Despite what many first-time moms may want to believe before getting pregnant, maternity isn’t all about dewy glows and bigger boobs.
Allison Baerken learned this first-hand when she found herself knocked up — despite always saying she would never become a mom. Nothing could quite prepare her for what pregnancy would bring, nor could she fully prevent herself from engaging in some of the eye roll-inducing behavior that so many soon-to-be moms fall prey to. (Shout out to TMI social media posts.)
Over the course of nine months, Baerken went on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, and her non-mom BFF Jillian Parsons was right there with her. Together, the two experienced all of the ups and downs from the first trimester to after birth, and they wanted to share the knowledge they gained with soon-to-be moms and their child-free friends everywhere.
What emerged was "Say No to Placenta Pics," a witty and delightfully sarcastic breakdown of each upcoming challenge — from sobriety to hot flashes to hemorrhoids— along with all of the “dos” and “please, God, don’ts” that they feel every pregnant woman should know.
The end result is a charming and often laugh-out-loud read that can teach both the expectant and their non-pregnant friends how to have a sense of humor without either alienating the other in the process.
I recently caught up with the authors to chat about everything from pregnancy fashion to gender reveals to breastfeeding in public. Here, they share their hilarious and uncensored opinions on issues that so many others don’t seem to have the balls (or should I say ovaries?) to explore.
Jillian, in the foreword of the book, you talk about losing your wild weekends and drinking two bottles of wine alone on a Monday night because your friends are busy being moms. Let me tell you, I really relate to this. None of my closest friends have kids — yet — but they are all married while I'm not. It’s certainly changed things, and I know once they do start having kids, it’ll change even more. Do you have any advice for someone like me who worries about feeling (for lack of a better word) resentment when life starts to change simply because life is changing for their friends?
Jillian: To be clear, I do not drink two bottles of wine alone on a Monday night. That was hyperbole. I drink beer. Alone. On Monday nights. And sometimes during the day. But seriously, I was really excited to hear you’re not a parent because it’s rare that women without children are given a platform to discuss parenting.
I don’t have kids, as is clearly stated in our book, but I love kids and I have always wanted them. As for advice, I think it’s important to give women undergoing stark change room to settle in, especially when it's so inescapably permanent. Women like us have to realize our relationships may go on the back burner, and if we can’t understand why or handle that, that’s on us.
There are always exceptions — shitty friends do exist and some of them are moms. But in most cases, I think we all try really hard to maintain balance and regain it when it’s lost. I doubt you’ll end up resenting your friends for any substantial amount of time, if at all. You may annoy each other for different reasons, but you know, whatever. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how happy you are for them.
In section two, called “The Second Trimester,” you talk about pregnancy announcements and gender reveals. Not to reveal my own love of bad reality TV, but it got me thinking about Khloe Kardashian, who recently faced backlash when she initially seemed unimpressed or even upset that she was having a girl. I can’t say for sure, but I would guess more people have a preference than would care to publicly admit. Should women keep these feelings private, or do you think we should be more open about the fact that there people who would prefer a boy over a girl, or vice versa?
Jillian: I wield the sex — (not sexual) — preference of my unconceived children in the same way a mother would wield her birth story: with little to no concern for the audience. I want boys. I want boys because I know how hard it is to grow up as a girl. It’s that simple for me.
Of course, we should be able to be open about this, but it only takes one jackass to say “It shouldn’t matter, as long as it’s healthy” to ruin all of the fantasy. That has to be one of the most annoying, redundant statements on the planet because obviously every regular person agrees and understands that.
Allison: I agree with Jillian. Everyone knows that all parents want a healthy baby first and therefore it goes without saying. The reality is, even when deep down you have a preference, you end up being very happy with the other gender so it’s okay to be honest. My parents have four granddaughters and I’m sure it would be nice to have a grandson.
In your section on pregnancy fashion, you condemn wearing massive tents that swallow your body whole. Amen to that. What about the other side of the spectrum? How do you feel about women who wear what some might consider to be more revealing styles? The first thing that comes to mind is Chrissy Teigen’s see-through crop top back in 2016. Classy? Trashy? Somewhere in between? I’ve always thought it was weird how the world seems so obsessed with baby bumps, but then slams women for showing them off too much.
Jillian: Allison has always been more reserved in her fashion choices — and all choices for that matter — so she will have a different take on this. In a broad sense, I feel like pregnant women, like anybody, should wear whatever the hell they want and dismiss any negative reactions.
In terms of Chrissy Teigen's see-through crop top, that sounds awesome and I bet she looked amazing. Now if you told me she went out in public wearing a baby-tee with “Mom-osaurus” scrawled across it, or something of that nature, I would have to object. In my opinion, skin is not the worst offense, corniness is. That’s a message I would like to spread.
Allison: I found buying maternity clothes frustrating. What an expense for such a short period of time! Wear what makes you comfortable, but not so attention-seeking. The bonus of maternity pants is that you can still wear them long after you're pregnant for holiday eating. It’s awesome.
In “The Fourth Trimester,” you address breastfeeding in public and implore girlfriends to step up and defend their friends against any jerk who tells them they shouldn’t. Any advice for mothers who encounter this while alone? I was recently at a cafe where a woman was by herself breastfeeding, and some asshole told her it was making everyone uncomfortable. She looked mortified and I felt so bad for her! All she could seem to muster saying was “OK,” and the baby had its lunch cut short.
Jillian: Ouch. You feel for that woman just hearing that. I’m not afraid to yell at awful people. I can confront and I would gladly step in if I were to ever witness such behavior. There are few things that so quickly demonstrate the entirety of a person’s character, and humiliating a mother in such a blatantly vulnerable state is one of them.
What these women should remember, if they do miss their opportunity to take a stand, is that assholery is not seasonal and it does not discriminate. Terribleness being inflicted upon them is nothing personal, no matter how much it sucks.
Allison: Reacting can be easier said than done. We’re told to be armed with sayings like “Do you eat your lunch in the bathroom? Then don’t make my baby.” But the reality is that it’s hard to do in the moment. Stay strong if it’s important to you and ignore. Likely someone else will step in and shame the person for saying it if you can’t.
Despite not having made up my mind about whether or not I want kids, I really did thoroughly enjoy this book from beginning to end. It was the perfect mix of witty and wise, with just the right amount of snark thrown in. Were there any tips or advice you wanted to include that didn’t make it into the book?
Jillian: Thank you so much for reading it! It means a lot to hear your feedback, especially considering you aren’t a mom. We were worried my angle of being the “childless, unmarried woman” would be lost or unable to keep the interest of someone who isn’t a parent, so the fact that you enjoyed it is beyond awesome.
I had a lot of “advice” that had to be cut because my sense of humor wasn't getting through. It was way too snarky and the majority of readers were likely going to miss out on the joke. I think where we could have expanded would have been around social media, but it bleeds into everything. There was no way we could hit it all.
Allison: We know every mom is trying their best to avoid mistakes, so when you’ve had success with a choice such as a natural birth or with breastfeeding, you want to share it and be proud.
But try to remember that for another mom it may be a struggle, and your declarations of “I’m so happy that I made a natural choice for my baby” can be interpreted as hurtful and passive-aggressive when said, for instance, to a formula-feeding mom.
I don’t think I’ve recovered from a woman saying she was relieved her baby had a virgin stomach as I gave my daughter a bottle! Be proud but support other moms in their birth and baby care choices.
"Say No to Placenta Pics: And Other Hilarious, Unsolicited Advice for Pregnant Women" is available on April 17 on Amazon and at all major bookstores.