Before you get pregnant, you're half-aware of some of the symptoms. Be it from books, movies or simply from being the eldest sibling, chances are that you have some vague awareness of morning sickness, stretch marks, swollen ankles and all the truly glorious perks of being with child.
One of the symptoms that you might not be aware of, however, is unsolicited advice.
Oh man, does this flow freely.
Now, I'm a clueless twenty-something having a baby for the first time; let me be clear, I need some damn advice. I need to know about things like colostrum, meconium and intravenous oxytocin. (A word to the wise, unless you're pregnant and kind of need some vague knowledge of that shit, do not look it up. Trust me.)
I need guidance, someone to sit down with a strong coffee and give it to me straight. Ideally, the panel would consist of Joanna Lumley, my mother, Julie Walters, Caitlin Moran and Nigella Lawson, but I'm not fussy.
Alas, we pregnant women are not so lucky.
The bigger that belly gets, the more people, strangers and all, won't just give you their two pennies' worth but thrust whopping great ten pound notes in your face. Figuratively speaking, of course.
And some of it is valid. As a rule, about 10% of the stuff I've heard has been relevant to me - the rest I've learned to tune out like white noise and just smile through gritted teeth.
I threw up, brutally, nearly every morning for four months. Yet after weeks on end of mornings spent on my knees on the bathroom floor, groaning like a dying whale, I still found myself hearing about the wonders of ginger.
Now I appreciate that people mean well, but after 44 days of heaving, you can bet that the preggo in question has tried everything from drinking ginger tea to drinking the tears of 100 Argentinean virgins.
One can safely assume at that stage, therefore, that the beneficiary of your wisdom might have heard a rumour somewhere along the pregnancy grapevine of this mythical ginger. It's kind of a bug bear.
And on bug bears, one for the dudes here.
I love you guys, really I do. You deal with hormonal women swelling into raging, waddling monsters before your very eyes for weeks on end, before standing by our sides for the screeching, explosive, bloody finale that is childbirth.
I will fiercely defend you against any condescending midwife who makes you feel surplus, against any overbearing mother-in-law who pushes you out of the way and against any ridiculous book that tells you to basically bend over and take it up the tailpipe from us while we're pregnant.
I'm pro men feeling important during pregnancy. We would very much struggle throughout this entire experience without you.
But listen up.
If I witness one more man sitting with his legs apart, smiling opposite me with a glass of wine in his hand and telling me exactly why I need an epidural/should consider an all-natural birth/shouldn't swear during labour/should breastfeed/should reply 'cut' when asked 'cut or tear' (that was a weird one...), then I'm afraid I'm going to have to wallop the cervix-less, pompous imbecile in question sharply around the head with a thick copy of 'What to Expect When You're Expecting'.
Guys, it's not cool. Frankly, I couldn't care less if your sister had a beautiful water birth, how breastfeeding is the best thing a mother can do for her child or how you've heard labour isn't as bad as people say (are you effing kidding me?), in the immortal words of Rachel Green:
Don't get me wrong, I've been given some completely brilliant advice by some men and women that I utterly respect.
'Your baby will just slot into the household and you'll all crack on. That's all there is, really.'
'Have a glass of red wine. It isn't the end of the world.'
'Babies start out quite boring, and you'll be knackered and then they grow into these awesome little people and it's just brilliant.'
And the real crown jewel:
'Let me give you one piece of advice - ignore most of the advice you hear.' - my mother-in-law, 2016.