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
So, your friend is totes preggers. It’s kind of the end of an era. No more carefree blackouts and one-nighters. More diapers, less mascara, and basically zero free time. Regardless of how your bestie is doing while a human tapeworm essentially hijacks her body, there are some things you just don’t ask or say once she tells you the news.
It’s 2019 and I shouldn’t have to list these out, but being almost five months pregnant myself, I’ve found that people really, truly, have no sense of decorum when they see a baby on board. I’ve been taken aback multiple times at the things people have said and, for the record, I am not easily offended (hence why I write for this website). I’ve also been shocked at strangers’ comfortability in asking to touch my stomach, but that’s an article for another time. #Donttouchme2019.
Here are a few of the things you need to never, ever, say to your pregnant friends.
1. “You Look Ready To Pop!”
I had a lady tell me I looked seven months pregnant. I’m barely five. I spent the rest of the day wondering just how big I really look. Maybe I should take up kickboxing? Marathon training? Then I cried for a while about the state of my body while I made my husband rub my feet. My point is, please don’t comment on a pregnant woman’s weight or looks. Our backs hurt. Our boobs hurt. We can’t suck our stomachs in. And all we want is pizza and sleep. Be kind.
2. “Were You Trying To Get Pregnant” / “Was This Planned?”
Wow! Why don’t you just ask me my ovulation schedule, too? Or if I can even shave my vagina anymore? Spoiler alert: I can’t. Anyway, it’s absolutely no one’s business whether you were or weren’t trying to get pregnant. Maybe you’ve been trying for years. Maybe a condom broke and you said “oh well” and decided to keep it. Maybe there are a billion other alternate explanations I won’t type out because it’s none of my business. I can’t believe people even ask this question in 2019. Talk about me behind my back, and please don’t make me explain to you how we were or weren’t trying.
3. “Are You Going To Breastfeed?”
Why do you ask? So you can tell me how amazing or horrible it is and then fill me in on your own expertise about how you totally made the right choice and everyone else should, too? Hard pass. Pushing breastfeeding on someone is rude and really sh*tty. You don’t know if the mom-to-be you’re spouting unsolicited advice to is having trouble producing milk. Maybe she’s always wanted to do formula. Regardless, once more for the people in back, it isn’t any of your business. If I want to breast feed, I will. If I want to pop a bottle of formula in his or her mouth, I will. And I better not get sass from you when I do.
4. “You’re Going For A Natural Birth, Right?”
What if I’m not? What if I want every epidural in the hospital and all the Pitocin my body can handle? What if I want to give birth in a giant water bath surrounded by dolphins while a string quartet plays “Old Town Road” on a loop for me? Maybe I’ve already scheduled a C-section around my friend’s bachelorette party. My point is, it’s none of your concern what my birth plan (or total lack of plan) is. I’m doing what’s right for me and you did what’s right for you. We good?
5. “Are You Sure It’s Only One?”
Hey! F*ck off! Maybe I just ate a party pack of Taco Bell tacos. Or maybe, yeah, the baby is getting bigger. They tend to do that. Regardless, as a rule, don’t ever, EVER comment on a pregnant woman’s weight. We’re feeling pretty large, tired, and unwieldy, and you pointing it out isn’t making the situation any better. Leave me and my shapeless outfits alone, thanks. My thunder thighs don’t need your brilliant insight.
6. “You Look Tired/Sad/Exhausted”
Wow, what brilliant levels of insight you have! I haven’t pooped normally in weeks. Rolling over in bed is now an Olympic sport. I cried thinking about how much I love hot chicken. So, please, don’t comment on how my emotions or my under eye bags are showing. It’s tacky. Why don’t you tell me how great my giant boobs look, or how I’m totally glowing (and it isn’t just the increase in face grease), instead?
7. “I’m Sure It’s A Boy/Girl”
OMG do you? Where were you stashed during my ultrasound? There is literally no scientific evidence to support your random claim that you can 100% tell what I’m carrying by looking at how my fat has redistributed or how my stomach is currently hanging. On top of that, maybe I want to be surprised. So please keep your wives’ tales to yourself and try not to comment on the shape and size of my watermelon belly.
8. “I Was In Labor Forever! I Hope Yours Is Better!”
Cool! I don’t f*cking care. You labor is not my labor is not anybody else’s labor. That’s great you pushed a baby out in an hour, or sad that you laid in agony for 48. I really don’t need your reminders about the absolute terror my vagina is about to endure, although I do have it in mind to tell my husband to avert his eyes, Raiders of the Lost Ark style. So, unless I ask, please keep your horror stories to yourself.
9. “Should You Be Eating / Drinking That?”
… or “I bet the baby is hungry; you should probably eat.” Ummm how about I’ll eat or not eat what and when I want? Unless you nonchalantly hitched a ride with me to my doctor, I’m pretty sure you aren’t aware of what she’s told me is chill to eat, not chill to eat, and how often I actually need to eat. Maybe she told me a glass of wine is okay here and there, and that yes, I can have a rare steak. Let me live my life and make the best choices for my baby, k?
10. “Enjoy The Quiet/Happiness/Peace Before The Baby Comes!”
I’m doing my best, and you reminding me of the impending chaos isn’t helping. Last I checked, I’m kind of an adult, and, much like dealing with a puppy, I know this isn’t going to be all sunshine and rainbows. It’s going to be sleepless nights, blowouts that completely ruin the cute clothes I bought, being unable to take a shower alone, and full-blown panic attacks when I run out of wine. I have nine months to settle that in my mind, and I can do without the chiming in.
Images: Ignacio Campo, Unsplash; Giphy (10)