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 because I only had morning sickness for ten days 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 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 on 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 positively. To take it one step at a 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, you become everybody’s business when you are pregnant. 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”.