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 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
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
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
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?