• Liz Fehlman

The Advice You Can Stop Giving Me Now

I'm rounding the pregnancy finish line, so to speak. Hello, third trimester. I hear there's quite the prize at the end of this one.


And what's becoming more frequent - in addition to my trips to the bathroom - is the Unsolicited Advice. I had experienced it up until now but apparently not in the memorable quantity that the third trimester has brought. Perhaps it's because I look unquestionably pregnant now and that gives people the courage. Or, it's because I'm becoming increasingly hormonal. Either way, I've been pretty good at listening with one ear, filtering out what I want to remember, and letting the rest go. I appreciate people's opinions, insights and advice - as long as they appreciate that I may think they're full of shit.


There's one line of Unsolicited Advice that can stop at any time, though. Please stop telling me to "throw away my Birth Plan*."


*a birth plan: a document you talk through with your doctor/midwife prior (hopefully) to coming to the hospital to deliver. It details important things like whether or not you want an epidural, are dead set against a c-section, or if you plan to have you son circumcised. It tells nurses whether or not you'd like to have the freedom to get up and walk around while laboring and whether you'll ring their neck if they ask you to 'rate your pain.' It's basically a document stating "please do/do not do this or I may snap into a hormonal rage and I will not apologize for it because look, I wrote you this nice little document."

Visual learner? Read Amy Poehler's birth plan. Hands down the best one out there.

Now back to me.


I get what you're trying to say. Believe me, I hear you. I know that you're trying to get me to expect the unexpected. To not have such high expectations for any specific type of experience, and to roll with the punches. I know you're trying to protect me - either from your own story or that of a friend's. And I thank you for that.


But stop. Because here's what I hear instead:


"Good luck having the experience you're hoping for. Don't bother trying to mentally prepare for anything - your wishes don't matter. Your story will be just like mine."


From the minute I could write legibly in crayon, I was making lists. Each summer, I'd list out my goals - books I wanted to read, crafts I wanted to make or friends I wanted to visit. In college, I survived working 3 jobs and maintaining a respectable GPA by setting expectations for myself and documenting how I planned to meet those expectations. Sure, I fell short at times but that's part of the deal. I've worked as a project manager most of life because I'm good at these things, and quite frankly - if I ever went into work and Outlook had deleted my To Do list, I would simply curl up in the fetal position and wish to die. I am a list maker, a do-er, a planner and an expectation setter. So to expect me, in all my anal retentiveness, to go into a situation where I'm pushing a watermelon-sized object out a grape-sized hole without a plan is not fair.


I understand plans fail. When I was the director of a youth soccer club here in Denver, I spent months planning the first week of our spring program. I spent hours writing curriculum, laying out details, coordinating coaches, folding t-shirts, labeling soccer balls, and lining fields. I had a binder two inches thick that documented how perfectly perfect the season was going to go.

Over those next three months, I experienced missing coaches, stolen equipment, wrong sized t-shirts and every type of weather delay known to man. I once had 300 4-5 year old's and their parents staring blankly at me while tornado sirens whirled in the distance and we stood in an open field. Despite my best laid plans, things went wrong. All the time. I rolled with it - for my sanity - and most importantly - for the overall well-being of those kids.


So, I understand completely that even my best laid Birth Plan may be thrown out the window at the drop of the hat. I told Donald that I don't care if Baby Fehlman comes out through my nose - as long as he arrives here safely. I know my plans may go to hell in a hand basket and that's okay - just don't tell me not to write one. Thinking about each step of this process is therapeutic. Women should think about the options they have before they find themselves with their knees by their ears and earthquake-like tremors shooting through their uterus. For whatever reason, knowing I can request a Birthing Ball and some essential oils is what allows me to fall back asleep at 3am when I've been awake for 2 hours wondering how I'm going to manage to get this baby out of me. The whole thing may be beautiful but it's also terrifying. I go into the grocery store with a plan, for God's sake. Why not this?


So please. Let me have my piece of paper with my silly requests and naive timeline. Don't make me feel stupid for writing it and re-writing it nine times. It may go totally to plan - it may go totally to shit. But at the end of the day, a well-thought out Birth Plan is the pregnant lady version of a swaddle - it keeps me warm, keeps me from crying, and prevents me from flailing around all night. If my son gets that luxury, so do I.

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