Regardless of where you are in your reproductive journey, you have likely already experienced unsolicited, and sometimes intrusive, advice and questions. Sometimes these are from well-meaning family members or friends, but it’s also quite common to also encounter comments from people we don’t know as we go about our everyday lives (Was it planned? Are you sure it’s not twins? Should you really be eating that?) In our society, our reproductive health seems to be fair game for conversation in a way that other topics affecting our lives and bodies are not. Young couples and parents are already navigating a stressful time and often the mountains of advice heaped on us only serves to exacerbate the stress. If you find that you are being inundated with opinions that are making you feel overwhelmed or anxious, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
While the internet can be a wonderful and quick way of accessing information, it also provides an additional forum for unsolicited advice, judgement, and sometimes even false information. Seek out recommendations from your fertility doctor, Obgyn, Doula/Midwife, lactation consultant, Pediatrician, and Primary Care Physician for reputable websites that can provide you with accurate and helpful information.
Trust Your Instinct
There is a lot of generalized information that, while true, doesn’t take into account our particular history, job, relationships, medical hurdles, desires, etc. You know your body, mind, and baby better than anyone else out there. If guidance you receive feels out of sync with your needs, then advocate! Remind yourself that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and that you are making the best judgements you can make taking into account the particular needs of your body, your baby, and your family.
Draw a Line
It can be helpful to develop and practice a line that you can use quickly if you feel that someone is overstepping boundaries or overwhelming you with advice. The more you use the same line, the faster it will come to you, even in situations where you feel pushed to the breaking point. Suggestions are: “Thanks! We’ll talk to our Doctor about it” or “Thanks! I’ll think about it/look into that,” and “How interesting!” Most people are satisfied with feeling like they’ve been heard and are then willing to move on.
If this diversion tactic doesn’t work, you might have to be more direct about how words/advice are impacting you. Set this limit with chronic boundary violators early to set the tone for further interaction. You’ll be grateful in the long run even if you have to revisit the conversation several times.
Laugh It Off
Write down the most inappropriate advice and comments you have gotten and share it with a partner, friend, family member or therapist who you know will appreciate it. It can turn a potentially negative interaction into one you know you will appreciate laughing at later.
Strength in Numbers
No one understands the barrage of unsolicited advice that gets flung your way quite like others also going through it. Finding a group of men or women who can validate your frustrations and provide support as you navigate the fertility/pregnancy/parenting transitions can be invaluable. Talk to your physician, obstetrician, pediatrician or therapist to get recommendations for groups in your area.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and in need of additional support, it can be helpful to find a therapist who specializes in perinatal and maternal mental health. Fertility, pregnancy and parenting often requires that we increase our tolerance for displeasing others – whether it is family, friends, our children or strangers. A therapist can provide you with a space to process through emotions related to a time of great adjustment and can provide education and skills on how to best help you feel good as you navigate your way.