Mom Knows Best

A new study indicates that, when women become pregnant and are starting to deal with the changes that pregnancy inevitably brings, they’re likely to seek and rely on guidance from a more familiar source of counsel than their doctors.  That’s right:  they get the straight scoop from their mothers.

Interestingly, the study found that reliance on Mom is the strongest among minority and lower-income populations.  Wealthier women with college degrees tend to buy pregnancy advice books, often written by doctors, and are less likely to seek their mothers’ thoughts on issues like what foods to eat and what tests to have — although they still talk to Mom to get advice on child care and talk about their feelings and the physical changes they are experiencing.  In fact, the study found that the “how-to” books can create a “generational disconnect” between such women and their mothers.  But there is no such disconnect among other populations, because women in those groups tend to feel less well-served by busy doctors and crowded clinics.  Their mothers, on the other hand, are readily available and much more likely to carefully listen to their questions and complaints — and then offer specific advice.  And because pregnant women usually have lots of questions, an attentive and engaged listener is a really important part of the process.

The results of this study shouldn’t come as a surprise.  Mothers, grandmothers, and friends who’ve been through pregnancy are likely to have experiential wisdom and practical advice that doctors just can’t provide:  like how the careful use of pillows can help to secure a good night’s sleep, and what to do about that nagging backache.  And trying to adhere to the perfect scenarios sketched out in the how-to books can often cause needless worry about whether a particular woman’s condition is “normal.”  Talking to someone who has been through it all before is bound to help.

How-to books are fine, but when it comes to day-to-day matters there really is no substitute for actual experience.  The mothers out there have a lot of know-how to offer.  In this area, as in others, you can’t beat what you learn from Mom.

Babymoons, Push Gifts, And Other Novel Pregnancy-Related Cultural Developments

There hasn’t been a pregnancy in Webner House for more than two decades.  A lot has changed, apparently, since Russell greeted the world back in 1988.

Yesterday I went to lunch with two young female colleagues, one of whom is in her second trimester.  They talked about “babymoons,” whether she expected a “push gift,” and other topics that made me feel like I had been dropped into an alternate world where people speak what seems to be English but the words have no meaning.

It turns out that a “babymoon” is not a reference to a part of fetal anatomy, but rather a honeymoon-like trip that an expectant couple takes before the life-changing birth of their first child.  That sounds like a good idea to me, although if Kish and I had known what the immediate weeks after childbirth would be like our babymoon probably would have focused less on romance and more on racking up as much sleep as possible.  A “push gift,” on the other hand, is a somewhat crass term for a present the mother receives from her fellow parent to compensate for the pain of labor and childbirth.  No word, however, on whether the other parent receives any gift to acknowledge the challenges involved in living for months with a hormone-charged being who might burst into tears at any moment for no readily apparent reason.

What else is new in pregnancy?  Well, thanks to Demi Moore and her famous Vanity Fair cover photo, more pregnant women are having naked photos taken, some at weekly intervals to track their progress, and then posting them on on Facebook and other social media websites.  It’s also apparently popular to take a plaster casting of the pregnant woman’s belly, the better to preserve her condition, in all its three-dimensional glory, for posterity.

I can’t imagine our doing any of that stuff, but then our grandparents undoubtedly would have thought it was weird that we were practicing breathing techniques and back rubs at Lamaze classes, that Kish was wearing anything other than black tent-like garments intended to mask the fact of pregnancy, and that I would want to be in the delivery room when the big moment finally arrived.  How people deal with pregnancy seems like one of those areas where there have been quiet, but profound, changes in our social and cultural mores.