Tuesday 30 November 2004

i'm going to start selling common sense on eBay

On the most part, pregnancy Web boards make you feel incredibly sane and reasonable in comparison. When I first started frequenting various pregnancy boards, I would smile and sometimes chuckle at the occasional post about pregnancy worries. Some of them I could relate to, and some you know are down to the understandable worry that comes with being pregnant. In recent weeks, it seems like the pregnant world has gone mad. I saw a post from a woman who was terrified because she had a stick of gum containing Aspratame (I wish I was exaggerating, but the post was literally about one stick of gum), that was only heightened by countless replies from other women insisting that any artificial sweetener in any dose will cause terrible harm. Not only that, you shouldn't even go near the stuff when you're not pregnant. Another woman said she was "beating myself up" for having eaten a tuna steak. Another was panicking about a green potato she ate - one month ago. I saw a post warning us of the perils of drinking herbal tea, even the Celestial Seasonings variety, and how we should avoid herbs like rosemary and basil because they'll cause miscarriages (this was a slight misunderstanding about the harm of using these herbs as essential oils, rather than ingesting them in cooking quantities). There was panic in California because a woman ate a piece of rum cake, drama in Colorado when a woman ate a piece of smoked salmon, and peril in Ohio from the inadvertent ingestion of cottage cheese (a bit of confusion over the whole avoid soft cheese thing, I would guess). My good lord, it's amazing babies ever make it to nine months without sprouting extra heads, what with all this bad mothering going on.

I don't know what this all comes down to. Maybe it's just a lack of common sense during pregnancy and we panic about everything. That's feasible, because a lot of other things go out the window during pregnancy like hand/eye co-ordination, short term memory, and the ability to stop ourselves from slapping annoying people. I also think it's due to a phenomenon called Too Much Information. Books contradict each other, even doctors differ in opinions about what's safe. We rely on the Internet to diagnose our ailments and provide answers. We don't trust our own instincts anymore because "studies" keep proving that the things we thought were harmless are actually lethal. We follow these factoids blindly and rely on the advice of others - no matter how irrational it is.

I will admit that I have worried about things that make me laugh now (e.g. just before my first scan, I suddenly had the thought that maybe there was no baby in there and I was experiencing some sort of phantom pregnancy). What saddens me is this constant stream of women who are devastated because they may have harmed their babies, when in fact, they've not. I'm always banging on about the myriad of ways we're made to feel like Bad Mothers, but I think it's even worse when we do it to ourselves.

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