The advice of strangers
Why do strangers think they know better? asks pregnant Georgina Guedes.
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Since having become noticeably pregnant, I have been astonished by the people who have taken it upon themselves to offer unwanted advice, or even, in one particular case, chastisement.

It’s as if, through the very intimate and personal process of conceiving a child, my body has become public property. And I’m not one of those women who rallies against people who want to touch their bellies – I find that quite sweet (although, thus far it’s only been nice women whose hands have darted out – I might sing a different tune if a skanky old man tries it).

I’m not complaining about other mothers in my social circle who are keen to share the benefit of their experience with me. They know me, so they have a fairly good understanding of what’s important to me or the ways in which we differ.

My complaint is about the people who think that their world view is the only permissible one, and that through the act of getting knocked up, I have opened myself up to their interference in my life.

The hatchet-wielding gynae

The first unsolicited insight I received was from a woman at my dance class who asked who my gynae was. When I told her, her immediate response was, “oh, you do know that she performs episiotomies as a matter of course, don’t you?”

Now, until this moment, I hadn’t had much of an opinion on episiotomies. My mother had one when she brought me into this world, and has never complained about it, and a friend who didn’t have one tore quite badly during birth, so I have also handed myself over to a gynae whom I trust, and will take her lead on most things.

This viewpoint was not appreciated by the woman who was seeking to set me on the path to demanding that my gynae not attend the birth of my baby because she would want to slice me in two. Although she annoyed me, I did come away with the uneasy view of my gynae as a hatchet-wielding vaginal slasher.

Poisoning the unborn

The other bit of outrageous interference came from a lady in the fishmonger. I was waiting for my order, while my mother stood in the queue to pay for her sushi. When the sushi was ready, I brought it over to her.

A woman about eight people behind her in the queue called out at volume, “Is that sushi for you?”

I was so astonished at her temerity that I stammered out that it was for my mother.

“Are you sure?” she demanded, in disbelieving tones.

I wished I had said, “A, it’s not for me, it’s for my mother. B, some gynaes recommend sushi as a fabulous source of Omega 3 for the baby’s brain development, C, this particular serving is made of cooked crab sticks. D, it’s none of your [expletive] business.”

What gives you the right?

I am offended on so many levels by this kind of interference. Firstly, I am a well-read, financially stable, emotionally mature, adult woman having a baby. Chances are that I have done a bit of research into my condition and am under the care of a (hatchet-wielding) professional. Any decisions I make for myself are my own, and not really the business of a woman in the queue at a fish shop or a stranger in my dance class.

Secondly, I would never dream of interfering with someone else’s parenting. No matter what my opinion on Coca-Cola, MSG or smoking around small children, I wouldn’t cross a room to berate someone for doing something that I wouldn’t (aside from the obvious beating with a wrench). Why then does anyone assume it’s their right to take me to task for a choice about which there is a lot of debate to start with?

On the other hand, my mother was quite touched by the interference from the woman at the fish shop. She is delighted about the imminent grandchild and feels that it is only right that every other person in the world should also feel a responsibility to ensuring its wellbeing.

Sadly, I am unable to warm to her point of view.

Do you think people are too quick to offer advice? What’s the worst you’ve ever heard?

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