When you enter parenthood it’s like everyone goes into advice overdrive. Whether it’s the impassioned sales pitch for why you should DEFINITELY buy (or not buy) a particular buggy, the tips for filling your fridge, or reading a book before the baby comes (because you won’t have time to do that ever again). Even the most personal decisions on the way you should give birth and feed your baby, everyone has an opinion.
I have definitely been the giver of such tips at times (sorry everyone), sometimes because my advice has been asked for, sometimes because it just kind of falls out of my trap before I can stop it. Because, let’s face it, we all like to talk about ourselves. What’s worked for us, what hasn’t, and where we went catastrophically wrong, in the hopes we save someone else from the same awful fate.
Some stuff you do want to know people’s advice on. I had home births with both my babies and, for me, that was absolutely the right call and some people have been curious to hear my experience of that. If you want to have a home birth I will happily wax some lyrical about it, and Mr Husband has tips about birth pool filling (and emptying…) he can give for the Dads.
There are definitely things I wish people had told me too. I’ve heard my fair share of birth story horrors, mostly when I was pregnant (why do people do that when you’re about to drop?), but not one of those people suggested I might want to have my first post-bashed-up fanny wee in the shower, under a gentle wee-sting-diluting water spray. In my case that would have been a very welcome tip.
But if you want to have your first post-bashed-up fanny wee on a rollercoaster then that’s up to you. And your fanny might be absolutely fine anyway. The thing about advice is that it’s all relative. I actually couldn’t have my first wee after my second baby in the shower because I just couldn’t go. Like when you’re on holiday and there’s no loo and you have to go in the sea, only you can’t because you get stage fright and keep hearing the Jaws theme (just me?). And that time weeing on the loo was absolutely fine.
So you know, horses for courses. What works for one person might be the worst idea you ever heard. And what works one time might never work ever again. Most advice doesn’t really take that into account.
Being pregnant is such a visible thing too that you often can’t get away from it either. I was ordering a coffee in a well-known high-street coffee chain when I was heavily pregnant and the barrista actually told me I should be having a juice. And it was a fucking decaf I was ordering, not that I shouldn’t be able to have a bloody coffee if I want one.
I read a thing once about jogging while you’re pregnant and whether that was ok or not. Why I was reading this I have no idea since I was definitely in the ‘does not even run for the bus in fear of two black eyes’ camp. And that was before breastfeeding. Anyway, I remember this article saying that if you were a jogger before pregnancy then it’s fine to carry on, and if you weren’t then pregnancy probably wasn’t the time to start new strenuous activity. I like the sentiment of this, which I then happily applied to drinking. I was a drinker before pregnancy so I figured a few glasses of wine on the way wouldn’t do anyone any harm. But of course then you get: ‘Oh you’re not drinking are you?’. Yes, yes I am. And now you’ve completely ruined my little piece of happiness for the week and I will probably have another one just to really make you judge me.
Then when the baby arrives the barrage of thought on breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding (and the other way round) is huge. Sleeping is always a classic too isn’t it? Particularly the ‘well our baby slept through at 8 weeks’ type of thing when advice starts to veer across into ‘well my baby can stand on one leg and sing Verdi’s Requiem. At 3 months old!’ showboating. Well bloody done.
Of course some things you learn organically, either through experience (yes it is possible to catch sick) or because you’ve picked them up along the way. For me this included the fact that you shouldn’t feed babies honey, because Dr Ross (hello George) told me so in an episode of ER. Who says I wasted my twenties?
I have definitely been on the giving and receiving ends of good, bad, uninvited and downright ridiculous advice. There will always be some bits that stick, that do work for us and our family, but there is a lot which isn’t wrong necessarily, but just isn’t right for me, for us.
So if your head is swimming with advice, my advice (ha! You see how flawed this all is!) is to ignore all the advice and go with your instincts. Trust yourself. Trust your ability to know yourself and your family, and do whatever the hell it is that works best for you. Advice is usually meant well, but it can be really overwhelming at a time when you’re (probably) a knackered hormonal mess. Shut it out, shut it down, and do what you need to do. Because at the end of the day, only you know what’s best for your fanny.