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Strangers: Stop telling my wife to do kegels

Back.Off. (iStock)

I was sitting on the couch when my very pregnant wife came home looking a bit beaten down.

“This lady would not stop talking to me about all the stuff I need to be doing right now, like belly banding and kegels. Cheese and rice.”

“What lady?”

“Some lady on the street. She was sitting outside my yoga place. She just started talking to me. She wouldn’t stop. She asked me if I knew how swollen my feet were. I tried to back away, but she kept talking to me.”

“Cheese and rice” is my wife’s sound-alike version for a non-Ten-Commandments-compliant expletive, and she’s been saying it a lot more recently. We are expecting our first child in a few weeks and, for some reason as of late, more strangers are taking it upon themselves to tell her what she should be doing as she carries our baby.

This is not a welcome development.

Without fail, everyday, someone comes up to my wife and tells her she “needs” to do something specific, or else we’ll spend the rest of our lives as empty husks of shame and regret. I assume that all of this is coming from a place of good intentions, but it’s frustrating to watch all these nuggets of information be launched at my increasing exasperated wife.

You need to wear compression socks all the time — seriously, 24-7 all the time. You need to stop using most types of sunscreen, because they all have so many chemicals and all of them can hurt the baby. You need to get a 3-D ultrasound picture. You need to choose a nursery theme now, otherwise nothing will match. You need to eat kale everyday, at every meal, and you can’t have any Coke, or gummy candies. Or sugar.

And you definitely can’t smell coffee, much less taste it. Don’t even be near it. If you see a Starbucks, you need to cross the street.

As for the kegels, the lady on the street — who was not holding her diploma or professional certification over her head at the time– told my wife that she needs to do three different types of exercise, especially kegels. Kegels, just in case you aren’t aware, are exercises designed to strengthen the pelvic floor and, according to my wife will help during labor while preventing incontinence.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Why on earth would a stranger tell another stranger she needs to do anything involving her pelvic floor, based solely on the fact that she looks pregnant,” you and I have something in common.

My wife, by the way, is doing just fine. She’s great, actually. We’ve thankfully had a very stereotypical pregnancy. We’re going to the doctor and asking lots of questions. We’re reading the books that everyone reads. I even had trouble building the crib. And yet, despite her looking like a hale and hearty mother-to-be, the unwelcome directives come.

It’s not like we don’t need help or advice; it’s just that we’re getting more information that we can handle, even from sources we trust. One of the hardest parts of the pregnancy, our first, has been trying to make sense of the unrelenting cavalcade of information marching in our direction.

We’re beset on all sides by apps, books, mommy/daddy blogs, horror stories from work friends, well-intentioned advice from family members and recommendations from our doctor, who had already given us a heads up on kegels, thanks very much. We listen and take notes, do research on our own, and then get confused when one chunk of reasonable information contradicts another.

Is our baby the size of a kumquat or a cantaloupe this week? Can we have no Tylenol or only Tylenol? Do my wife’s feet hurt for regular reasons or terrible, life-altering reasons? Should we call the doctor, or call up Dr. Google?

That’s not even counting the classes. We could have spent every night and every weekend at workshop after workshop about the mechanics of birth and child-rearing to breast-pumping basics to how to cook and eat the placenta to how to have a baby in the woods, with a grizzly bear as a midwife.

That grizzly bear midwife class was made up, but I think we could have done a webinar on it.

So on top of all the information we’ve actually sought out from trusted sources, it’s frustrating to see my wife be bothered and pestered by this Greek chorus of randoms.

What’s that, person we’ve never met? My wife needs to start ingesting special oils and minerals made of dandelions and crushed-up pine nuts? On an empty stomach you say? Twice a day? Right away. I’m so glad you chimed in. We’re definitely going to do that and not ask our doctor about that magic concoction you just pitched.

During the last nine months, we have tried our best to make thoughtful, rational decisions on how much information to consume, doing our best to find a middle path between ignorance and overload. We didn’t want to be the parents on “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” or the ones who brought six copies of their laminated birth plan into the delivery room with them.

We just want to have a happy, healthy baby and mother, to take a journey that people have been taking since, well, forever. And despite achy backs and sleepless nights, my wife has shown a grace and patience that I know will make her a great mother, both on the first day and for days to come.

But that grace and patience doesn’t mean that it’s okay to tell my wife to do kegels, lady on the street. Just mind your own business.

Cheese and rice.

Bobby McMahon is a father-to-be and writer living near Washington D.C. He tweets @BobFrankPat

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