It’s Like Puberty… All Over Again


Lit­tle Doll, Ottawa, July 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre was right: “Hell is other people”.

Alright, I’m pretty sure the French philoso­pher wasn’t refer­ring to all the unwanted com­ments and warn­ings preg­nant women receive when he wrote his most famous line in No Exil—but all the same, the quote per­fectly sums up how I felt dur­ing my pregnancy.

See, I quickly real­ized that I wasn’t going to be one of these preg­nant women described as “pos­i­tively glowing”.

Sure, I had it easy: I hadn’t been sick long—only for ten days or so—and I was doing fine physically.

Men­tally, it was another story.

I felt fat, bloated, ugly and weird. There was some­one grow­ing inside me. It felt… alien. See, I kind of like the con­cept of “one per­son = one body”. Sud­denly, we were two for one body. How was that going to work?

Some women assert that they are more fem­i­nine and wom­anly when they are preg­nant. They claim they have found their pur­pose, a new mean­ing in life.

Well, I can tell you I wasn’t com­par­ing myself with a freak­ing fer­til­ity god­dess. I felt like I was going through puberty all over again, start­ing at age thir­teen and know­ing very well the awk­ward period would only van­ish around sixteen-years-old or so.

I was happy with the idea of hav­ing a baby but I found the process—the eight months left to the big finale—terrifying. I felt like I was embark­ing onto a long descent into “preg­nancy hell”, a spe­cial place with huge dan­gling bel­lies, clothes that didn’t fit, and an end­less list of risks, dan­gers, poten­tial issues and small discomforts.

Peo­ple wouldn’t let me for­get that anyway.

Basi­cally, I was try­ing to keep my head above water and think pos­i­tive. To take it one step at the time.

But well-meaning strangers (not my friends! I love my friends!) just couldn’t stop giv­ing me unwanted advice and mak­ing comments.

There was the time I offered an acquain­tance to meet at Starbucks—the cof­fee shop chain was a con­ve­nient and neu­tral place where we could have a quick chat. “STARBUCKS?” she almost shouted over the phone, appealed. “How can you drink COFFEE? You are PREGNANT!”

Moron. First of all—disclaimer!—I don’t drink cof­fee. It’s not one of my addictions—I’m a tea drinker if any­thing. Sec­ond, drink­ing some caf­feine (or theine) is fine as long as you don’t go over the rather high rec­om­mended thresh­old. Third, what the hell is wrong with you? Star­bucks does offer other drinks than cof­fee, and above all, what I drink is none of your fuck­ing business.

Unfor­tu­nately, as I quickly learned, when you are preg­nant you become everybody’s busi­ness. You are no longer a person—you become a baby incu­ba­tor whose only job is to care for the embryo, the fetus and then the baby.

I get it. It’s impor­tant. I cared and I care. I do take my role seri­ously. I try to make smart choices, to take care of us and all.

But I’m still a human being, with my strengths and weak­nesses. I’m not per­fect. And I cer­tainly didn’t need other peo­ple to con­stantly inter­fere with my life and chime in, espe­cially con­sid­er­ing most of the com­ments I got 1) weren’t informed 2) weren’t wise 3) didn’t take into account the con­text of the situation.

See, the Star­bucks com­ment wasn’t the only time I fought with a stranger. I once got “the dead stare” for order­ing sushi. They were a mix of veg­e­tar­ian and cooked fish sushi, in case you need to know—see, I shouldn’t have to jus­tify myself but I feel I have to. Gosh.

In the same vein, after hes­i­tat­ing for a few weeks, I even­tu­ally decided to go back to doing yoga. After all, I had been going for two years—and I was going before I real­ized I was preg­nant. It felt right and I was com­fort­able with the activ­ity. I received a few rude com­ments: “Are you SURE you are sup­posed to be here?” I ignored them, but all the same, it was tiring.

Han­dling unwanted advice is an art. I chose to put my fin­gers in my ears and sing “la la la, not lis­ten­ing, not lis­ten­ing”. Still, deep down, these com­ments made me inse­cure. Am I doing a good job of bak­ing our Canadian-Chinese-French? Should I be more care­ful, should I avoid this, do that?

Some days, I come to terms with the fact I am not per­fect. And chances are, we won’t be per­fect par­ents either. Some days, I feel anx­ious and wor­ried and I need rein­sur­ance I’m doing a good job.

Yep, I’m telling you, “Hell is other people”.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. I can totally relate to your story. I felt like a crim­i­nal the day I walked into a LCBO to buy some rhum and a can of beer (for bak­ing) with my 7-month preg­nant (very big) belly (alco­hol evap­o­rates when cook­ing, guys!)… They couldn’t pos­si­bly NOT serve me, but I didn’t get any “hello” from the staff that day!

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