Sunday, October 2, 2011

What NOT to say to a pregnant woman

If you’ve ever been pregnant or know someone who has been pregnant, than you already know: those nine months (give or take) are an emotional rollercoaster.

Enduring unsolicited advice, prying questions or even a stranger’s patting hand on your expanding belly is enough to send anyone over the edge — especially a pregnant woman!

When we asked friends for some of the things they heard or experienced while pregnant, so many of them had terrible stories of rude, thoughtless comments. And so many of the comments were the same across the board! How many times can a person comment on another person’s body weight? Apparently, a lot.

Many of these advice-givers (and belly-rubbers) have good intentions. They might want to share in the joy of an impending birth, or make a light-hearted joke, or somehow relate to you in a friendly way.

So we’re here to help remind you that some things are not very polite.

• The number one rule? Never, ever ask if someone is pregnant. She could be overweight. She could have just had a baby. She could have just had a miscarriage. She might actually be pregnant but is not ready to talk about it. It doesn’t matter why — it’s very personal. Pregnant women will share the news if they want to talk about it.

• Avoid patting the pregnant woman’s belly — especially if you are a stranger! A pregnant woman sees your hand coming toward her, and she’s going to be worrying about personal boundaries, germs, protecting her child, and any thought associated with being touched by a stranger.

• Think twice before giving (unsolicited) advice. A lot of people don’t realize that childbirth, breastfeeding, even cloth vs. disposable diapering are hot button issues that carry a lot of uncertainty, fear, and guilt. If you are close friends with the mom-to-be, she probably already knows your thoughts on the subjects and will ask questions if she’s interested in your perspective. It is acceptable to say, “If you ever have any interest or questions about epidurals or natural childbirth, or bottle-feeding or breastfeeding, I’m happy to talk about it.” And then leave it at that.

• No reliving of your own pregnancy/morning sickness/childbirth stories! A pregnant mother has enough to worry about without other people’s horror stories. Try to avoid sentences that start out with, “I had the worst...”

And now, here are some of the “pearls of wisdom” our mama-friends have heard during their own pregnancies:

• “Wow, you’re about to pop.” First of all, gross. Second of all, that woman who is about to “pop” may be weeks or months away from giving birth.

• “Wow, you must be due any day now!” See above.

• “You’re huge!” “You’re getting so big!” “Oh, it’s OK, you’re eating for two!” Well, pregnancy does mean that a woman is growing another human being inside of her own body. She's not going to be getting smaller!

• “Your [insert any body part here] is getting wider, so it must be a boy [or girl]!”

• “Are you having twins?”

• “Haven’t you had that baby yet?” This is not as humorous as it might seem when said to a still-pregnant woman. Also, remember that women’s stomachs do not magically shrink immediately after giving birth: you might be asking that question to a sleep-deprived new mom who prefers not to hear your commentary on her body shape or size.

• “Were you trying, or was it a surprise?” Think about what you are asking — you can’t get much more personal than that!

• “Should I say congratulations or I’m sorry?”

• “Enjoy it now!” Or, “Rest now because you won’t be able to soon,” and so on. Basically, you are saying, “Life is about to get terrible.” Not very positive!

If a woman has told you that she is pregnant, there is one very acceptable thing to say: “Congratulations!” Other things — “You look great!” or “Can I help you with that?” — are also welcome!

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