Mum’s the Word

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When the tables are turned, a mom who resented being subjected to public scrutiny during her pregnancies discovers just how hard it is to clamp down on those wondrous experiences!

My bulging belly and I had just made it to the grocery store deli counter when, a half-second later, we were subjected to intense interrogation—and not about the thickness of the peppercorn turkey slices I was planning on ordering.

“So, ya gonna have an epidural or not?” the deli clerk demanded. She’d been looking my belly up and down as I approached the counter.

“Don’t!” the other deli clerk shouted, her face obscured behind a large, scary looking log of yellow, unsliced American cheese. “Go natural. It’s better.”

“No, no, no,” the first woman said, shaking her head in vehement disagreement, craning her neck to get a better view of the walking hormone kettle in front of her. (She still hadn’t taken my number ticket, 47, even though I was the only one in line.) “Get the drugs.”

Then the two women looked at me, their pregnant pause lingering in the air amid the aroma of tangy sliced pepperoni and creamy feta cheese.

I just wanted my darned turkey.

After months of being involuntarily declared public property, particularly after people found out that I was carrying twins, I was sick of everyone—friends, family, strangers at deli counters—doling out unsolicited advice and asking me intrusive, personal questions.

“I’ll see what happens,” I said, plastering a phony but polite smile on my face, praying the inquisition would end so I could go back home and put my aching feet up as I dined on a peppercorn turkey sandwich and the barbecue potato chips I craved.

From breast feeding to binkies, from sleeping habits to the pros and cons of making your own baby food, I absolutely despised being force-fed advice on how to rear my three kids. After all, I’m hardly the type to wallow in a state of confusion. When I’m uncertain, I’ll solicit the advice of seasoned parents. I research issues. I read books, articles, and websites looking for advice on parenting if I need to find the answer to a pressing issue.

When I had no idea how to deal with my kindergarteners’ refusal to pick up their toys, I called my mom. (She was no help.) When I didn’t know what to do when my 18-month-olds started leaping out of their cribs and landing on their heads, I asked every mother I could find for advice. (Wound up putting them on mattresses on the floor and was then tortured as they ransacked their rooms multiple times a day.) When my kids started biting one another, I went to my wealth of experienced family members, friends and the Internet looking for suggestions. (You don’t wanna know.)

But when people waltzed up to me to instruct me how to do things when I never asked them a question, or, worse yet, grabbed something (or someone!) out of my hands and said, “Oh, no, no, no, you’ve got to do [fill in the blank] this way,” I went ballistic inside…sometimes on the outside too.

Now, with six years of parenting three kids—including those twins—under my belt, I find myself absolutely brimming with parenting anecdotes and tips I’ve acquired. I love to talk about my pregnancies and births, about those insane, early days of sleep deprivation (which in the case of my youngest, lasted nearly two years and single-handedly kept those folks at Starbucks in business).

But I don’t have any place to go with my parenting info. As friends and younger family members start having kids, I actually find myself having to staple my own lips together and keep quiet so as not to become one of those annoying pests who waltz up to mothers and yammer on incessantly. It’s painfully difficult.

I want my own experiences and mistakes to benefit someone. I mean, come on, if I had to practically give birth to my youngest child in an ER parking lot as he emerged from the birth canal while his daddy and I were still en route to the hospital, I want to be able to share the story and the lesson (don’t let them send you home if you KNOW you are having solid contractions and it’s your second birth).

It took forever for me to learn to shove my baby’s face into my breast if he or she bit me while breast feeding (the shoving would cause them to open their mouths to get a breath and they’d associate the discomfort with biting, a lactation expert advised me). And after nursing the twins for a solid year and my youngest for 14 months, I wanted to share that little chestnut with someone.

But unless I’m asked, I have to keep my babbling to myself.

The torrent of stories and advice has to stay behind the flood gates until the new or expectant mom gently taps on that door.

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