I walked onto the playground nervously, with slow and hesitant steps. This was my third school in three years, and the first day always felt hard. As a second-grader, the school work was easy breezy, but making new friends was a challenge. I surveyed the playground and could see kids jumping rope, kids climbing on the jungle gym, kids playing four-square, and kids sitting on the grassy hill listening to 80s pop music on a big boom box.
I took a deep breath, mustered every ounce of courage I could find and walked towards the group of kids jumping rope. I stood near them, just outside their close circle, not sure how to engage. I was more of a book reader and not really a jump roper, but I was willing to give it a try. As I stood there, not one of them looked my way. I listened for a while to their chanting that went along with the rhythm of their feet landing on the ground between jumps. Should I say hi? Could they see me standing here? Feeling more awkward and invisible by the moment, I quietly turned around and walked away from the group. Maybe these weren’t my people.
I skipped the jungle gym group, because the swings were all taken and I didn’t want to embarrass myself with trying the monkey bars. I also skipped the four-square kids because I didn’t know how to play. That left the kids on the grass listening to music. I liked music, and had a really good feeling about this group. As I approached them, they began whispering to themselves, looking at me and snickering. I walked up and said “Hi!” Instead of a friendly greeting in reply, I was met with stares and silence. I stood there, just a few steps away from them, for what seemed like forever. They continued to whisper back and forth and laugh to each other, but none of them spoke to me. What were they laughing at? Had someone just told a joke? Why wouldn’t anyone talk to me? I sighed and turned to walk away. Maybe I can find a nice quiet spot to sit while I wait for our recess to be over.
Dragging my feet as I walked, I felt defeated. This was definitely feeling like the worst first day ever. I didn’t know anyone’s name, and not one of these kids had seemed interested in knowing my name, either. Feeling like a nobody, alone and friendless, a girl from the music group yelled out loudly towards me “Tanya is so fat. Did you hear that, Tanya. You are fat, Fat, FAAAAATTTT!” Tears quickly welled up in my eyes and began streaming down my face. I had never once in my life been called a name, let alone fat. Thoughts began racing through my mind. Was I fat?Why did my mom and dad not tell me I was fat? How could they lie to me and tell me I was beautiful, when I’m obviously not? I hate this school. I don’t ever want to come back here.
I quickly changed course and walked up to the teacher, feverishly drying my eyes with the hope that she wouldn’t know I’d been crying. “Could I go the bathroom, please?” She nodded, without looking at me. Great, the teacher won’t even look at me. Maybe I really am invisible. I ran inside as fast as I could, went to the furthest stall from the door, locked it, and sat fully clothed on the toilet and began crying. Sobbing quietly, my heart was broken. My seven-year-old self had never experienced judgment and ridicule before, and all I wanted in that moment was the loving care of my mom and dad’s arms. I stayed in the bathroom until the bell rang, and then silently made my way back to class. I sat at my desk avoiding eye contact with my peers. Some of them were still laughing and whispering, and I was sure it was directed at me.
Being judged sucks, no matter how old you are or what stage of life you’re in. When you first find out you’re pregnant, it can feel like the first day of school. There is so much you don’t know, and so much to learn. There are mom groups aplenty on Facebook, mom-influencers on Instagram, and more websites devoted to the topics of pregnancy and newborns than you can count. Once you begin dipping your toes into this new birthy world, thoughts on what feels right to you will begin to develop. As you form opinions about how you’d like your birth to go, what you want to name your child, and how you want to parent, you’ll soon discover that opinions are everywhere. That saying “opinions are like buttholes - everyone has one and they all stink” is never more true than when you’re pregnant. From family, friends, and even strangers in the grocery store, everyone seems to have an opinion of the right way to do things. Whether you share your opinions or not, you will be met with judgment as others tout their opinions as the “right” way. At Tennessee Family Doulas, we want to be the people in your corner who will never, and I mean NEVER, judge you. You deserve to have a peaceful pregnancy and postpartum recovery that makes you feel supported and cared for. If you’re reading this and you’ve already experienced judgment and have given up on trying to talk about your thoughts and feelings regarding your pregnancy, birth, and baby, we’d love to invite you to give us a chance. We want to hear from you so we can cheer you on in your choices. If you feel inundated with all the information that you’ve found, we’d love to help you sort through it and find what feels right to you. You are welcome here, and we would love to support you.