Monday, June 10, 2013
As women, most of us are sensitive by nature and when it comes to another person's often 'well meaning' comments, they can leave us feeling confused or hurt if not conveyed the right way. Throw in a vulnerable time like pregnancy filled with hormones and other bodily changes (which are already doing a number on a mama-to-be's body) as well as the stress of so many new life decisions for both herself and her baby, and it's a whole other ball game even for the most confident of ladies.
The last thing a woman wants to hear is how huge she is or to be belittled for her personal choice of diapering method or how she has decided to feed her child. While I've been fortunate to have been surrounded by sweet and supportive people these past 7 months during my own pregnancy, I have had a couple people make comments that had me scratching my head and left me feeling a bit uncomfortable and offended. During a woman's pregnancy, it's especially important to treat her gently, to think before you speak and send only positive energy her way.
A few of you, my readers, have requested a post on what not to say to a pregnant woman for an upcoming Manners Monday post, so today I'm sharing just that as it's timely and I can bring personal experience to the table too.
12 Things to Never Say to a Pregnant Woman
1. Never Ask a Woman if She is Pregnant- Even if you're 99.9% sure that the glowing woman you're staring at is expecting, it's best to wait until she reveals the news on her own. If you are wrong in your assumptions, it could make for a very awkward experience and leave the other person feeling self-conscious about her appearance. I am amazed at the amount of strangers that have boldly come out and asked me "what are you having" or "how far along are you?" which is a dangerous assumptive question. A stranger, who while I was working, said to me: "Somebody's expecting a ba-by!" I responded with: "Me? Yes, I am but what if I wasn't, then what?" She replied telling me then she's be in a lot of trouble. I was thinking to myself, why go there then? A friend of mine wanted to share her happy news with her co-workers and boss in her own timing, however a know-it-all co-worker decided to ask her point blank in front of several others if she was pregnant and she was then forced to tell her colleagues at a time she hadn't prepared for.
2. Avoid Asking if it was Planned-However a woman finds herself pregnant, it is never appropriate to ask her if it was planned or if it was a 'surprise'. Additionally it's not proper to ask her how long she and her significant other have been 'trying' (if it was planned) or if it happened naturally or through IVF, etc. This is such a personal (and sometimes touchy) subject in a couple's relationship and I'm not sure when people began thinking they had the right to probe, but these questions need to stop. If the mama-to-be happens to say in conversation that they tried for 2 years and are so excited to finally be having a baby for example, then let her know how happy you are for them but never ask. If the mama-to-be mentions that it was a surprise and she seems confused about her feelings, let her know that you feel she'll be an excellent mother (if that of course is true). This is a time when she needs reassurance and positive energy, not a line of questioning.
3. Keep Horror Stories to Yourself- It would seem that no matter where a pregnant woman goes these days she is bound to run into a mom who feels compelled to share with her the scary and traumatic birth experience that she had, or hear about the rising rates of (fill in the blank with the many diseases and syndromes) or how a naturally-planned birth turned C-section in minutes, planting seeds of doubt. I was shopping for baby girl's coming home outfit and the sales clerk came over and chatted with me. She was telling me how her daughter was planning for a water birth but it wasn't possible and she had to have an emergency C-section and that I shouldn't get too attached to any birth plan I have in mine. I left with a cute outfit but just shook my head because in my own life I choose faith over fear and visualization of what kind of birth I desire over everyone else's input (I highly recommend Hypnobirthing for this alone). An expecting mother already has enough questions, researching and fears to deal with on her own without others introducing 'helpful' information to make her feel completely overwhelmed and fearful. We all know that stress is not good for a developing fetus and each pregnant woman's experience will be totally different, for these reasons let's assume the best, after all the baby is listening.
4. Don't Comment On Her Weight- As we all know it's rude to comment about another person's weight or ask them questions pertaining to it, yet people don't hesitate to make comments to pregnant women such as "you're so tiny-are you eating enough?", "you look like you're ready to pop", "wow, you're huge! Are you sure it's not twins?" or come out and ask "so, how much have you gained so far anyway?" Being pregnant is a fun time and sharing milestones along the way can be exciting but at some point or another most expecting mothers start to feel bigger and clothes don't fit as well, the last thing they need is someone pointing out their weight gain and making them feel bigger or less attractive than they actually are.
5. Never Ask About Personal Lifestyle Choices- For some women their dream is to continue working after the baby is born and for others they want nothing more than to be a stay-at-home mother so they can raise their child their way without daycare. These decisions can affect other aspects of motherhood such as whether she'll breastfeed or formula feed, whether she'll cloth diaper or use disposable diapers. What I've found is that for the most part, the people who ask these types of questions are looking to form an opinion about what you've decided to do (whether they realize it or not), even though it's none of their business. Becoming a parent is a huge responsibility and we all have to do what is best for us just like we did before deciding to become a parent with daily decisions such as what city we choose to live in, what size residence is suitable, what type of vehicle we purchase, etc.. Mothers shouldn't be judged as lifestyles are so personal and this is a time when women need support not badgering and ridicule. If the mother-to-be asks about your experience with feeding, diapering, working, etc., you can share what worked for you but don't burden her with all the challenges you faced, include what you learned and keep things upbeat.
6. The Name Game- For many mothers, sharing the name of their baby-to-be is exciting and helps them feel as if everything is more 'real' when they haven't yet met their little one. For others, they may not have finalized a name or if they have a special name chosen, it may be the only secret they have to share as the gender may have already been revealed to close family and friends (as is the case with us-we chose baby names after we got married 6 years ago and have decided to announce baby girl's name only after she is born). Asking a mama-to-be if she has picked out a name yet is relatively harmless, it's when we further probe and ask, "So, what's the name?" it really puts someone on the spot. I've had a few people ask me this and I've only ever told about 4 strangers and not anyone we know (one was the ultrasound technician who shared baby Davis' sex with us). Now, I just tell people that we've decided not to share her name with anyone, because really what difference does it make in a person's life who is a complete stranger to me anyhow.
7. Don't Comment on the Timing- Some couples choose to wait a few years before beginning a family, some just let nature take it's course and yet others are not prepared for a family but find themselves forced to face it as they become pregnant. The timing is so different for everyone and I can assure you that a couple who decides to wait several years before starting a family gets tired of people saying, "We thought you were never going to have kids" or "I just assumed you didn't want children". Yup, I've heard this one more times than I can count. I know of a few couples who got pregnant weeks or months after getting married and were either celebrated or told that they should spend more time together as a married couple before having a baby. As with asking if it was planned, timing can be a touchy subject for many. If someone is still attending school and discovers that they are pregnant, they don't need everyone around them asking how that's going to affect their education and if they'll have enough money to properly raise a child, etc. Some women find themselves single while pregnant and may even be struggling financially but unless you are stepping up by volunteering to help physically or monetarily, it's not polite to bring up areas that may or may not be a challenge.
8. Look but don't Touch- I personally find pregnant women's bellies fascinating, I always have. The thought of a little life growing inside is just so amazing. I like to adhere to the old rule-look but don't touch. Some women really enjoy attention during pregnancy and are not at all offended if someone (even a person they've never met before) asks to touch their belly but I think this would be really odd coming from a stranger (and yet I hear this happens all the time!) It's funny because under normal circumstances, having a stranger touch you or your stomach would just be plain weird. Again, asking someone if you can touch their belly kind of puts them on the spot. They may want to say no but fear seeming rude and then agree to something they're not really comfortable with or they'll come out and say no and you'll be the one feeling awkward. So, it's best not to ask unless the woman is your best friend or a very close family member like a sister, etc.
9. Stop Predicting Someone Else's Future- I think I've personally heard the words "your life is about to change" about 20 times now. The truth is, I like the fact that my life is going to change, we knew that when we decided to begin a family. I have embraced the notion that sleep will be limited and the majority of my day will be consumed with all things baby, and that it may be wonderful at first but may feel like monotony day after day months down the road. I'm okay with this and it's one of the reasons why I waited so long to enjoy my 'me time' and our husband and wife 'couple time'. Every mother I talk to tells me how horrible the first 3-6 months are, that you never sleep and that you don't lose the baby weight right away, struggling between maternity and regular clothing. Others ask how we think we might travel with a baby, it's so much work and tell us that we'll be house-bound. As mothers who have been through the experience of having a newborn, I value the insight but everyone's experience is different and one baby may be completely different from another. Again, it comes down to keeping things positive and exciting not making a mama-to-be feel as though she's going to be in solitary confinement. Let's all remember that we are not God, we don't have the luxury of predicting another person's future.
10. Never Mention Marital Status- I remember speaking to a single mom who told me that a few people had commented to her, when they found out she was pregnant, "Oh, I didn't know you were married!". She wasn't, but she was 43 and hadn't found the right man to marry and decided to become a mother on her own.We live in a time when the little childhood song, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes so and so with the baby carriage" no longer applies. Some couples desire to be committed partners and parents but don't wish to be married and see it as just a formality with paperwork. Other women may have been in a committed relationship and the man chose not to stay by her side leaving her all alone. There are women who do not have any plans of ever becoming married but still long to have a baby. While their values may be different than your own, it's nobody's place to judge if a mother chooses to be or finds herself with child and unmarried. It's this kind of condemnation and shaming that causes women to do unthinkable and desperate things while pregnant, especially when they are still quite young.
11. Age is Just a Number- With women making their careers a priority and marrying later in life, naturally babies are being born to older women. Some have had children in their 20's but decide they'd like to be a mother again in their 40's. Just like we wouldn't come out and ask a stranger how old they are, it's not proper to comment on a pregnant mother's age. Whether it's a pregnant teen or a woman pushing menopause, it's none of our business. Some women feel much more equipped to parent later in life. Reminding a mother (or father) how old they will be when their baby graduates high school is so unnecessary as they've probably already done the math anyhow. Never ask a woman what her age is while pregnant or tell her that it's a good thing she got pregnant because this will probably be her only chance to have a baby, etc. She may already have some of these concerns or the thought may really have never crossed her mind and isn't important to her, so it shouldn't be to you either!
11. No Baby Yet?- Let's face it, when it comes to a baby's arrival, people get pretty excited. Especially during those last few weeks and days, everyone is waiting and watching. I can only imagine that when a woman becomes overdue there would be nothing more annoying than having the 50th person ask you when the baby is going to arrive, as if you know a secret they don't! A friend of mine was a week overdue and was ready for things to get moving as she felt really uncomfortable and she told me it was like these well-meaning people were adding fuel to the fire and making the waiting even worse, as if it was her fault or she wasn't doing something she should be even though she had tried as many natural remedies as she could. Clearly, if a woman's still pregnant the baby hasn't arrived. Instead, ask how she's feeling or if she needs anything.
12. Celebrate & Congratulate- Some parents choose to keep their family size small and yet others prefer a huge brood. It's a personal choice and not up for discussion. The appropriate reply is always "Congratulations!" The words "again?" should never be uttered. It's also not polite to assume that if they have 4 boys that they're trying for a girl or vice versa. While that may in fact be the case, they may just be thrilled about expanding their family with an additional baby regardless of gender. It's not for us to judge how many children they choose to have or try to figure out what their motives are.
Now it's YOUR turn, I want to hear from you! What things were asked or said to you while you were pregnant? How did you react? What question(s) do you think are just completely off limits and offensive?
Thanks for reading!
*image credits: (1)