It’s astounding to women how quickly pregnancy changes peoples’ interactions with them. Suddenly, all the social boundaries we enjoy seem to be wiped away–personal space? Nope, you’ll have people gravitating toward your baby bump like a planet to the sun, hand extended. Polite conversation? Oh, absolutely not. Anything can be fair game here, from how much weight you’ve gained to unsolicited parenting advice.
There are many underlying reasons why all of this is unacceptable, but that’s a post for another day. For all of you who need some guidence on what never to say to a pregnant woman (unless you want to be silently cursed by a very powerful, very hormonal force of nature), here is a simple list to help.
1. “Oh, you must be so happy!” — Maybe she is, maybe she isn’t. Seriously. Whether a pregnancy is planned or a surprise, there is no guarantee that a woman is going to be thrilled to share her body with a tiny little parasite (said with love). Best not to go there. She’ll tell you if she’s so happy. You’ll be able to tell. Don’t assume this stuff.
2. “So how much weight have you put on?” — Um, really? When is it EVER okay to ask this question? You will never find a woman grateful that you asked this. Either she’s worried she’s gained too much, or she’s worried she’s not gaining enough. This is a fact. Never, ever discuss her weight. Instead, tell her how beautiful she looks. She probably needs that today.
3. “So you haven’t had that baby yet?” — *Crickets* Don’t be surprised if you receive a reply in the manner of, “No and if I had, I sure as hell wouldn’t be here talking to you”. The last few weeks of pregnancy literally seem like years. The last few days seem like weeks. It is a rare woman to be full-term or more and sincerely excited that she’s still pregnant, and you asking this question is making her wish she had the coordination and graceful skill to kick you in the head.
4. “Are you sure there’s only one in there?” — “She’ll actually be the size of a small-framed preteen when she’s born, we just couldn’t bear the thought of the toddler years.”
5. “You sure are big!” — Mmmm…. You’d be better off not getting a reply to this one. Also, you suck.
6. “I sure hope you’re planning to…(insert judgmental parenting advice here).” — Let me say this loud and clear: No one gets to have an opinion on how someone chooses to raise their children but the parents. Barring any safety or basic moral concerns (like intentionally raising their kid to drop-kick any living thing smaller than them, or letting them chew on a screwdriver [gods help us]), everyday parenting choices are none of your business. Breastfeeding? None of your business. Early enrollment in preschool? None of your business. Crib or bedshare? None of your business. Thanks, but no thanks.
7. Same as #6, but regarding labor and birth — Again, none of your business. Let them do what they want to do. They are adults and can make the best choices for their family. We have midwives, doctors, and nurses to ensure things are safe, so you don’t need to assume that role. If you want to show you care, offer to help out after the baby is home by doing dishes and laundry for the family. Leave the judgment and opinions at the door. The family will be so grateful for your love and support!
8. “Can I touch your belly?” — The only thing worse than this, I like to call The Worst. The person who touches without even asking. Please don’t touch women’s bellies. Just don’t. If you’re an extremely close relative or friend, ask first, but don’t be offended if she says no. It’s not about you. Somehow our society has gotten it in our heads that it’s okay to treat pregnant women as vessels rather than whole people. Her body is feeling less and less like her own the bigger she gets, and she deserves to at least have the security of normal social boundaries.
To sum up, a good way to tell if something is appropriate to ask/tell a pregnant woman, first ask yourself, “If she weren’t pregnant, would it be appropriate conversation?” and “If someone said this to me, how would I feel?” Pregnancy is a vulnerable time as it is, so we should all try our best to help women feel at ease and honored for who they are.
What ridiculous things have people said to you during pregnancy? Do you have any more to add to this list? I’d love to hear your experiences.
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