Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
I’m really sick of everyone talking to me only about pregnancy, childbirth, and babies. How can I still have conversations about other aspects of my life and be seen as more than a pregnant woman?
Talk about an identity shift, right?! One day you’re viewed as a woman unique for her special sauce of personality traits, talents, and interests, then the next day your belly is blooming and most people lump you into the pregnancy/mommy crew, assuming you just want to talk about labor positions and the merits of cloth diapers over disposables. It’s frustrating. And sometimes it’s identity crisis–inducing. Most women already have that little voice, constantly worrying about how they’ll change as they wander into motherhood, so it’s understandable that they freak when folks seem to stop perceiving them as dynamic individuals and see only the generic “mom.” (I don’t care who you are, you’re not a generic mom — you’re a badass individual.)
But before we start ragging on those nameless folks, it’s important to note that most people don’t actually think of you as a generic mom; they are simply latching on to something about you they can relate to. More than almost anything, humans want to connect and feel understood, so when we see someone showing visible signs of something we have experience with, we want to talk about that thing. I’ll bet that if people find out you’re an architect (for example), and they have a passion for design, they’ll happily shift the conversation.
It’s also common for women to feel guilty about not wanting to always talk about pregnancy, birth, and the mama-hood when they’re in the thick of those experiences. Some feel like it’s a betrayal of the baby to be irked when someone asks yet again whether you’re planning on having a vaginal birth. But let it really sink in: you have every right to feel like you’re more than a vessel for new life — because you absolutely are. You are a well- rounded woman who will be a better mother because you are committed to holding on to the things that make you feel like you. A dedication to the nourishment of your whole self will teach your child that they also deserve a life in which their personal interests and needs matter.
What to do
When someone starts chatting you up about everything your belly makes them think of and you’re not feeling the mommy-talk, try one of the following:
- Come up with a go-to question or response for changing the subject. For example, you can describe how pregnancy is impacting your career, or how you’re concerned motherhood will change your interests. This will hopefully inspire the other person to start talking about similar experiences, allowing you to learn what their interests are and giving you golden material for a new topic of conversation. “Oh wow, so you worked in the circus before you became a parent? Did you know the bearded lady?”
- Straight-up tell them you don’t feel like talking about birth or babies. “You know what? I’m usually so down to talk baby stuff, but I feel like that’s all I’ve been going on about lately. Can we talk about something else? Maybe some Bachelor Nation gossip?”
Besides navigating tricky conversations, it’s also good to remind yourself that you have many fascinating layers. So add the following to your to-do list:
- Commit to putting yourself in situations that stimulate your favorite parts of who you are. For example, taking a class or joining a club that’s devoted to one of your interests will allow you to hang with people who are probably more interested in the activity or topic you’re there to explore than in what’s going on in your uterus. And spending time with colleagues can help you connect to the side of you that’s passionate about your career, as it’s easy to find not-baby-related common ground with these people.
- Nurture your dynamic layers after birth. When baby is born, you can hold on to parts of your pre-pregnancy identity by making a plan with your support team for engaging in the activities you love. For example, maybe you’ll schedule your mom to watch baby for an hour every other day so you can work on a passion project.
Something I found so amazing about motherhood was that after I got through the first few months of postpartum chaos, I was filled with inspiration. I started writing the book proposal for Feng Shui Mommy, crafting and pitching a TV show I’m now so grateful never graced the small screen, and volunteering for a cancer resource center. It was like my newfound purpose as a mother awakened all these other sources of purpose. And I’m not unique. Most moms I know began their most exciting endeavors soon after having a baby. I’m not telling you this to make you feel like you need to change the world while you’re still trying to figure out how to get your boobs to stop leaking. I just want you to feel hopeful that your best self and life might be yet to come.