Liz Narins month 6 of pregnancy

The Perks of Pushing Back on Unsolicited Advice During Pregnancy

When I found out during my first pregnancy that I was having a boy, I agonized over what to call him. In my family, it’s a tradition to name babies after relatives who have passed, using the first letter of their first name to draw ideas. While I love and respect this tradition, and had the most beloved grandmother whose name began with D, I struggled to find a D name that felt right for my baby. 

After sifting through handfuls of baby name books and nixing thousands of options, my husband and I gave up and looked into other letters. This didn’t stop my parents from advising us to follow the family tradition to narrow down our options, cajoling us with comments as direct as, “You have to name after someone!” or as subtle as, “Can I make a suggestion?” Although the pressure mounted and led to a fair amount of guilt, my husband and I stuck to our guns and settled on a name that began with the letter S: Shay. 

Following My Instincts

This wasn’t the first or last time we pushed back on unsolicited advice or bucked tradition in the same vein: While baby showers are considered bad luck in my family, I asked my mom to host one for me. I also insisted on setting up my son’s nursery before he was born, another bad omen according to my family. Doing things my own way helped set a precedent for how my husband and I would make decisions for our family and our child upon his arrival: Independently. 

Doing things my own way helped set a precedent for how my husband and I would make decisions for our family and our child upon his arrival: Independently.

When Shay was born on March 22, 2020, at a time when little was known about how COVID-19 spread and testing was unavailable, we decided (against my father’s pleas) not to have a bris, a traditional Jewish circumcision ceremony. Another family tradition, gone by the wayside. And while we lived just 40 miles away from my parents, who begged us to leave our apartment and combine pods in the suburbs, we decided to quarantine after I delivered at a Manhattan hospital, and remained isolated from friends and family for the first seven weeks of our son’s life—a beyond difficult decision. 

Getting It Wrong

As a new parent hellbent on doing things her own way, I didn’t always get it right. In hindsight, those first nearly two months of isolation were lonely and stressful, but also sacred since they allowed my husband and I to bond with our son and feel out our new roles as parents without an audience. 

There were other times that disregarding advice from seasoned parents (i.e., mine) came back to bite me. For instance, I’ll admit that my mom was right about needing extra baby pajamas—it’s true that a newborn can soil their entire wardrobe in a single day. (Or night, as I learned the hard way!)

That said, the resolve I’d fine-tuned during pregnancy helped me keep my son safe during unprecedented times and grow a thicker skin as a new parent. There was no shortage of opinions from friends and family when my husband and I decided to fly across the country to introduce our son to his grandparents in the midst of the pandemic, but we made the decision that was best for our family and mental health. We were glad we went. 

The Best Advice

For better or for worse, pregnant people and new parents are magnets for unsolicited advice that can sometimes be insulting since we all want to assume we know the best thing for ourselves and our children. As such, some of the best advice I received was from my mom’s group: Whatever you decide, you are a good parent who is doing the absolute best you can. 

The same goes for parents in training. If I can give one piece of advice—take it or leave it—it’s that you don’t have to accept (or stubbornly reject) traditions and recommendations from family or friends. Whether you’re planning a home birth or a hospital delivery, to use cry it out or the Gerber method, or to send your child to daycare or get a nanny, take the advice that serves you and dismiss the rest.

Becoming a first-time parent is an opportunity to begin traditions and norms of your own, so forge your own path. Remember: There’s no rule book besides the one you write for your family, and your child will adapt because they'll know no other way.

I’m not saying I have no regrets. (For instance, I registered for approximately zero of the things that I'd actually need to keep a baby alive—whoops!) But I’m glad I chose a baby name I love saying every day, glad I gathered my friends and family for my baby shower before the pandemic drove us apart, and even glad that I got on the subway to go to work that last time before reality changed so palpably. If you make decisions you believe in despite conflicting opinions, chances are you’ll feel the same way. 

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  1. ChidrensMD. Stress, cortisol, and getting your baby to sleep.

By Elizabeth Narins
Elizabeth Narins is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, editor, and social media strategist whose favorite workout is chasing her toddler. Her work has been published by Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Parents, Health, Bustle, and more.