I had a conversation with a couple of friends about the crazy things people say and do when someone they know (or just randomly encounter) happens to be pregnant. After swapping stories for a bit, (and a few good laughs) we came to the conclusion that really, no one has advised the general population on etiquette in regards to expectant mamas. People are excited, and want to somehow be involved, or whatever, and they don’t always understand that some of the things they say are really appalling. So, I decided to create a handy guide of what not to say to someone who is expecting.
I have been hesitant to publish this, because I realize it may come off as a bit crass, so here is my disclaimer. I have a really dry, sarcastic sense of humor. I always have. Occasionally, it can get a bit morbid. I have never responded to these statements as I do in this post, and probably never would (with the exception of number 7), but this is what I am often thinking in response to some of the really inappropriate stuff I have been hearing at least daily for the last few months. I’m hoping it gives insight (and a good laugh) to others, rather than offense. Please take my responses with a grain of salt and a chuckle.
So, in no particular order, here is a list of 12 things you probably shouldn’t say to a pregnant woman:
1. “How are you feeling?”
This seems really benign, and while I appreciate that you care, it gets a little annoying when this is the opener to every conversation. Especially if I’ve already heard it 20 times today. From you. I will of course, tell you I’m feeling fine (because I am, thanks), and if I’m starting to get particularly annoyed by this, I will immediately ask you how you’re feeling. Gets old, doesn’t it?
2. “Oh, my gosh! Look at how big you’ve gotten!”
I have no idea when it would be considered okay to say this to anyone other than your 10 year old nephew. Imagine someone saying this to you when you aren’t pregnant. How would you feel? Awkward, I imagine.
3. “I can’t imagine you as a parent.”
Okay, I realize that as a pregnant person, one can be a little hypersensitive. But just to put this in perspective, basically pregnancy is nine months of vacillating between, “Yay! I’m going to have a baby!” and “Oh, my god. What if I mess this up?” You may have the best intentions with this statement. It may be a casual observation. But here’s what the mama-to-be hears, “Wow! I can’t imagine you know what hell you’re doing. Good luck — you’re going to need it!” Not. Comforting.
4. “You know you’re never going to be able to do __________ again, right?”
This statement is really only okay if the blank is filled in with the name of some illicit substance. Because most parents know that while the first few months will be hectic, you will once again be able to go for a run, go camping, ride a bicycle, take a shower, etc. You will probably be taking a small person along with you. If you’re very lucky, the two of you will like some of the same things. Being a parent is not a life sentence of incarceration. Your life will go on. And hopefully it will be much, much better than it was before you had a kid.
5. Anything involving you or someone you know/once met/read about who had a horrible labor and delivery.
I’m going to move a 7 to 9 pound person through a 10 centimeter hole in my body. I think I can come up with quite enough anxiety toward that on my own, but thanks for your offer to help add some.
6. “Don’t do __________!”
(Usually in reference to something along the lines of opening a door.)
I’m pregnant, not dead. I still have perfectly functional arms, legs, and brain. I’m still probably stronger than you are. And I’m not foolish enough to do anything which will put my baby in jeopardy. Carrying a bag of groceries never killed anyone.
7. “Hey, will you pick that up off the floor for me? Heh, heh, heh.”
8. “How long are you planning to breastfeed?”
I happen to live in a quirky little town in which there is a large contingent of people who believe that they should breastfeed their child until the kid is old enough to vote. And, unfortunately, they think everyone should do the same. They get really excited about breastfeeding. They want to talk all about it. They want to know the details. For me, talking about breastfeeding is right up there with talking about bowel movements. Your breastfeeding issues? I don’t want to know about it. How often or how long you breastfed your kid? Not any of my business. Please extend me the same courtesy.
9. Anything involving how your kids have ruined your life/your plans/put a crimp in your style. Followed by a meek, “Oh, but it’s so worth it!”
Seriously? You’re an adult. You knew what you were getting into. You also knew how to avoid it if you didn’t want kids. No one likes a martyr. I’m not going to pity you or regret my decision because you regret yours. (And truthfully, I hope you don’t really regret your decision — for the sake of your kid!)
10. “Have you considered a water birth/home birth/hospital birth/giving birth while standing on your head?”
No. Clearly, I have not considered my options, because I am an idiot. Please tell me about your beautiful birth experience while singing in Swahili and eating lychee on toast. *sigh*
11. “You look great! Your face isn’t even that fat!”
Uh… thanks? What the hell kind of comment is that?
12. Who’s your gynecologist?
I still can’t believe I’ve gotten this question. More than once.
Of course, etiquette goes both ways…