Sunday, January 22, 2012

Nosy Nellie might as well be telling dead baby jokes.

I know I've complained about this before, Batman, but I've really hit my boiling point on this one. What is it about having a baby – specifically a baby with known health problems – that encourages even the most sensitive, sensible, and otherwise considerate people to tell you awful stories that end with someone's baby dying? Is there something about my acceptance of our situation that suggests “sure, she can handle that story some lady I talked to the other day told me about her two (or maybe three, or maybe more) babies that all died within days of their birth: maybe this will even be informative to her!” I know I've been pretty damn stoic throughout this whole process, but that doesn't mean I want to hear every tragic story you've got kicking around in your memory bank. 

Sometimes worse than those woeful stories are the expressions of complete disgust or horror at what I am about to go through. Yes, the idea of a whole human being getting thrust through a relatively narrow channel of muscle and tissue that typically serves an entirely different function does sound pretty unpleasant. I'm not expecting labor to be a fun experience, nor do I anticipate it being in any way, shape, or form easy (physically, emotionally, or in terms of recovery), but I do know that women have been doing this for millenia - almost all of them with zero interventions or medical support beyond a few other ladies telling her she can do it. This can and should be done, but somehow everyone either knows (or is) someone who had a truly disgusting experience during childbirth, or (even more exciting) they have such egregiously WRONG conceptions about what childbirth is that they ignorantly explode vitriol at me. A few people have been especially dreadful about this, and I fear that there has been some splatter; other folks than just your Dad and I have been on the receiving ends of these unintentionally malicious tales, and there is nothing I can do to change that but hope that I find this all hysterical in hindsight. 

One particularly dreadful Nosy Nellie who can't keep her damn mouth shut is one of my coworkers. She is one of my so-called teammates, and from the moment I announced I was pregnant, she more or less turned off any degree of courtesy I'd previously been offered. Rather than just being kind of bitchy and impersonal (as usual), she ceased making direct eye contact, glared awkwardly off into space with a look like a deer caught in headlights any time I started talking about anything pregnancy- or baby-related, and only ever interjected either horror stories or massively inappropriate questions when she engaged in conversation at all. At some point in the last few weeks I was at work, I was treated to a vaguely panicked series of questions that went something like this:

Nellie: "So, I don't know if you've thought about this, but what would happen if you went into labor at school? 'Cause I seriously couldn't handle that. At all."
Me: "Well, I'd send one student down to the nurse, and one student to Ms. G's room (my carpool/sanity buddy) to tell her we were leaving early, but it's not like on TV: labor usually starts pretty gradually and peacefully, so you really don't need to worry about any crazy, messy drama."
Nellie: "...but it could happen. I would completely freak out if, like, your water broke in class. Oh, that would be SO GROSS. What would you DO? I would have to, like, leave the building if I even knew that was happening. I don't know if I could EVER go into your classroom again."
Me: (after a long pause) "Uhm...let's just hope it doesn't happen? Remember, I'm leaving school something like two weeks before the end of most normal pregnancies, so I think we're safe."
Nellie: "Thank GOD. I'm not joking: I will probably throw up if anything starts...ugh...HAPPENING while I'm in the building. I don't know why pregnant women aren't just put in the hospital once they hit nine months."

Okay, Nellie, let's analyze. First, you are a horrible bitch for preemptively blaming me and my baby for your discomfort with something that is not only completely natural, but extremely unlikely to happen in your proximity. Second, you are clearly massively uninformed about childbirth in ways that are definitely going to bite you in the ass should you ever decide to have a child of your own. You should watch less TV, and possibly listen when someone reasonably informed (say, for example, me) shares clinically-proven information about how babies actually show up in the world; that might allow you to be less terrified that a pregnant woman is just going to explode a baby onto your shoes. Third, the idea of cramming pregnant women into hospitals just to keep the general public safe from their potential expulsion of bodily fluids is...I don't even have words. I'd say it was a barbaric perspective, but any barbarians I've studied were totally cool with childbirth, often even celebrating the process with massive bonfires, feasts, ceremonial ingestion of the placenta, and reverence of the birthing mother during and after labor beyond any acknowledgment than women typically received otherwise. Perhaps your ignorant perspective is proto-Victorian? Just Fucking Stupid? I'm out of ideas. This woman is part of why I was very happy to leave school a few days earlier than planned. 

That same Nosy Nellie also thought it appropriate to tell me not one, not two, but three unique stories about women she'd heard of who had hideously awful labors and had their children die shortly thereafter. Not only is it just awful to tell this sort of thing to an expecting parent, but seriously? You think I REALLY need to hear some story about some family who some other person you know heard tell of through six degrees of separation? No. No I do not. After the first story, I started listening for clue as to whether anything this Nellie said was going to end well, and after a few sentences, I started just saying "If this is one of those stories where the baby dies in the end, I really don't want to hear it." Her mature and thoughtful response? "This just reminded me of your situation, so I figured you'd want to hear it." This just reminded you of what...the inevitable kiss of death visited upon every human being when their ticket comes up? Oh, wait, we're back to the TV/movie misconceptions: every laboring mother and new baby statistically is that much more likely to die for the sake of drama. Silly me for forgetting. 

Another Nellie who caught me completely off-guard is someone very close us. I won't point out who she is because I would hate for you to look at this woman and think "what the fuck was going through HER crazy head?" when really I wish for you to have nothing but affection for her, but that question has been plaguing me for a few days now. Entirely out of the blue, this Nosy Nellie started sharing every story that had been shared with her about women whose children have died. In the course of a single conversation, she referenced nine different dead babies. NINE. Seriously? 

Okay, I get it: a lot of women lose babies. This is, unfortunately, a completely normal thing, and weird medical conditions don't necessarily play into it at all. America totally sucks balls when it comes to maternal and fetal care, and that's not even taking into account the fact that creating a new human being is just a dicey endeavor. I personally know two women who have had miscarriages in the last year and a half, and have unending respect for their strength and determination to carry on. (Both are currently pregnant with healthy babies: YAY!) I would run out of fingers if I counted the number of women I know who had miscarriages on a longer timeline, but you know what? You don't get horror stories about miscarriages when you're nine and half months pregnant. You get the dead baby stories, and apparently the general public seems to think that having a baby with a known medical condition just increases the likelihood that you want or need to hear them. This particular Nellie decided to slip in her retellings of the stories told to her casually...just more helpful hints shared with her by friends...just like recommendations for ointments or brands of wipes...and I can't help but be shaken by them. 

I have great confidence in the fact that you are going to be fine in the long run, Batman. Not only do you have incredible doctors literally waiting at our beck and call to do anything and everything they can to make sure you get what you need, but your first few weeks of life will be spent under the watchful eyes of some of the most highly-trained, highly-qualified nurses in the region. There's also the flood of positive intention being directed at you by a massive network of family, friends, coworkers, and even vague social acquaintances, and the soon-to-be-glorious smothering of affection and attention from me and your Dad. So are these dead baby stories really bothering me all that much? No. What really upsets me is the fact that people are inconsiderate and, frankly, dumb enough to think that telling them to us is any sort of appropriate. These Nosy Nellies (and all the other Nellies who share such crap with them) should be ashamed of themselves. Aside from giving them a story that doesn't end in tragedy, I'm hoping I have the guts in a few months to chastise them for being such shallow ass-hats.

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