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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Barren Advice: Six

This is the sixth installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

Okay, this is a pregnancy mentioned question
. I am finally out of the closet about this pregnancy. So, now that everyone knows, the stupid advice has started flowing in mass quantities. It has barely begun and I am already going crazy.

Everyone wants to know if I am taking the right kind of vitamins and whether I know not to eat soft cheeses and sushi. My mother-in-law just told me that I have to stay away from cats because they kill unborn babies. I have yet to receive any actual, true advice. Not a single person has told me a real fact yet. And the next person who emails me that
cell phone story will not find out about any future babies until they can talk well enough to announce themselves.

I am smart enough to do my own research (especially being that no one has even been right yet). I majored in psychology in college and I spotted every error in that cell phone study before the authors of the study themselves announced that it proved nothing and the media was blowing it out of proportion. The worst part is that everyone means well and it’s just because they care and are really excited. (This is the worst part because I have to bite my tongue on all the sarcastic comments that are dying to slip out of my mouth. Plus, I am too nice to actually be mean in return.)

My question is does anyone have any good ideas of things to say that are polite but might get my point across? I need a few answers that I can memorize, so that the polite answer can come out of my mouth while my brain processes the sarcastic things I would like to say. I will also take funny stories about things that other people said to you, so that perhaps I can begin to laugh about this and it won’t bother me as much.

--Jen from
Here We Go Again

See, that's the whole problem, the person means well and is giving the advice because they love you and they desperately want to be involved. There's not a lot they can do when the child is still in your belly. Sure, they can help you shop or set up the room, but for the most part, they're left standing around staring at your belly, throwing out whatever small tidbits they've managed to collect since the last time you spoke.

Advice you can't use is the worst kind of advice because you can't get angry--the person meant well--but you get angry because they are inadvertently calling into question your intelligence and judgment.

Barring that the person is speaking from a place of animosity, make your first response sweet and kind. Make your second response firm. If you have to get to a third response, I give you full permission that it can be a free-for-all. So, what are some sweet responses you can practice?
  • Wow, I didn't know that.
  • That sounds like a very interesting study.
  • Thank you for letting me know that!
And then change the subject to make it clear that you are done with that topic. If they keep coming back to it, you'll need to ramp it up to firm. Or, if the same person keeps coming back with more and more advice, you may need to jump immediately to a firm place:
  • I know you mean well, but we're only taking advice from our doctor.
  • Thanks, we heard the same study but our doctor told us not to worry about it.
Lastly, you may need to be a little more pointed in your response to get the advice to stop.
  • I know you're saying these things because you care about us but do you really think we're not capable to taking care of ourselves?
  • We really need a moratorium on the advice; all of the stories are simply giving us more stress than helping.
And if it continues after that point, a hearty, "shut the fuck up!" always stuns the crowd., this was Grandma giving the advice? Then maybe a "shut your piehole!" is better?

No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely. And you heard the girl: she wants the best assvice ever given to you.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


Tash said...

I always found that people were completely uninterested in the real facts, backed up by legitimate sources. Example: I had to change my cat boxes as my husband was out of town for a large portion of my 1-2nd trimesters. My doctor was very aware that toxoplasmosis is airborne, caused by dried feces from cats who eat raw meat (read: birds). My cats are indoors, box changed daily, if I was super concerned, wear a face mask. She backed herself up with articles from the CDC and medjournals. Ditto for lunchmeat which was a staple for me as I had/have IR.

But no one wants to sit around and listen about poop drying out or meat processing -- they just know the headlines. So trying to tell them the real deal got me nowhere. Depending on the person I would muster up:


or ignore them completely.

And change the subject. If it was a repeat offender, I told them I was getting information from my doctor, thank you.

And shut the fuck up always works.

Sassy said...

Since we stopped ttc I seem to get a constant stream of people telling me what we should do instead of giving up. I usually say, "thanks, yeah I read about that but it's not going to help us." But sometimes that isn't enough. I try to always be gentle and tell them that I really appreciate their help but my tongue gets awfully sore sometimes from all that biting.

But I must admit to telling a friend in front of a particularly 'helpful' friend that it was really hard for us to hear all this helpful advice all the time because we've done all the research and made our decision. And I've never got good accurate advice from anyone either.

(The helpful friend has stopped helping now though, and I don't think I hurt her feelings.)

momofonefornow said...

When I was pregnant and this started happening to me, my mom gave me the best advice ever. She said, "you are this baby's mom and no one will know better than you about what is best for it. " So, sometimes I would retort with that if people were too persistent. I would say, "my mommy said..." Typically they would nod and accept the fact that their unsolicited advice was not helpful.

We are getting ready to ttc again. I think that if we do get pregnant, we will carry around a notebook and if people start to give advice, I will tell them that I have pregnancy brain and I can't remember anything so they should just write it all down for me. That way I don't have to hear it and they still get it off of their chest. :o)

Ellen K. said...

I've been receiving some of this unsolicited PG advice, too, and I say "Hmmm" or "Interesting" or "I'll have to look into that" and change the subject. I agree with Tash; no one wants to know the real facts behind the sensationalistic headlines. Much like IF.

Fertilized said...

I follow up their advice with "I am not comfortable discussing this stuff yet - but thank you for offering. When I am ready, I will let you know"

Heck, I still use that line

Julia said...

I know I am a combative biyatch, but I am of the opinion that people continue to spew all that "helpful" crap because they have never been made aware of just how incredibly hurtful they can be. Same with IF, same with baby loss.

They talk to make themselves feel better, to pat themselves on the back for having been all helpful, for probably in fact turning your life around, preventing a great tragedy, or fixing you after one. All of this pisses me off to no end. And since I know that having done it to me, they will go forth and do it to every other unfortunate sap to wonder in their path, I usually go straight to firm. I don't want to encourage them. No way, no how. And if they get offended, I don't mind explaining, in detail, just why they are the exact opposite of helpful. If that makes them feel bad, I am ok with that, because if I don't speak up, I am the one who ends up feeling bad, and where is the justice in that? Why should the asshats get to spew crap, feel good themselves, and make me feel bad in the process? And, as a bonus, feel validated to go out and keep doing the same to others? I feel that if they have made me feel bad already, the least I can do is stick up for their next victim, so that maybe there won't be one. Maybe, just maybe, they will think before the next time they open their mouth.

If they are nice people who just didn't think, this approach has the potential of changing their minds and behaviors. If they are asshats, well, then, I don't much care about their feelings, do I? Yeah, like I said, I am a combative biyatch.

Tracy said...

I tend to agree with Julia, but I still bite my tongue all the time.

I mean, I know the do's and don't of pregnancy and IF, too, for that matter, but I have enough sense and courtesy not to go doling it out without being asked first...why don't other people?

So I usually just say something like, "thank you, I'll look into that" or "really? that's interesting?" On occasion, I will even say, "we asked our doctor about that and he said it was an old wive's tale" but most of the time, I just keep the education to myself because I suspect the person giving the advice isn't truly interested in being educated...just showing how smart they think they are.

Does that make me cynical? Should I be giving people the benefit of the doubt?

Nicky said...

My stock response: "Thanks! But the binge drinking and recreational drug use... that's still okay, right?" Yes, it's snarky and sarcastic, but it's also absurd enough that everyone I've used it on laughs instead of getting offended. It lightens the mood. It changes the subject. All around win.

KatieM said...

Well, me being the crazy analytical person I am always comes back with "fact" to shut them up (oh and make me look smarter, lol). For example, about the cat thing I would say "Well actually did YOU know that it isn't cats that can cause an issue. It is their dried feces that may be contaminated if they eat anything other than catfood" or for the sushi I would be like "Did YOU know that the word "sushi" is actually the term for the rice used, not the fish. Sushi is perfectly acceptable as well as the many varieties of cooked or veggie variations, however yes, I have been avoiding the raw form, which is called sashimi." ;-)

margalit said...

The thing that always worked for me is to pass the onus off on the doctor. If someone said "Cats kill newborns (yeah, right!)" then I'd smile and sigh and said "You know, I asked my doctor about this and she said that was just not true, so I'm going to take my doctor's expert advice if you don't mind!"

Worked for me!

Alyson & Ford said...

I love the response from Nicky - too funny (about alcohol and drugs..).
Also, from momofonefornow... who would dispute what mommy said?
Thanks for the suggestions.. it will help me keep my cool when I get those dreaded questions about "Is she your real daughter?"!!

Alyson LID 01/27/06 IA China