Over the course of her two pregnancies Anna Gowan has received some pretty ridiculous – and unsolicited – advice from dudes. She shares some of the worst and asks: why exactly do men feel the need to weigh in?
I’ve been given invaluable advice from men recently. What’s the best garden box to grow vegetables in, for example. What sized shorts should I buy for a petite male pensioner with a slight muffin top. The advice offered was helpful, educational and gratefully received.
But there’s something funny about non-medically qualified men offering advice to women on pregnancy. It’s kind of like me offering guys tips on how to get through a prostate check, or an opinion on whether Speedos really do reduce chafing: I’m just not sure I am qualified to comment.
During both my pregnancies, men seemed to flock to me with advice. Some of it was totally valid and it was almost always delivered without the intention of being irritating. Unfortunately it didn’t matter, as the advice was coming from the other team – the ones who got to be spectators to the overwhelming, physically exhausting, sometimes wonderful, and sometimes not, experience of being pregnant.
“I know how to fix morning sickness,” said a male friend with the wisdom of one who has had to pause Game of Thrones while his wife raced off to the toilet to throw up her dinner. “You need to eat nuts.”
I pointed to the 75-kilogram bag of scroggin I’d had on my desk for the last 10 weeks.
“Good,” he said as he picked out a couple of chocolate chips. “Don’t forget to boil the crap out of your poached eggs, too. You want them leathery, like an old man’s -”
“Got it,” I said.
“What do you mean you won’t eat this ham sandwich I bought from the Wild Bean nine days ago?” Dad said to me, appalled.
“Because pregnant women are told not to eat ham,” I said. “Especially old ham. Didn’t you just find that sandwich under your car seat?”
“Just try it and see!”
Dad sighed. “You know, your mother ate ham while she was pregnant with you and you turned out fine.”
Then there are the guys with misdirected sympathy.
“I hear Sarah has terrible morning sickness, like Kate Middleton-level-hospitalisation and prescribed medication morning sickness,” I told my mate Steve. “It makes me realise I have nothing to complain about.”
“Yeah,” Steve said as he shook his head. “I just feel sorry for Liam.”
“Liam? Her partner?” I said, dumbfounded.
“Yeah. He’s had to make her like, two dinners each night…and get up and get her snacks when she wakes up vomiting. He must be exhausted.”
I asked my mates if they’d had similar experiences while pregnant.
“Definitely,” one said. “When I told my old boss (the 70-year-old chairman of the company) I was pregnant, he said he knew how a pregnant woman’s brain worked and that I should feel free to yell out if there was anything I was struggling to make sense of.”
“I was given some pretty classic advice at our antenatal class,” a mate said. “I was pregnant with twins. One guy suggested I fingerprint the boys at birth so I’d never get them mixed up.”
But there’s one man who truly leads the way when it comes to pregnancy intuition. My former boss has a talent, which enabled him to determine I was pregnant – before I’d even done the test.
“You’re pregnant,” he said during a meeting one day.
“No I’m not,” I spluttered. “And HR could have you by the balls for asking me that.”
“Because you can’t ask women those kinds of questions – it’s a privacy breach or something.”
“Whatever,” he said with a shrug. Then he cocked his head. “You sure you’re not pregnant?”
As it turned out, he was right. I thought it was a lucky guess, that he’d noticed I wasn’t drinking alcohol or whatever. But it turned out he had a special skill, kind of like Clark Kent’s ability to burn through walls with his eyes and Peter Parker’s fancy spider-web ejaculating hands.
The truth came out at my annual performance review. We’d talked about my KPIs, my KRAs, my PDAs, my ASAPs and the like and there was only one matter left to discuss.
“I’m pregnant,” I said.
“I knew it!” he said and gave himself a high five.
“Yeah, you probably noticed I haven’t been drinking,” I said.
“Nah, that’s not how I knew. I have another way of knowing.” He tapped his nose. “Shall I tell you?”
I shook my head. “No.”
“Ah, it’s all right. I’ll tell you.”
I stood up and started backing away from the table. “No, it’s okay, I really don’t want to know.”
I grabbed the door handle. It was locked. OH GOD.
“I can smell when women are ovulating,” he said.
I threw up on the floor.
Okay, so that last line wasn’t exactly true (it was more of a dry retch). And in retrospect, instead of being horrified by this skill, maybe I should’ve been impressed. After all, if I’d listened to my boss, I could’ve saved $25 on a pregnancy test.
I think this next story told to me by a friend sums up how we all feel about becoming parents, regardless of whether you’re carrying the baby or not.
“Some husbands sympathy eat, but my husband took to sympathy drinking. It was funny for the first month but seriously annoying by the fifth month. We were driving home from the pub one night – he was smashed – and he said: “You just don’t understand, my life is about to totally change!”
And so, as the recipient of plenty of pregnancy advice, here are my tips for talking to pregnant women:
- Try not to offer advice…unless she invites you to.
- Know that if it’s your partner, your role as support person kicks off the moment you discover she’s pregnant. This might mean making two dinners a night. It might mean buying her a Double Down burger at 10.30pm – or 6.30am. It might mean going along to a hypno-birthing course where the leader wears a tie-dyed t-shirt and worships the beauty of cervical muscles. Do your very best not to complain.
- You are in this together, so talk about it. Make light of it. One day, that moment she puked when you farted will be really funny.
- Accept that your pregnant partner or colleague or friend may complain. Quite a lot.
Finally, remember it will all be over before you know it … and when that baby arrives, it really is game on – for both of you.
Anna Gowan is a copywriter, website creator and the author of Hollie Chips, a novel for kids. She works part-time while looking after her two daughters, aged one and three.
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