Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Inappropriate Things to Do/Say to Pregnant Women

I've made it no secret that I don't really enjoy being pregnant. After trying so long to get pregnant the first time, I thought it would be this wonderful and wonderous thing. It is indeed wonderous, but for me it's not so wonderful. I just don't seem to have easy pregnancies nor get the joy out of the whole thing that I thought I would.

One of the things I don't enjoy is how people seem to forget common manners around pregnant women. It can feel like you are public property and nothing is sacred anymore. In reality, pregnant women tend to be on emotional roller coasters thanks to crazy hormones, and anything can set a pregnant woman off into a crying jag or angry rage. So people should actually be MORE careful in what they do and say around pregnant women.

So as a PSA, I'm going to share a few things that are inappropriate to do or say to a pregnant woman!

Don't Touch the Belly
I understand that there is some magnetic-like force that pulls people's hands to a pregnant belly. I have felt the pull myself, so I know it's there. BUT, it is NOT okay to simply reach out and touch a mama-to-be's baby bump. Is it okay to touch a woman's stomach normally? Heck no! So why do people think it's okay to do so to a pregnant woman? It's still her stomach.

Yes, yes. I know. There is life growing in there, and it's fascinating. We all want to feel that belly and know there is a baby in there. And some women honestly don't mind. But others, don't want to be touched at all. And still others, like me, are okay if you are family or a close friend.

No matter which kind of woman the belly is attached to, you should always ask first. Always. Especially if you are a stranger or coworker of the woman. DO NOT just reach out and touch a stranger's belly. That is inappropriate. I even prefer if my family and friends ask first. I will always tell them yes, but to suddenly have someone (besides my husband) with their hand on my stomach is surprising and uncomfortable. Do not be like the random waitress I had in Florida a few weeks ago who just reached out her hands and put them on my belly (luckily, I had my hands already on my belly and didn't move them, so she just put her hands on my hands on my belly, which was still uncomfortable for me).

Don't Comment on Weight
What woman likes to hear about how big they've gotten? Okay, I'll admit that I find it funny that I get all big and pregnant, so this one doesn't really bothering me. I especially like to hear that I'm "showing," but you should be careful with how you phrase things even with me. Let me share a little story that happened the other day...

I have a coworker who's first language isn't English. He knows I'm pregnant, and we've talked about it before. But I'm really showing now and wearing shirts that make it obvious. He looked at me the other day and said, "You look... [he searched for a word}... heavy." I said, "Oh [coworker's name], you didn't mean to say heavy. You meant to say that I look really pregnant or am really showing. Not heavy."

Luckily, I'm understanding and knew he didn't mean it offensively. But when people say to a pregnant woman things like, "Are you sure it's not twins?" How do you think that makes a woman feel? Not good, that's how.

Don't Comment on the Breasts
Yes, they get bigger. You know why? Because their main function is to provide milk for the coming baby. Are they sexier bigger? Probably. Should you comment on them? Only if you are on close enough terms and know the person well enough to know that they won't mind talking/joking about them.

I've got big breast normally (and they get even bigger in pregnancy) and am pretty comfortable with them in general (can't you tell?). But you know where I don't talk about them ever? Work. Yet last time I was pregnant, a female coworker looked at my breast and said, "Wow. Do you get to keep those?" Um, what? I wouldn't mind my sister or close friends joking about them, but that's inappropriate at work under normal circumstances, and ALSO when a person is pregnant! I said something like, "Well, I've normally got plenty, but who knows?"

Don't Ask If It Was Planned/a Surprise
I spent about 3 years trying to get pregnant with the Pumpkin. It was more than planned--it was stratigized and documented and prayed for and assisted by specialists. And that is not anyone else's business unless I want to share it. This time, the pregnancy happened with only one fertility cycle (thankfully!), but we had no idea how long it would take us this time, so we started right away. Does everyone need to know that? No.

And why do people care if it's planned or a surprise? My sister thinks it's because they really want to know if you are happy about it, but they can't ask that. I say even if it's a surprise and they are upset and even terrified, people around them should be happy and assume they are happy. Let's set the right mood, people. I truly believe that children are a blessing, whether or not they are planned.

This is another one that doesn't truly bother me, because I can brush it off. But I know other people who offended by this. And I can understand why. So it's just nice manners to not ask this line of questions.

Hmmmm. I know I had more, but that's all I can think of for now. If anyone else has any they want to put out there, feel free to let us know! And remember your manners around pregnant women!


Parisienne Mais Presque said...

I would also add:

1) Be careful asking how soon she's going back to work. It is so often a cause of stress, and many women (like me!) didn't even know they'd feel about it or what long-term options they'd have ahead of time. I didn't mind the question per se, but whoever asked it had to be ready for a long response...

2) Please, please, please don't share horrific birth stories.

And on the weight thing: do NOT guess how "far along" a woman is. Ask the due date if you really want to know. Those "gee, only five months? I would have guessed more" remarks just make you want to sink through the floor.

Am I the only one who hates it when people use the expression "one in the oven?" I feel like it turns me into some machine for making babies. Sheesh. We're not baking cupcakes, folks.

I never got the belly-touching, thankfully, because that would bother me a lot. Here in France people seem to have different boundaries around personal space (hugs are disturbing to most French, while cheek-kissing is omnipresent).

Anonymous said...

I thought I was annoyed when people touched my belly, but then I realized that was a relatively minor offense when those same people started touching my baby without asking me first.

caramama said...

Parisienne Mais Presque - Horrific birth stories are not what we want to hear, especially when you are going to go through it for the first time!

My Buddy Mimi - Luckily for me, the Pumpkin HAD to be in a sling when we were out. So people maybe touched her foot (which wasn't too bad) but wouldn't try to touch her other places because she'd be all snuggled into my chest. I still can't get over that people do touch other people's babies like that!

paola said...

I had people ( who knew me, not strangers) actually squeeze my baby's face when she was sleeping, as if to say 'Oh, you're so cute', which would, surprise, surprise, wake her up ( after all that trouble to get her to sleep- that's why I was out with her in the pusher and not in the house enjoying some me time). People have no idea sometimes. I have been guilty of touching a strange baby's exposed foot though, and have never thought anything of it. Must be a cultural thing.

Oh, yeah the horror stories. Heard far too many of those by, not surprisingly, people without kids.

Jen said...

The obverse of being told how big you are or people guessing you are many months ahead of how far you actually are, are random strangers telling you that you are far too small for 7 months etc which is what happened to me all the time. Never mind that I am pretty small myself!

Good post caramama! People should just leave pregnant mamas alone!!!

Cloud said...

My personal "favorite" was people who would ask if I was going back to work, and when I said "yes", would respond: "oh, you'll change your mind once the baby comes."

For the record, I didn't change my mind!

Jan said...

I agree: Ixnay on the Irthstoriesbay. You'd think people would have more sense. I was somewhat pathologically terrified before my first time and I'm still amazed at how many people told me horror stories AFTER I TOLD THEM HOW SCARED I ALREADY WAS.

On a positive note, my yoga instructor (who saw me once a week, so noticed changes) had the best way to describe me getting bigger. She said, "look at how big that baby is getting!" I want to kiss her right on the lips for mentioning that the BABY was getting bigger, instead of me. World of difference, there.

And on the coming back to work thing, if the person does come back, for the love of God, please don't ask if they're "glad to be back". I so very much wasn't, and people asking me if I was made me want to cry. Again, I had one right on-the-money co-worker who took one look at my miserable countenance and just said, "It gets easier."

Jan said...

Oh, and I tolerated people touching my belly even when I didn't like it, but woe be to the person who tried to touch my baby. I surprised myself the first time it happened and, without even thinking, I just opened up my mouth and out came, "please don't touch her."

HeatherY said...

I remember having a woman ask me how far along I was at the mall. I was probably 7 months pregnant and all belly. She proceeded to tell me how I looked so much further along that that. Blah Blah Blah!

My rule for the belly was that you must be biologically related in order to gain permission to touch the belly. lol!

Anonymous said...

I did not like "do you want a boy or a girl". We want a child, a happy, healthy child. I felt especially strongly about this after watching a friends well meaning mother in law tell the friends little boy that she really wanted a girl when she was pregnant. Why would you tell a four
year old something like that?! Especially when his mom, who did say she wanted a girl when she was pregnant, loved him like crazy and could not imagine life any other way!

AmyinMotown said...

I was guilty of some of these before I has a baby, and since I have had two, NO WAY. I did realize early on, though, that the ONLY appropriate thing to say to a pregnant women about how she looks is "Wow, you look wonderful!" Which invariably gets the eye roll, but I'd rather say that (because really, most pregnant women are pretty gorgeous) than "Holy crap, you're only HOW FAR along?"

I do sometimes touch babies' feet, and I don't mind people doing that with mine. But face or hands? No way. And same thing with the pregnant belly. If offered, I might, but I even feel a little weird about that. It's so easy to feel like "the bay factory" and not a person when you're pregnant anyway, and people putting their hands all over you only makes it worse.

And OH YES on the bad birth stories. I still remember one party shortly before Maggie was born when one person told me about a stillbirth in their family, another (who had not yet had kids) opined about the wrongness of an epidural (I was hoping to make it without one but was absolutely open to having one), and somebody else had a "baby born in the car" story. SHUT UP. My first birth story was a little scary and my second was a planned c-section, so I just don't share (unless the person in planning a c-section in which case I will, because mine was positive both times).

MommyEm said...

When I was working outside the home, a co-worker and I came to realize something - that people really should not comment on the physical appearance of others, pregnant or not. We were complete opposites - she was petite and struggled with her weight, and I am tall and way too skinny. But both of us coped with the comments of others that hurt. She got the looks and snide comments about her weight and I got the blunt "jokes" about needing to eat more. After awhile we agreed that beyond "you look nice today" we would not open our mouths about the appearance of others. I know I slip here and there, but I really try to think before I put my opinion out there...because that is what it uninformed opinion about another person's exterior. [stepping off soap box]

OneTiredEma said...

I don't know if this is particular to the circles I travel in, but the overwhelming majority of people do not tell the baby's gender before birth, even if you (the parents) know. So asking "Do you know what you're having?" is pointless. Are you trying to make the parents feel bad that they have a "secret" and you're not included? What difference does it make? If they don't know, then it leads to the whole "what do you want?" inappropriate line of questioning.

Trust me, if you are meant to know, you'll know eventually--8 months max.

Julie said...

So true. How I hated the "You're HUGE!!" comments. Also hated are the "You're TINY!!!" because a hormonal pregnant woman is going to worry obsessively about both.

Best strategy when dealing with a pregnant woman you don't know well is to keep your eyes UP and glued on her face, NEVER mention it unless she refers to it first. Then and ONLY then can you say one thing: Oh how wonderful! When are you due?

The end.

Anonymous said...

Thank God for you. I hate being pregnant and I am so glad I'm not the only one.

I'm getting sick of the "OMG YOUR BOOBS ARE HUGE!"

Come to think of it... I'm getting sick of a lot of things.

Feeling pukey.
Feeling fat.
Not drinking coffee.
Not drinking EVER.

I'm kind of feeling like this is more of a life sentence than a blessing...

tamr said...

"Feeling pukey.
Feeling fat.
Not drinking coffee.
Not drinking EVER."

The not drinking was tough the last time (a few months back from now; squirt is 5 months right now). Last year we were informed the owner wanted his house back right when we got pregnant, I started homeschooling my passionate 5 year old a month after we moved, and we have stairs in this house. I have big babies (+10lbs), and I walked upstairs once a day..because that was all I could manage.

And I couldn't drink through ANY of that :P It built character, I'm sure.

And with the coffee: I still had one or two cups a day, but what I hated was the look women gave me when they "found out." I hate "those looks." Drives me nuts.

(and I might be pregnant again, so I'm just preparing never ends. Except this time it will be our 4th, so the comments will be, "you're having *another*??")

Anonymous said...

Oh, the you're-drinking-coffee!?-dagger-eyes! That bugged me.

What's worse is people who always exclaimed how wonderful, and how exciting, and don't you just 'love' being preggers! Specifically, The Promise-slash-People Magazine reading in-law who doesn't remember the gory details of pregnancy, and who say "Angelina Jolie says she just LOVES being pregnant!", inferring something must be wrong with me?

I explained that I might love it too if I had a personal trainer, all the time in the world for prenatal yoga, massage, access to perfect nutrition, etc. etc. etc. But I must say, that while I love the outcome - my 9 month old bundle - I did not love being pregnant and hated that I was expected to.

Anonymous said...

I hate when a stranger, or near stranger, finds out I'm pregnant and mentions that I "must not be very pregnant." I'm sorry that at 17 weeks I don't have a basketball belly. But there aren't degrees of pregnancy - you're either pregnant or you're not. I still won't be ordering a pitcher of margaritas, at 5 weeks or 35 weeks.

Anonymous said...

Please - don't ask if I have hemmroids! If I do get them, I'll name them after you, since you're both pains-in-the-arses!

And I don't need you to ask me about my sex life since I've become pregnant.

Also, has anyone else received "advise" in regards to finance? I was *shocked* when my sister-in-law told me that having babies cost money! Do you know you have to buy them clothes? Diapers? Food? And not just when they're born, but for years to come! Can you imagine!

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