What is it about seeing a pregnant woman that makes some people lose all common sense? I know what you may be thinking: why is a man writing this article? Well, let me tell you—this man lived with a woman who was pregnant for 20 out of 24 straight months. So…yeah, I’ve learned a thing or two about how people seem to treat pregnant women, either by witnessing it firsthand or hearing about it later through frustrated tears and scoops of ice cream.
To get rid of the elephant in the room (no, not my wife!), my wife and I had two kids literally back to back. Our kids are 367 days apart, to be exact. Essentially, my wife went back to work from maternity leave pregnant, again. I left my wife and newborn daughter in the hospital to take our son to his one-year pediatrician checkup. You get the point. So I’ve heard a lot.
Some of you may be thinking that the majority of insensitive comments towards pregnant women probably come from men, which I assumed would be the case as well. Let’s face it: if you’re a guy and you’ve never had a kid, you’ve been somewhat trained to run in fear at the sight or even thought of a pregnant woman. And if it’s not fear, it’s a sense of being mesmerized at the thought of a baby growing inside of a human body, often resulting in silly questions like “can I touch it?” (as if that’s ever a normal thing to ask anyone). There was even the one dude in our apartment elevator who compared my wife’s stomach to the shape of a basketball. Huge technical foul! Because elevator rides weren’t awkward enough. But from my experience with my wife, it seemed like some of the strangest and most off-putting comments came from women, too. And even stranger, it was often employees at the stores we were shopping at.
For example, one time when my wife was shopping at Trader Joe’s and went to buy cookie dough, a checkout lady at the store politely told my wife that cookie dough isn’t good for pregnant women to eat because it contains raw eggs. Umm…what? As if my wife was going to buy cookie dough, go home, and just peel back the wrapper and start going to town on it, like it was a banana…? How did, at no point, the thought occur to this woman that my wife might be planning on, I don’t know, actually baking cookies like most civilized people do? Not only that—the cookie dough was for me! And while I admit, sure, I’ll snag a piece of dough or two, but the majority of that roll is getting baked. I’m sure this woman meant no harm and was only trying to be helpful, but what would have actually been helpful would have been to treat my wife like any other customer that day and not provide extra bits of knowledge that were uncalled for. If you want to do something extra, allow her to cut the typically long line and/or offer to help carry her bags out. Don’t cookie dough-shame her.
If people typically say unwarranted things to pregnant women in general, you can imagine the insensitive things people would say to my wife when she was five months pregnant and walking around with an eight-month-old. One time, we were looking around in a furniture store and one of the managers looked at my son in his stroller, commenting on how cute he was. At that point, I liked her. Then she proceeded to raise her eyes upward from my son’s smiling face towards my wife’s pregnant stomach, and the smile quickly turned to confusion. The conversation went a lot like this:
“Wait, how old is he?”
“And you’re pregnant…again!?”
“Yep…Five months. ”
She was like Rain Main trying to calculate the math in her head. Now, this isn’t the craziest reaction in the world, as it’s a comment we’ve heard often and still hear today. So at this point she was still OK in my book. And then she continued:
“My niece had Irish twins also…She was miserable. Really hard stuff when they’re so young!”
Umm…OK, lady. Now I no longer like you. We did not ask about your family history or your input on the matter, but thanks. And she didn’t even stop there:
“It’s still so tough on her. They fight over everything. It never gets easier.”
Never gets easier? Can’t even give us a little glimmer of hope? And to think—we’re customers in her store. I hid my true anger behind some sarcastic remark and immediately exited the store. There was not a chance I was giving this woman a dollar of my money, but part of me did want to drive back there later without my wife and break a few lamps as I really let loose on her for how inappropriate her comments were. My wife was going through a lot both physically and emotionally, and the last thing she needed was the manager at some furniture store to be comparing us to her miserable niece. If you ask me, her miserable niece has a pretty miserable aunt.
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Ultimately, these are only two instances that I’m referencing here in detail, but there were a ton of other off-putting conversations, too. It feels like some people think that when they see a pregnant woman, they have to address the matter in some way, whether with a joke, bits of advice, or some comparative story—when the truth is that sometimes they’re better off just saying nothing at all. It’s OK to just treat a pregnant woman like any other person. I do believe people should always help by opening a door, offering a spot on line, or helping them carry something heavy, because those are all considerate things to do. But striking up a conversation where you let them know about your miserable niece is not necessary at all! Just let them go about their day as they were; there’s enough on their plate.
But again, I’m just a guy who was married to somebody pregnant for a considerable amount of time. I mean for zero husband-splaining. I don’t know what it’s like to be pregnant, emotionally or physically. The only physical toll my wife’s pregnancy took on me was the scars on the bottom of my feet from constantly walking around on eggshells. I just really didn’t appreciate when other people sprinkled more eggshells in my path.
Image: Tai’s Captures / Unsplash; betchesmoms / Instagram
Once you decide to
allow a small, borderline parasitic thing to live in your uterus get pregnant, sh*t can get real, really quick. From gaining weight to being on an emotional rollercoaster, pregnancy isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, the payoff is like, neat. You have a tiny human you can dress up in super cute outfits and they can’t fight you on it (unlike my dog, Grover, who straight-up refuses to wear the sailor outfit I bought him—so rude). But it may be good to recognize that your brain on pregnancy will never be quite the same—and there’s literal science to prove it.
Here are a few of the ways pregnancy will affect your brain, beyond “pregnancy brain”. Yes, there’s a lot more to it than just forgetting stuff, and there are some silver linings to all these changes.
Bye, Gray Matter
It sounds scary, but hear me out. According to a study, a pregnant woman’s gray matter—pieces in the part of her brain that control social interactions, help understand others’ nonverbal cues, and help form attachments to people—decreases. This sounds super terrifying, especially since you’re likely trying to BUILD relationships before you’re chained to a crying infant for three months and can’t figure out how to leave the house (so fun!). But it’s chill. According to Healthline, a lot of the reason this happens is so that our brains can have more “space” to interpret and understand a newborn. So, from knowing what pitch cry means what to truly bonding with your baby, your brain is reassessing the situation and making itself useful for what’s about to happen. Science is neat.
Mommy Brain Isn’t Real; Forgetting Stuff Is
This is a little complicated, so stick with me. Many, many, MANY new moms say “baby brain” is a real thing that begins during pregnancy. They claim that they forget things way more often and just don’t feel as cognitively “sharp” as they did before their bundle of joy joined the household. According to WebMD, my daily source for anxiety, forgetting things when you’re pregnant or have just had a baby is real, but the ongoing thought that your brain actually changes to cause this is not. So, when your gray matter disappears like we stated above, that’s an actual physical change happening in your brain. There’s no such change happening that’s causing you to forget sh*t. Basically, the reason you’re forgetting stuff left and right is because of a surge in hormones and the complete and utter lack of sleep that comes with pregnancy and a newborn. So fun!
‘There is 15 to 40 times more progesterone and estrogen marinating the brain during pregnancy,” Louann Brizendine, MD, director of the Women’s Mood and Hormone Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, tells WebMD. “And these hormones affect all kinds of neurons in the brain. By the time the woman delivers, there are huge surges of oxytocin that cause the uterus to contract and the body to produce milk—and they also affect the brain circuits.” Again, it’s real in the sense that you forget things because of hormone surges and lack of sleep, but your brain itself isn’t actually CHANGING physically and causing you to experience memory loss. It’s just all the other sh*t that’s going on that’s making you forget you put your taco in the microwave four hours ago. In a nutshell, bitch, you’re just hormonal and tired. Such is life.
You’ll Become Uber Protective
Like my dog with his prize bone, you, too, will become animalistic in your protective tendencies once your baby is born, thanks to your brain. Surging levels of oxytocin in the few days and weeks after you give birth will push your brain to work overtime to imprint your baby’s smells, sounds, and facial cues into your mind’s eye. Even weirder, according to Shape, 90% of new mothers were able to identify their baby via SMELL ONLY just after giving birth. I mean, if that isn’t evolution and nerd-brain sh*t, I don’t know what is. High levels of cortisol will also make you super protective of your baby, so if any strangers get a little too close, you may find yourself lashing out in protection mode. It’s all part of the rewiring your brain is going through once you give birth, so no matter how weird you find yourself feeling or acting, know that it’s all part of nature.
All in all, pregnancy can be really weird, really amazing, and really scary all at the same time. By better understanding the actual physical changes your body and brain are going through, you may be more easily able to sit back and enjoy the fact that you can eat that extra taco, or that extra pan pizza, because, dammit, you’re going through a lot right now. And thanks to science, we’re getting closer to like, grasping how the brain actually prepares for (and attempts to keep us from going into shock over) that tiny human you’re about to spawn. The more you know.
Images: freestocks.org, Unsplash; Giphy (3)