The recurring cycle of maternity denigration.

“Don’t worry, when that baby comes, nobody’s going to know your name!”

“When that baby comes, everybody’s going to forget who you are. The only name you’ll remember is ‘Mom’!”

“Enjoy it while you can, when that baby comes, you’re never going to be able to do that again!”

I will never enjoy the phrase “when that baby comes” because of the above comments, and all the rest I left out. Usually said in a tone intended either as some perverse comfort, or in perverse amusement. What makes moms, or other women in general, think any of those comments are okay? Is it just because someone said the same things to them once upon a time? Because they’ve heard it time after time, and it’s become one of those “things you just say”? I don’t understand. Can anyone tell me if this is a solely Southern phenomenon, or do other regions have this as well?

Think about what you’re saying – even if the woman you’re talking to wasn’t hormonal and anxious about being a first time mother (because who would bother saying that to someone who already has kids), you’re basically telling this mother-to-be that her entire life as she knows it is about to collapse in her face because of the child she’s carrying. Instead of giving her another reason to celebrate the birth of her child, and being excited about his/her impending arrival, you’ve just added another reason for anxiety – she’s about to stop existing, as far as the rest of the world is concerned, because the baby will eclipse all things. She will lose her personality, her individuality… everything. Can you think of a better reason for perinatal or postpartum depression? Those are the kinds of things I was afraid before I got married, things that could have kept me from getting married, or having children, or anything remotely related to what people consider a “normal and well-adjusted life.” It took a tough round of self-therapy and trust in my husband to overcome those feelings, and I’m intensely glad that I did. Other women may not have that luxury of therapy, a constantly-available support structure, and an environment of trust and love that allows for those fears to go away.

“Don’t worry, when that baby comes, you’ll just have been another baby-machine!”

“When that baby comes, you’ll totally cease to exist in the eyes of others! Your only memorable contribution to society is that baby!”

My literal “translations” (above) are a touch harsh. I know I’m over-reacting, just a bit. It’s just one of those things that drive me up the wall, a phrase that I have heard from all those overly-huggy old women at my in-laws’ church (along with “We are so proud of y’all!” which is just a comment that confuses me in general), while they try to rub on my stomach to “feel the baby,” and stamp their little feet over the baby. Jesus, y’all, settle down. Nix that – go ahead and be excited, because when the baby comes you’ll all be talking about how I won’t let that baby go into the nursery and how it must be the post-pregnancy hormones that keep me from letting anybody hold that baby instead of the desire to keep most of your snotty-ass kids away from my child and his currently non-existent immune system. And probably what a heathen I am for nursing him during the sermon, instead of taking that baby out into the lobby to privately do that. And Lord knows what else I’ll do wrong. (Except I don’t care.)

Small church lady tangent aside, if you find yourself suddenly in a place where that phrase comes tumbling through your brain (I’m sure I will not be immune to it, despite my loathing.), stop for a second and take a moment to replace it with something a little more supportive. Something a little more comforting, a little more cheery.  Even a simple “Congratulations!” or “That’s so exciting!” is better than “when that baby comes,” no matter how much you mean well by it.

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