With the great strength birthed when you become pregnant, comes a great vulnerability. This vulnerability is a gift in many ways, expanding your ability to feel love so profoundly it shakes your core, making it a joy versus a struggle to make sacrifices in the name of another person, and developing a heightened sensitivity for the world and people around you (and bigger breasts and fuller hair).
This vulnerability also makes you, well… more vulnerable. The words, actions, and emotions of others will have a deeper impact on how you interact with yourself and your surroundings, and how you navigate the stages of pregnancy and birth.
To ensure your journey into motherhood is filled with people who honor and nurture your vulnerability, instead of taking advantage of it, here are seven people to avoid during pregnancy.
1. Women who want to tell you their scary birth stories
There is no room for additional “scary birth” noise on your path to mamahood. I’ll bet your mind is already skilled in the art of swimming through worst-case scenarios; you don’t need other people telling you about theirs.
If a stranger, mother, sister, cousin, buddy, acupuncturist, or whoever tries to share a birth story with you, stop them and ask if the story will serve to fill you with hope and excitement for your upcoming birth, or fear. If it will plant fear, ask them to tell you the tale after you’ve had your baby.
2. The medical care provider that tells you “you can’t do it”
You don’t want any of this noise either. You want a care provider that reminds you how incredible your birth can be and the things you can do to make it so.
Even if you have a platter of special circumstances, and certain medical interventions will be required in your birth experience, your journey into motherhood can still be terrific and your care provider should support that. If your care provider always speaks to you in tones of worry, find someone else who exudes optimism for the happy and healthy birth they’re going to strive to help you create.
3. The piece of yourself that tells you “you can’t do it”
And now, they’re freaking out about the unpredictability of the path you’re on, and may want you to shut down your intuition in favor of maintaining the status quo (e.g., accept the interventions pushed on you, even if they seem wrong, or birth in the location your friends birthed because that’s what you’re familiar with).
You can clip ties with this fearful and limiting side of yourself by choosing to follow your intuition (the first answer you receive after asking yourself a question), instead of the voice of your fears. This breakup may be painful, leaving you momentarily untethered from stability, but with time you’ll fill with enthusiasm for the possibilities this freedom births.
4. Folks who tell you how you should birth
These individuals are comfortable with how they chose to birth and want you to validate their choices by making the same ones. You may intuitively feel aligned with some of the options these people suggest; if so, good — go with that.
But what if you don’t resonate with the options they offer? You can say no, you can choose something else; your choices have nothing to do with them. If they realize that and aren’t attached to whether you go their way or another, keep them around. If they pressure you to do it their way, you may need to limit your exposure to them, at least until your baby arrives.
Say yes to the people that are more interested in how you want to birth than on how they think you should birth.
5. Friends you don’t feel emotionally safe with
If I hadn’t been pregnant, maybe I would have put more effort into working past the breach. But I was expending so much emotional energy on my own stuff that I didn’t have the enthusiasm to get into hers. And neither do you.
Guard your heart while pregnant, only sharing it with those who care for it as gently as they would care for your baby.
6. Your terrified mother or mother-in-law
I’ve had to help clients with “mom interventions.” Mom interventions include asking a mom who is infusing mega doses of fear into a birthing space to leave the room. Many of us place a lot of weight on the opinions of our mothers, even if we don’t like to admit it. While we might not always agree with these opinions they often have a potent presence in our minds.
If you have a mother figure who frequently shares thoughts that add fear to your pregnancy, you can ban all birth talk when you’re with her. Suggest you spend time organizing the nursery, or planning a baby shower, but if the convo starts eking into the land of birth prep, medical complications, or anything else she might be fearful of, steer her away.
7. People who are jealous of your pregnancy … and tell you as much
It’s common to have women in our lives that are having trouble conceiving and desperately want to join you at the pregnancy party. You don’t need to nix all of these ladies from your life, but if there are any that make it hard for you to enjoy your pregnancy and subtly (or blatantly!) make you feel guilty or shameful for being pregnant say, “I love you, and buh bye,” at least for awhile.
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While you want to nurture this friend through their struggle, you have a right to make your number one priority your baby and self.
It’s hard breaking up with people. Our culture teaches women to please others at all costs, but you do have permission to extract these folks from your life for as long as needed. You deserve to feel empowered to claim your right to choose who you surround yourself with on this epic and vulnerable journey. Do it for your baby. Do it for yourself.
Now, go have some decaffeinated tea with a buddy who wants nothing more than to be a safe space for you to reveal your heart’s fears, desires and questions, while silently rubbing your feet and nodding with understanding.
Bailey Gaddis is the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance Amidst the Chaos for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood. She has written for Elephant Journal, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Scary Mommy, and others.