When you see a pregnant tummy, it’s hard to hold back from spouting advice, says writer Lucy Mangan
Do you think the Queen is managing to hold back from giving Kate advice about the new baby? I mean, she had four of her own – she must have stuff to say. I can’t help but wonder if eight decades of sterling self-discipline and studied professional neutrality in all things is serving her well, or have the iron bonds of self-control melted like ice as the fire of grandchild-love burns through her?
Oh, the urge to give advice to a pregnant woman or new mother is a fierce one. I didn’t understand it until I had a baby myself. The number of women who came up to me in the street when I was pregnant, proffering various pieces of intelligence/stories/instructions, was astonishing. I didn’t find it offensive (I come from a large Catholic family in which anyone under 25, over 60 or pregnant is considered common property), but I was somewhat baffled.
Why were they bothering? How could I, a stranger to these ersatz counsellors, prompt so much attention and elicit so much effort from others? And where were they in the early 90s when surely someone could, with a well-placed word, have stopped me wearing a burgundy velvet scrunchy?
Well, I know now. Since having my son two years ago, I’ve had to fight the compulsion to latch on to every pregnant woman I see, downloading everything I know into her unwilling but captive ears, before letting her resume her daily business. You want to tell them because you know how huge a thing it is that they are about to undergo. You want one person at least to benefit from your hard-won, heavily-stitched, cracked-nippled wisdom.
Telling your tale
Pregnancy is a fantastically strange thing. Collectively, it’s the most common thing in the world – almost every woman does it and has done so since the dawn of time. But, individually, it is one of the rarest. Most of us do it once, twice, maybe three times in our lives. The magnitude of its upheaval to those lives, however, is entirely disproportionate to its frequency. So, the overwhelming urge is to tell your story just to try and balance things out.
For those of you suffering on the other side of these unsought interactions, please forgive us. We’re only trying to help. If there’s the slightest chance our trials and errors can save you a moment’s misery in the days, weeks and months to come, we want you to grasp it. On that note, remember this: until your nethers have recovered, take a jug or bottle of warm water to the loo with you and pour it down your bits as you pee. It’ll stop the stinging. If you’re ever in the local Caffè Nero queue, there’s plenty more advice where that came from. You’re welcome.
For Lucy Mangan's monthly column, subscribe to Mother & Baby magazine here
Lucy’s new book Charlie's Chocolate Factory: the Complete Story of Willy Wonka, the Golden Ticket and Roald Dahl's Greatest Creation is out on September 4th.