When I was pregnant with Matthew, this obnoxious woman ambushed me as I was sitting on my front porch. She was super aggressive. After our encounter, I managed to write her off as that “crazy woman from my neighborhood with no social skills”.
But the other day, as we were driving to the grocery store, I spotted her walking down the street, in all her smug glory, pushing her twins in a double stroller, following her older child as he rode his bike. It was the first time I’d seen her since Matthew’s death, and it wasn’t jealously I felt – it was pure anger. I was immediately incensed by the sight of her.
She’s been in my head ever since, so I’m taking charge here – getting her out of my head, and into my blog.
It was a hot day in late June when I first encountered this woman (I’ll just call her Celeste). I was sitting on the bench on our front porch, watching as Mark and my in laws worked in the yard. Mark and his dad had just finished placing some large, stone boulders to create a barrier between the edge of our gravel road and the edge of our lawn.
We live in an urban area, on a small gravel road, in an eclectic, yet desirable neighborhood. If you’re thinking “all this sounds weird”, then you’d be correct.
But the boulders were to prevent people from driving on our lawn – people like our neighbors, who used to do it intentionally. They still hate us because we built a new home near them.
Even though there’s about ten other homes under construction in the same neighborhood, they still project all their anger and unhappiness onto us. So we constantly have to spend money to keep them from ruining our property.
But anyway, Mark’s mom was in the front yard too, and we were all chatting about things like the hot weather and how Matthew might have fun playing on these boulders in his first couple years – they weren’t that big, but to a little boy, they’d seem huge. And in the midst of all this, I noticed some people walking down the gravel road towards our house.
Our road is a magnet for random walkers because people see it and are drawn to it, because walking down it makes you feel like you’re freaking camping, except you’re really not. So it’s like everyone’s best case scenario…
So first to pass our house was this little boy on a bike, followed by Celeste, who was pushing her twins in the double stroller. I’d never seen them, ever in my life, but new people walk down our road all the time… Remember, it’s a huge draw.
Because Mark’s mom looooooooves kids, she immediately noticed them and gravitated towards them. And then she just had to engage Celeste and tell her what beautiful blessings from God her little munchkins are – that they are just sooooooo cute and gorgeous and precious.
And I was about to throw up in my mouth – from the heat, and from the exchange unfolding in front of me.
But Celeste wasn’t that interested in Mark’s mom, or her own kids. She immediately zeroed in on me, even though I was sitting like 20 yards away from her on my front porch, in the shade, minding my own business.
“Are you ready to have the baby? Are you going to go into labor soon?” she yelled at me from across the yard.
“I hope not,” I replied (I try to be friendly to others), “I’m not due until early September.”
Celeste, apparently un-phased by what she’d just insinuated (that I looked huge, ready to pop at any moment, despite still having a little over two full months to go), kept talking… “Are you going to have the baby here?” she shouted.
I stood up and took a few steps towards her, not wanting to be rude or shout from across the yard. I also had no clue what the eff she meant. “Well, not right here, in my yard,” I said. “But if you mean in this city, then yes.”
“Oh, not here?” she seemed disappointed.
“Well, kind of here. In this city, but in the hospital down the road.”
“But not here?”
“Ha, no, not here,” I snickered as I answered, “And I’m being monitored as high-risk, so there’s that…”
“But home births are really great. I had all three of mine at home. And these two are twins… Are you taking any classes?”
“Yes, the one at the hospital.”
“Oh, okay. But no others?”
“No, no others.”
“Oh… Well, there’s this woman who teaches classes around here. And she’s a doula. She lives here. In this area. I’ll give you her information if you want it.”
“Oh, that’s okay. We’re fine with our hospital classes. It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. But thank you,” I stammered.
“Are you on a pregnancy diet?”
“I try to eat healthy.”
“But there are certain, specific pregnancy diets that really are the best,” she explained condescendingly.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “It’s good to eat healthy.”
“She eats very healthy,” Mark interjected.
“Are you going to ask for pain meds? Like, during labor?” she asked.
“I don’t know. I’m really open to anything. All I’m worried about is healthy mom, healthy baby.”
“Oh… Well, pain meds are really not the best. It’s best to have a natural birth. You should really contact someone who can help you achieve that. I have a woman’s name. She lives here.”
“Okay, I said. Yeah, we’ll see,” I was annoyed.
“You have a beautiful house,” she complimented me.
“Oh, thanks,” I replied.
“Nice to meet you,” she was finally heading out.
“Nice to meet you too,” I responded, flatly.
“Nice to meet you. Have a great day!!” Mark’s mom exclaimed.
She and her kids went on their merry way. I was relieved when they disappeared from my sight.
“She was SO nice!!!” Mark’s mom exclaimed.
“Actually, ‘nice’ is not the first word that comes to mind. She was so rude. We could never be friends. What is wrong with her?!”
“Oh,” Mark’s mom said, surprised, “Well, she complimented your house.”
“Yeah, but she was not nice. I couldn’t stand her.”
Luckily Mark and his dad jumped in, agreeing she was, indeed, extremely rude. They wondered out loud how she could possibly have the nerve to say all these things to a complete stranger. They agreed it was totally odd she’d get that personal with me so quickly, with no knowledge of what my medical history might be.
Still, I second guessed all my choices surrounding my prenatal care and my impending hospital birth experience.
We all laughed about how, someday, if she pulls something similar with the wrong person, she runs the risk of getting a bitch slap to the face. I praised myself, and others praised me, about what a nice person I was to not do that. I basked in the glow of all the praise.
At the time, I didn’t know what was in store for me. Little did I know I’d run the risk of becoming that person – the one who might bitch slap her if she ever pulled this stunt with me again.
I mean, it’s possible, right? I could become pregnant again… And, unable to refuse the lure of our gravel road, she could walk by our house, see I’m pregnant, and pull the same stunt she did that day. She could even remember me and ask how everything went the first time around? Did I go for that natural child birth she was rooting for?
So I’ve written a short letter to Celeste, which I’ll hand to her if the aforementioned scenario ever comes to fruition (which it totally will, because those types of things happen to me ALL THE TIME). Or since it’s posted here now, I’ll just give her the link to my blog if the opportunity arises.
The letter isn’t super friendly, but it’s preferable to a bitch slap to the face. I visualize myself handing it to her right after giving her some ideas about where she can shove her suggested birth plan and telling her to get off my freaking property.
How dare you question, and pass judgment on, my choices regarding my pregnancy without knowledge of my medical history. My choices related to prenatal care, diet, exercise, nutrition, monitoring, medications, interventions, and method of delivery are absolutely none of your business.
These choices are mine – to be made with my husband, using information provided by a team of highly-educated, highly-trained medical professionals. We, like most parents, do our best to make the decisions necessary to ensure the health and safety of mother and baby. We don’t need your input, which, we believe, comes from an uneducated, naïve place.
You probably didn’t notice, but we never brought our first baby home from the hospital. He died after a period of distress caused by a true knot in his umbilical cord. When we arrived at the hospital he was still alive, and the ONLY reason he had a fighting chance was because we were in the hospital – with access to monitoring, interventions, and a doctor who could perform my emergency C-section.
So quit demonizing various forms of monitoring and intervention – they have their place. Quit shaming mothers who don’t, and may never, have the same array of choices you had. And quit insinuating that a healthy baby and intervention-free birth are always within a mother’s control. There’s a lot in life we cannot control.
Instead of wearing your home, intervention-free birth as a badge of honor, count your blessings that everything went right for you. You’re strong, powerful, and amazing, I’m sure – but you are also very lucky.
And please show some compassion – some understanding that not every mother’s experiences will mirror your own. What’s right for you, may not be right, or even safe, for another. You could be speaking with a loss mother – one who’s choosing intense monitoring and an elective C-section at 37 weeks for a subsequent pregnancy (it happens). Your “advice” in said context is hurtful and foolish.
I refuse to allow you to further shame me for my personal choices and medical history. Most of us are just doing our best. We’re all mothers no matter how our children enter this world, and whether they stay here or leave far too soon.
And, get off my freaking lawn!
Do you have people in your life who need to hear this message? Share this letter with them!!