I am not a fan of advice, the giving or receiving of it. I come from a family of people who all seem to know the ‘correct’ way of doing absolutely everything, and are overly keen of sharing their knowledge in a way that is guaranteed to make you feel a bit stupid for ever having attempted doing things in any other way. The older I get the more I realise that there are many, many ways to do pretty much anything. For example, it’s probably best not to get me and my husband started on the best way to peel a potato!
Even in a professional context I try to avoid giving advice. I prefer to give my patients information and options and let them do the rest. I don’t always get it right, and I often slip into the habit of telling patients what will happen to them rather than asking their consent. Medicine and the research that we use to inform our practice, is largely based on statistics. Now it can be very useful to know what percentage of patients with that blood test result will go on to die from a heart attack in the next six months. That can really help make assessments of risk and decide on appropriate treatments. Of course, what it doesn’t tell you, is exactly what will happen to the person sat in front of you over the next six months, what their feelings are about their health choices, how it will impact on their friends and families or a million other things that as their doctor you may not have any awareness of. This is why all patients who have capacity, are ultimately in charge of making their own decisions based on the information we are able to give them. It is a medical fact that 100% of us will die, but there are an infinite number of journies we can take to reach that point.
When I became pregnant, and then became a mother, suddenly everybody had advice to give me, about absolutely everything. Of course some of it was useful, but an awful lot of it just seemed to emphasise to me all the things I seemed to be doing wrong, and all the ways in which my daughter wasn’t fulfilling her role as the perfect baby. I became pretty advice phobic at this time, and also became very aware of how I phrase things myself when speaking to others, particularly other new mums.
Whilst not being a fan of advice, I do find myself becoming a little evangelical about things at times. I’m the sort of person who reads a book and totally falls in love with it, and then wants to buy a copy for every single one of my friends! (Currently at this point with the wonderful Nobody Told Me by Hollie Mcnish, just saying…) I am a huge devotee of the mix tape and nothing gives me greater pleasure than trying to convert unsuspecting friends to my musical loves. The first test my now husband had to go through was the mixtape test, and whilst he may never be as fond of mid 90s Bristolian trip hop as I am, I totally converted him to the glorious Magnetic Fields, and I’m certain that that shared love of his strange and wonderful triple album masterpiece became the firm foundation that our relationship was built on! I have always loved lending my most beloved things out and nothing makes me happier than having them returned equally loved by a friend.
I have definitely discovered things through motherhood that I have become a little obsessed by. Attachment parenting, baby wearing, cloth nappies, elimination communication, co-sleeping, unconditional parenting, hypnobirthing, home birthing, breastfeeding, full term breastfeeding, baby led weaning, doulas, mother to mother support. I have become obsessed with these things because, whether in their purest form or in some bastardised form that we have made up for ourselves, they have suited me, and my babies and my family. And that’s the only important thing. I totally accept that there are many reasons why they don’t suit everyone else. There are so many mummy blogs out there that seem to preach that there is a right way to do things, I am just trying to say that this is one way and its a way that we have enjoyed.
So when I overhear a pregnant friend mention that they have considered cloth nappies I will be straight in there offering to show them ours and seeing if they’d like to borrow our newborn kit I have packed away ready for just this situation. I will never be the person lecturing anybody about their disposable nappies, that work brilliantly for them, sitting in landfill. If a friend were to mention they’d been looking at slings to use for their baby, well I happen to have a small selection of old slings ready to lend any curious friends, but I won’t be found tutting whilst they tell me all about the beautiful Bugaboo pram that is their pride and joy.
We all have to make the decisions that are right for us, and that can seem really hard to do when we are being overwhelmed by conflicting advice from everybody we meet. So I have no advice for you, but I’m happy to share my experiences, the things I love, the things that have helped me make a life that feels pretty impossible at times just a little bit easier. And if you choose to do something completely different that works for you, then that is incredible and I’m really pleased. But if you did fancy trying out a sling, well I’m sure I’ve got a spare one lying around here somewhere…