The night I talked to 500 pregnant women

As part of a partnership with Philips AVENT, I attended a super amazing event in Los Angeles last month. The Biggest Baby Shower is an expo-style event where attendees pay for tickets to access a beautiful room stuffed to the gills with the stuff a pregnant woman needs to know about in her first year of motherhood. Stylish baby gear and opportunities to win fabulous prizes greeted guests at every turn. I probably said, “Wow!” twenty times.

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I was helping the Philips AVENT team introduce their new double electric Comfort Breast Pump to expectant moms; the space we created was an oasis that included free massages and comfy chairs to take a break from walking the floor. We also talked about breasts. I won’t lie: it does get a little awkward to talk breast pumping with a man who is not yet on the other side of the childbirth experience.

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The ballroom space offered moms a chance to check out strollers, baby carriers, designer high chairs, and cribs. Resource providers, such as LA baby coach Jenni June, Urban Sitter, and giggle — along with a bajillion cupcake bakeries — were on hand to introduce themselves to the pregnant women and woo them with free samples.

I’m not even kidding you guys, there was a red carpet entrance and a crapload of awesome gift bags.

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It was simply adorable to see all the guests sporting their round bellies. Partners walked alongside, carrying bags, dutifully listening to marketing folks explain the features and benefits of all the baby gear.

So what does one say to an expectant rookie mom who has arrived at such an event?

I felt pressure to strike the right tone, to be positive, encouraging, and also useful without being scary. I mean what’s the point of telling someone that childbirth is excruciatingly painful? There’s no way around it. We may as well focus on the cupcakes.

Should I say, “Look, you don’t need all this stuff in advance. The price of your stroller does not reflect your love for your baby.” Or say, “Here are ten things I learned in the first month that I want to pass on to you, ” and risk that she can hardly understand what I’m saying and will come away feeling overwhelmed? Or maybe the startled-looking pregnant woman doesn’t even share my values and will be 100% fine going in another direction without my guidance.

Ignorance is bliss. And so are cupcakes. (Did I mention the cupcakes?)

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I am extra cautious when talking to pregnant strangers whom I truly, sincerely want to help. Multiply that by 500. Certain factors impact each woman’s experience of early motherhood, but I can’t guess where a new mom lands on the spectrum without getting to know her better. Here are the obstacles that prevent me from doling out buckets of unsolicited advice:

  • Support system. I don’t know how much support she’ll have at home. Is she single? Does her husband travel a lot for work? Will they have hired help? Does her mother live in town?
  • Work situation. I don’t know if she’ll be back at work within 6 weeks, 6 months, or ever. One adorable woman I talked to had already given birth. She was wearing her 11-day old in a Baby Bjorn carrier and said she had already worked a few shifts at the restaurant where she was a waitress.
  • Shopping preferences. Does buying stuff make her feel good? Some of us like to acquire beautiful things, gadgets, or just get a little head start in providing for the baby to practice feeling like a parent. Some fear spending money on the wrong things or don’t have room for loads of “stuff”. I can’t tell by looking at your belly if you like to shop or hate to shop.

We tried to write The Rookie Mom’s Handbook so that it would speak to all new moms, and it’s challenging to not start every sentence with “if.”

“If you live in an urban area…”

“If you have a flexible work schedule…”

“If you’re bottle feeding…”

“If your baby sleeps in a crib…”

There are so many different variables! Though I post a lot of tips on this website, when I’m in person with a new mom, I’m actually pretty quiet. I mostly listen to what they say and agree with them. I wait for them to ask me specific questions.

If you have five minutes with a first-time mom-to-be, what do you like to tell her?

Note: this same event is coming to San Francisco on April 25, and I’ll be there again to help answer questions about the Philips AVENT comfort pump.

photos: The really good pictures in this post are by photographer Danielle Wang. The rest are from my Instagram account.

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RookieMoms.com co-founder Whitney lives with her husband, son, and daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area where she writes about parenting, crafts, and activities that moms can do with babies in tow. She and Heather also publish 510Families.com, a site for East Bay parents and are the authors of The Rookie Mom's Handbook and Stuff Every Mom Should Know.