Here’s how happy I am about being pregnant: it’s a real struggle to avoid using the phrase “over the moon.” Given that I spent a solid 20 percent of my pre-pregnant life making fun of people who say stuff like that, it’s pretty clear that I’m delirious with hormones and love.
And a good thing it is, too, because it I weren’t, I might be annoyed about all the advice I’ve been getting, much of it from perfect strangers. I was safe for the first four months, when it looked like maybe I’d just had a burrito for lunch, but now it’s obvious that I’m pregnant. I own a lot of shirts with ruching all of a sudden, and sometimes I knock things off shelves with my stomach. Plus, I groan a fair amount. I’m a clear target for busybodies.
To be totally honest with you, I’m not a big fan of life advice even when I’m not pregnant. Career advice? Sure. Recommendations about auto repair places, dentists, restaurants, or vacation destinations? Send ‘em my way! Advice about how to live my life generally? Hard pass. I try not to give this kind of advice, and when people offer theirs unsolicited, I grit my teeth and escape as soon as possible.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far — and really, it might be stretching it to claim that I’ve learned even one thing — it’s that no one really knows what anyone else should do in their personal lives. There are just too many variables, and it’s too hard to put ourselves in each other’s shoes. The right answer for me might be the wrong answer for you, or the lady down the street or the guy at the market.
But that doesn’t stop the advice-givers, who are sure that every pregnant person and parent needs their insight desperately.
“Thank God I went mini-golfing today,” they must think to themselves. “Otherwise that pregnant woman wrangling four kids might not know that she should be avoiding gluten in order to get at least one child who can behave in public.”
People who give unsolicited parenting advice should be flogged, is what I’m saying. But since that’s illegal and immoral, and since I usually think of the best retorts when I’m in my car 20 minutes after an interaction with a buttinsky, I’ve decided to rely on literature to help me get through.
With this in mind, I’ve gathered the following list of inspirational quotes, mostly drawn from Victorian literature, with the occasional Romantic or contemporary writer thrown in. Because if society is going to pretend that every single minor parenting decision carries enormous, life-changing weight, we might as well respond appropriately.
I hope you’re eating well for that baby! (Or: Here’s what your baby/toddler/5-year-old/teenager should be eating, and why doing anything different is child abuse.)
“At present I cannot spare energy and nerve force for digestion.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
You should really at least try to breastfeed. Breast is best!
“This is the end of the line for you and the rest of your ilk. We shall no longer seek the counsel of false matriarchs, keepers of the Old Order, quislings whose sole power derives from the continuing bondage of their sisters. Like the dinosaurs, your bodies will fuel the new society, where each woman shall be sovereign, and acknowledge her rage, and validate her neighbor’s rage, and rejoice in everybody’s rage, and caper and dance widdershins beneath the gibbous moon.” – Jincy Willett
Let me tell you about the advantages of natural childbirth/unassisted birth/dolphin doulas.
“And if no Lethe flows beneath your casement, And when ten years have not brought full effacement, Philosophy was wrong, and you may meet.” – John Crowe Ransom
Have you thought about sleep training? (Or: Don’t let that baby cry it out. That’s child abuse!)
“In his house at R’lyeh dead C’thulhu waits dreaming.” – H.P. Lovecraft
You absolutely must get a nanny/do daycare/stay home until the child is X months or years old/become a stay-at-home-mom.
“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but of playing a poor hand well.” – Robert Louis Stevenson
Whatever you do, don’t worry. If you get stressed out while you’re pregnant, you’ll give birth to a litter of rabbits … and the rabbits will all die.
“Memory haunts me from age to age, and passion leads me by the hand–evil have I done, and with sorrow have I made acquaintance from age to age, and from age to age evil shall I do, and sorrow shall I know till my redemption comes.” – H. Rider Haggard
Does your child do sports/take music and art classes/know sign language and Mandarin/have SAT prep built into her preschool program?
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Bronte
I can’t help but notice that your child has a behavioral and/or medical issue. Have you tried essential oils/prayer/a vegan diet/family calisthenics/moving to a yurt?
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” – Friedrich Nietzsche
How much screen time do you permit your child? (BUZZER NOISE.) Wrong.
“I know you despise me; allow me to say, it is because you do not understand me.” – Elizabeth Gaskell
You know, you should really take care of yourself. I do yoga/train for marathons/fast every other day, and I lost the baby weight 45 minutes after giving birth.
“Fuck you.” – Unknown
Image: Mother Goose ABC, New York: McLoughlin Bros, 1891, via Pinterest