A strange social phenomenon happens when a woman becomes pregnant. It may start when she announces her pregnancy, but it becomes ever more prevalent as the baby (and thus, the mama) grows. Suddenly, all the conventional rules of tact and sensitivity fly out the window, there is no such thing as a stranger, and everyone acts like they are entitled to know intimate information about the mother’s body and choices.
As a general rule, I tend to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I choose to believe that people have good intentions, even when their delivery seems rude or intrusive. But even I, the perpetual pass-giver, have been recently shocked and appalled at the ignorance displayed by many seemingly intelligent members of society. So, I thought it might be helpful to establish some universal ground rules. Please share the heck out of this post. The world needs to know that there are some things that should never, ever be said to a pregnant woman.
1. Thou shall not comment on her size. At all. Ever.
There are really no exceptions here. Do not say she looks big. Likewise, Do not say she seems small. Don’t comment on how her belly has grown… or “popped.” She’s a woman for goodness sakes, not a freaking jack-in-the-box! Do not surmise how many babies are in there. “Are you sure you’re not having twins.” (Insert eye roll.) Do not estimate her weight gain. You would think this is common sense, right? I mean, in what world is it ok to comment on a person’s size or shape? It’s not. It’s just rude. But for some reason, people think the regular rules don’t apply to pregnant women. Well, I’m here to tell you THE RULES DEFINITELY STILL APPLY!
2. Thou shall not judge what she is eating or how much of it.
Again, this seems like common sense to me. But, you wouldn’t believe how many food police pull out their badges when they see a baby bump. I recently attended my 7th graders 5:30pm basketball game after a full day of work. I immediately hit the concession stand and purchased a 50 cent single serving paper bag of popcorn. At halftime, I was still starving and so I went back and bought another bag. As I walked back to the bleachers with my puny bag of salty puffed air, I heard my name called from halfway up the bleachers followed by “Is that really your second bag of popcorn?” I halted the handful of popcorn I was about to shove in my wide open mouth and just stood there as the lady’s husband admonished her to stop monitoring the pregnant lady’s food consumption.
I sat down in a daze, feeling half-defensive and half-wishful my popcorn bag was movie theater sized with extra imitation butter. Did that lady really just call me out in front of the entire crowd? Was my baby bump not visible enough? Perhaps I should wear tighter shirts? Did she not realize it was dinnertime? She knows popcorn is practically nothing, right? Did she forget how it feels to always be starving?!?!
Bottom line: The hunger is real. The cravings are real. If the mama-to-be wants to eat 10 pickles and peanut butter from the jar as an after dinner snack, keep your mouth shut and hand her a spoon.
3. Thou shall not interrogate her about parenting choices or give unsolicited parenting advice.
This rule includes comments like “You’re going to breastfeed, right?” “I hope you know how dangerous co-sleeping is,” “Cloth diapers are so much better for the baby and the world,” “Are you sure you want to name her that?” and my favorite “Are you planning on circumcising?” Sorry not sorry, but my son’s penis is none of your beeswax! Assume that the mother is an intelligent individual with unlimited access to information and resources. If she wants your advice, she will ask you.
4. Thou shall not share your horror stories.
The last thing she needs to hear about right now is how your botched epidural job left you with chronic back pain or how your episiotomy stitches got infected and your hoo-ha will never be the same. Just no. All she needs is encouragement and positivity. Tell her she is strong, because she is. Tell her she will rock it, because she will… no matter how it goes down. Tell her that birth is a beautiful miracle, and that it will be one of the best days of her life!
Of course there are a thousand ways to insult a pregnant woman, but if you memorize these 4 over-arching rules, you should be able to avoid making mama cry. Keep it simple and stick to the basics: You look beautiful! I’m so excited for you. You are doing great. You’re going to be an awesome mom. That’s really all that needs to be said.