Those who know me best know I can be a bit of a worrier. Becoming pregnant last year was thrilling, and although it gave me a boatload of new things to worry about, I truly made a conscious effort to try to relax and not project anxiety or negativity on my little one. I quickly realized that being around negative and cynical people had a tremendous impact on my mood and nerves. Most of the time, that negative energy was unintentional, people didn’t mean to be condescending or insulting, but it happened a lot.
We’ve all experienced the stereotypical foot-in-mouth comments: “You must be due any day now!” (and you’re only six months pregnant), or, “You definitely look like you’re having a girl!” (in other words, you got ugly). These comments, while sometimes hurtful, are usually innocent. The negativity I’m referring to is different – I’m talking about the skepticism and know-it-all attitude I call the “Just Waits.”
During my pregnancy, most of the Just Waits revolved around labor and delivery. I was surprised at how many people (even ones I didn’t know too well) asked if I was planning to receive an epidural. Although I initially answered honestly and mentioned my desire for an un-medicated birth, I quickly realized that if I wanted to avoid the Just Waits, I had to give a more neutral answer, such as, “Oh, I’ll have to make that decision when the time comes.” As soon as I mentioned natural birth, I was met with smirks and comments like, “Yeah ok, just wait until that first contraction hits!” My fear of confrontation led me to shrink back into the wait-and-see response, but I wonder if that was the right way to handle others’ brash remarks.
The Just Waits didn’t stop at labor questions. Are you planning on breastfeeding? Just wait until he starts teething! How long are you going to breastfeed? Just wait until you go back to work! You want to make baby food? Just wait until you have your hands full with the baby!
The more people bombarded me with the Just Waits, the more I felt I had to hide my choices. I brought this dilemma up at the final session of our childbirth class, and the teacher said something that really stuck with me. After sharing a few examples, I asked, “How can I respond to these comments without being rude?” She thought for a moment and then asked, “Why are you so worried about hurting people’s feelings when they are insulting and criticizing you?” The answer is, I don’t know! Chalk it up to being non-confrontational, I guess. The problem is that although I’m not a fighter, I don’t let things roll off my back either.
Now that my son is six months old, I still encounter plenty of Just Waits and so far I’ve stayed tight-lipped. What do you think, moms and dads? Is it worth the confrontation or is staying quiet being the bigger person? How have you handled rude, negative or know-it-all comments? And for those of us guilty of the Just Waits (and most of us are), how do we draw the line between being helpful and being negative?