Stress Ball

I spend quite a bit of social media time fielding questions of pure panic and anxiety.

My mother said this, my sister said that, my doctor is telling me I have to do this but I really want to do that…I think part of the stress of birth is attributed to the vast amount of pressure we all put on ourselves to compete with each other. It’s not always in-your-face but it’s there. If you’re honest with yourself…it’s there.

Imagine birth before Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest? Pregnant people did not know they needed to out do each other when announcing the pregnancy. There was no expectation of announcing the sex (it’s literally a penis or a vagina). They didn’t throw elaborate baby showers and then complain about all the horrible gifts they received (and how stressed out they are, and how they didn’t even really want Aunt Sheila there in the first place and how much their MIL took over the show). There was zero mention of a birth plan, especially not one wordy enough to make their doctor’s head explode. The birth plan was just to have the baby.

They also didn’t know that they had to research all about vaccines, eye goop, inductions, and certainly not whether or not to hire a birth doula and a birth photographer or just a doula who maybe takes photos. They didn’t freak out about how much they would be judged by their decisions…all the while posting their decisions on the world wide web for all the crazies to jump on.

They also didn’t have such high rates of induction or cesareans either. Sit with that for a moment…do you think maybe all of this is somehow connected?

Before social media, they just carried on with their pregnancy and birth as if it wasn’t anything extraordinary. We can all agree it is definitely an awe inspiring event, but honestly….half the population does it. Literally every single second, of every single day someone is birthing. Minus the panic, minus the Facebook updates, minus the milk bath photos…and they are birthing quite admirably.

I’m not sure when the rise of the birth panic started. Maybe somewhere in the 2000s? But, oh boy, did it ever come in full-swing. Long gone are the days of just trusting birth and your body. We are consumed by our “due dates”. We count down the days to 40 weeks as if we are carrying a ticking time bomb in our belly. We are instantly overdue at 40 weeks, 1 day.

We start hyper-focusing on how to ‘naturally’ induce labour. So we eat the gross dates we don’t even like, we have uncomfortable and often unenthusiastic sex, we say yes to cervical sweeps (and then panic when they cause bleeding, cramps and false hopes), we chase all the magically solutions to a problem that doesn’t even exist. We’ve created our own monstrous birth woes. What if my baby never drops? What if the baby flips breech? What if my doctor say I have to induce? What if my photographer can’t make it in time? What happens if I don’t know I’m in labour and the baby falls out on the floor while I’m shopping at Costco?

The irony is how much the added stress and anxiety can actually hinder labour. Stress can stop a spontaneous labour. Add that to the list of things to worry about…while you contemplate what you can and cannot eat based on more panic from stories you’ve read online. DON’T EAT THE MEAT!!! For the love of god, you will all die if you don’t follow every single rule on the internet. Also, for shits and giggles, add in some breast feeding horror stories, everyone freaking out when you mention encapsulating your placenta, and the looming threat of a cesarean section. PANIC CITY.

The craziest part about all of this…nothing you are freaking out about right now is unique. Find another pregnant person and ask what they are panicking about and I can guarantee it’s along the same lines.

It’s like we can’t even be chill anymore. Life must be at full stress, full-time or we can’t possibly be doing it right. How can I be over here with my calm, quiet pregnancy if you’re over there setting off fireworks every time your app tells the size of your baby in comparison to a fruit?

My point here is…what’s the actual point of freaking out? What are you accomplishing by worrying so much? Can you change it? Can you guarantee a birth that goes 1…2…3….nope. You can plan for it but you can’t control it. You can educate yourself, you can weed out the fact from the bullshit drama, but you cannot guarantee an outcome. Will your day being ruined if you forget to upload a pregnancy photo? Better yet, will your pregnancy be a complete waste of time if you don’t have all the fancy birth photos or if you can’t come up with the most clever birth announcements?

Will those 9 months be wasted if you don’t win the stress ball contest?

This week, take a break from the anxiety and stress. Find one thing to just let go of. Remove yourself from a Facebook birth group that drives you nuts. Go take a prenatal yoga class…and don’t freak out about what you’re wearing. Cancel that last order of baby stuff that you really don’t need.

Trust me, the stress ball contest is not worth winning.

Accept My “NO”

We’ve all seen the abundant posts on social media about standing up for yourself.

“How to become more assertive in 10 easy steps”, “Saying NO without regret”, “Live Authentically”

We spend so much time practicing saying no and saying it with authority. We read about how to become braver, and stronger, and more authentic. It’s all about honesty and being true to your inner self. There’s nothing more satisfying than the first time you properly execute a good NO. The ability to say no to things that do not bring us happiness is a valuable skill to have.

But more importantly, the ability to accept and be okay with someone telling you NO is a skill that we are desperately lacking. Hearing NO is like someone literally kicked us in the gut. We literally go right to that person hating us, or being mad at us, or not really meaning it. They can’t reeeaally mean NO?!
Because of this, the NO-sayers have had to also master the art of avoidance. We, wild and crazy NO-sayers, have pushed ourselves hard to get to a place where we are comfortable to say NO. We have worked past the guilty feelings. We have worked hard at being open and honest. But then the eternal conflict arises with the NO-hearers. You know who you are…you don’t take no for an answer, you assume they don’t reeeeallly mean no, your ego would never allow, even for a second, to think that maybe some people just don’t like you…so you push, and you push, and you push.

Do any of these sound familiar?
“Oh, sorry I can’t because ________”
“OMG, I totally didn’t see your text”
“I don’t know what’s wrong, it must be food poisoning”
“My aunt died”, “My cat died”, “My dog ran away”

If they sound familiar it’s probably because you have a friend who doesn’t actually feel comfortable enough with you to be honest. They may feel hounded, or pressured. They may feel that you aren’t actually their type. Do you know they did a big study where it was proven that over 50% of the “friends” in your life don’t actually see you as a “friend”? While you see me as a BFF, I’m over here wondering why you won’t leave me alone?? The coworker you laugh with every day at lunch doesn’t even think of you over the weekend. There are work friends, kids’ parents friends, same yoga club friends, but that doesn’t mean we are FRIENDS. Sometimes we move on from friendships. Some relationships are built on couple-statuses, or close proximity to each other. Other friendships are there for short time and then we see we have nothing in common anymore, or that we don’t have the same schedules or priorities. I’ve had the very best of friends that meant the world to me, at the time, and I’ve since moved away from. Distance takes over. There is no longer as deep of a connection. We don’t talk anymore, maybe we vaguely interact via FB but otherwise that’s it. Now, if we ran into each other at the airport it would be a totally different circumstance. But day-to-day, our lives are no longer the same.

The NO-sayers see this. We appreciate that sometimes friendships run their course. But what we don’t see is how you don’t also see that? So you force the NO-sayers back into their frustrated holes. No-hearers put their earplugs in and we are forced to start all over again.

We make up excuses; we deliberately ‘miss’ calls and take too long to respond to texts; sometimes when we feel too pressured we end up doing things we hate just to make it easy, less stressful. Essentially, we sacrifice our authentic selves to avoid hurting the feelings of people that half the time we don’t even like anyway.

It’s already damn hard to say NO. We feel guilty, we know we are bad friends, we know you want to involve us. Trust us…we know. Because you refuse to let it die. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to parties or social events only to spend the entire night hating it. Why do I do it? Because it’s easier to be miserable than to be honest. I have just unravelled all my hard, soul-searching, self-help reading work to appease you. It’s like honesty is only meant for when you have lipstick on your teeth or snot hanging from your nose. Unless it’s one of those two things, we don’t actually want honesty.

We don’t like honesty. Women don’t like it. We want to BE honest but we don’t want to HEAR honesty. Our egos can’t handle it. We’ve spent our entire lives being told to be polite so people like us. Be fun, be bubbly, be smart, be skinny, be a good hostess, be a good guest. Be gracious. EVERYONE MUST LIKE YOU. I must be invited to and attend every single function. I must have the biggest party, I must have the most friends, I must be the most liked. We do not want to feel any differently or that there’s fun being had that we aren’t included in.

The very best friends are the type that invite you without a predetermined agenda. I once had a friend say “I’m always going to invite you even though I know you’ll probably say no anyway but I want you to feel included”. Because, yeah, I’m going to say no…because I’m an introvert who loves alone time. I will probably say no 9.9 times out 10. But maybe if the mood is right and the crowd is good one of these days I will say yes. The rest of the time when I do say no, the friend says….wait for it…she says ok…that’s it. Just ok. Not “but whhhyyyy?”. She doesn’t try to make arrangements for me to make it easier to go. She doesn’t automatically assume I’ll just change my mind or that I didn’t really mean it. She takes me at my word. She isn’t threatened by it. She doesn’t take it personally. She doesn’t see this as some sort betrayal. She knows me. The real me.
And Oh. My. God. THANK YOU FOR GETTING IT.

She’s okay with being a NO-hearer because she is confident and brave and strong. Plus she’s also read all the 10 easy steps to assertiveness too.
This all seems harsh, even as I write I know life is way more complicated than whether or not I like you and you like me. Some personalities just do not jive. There are introverts and extroverts and introverted-extroverts. There are partiers and friends who like to dance all night. There are people who small groups of friends vs people who loooove everyone. It’s not as black and white as like or not. It’s really more about just respecting my NO. Listen to my NO. Hear my NO. Don’t hound me about my NO. Be genuinely OK with my NO. For you. Not even for me. Be ok that I might miss your party because I’m actually busy, but also be ok with the fact that maybe I just don’t want to go to your party. Accept my NO.