What They Expect When You’re Expecting

Christy Niblock tells us what it is like being pregnant in the face of the expectations of others. Christy Niblock is the daughter of Beano Niblock whose work features regularly on TPQ. She blogs at Postmodern Girl.

So when I first found out I was pregnant, or rather when I first decided to stay pregnant, I went through what I would call the normal stages. The ‘Jesus Christ!’ stage, the ‘WHAT DO WE DO?!?!’ stage, and the ‘Okay, really, what do we do?’ stage. Foolishly, I was under the impression that the ‘we’ here in question, was my boyfriend and I. As it turned out, there was a third parent that I was leaving out and being pregnant means you’re required to listen to the opinion of every other woman who has ever had a baby, seen a baby, or heard of babies.

To clarify, in this little rant, I am mostly talking about other women, a group that I’m not used to criticising much. There seems to be an embarrassing element to ‘baby stuff’ for men, and they are far less likely to comment on it, lest they trap themselves in some sort of lady bits conversation or accidentally unleash the wrath of a hormonal preggo, enraged by his audacity to presume to know more about the beauty of baby-forming. Far too many women, however, don’t have the same social graces, and have no qualms about telling you exactly what kind of mother you need to be, how you’re doing pregnancy wrong, how your ideas on parenting are wrong and how you’re generally a fat failure who should be lynched for drinking a cup of coffee. It doesn’t matter how rude they sound: I’m young and this is my first baby, so they’re right and I’m an idiot

Now I’ll be the first to admit that I could never be described as the maternal type. I’m also clumsy, untidy and generally not very good at anything. I’ve come to regard these characteristics as fun little quirks that only mildly bother those around me. I can’t change these traits in the slightest, and to do so would be to change myself entirely. The thing is, you’re not allowed to be clumsy or scatter-brained when you’re going to be a mother, and you’re certainly supposed to enjoy the company of children. My plea that I could just love my child and continue silently hating everyone else’s doesn’t seem to fly.

To a lot of women I’m going to be a bad mother because I can’t keep up with all of these suppose to-s. These supposed to-s put a tremendous amount of pressure on women, for example on issues such as breast-feeding (which is often out of the mother’s control) and attachment parenting. Am I the only one who thinks that there’s something deeply wrong with women telling other women how they’re supposed to be? Would we let men away with it?

I suppose when you break it down, it’s about identity. There is a certain loss of identity that comes along with pregnancy. It’s a stressful time. My body doesn’t look like my body, my hormones mean I have no control over my own emotions and strangers suddenly think its okay to touch my stomach in the street. This experience, one that has always been regarded as the ultimate female experience, has almost taken away my womanhood altogether and left me as a temporary incubator. ‘I am vessel, hear me roar!’ hardly has the same ring to it and honestly, I could really live without other women telling me that I’m not living up to their expectations and trying to change me even further. If I can’t be Carol Brady, can I at least gestate in peace without feeling like there’s some sort of mould that I should be trying to squeeze myself into like an ill-fitting maternity bra? Can’t I do what women have been doing since the dawn of time and figure out this whole matriarch thing without taking on everyone else’s conflicting views and losing all command on the situation? Or is it a ‘no birth control, no control at all‘ sort of situation?

I guess what I’m saying, ladies, is that as long as we’re the ones that have to fire humans out of our genitals, can we accept that there are different types of mothers? I mean, there has to be because there are different types of women. Not every woman who hasn’t won an award for their organic baby food recipes is endangering their baby. I would like to propose a little wiggle room, so that all women have the right to experience motherhood whether they are the ‘type’ or not. Just give us a little room to breathe: we’ll call it a social episiotomy.


  1. Welcome to TPQ Christy.

    A very well written piece: insightful, humorous and to the point.

  2. 'Room to breath' my son is 27 and I still have people saying, 'Do you let him do that.'

    I think for some, it's the old I'm an authority in something, anything, shining through.

    For a vodka drinking, smoker back then, I had more than my fair share of criticism.
    Which may or may not be justified by the fact, my son is partial to the odd vodka and ciggie lol.

    Good for you Christy, that you can see the fun and irony .

    Clumsy along all you want. It's the caring that's the real measure of parenting.

  3. Nuala,

    you are something else lol. That was funny.

  4. Mackers,
    Seriously, I can't believe that out of the unfit mothers' club and the haze of smoke and drink, this sound, well adjusted individual emerged.
    Emerged in defiance of all who said, ignore us and the text book parenting guide and your child is clearly on the road to becoming Frankenstein mark 2.

    I suppose there is an element of luck involved of course, or else we could be looking at Larry Hughes mark 2.

  5. Nuala,

    not so sure it works - My ma smoked and look at me!!

    I loved Christy's piece as it pushed so many right buttons.

  6. I think what Christy is challenging goes a wee bit deeper than a few, 'I know betters.'
    Undoubtedly , the extent of that never ceasing advice prompted her piece , however I think this piece also brings to the fore the societal expectations of women, especially around the time of ante and post natal.

    Unlike Christy, I think men are very involved in pregnancy and birth and not just the ones holding the forceps.

    At the risk of leading this very well written witty piece in another direction. I think the Magdalene laundries, (named after histories main woman of ill repute) bear testimony to that.

    I know for me, sometimes motherhood was about getting us through, which meant, taking the rough so your child could have the smooth.
    Trying to keep all the balls in the air because you genuinely feared how they would land.

    I definitely would not have fitted into any text book example of how to get it right, and yet in spite of, or maybe because of that deserved large vodka and far too many cigs, I did.

  7. Nuala,

    again a very stimulating and nuanced comment which I am sure Christy will appreciate given that her piece has promoted the responses.

    I remember in jail we were discussing pregnancy and some wit said if we ever manage to squeeze a full grown turnip out through one of our nostrils he will listen to what we have to say on pregnancy!!

  8. From Beano

    Well done Christy...a humorous piece that probably gives us males—alpha or otherwise-a slant on impending motherhood. Of course it is of more interest to me because of the relationship. Seems a lot of your observations can be put down to human nature. Primarily we are all nosy B’s by nature—we also have a superior streak that enables us to give advice or to offer wisdom that we may not necessarily possess. Think it’s bad now? Wait until the bay arrives..you will be introduced to a multitude of social service/childcare/well being/old wives tale carrying crackpots!! At times you will wonder if the infant is yours and whether you are doing the right thing by it. When I tell any of my kids off for anything..and now grandkids..they tend to offer me a strange look before saying..” So...you are offering ME advice on my behaviour and telling me it will get me into trouble?................When YOU were in jail for 16 years?”...............So of course I tell them..”I’m speaking from experience.................”--Expectancy?...Ditto.

  9. Really enjoyed that read. No messing and an insight into the female side of things. A great down to earth entertaining article.

    Ms Perry

    'I suppose there is an element of luck involved of course, or else we could be looking at Larry Hughes mark 2.' ???

    I will have you know me and Mackers are twins... he is Arnie and I'm Danny DeVito...so what's yer point exactly?

  10. My point Dr Hughes is, if you swig too
    much, then the chances are you'll produce
    a swigger.
    Swig being over consumption and the child,
    the swigger product.

  11. Fionnual

    I just thought that was normal leprechaun DNA genetics. Everyone I know is a swigger...and quite a few are friggers too!!!

  12. Larry you are lucky you didn't use the N word or you may have up set the PC brigade...

  13. Frankie

    Sorry I never thunk of it...I do enjoy the occasional flare up from the 'ever so proper' brigade.