Sunday, 10 October 2010

Those pregnancy books all lie..

Me. Oh, and that white elephant at 17-ish weeks
I've read several pregnancy books,aimed at both mums- and dads-to-be, since I got knocked up.

So far I've managed quite successfully to avoid the most graphic ones with colour photos of fetuses and that sort of thing, but I think I would feel like a slightly neglectful prospective parent if I didn't take some interest in what's going on inside me.

But as I say, these books lie.

When GM is around his friends or even colleagues, all they talk about appears to be pregnancy-and baby-related topics such as "what is the best estate car", "what symptoms/physical abuse can one expect from a pregnant woman" and "once I shagged my gf from behind when she had just thrown up and I was holding her hair back, just because it had been so long and I thought it might be the only go I would get for the next month or so (entirely true story)".

Not only that, but there appears to be a certain strange undertone of supportiveness in this line of conversation, even when they tell him things like "when they think she might rip, they use scissors, you can actually hear them cutting the flesh" (GM was traumatised for days after that particular one).

Oh and let me emphasise, these are all men we are talking about. They do manly, physically dangerous work with their man hands and have beards and smoke cigars and drink cognac etc. OK, so some of them are nurses, but still. They are men.

My friends, on the other hand, fall into two camps. The camp completely comfortable with my growing belly, who stroke it, ask if they can look after the baby once it is born and generally concerned with the well-being of us both.

Then there's the second camp. They want to hear nothing about the pregnancy, they visibly shirk back if I mention anything about being fat or tired or having headaches or anything related to being colonised by a parasite that grows by the day.

And yes, you've guessed. The first category includes most of my male friends. The second category are all women.

Perhaps this is the punishment for being over 30 and chosing friends with higher education and a career. The female friends who act this way fall into two further subtypes: a) Single and hating it or b) Trying to have a baby but failing.

OK, so I've never really wished for a baby and not managed to conceive. I would imagine it's incredibly stressful. And of course I realise it was somewhat foolish to mention to one of these friends (a very close friend actually) whilst she was complaining about her fertility issues, that in fact, smoking 20 a day does nothing for your fertility rate. If I was not pregnant, it would have been bad enough. Now, it's probably like I'm flaunting my own accidental fertility in a highly annoying and condescending way.

This 20-a-day friend has snapped at me just about every time we've met since I got pregnant, saying some things that I really think are mean, despite pregnancy-related heightened social paranoia. A few examples include pointing out that I'll be really fat and saggy boobs, and also that I shouldn't complain about not being able to eat due to nausea, as at least I get a baby out of it. I'm also not allowed to avoid smoky venues or unhealthy foods without her passing some sarky remark. Right.

Another friend, when I told her I was pregnant, exclaimed "but I thought you would wait until I met someone!". A third turned to her boyfriend and shrieked "see, she can have one, why can't I!"

They say pregnant women go all irrational and hormonal, but clearly these hormones also have an effect on those around us. Several people I've hitherto thought of as close friends (we have known each other for at least 10 years) appear to be avoiding me.

This saddens me immensely. I never realised being pregnant would be so lonely. And as weeks pass, I can no longer hide my condition, so I don't even have to say anything to be considered an offensive reminder of other people's failings.

It's not that I want people around me to be eternally interesting in what goes on in my uterus. I guess I just expected more from my friends than.. this. I don't have an urge to constantly discuss pregnancy related things, it's just that I find it really, really hard to have to watch what I say in order not to upset anyone.

I hoped for some level of support, even tacit support, or at least not outright hostility. I find them selfish, I am so deeply disappointed that they cannot, despite their various personal issues, find it within them to be just a little bit happy for me that things are going my way, albeit in unexpected fashions.

So I'm taking issue with is the fact that the books all say that "women share their stories of pregnancy with each other and feel more comfortable talking about this issue than men, for whom the pregnancy feels unreal and distant". Also they say that "feel more capable of taking care of the new baby because women discuss this with other women".

I've never heard such BS. At least not since the last time I had the misfortune of reading a right-wing political party manifesto. Give me those manly men with their horror birth stories, any day.