti-common sense rationale I have ever read for ANYTHING and yet I think that it’s the keystone philosophy for the pregnancy police.  Inherited wisdom from a society ravaged by lawsuits.  Never mind that we happily ignore the risks of things that it would it just be too damned difficult to give up, like car travel or walking.  Life is full of risk!  Brimming with risk!  Suck it up!  Put on your big girl panties (and maternity panties are indeed big) and deal.

You can babyproof your entire house top to bottom and then have it be hit by lightning two hours later.  So put the knives out of reach, install smoke detectors, and lock up the Drano when the baby starts crawling, and then just do the best you can.

I’m 26 weeks pregnant and last night I drank the first beer of this pregnancy and watched the Saints win their first ever Superbowl and my baby merrily kicked before, during, and after.  Still kicking this morning.  And I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.  Sorry, What To Expect.  By the way, if I feel like coloring my hair, I’ll do that, too.  I’ll stop short of drinking the dye if it’s any consolation.

Besides, I can’t prove that reading What To Expect is good for my baby… and the 30 seconds of elevated blood pressure it caused might actually be harmful.  I’m afraid that chucking it is just one more sacrifice that I’m going to make. — Christine

Never say dye? PHOTO CREDIT: Incurlers

A Note to the Pregnancy Police

Hi Readers — Here’s a great comment that came in response to the blog post, Driven Crazy by Pregnancy Perfectionists. It reminds us of a truth we’ve been encouraged to forget in our “blame the parents” society: We are not in total control, ever. Not of what happens to us, and certainly not of what happens to our children.  A reader writes:

Sorry, there are no guarantees in life.  I followed the rules for the most part, though not to any extreme — probably didn’t eat enough vegetables or get enough exercise (still don’t). But I did have every prenatal test to make sure everything was fine.  It all came out normal.  I felt fine, the pregnancy progressed fine, the birth came early but was otherwise fine –and then my daughter was born with a birth defect.  One that would have killed her in an earlier age; fortunately we’re not in an earlier age, and they fixed it and she is TOTALLY fine now.

And for a while I blamed myself — what did I do??  Was it that glass of wine I had before I knew I was pregnant? Was it one too many baby back ribs from Chili’s?  Was it my shocking avoidance of pregnancy yoga?!?  Then I realized — it was nothing.  It was a misfire during the building process.  A dropped stitch.  No process is foolproof or perfect.  This was a universal truth we all understood a few generations ago.  But we’ve become so accustomed to the illusion of control that modern life gives us that we’ve become responsible for EVERYTHING that happens to us, and that’s just ridiculous.  Little of what’s going on in there is in your hands.  So you may as well relax. — Dahlia

Driven Crazy by Pregnancy Perfectionists (Especially On The Web!)

Hi Readers! Let us help this mama-to-be, who is being driven crazy by all the obsessive, micromanaging pregnancy advice she’s getting from all sides, especially her cyber-friends. What I try to remind folks — pregnant and not — is that if humanity required perfect on the part of its parents, there would not BE humanity.

It is only in the last generation or so that mothers-to-be have even known exactly which fingernail was being formed during which second of which trimester. Now that we do know, it’s very hard not to worry about it all, but we really don’t have to. I get so annoyed with the books that dictate what to eat, do, and buy every second from conception to delivery, as if one sub-optimal bite means we’ve ruined the kid, while nine months’ worth of  gold stars means our children will never have a bad hair day or low-paying job or obstructed view.

‘Taint so. Eat pretty well, get some sleep, and hope for the best, pregnant ladies.  It’s really not all up to you, and it’ll make you miserable if you think it is. — Lenore

Dear Lenore: How about a companion website: Free-Range Fetus? Because I had to go through medical intervention to  get pregnant (and had a doctor who provided very little help beyond the obvious), I have spent a great deal of time looking up pregnancy-related information on the internet. There, I have found that many people are obsessed with the ways in which they are endangering their children before they have even developed feet!

I am struggling to separate myself from the culture of fear that permeates every book I read and every website I visit. Why, today alone I have endangered my 15-week-old fetus by taking a warm bath, painting my nails green, eating Parmesan cheese that I’m not SURE was pasteurized, and struggling to install a new cable box (with the box balancing on my abdomen for a moment). And I will probably endanger it further in a few hours by  going to a Step class and allowing my heart rate to climb above 130!

I am terrified… if it starts now, where does it end? Is there any reassurance out there that leaving my bedroom and eating a variety of foods ISN’T going to cause catastrophic birth defects?

Yes! I’m reassuring you and I hope soon the folks who comment below will be doing the same thing! Part of Free-Ranging is accepting the fact that there is only so much control we have over our children’s lives — starting Day One. Sure, we do our best, but we realize that fate plays a hand, too.

Another key Free-Range concept is realizing that the current mania for making everything perfect is just that: a mania. There is no such thing as perfect — except some pregnancy books and “experts” who are perfectly annoying! — L