Monday, June 10, 2013

Manners Monday: What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman



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!

XO




*image credits: (1)

15 comments :

  1. Oh Karla, I agree with you sooooooooooo much I just want to hug my computer screen!! I just had my fourth baby and I have completely lost track of how many and what kinds of inappropriate comments I've gotten. Let's just say, nearly all of them were inappropriate. I am sick of people asking if I'm pregnant. The first time that happened, 6 years ago, I actually WAS pregnant but didn't even know it myself (found out a couple weeks later), and was asked by a pastor whose wife is a nurse and apparently thought that my eyes looked pregnant. This was in a loud voice in front of everyone at church. I never announced my pregnancy and we ended up leaving that church before it became obvious. Recently, A friend's friend was shopping at Walmart w/o her wedding ring due to swollen hands. A pastor approached her and said, with a sniff: "Hmm, pregnant I see, and not married?" We only know he was a pastor because he then went on to describe to her in detail his vocation and church association, as if that gives him a right to be offended by (his presumed) the unwed pregnancy of the woman. I would have probably smacked him if I had been there, with my pregnant wedding-ringed hand.

    Anyway.......People won't stop asking me when I';m going to have another one, or if this one is the last! I've just resorted to saying "I don't know" or "I really want 20, actually!" which is sort of true, but a pipe dream. I sometimes launch into detailed explanations of finances and my declining health, which makes people sorry they asked, but also makes me feel like I"m explaining something I really shouldn't have to! At publix 4 weeks before delivering my latest, a rude teenage bagboy said "You look like you're going to pop!" I said "Excuse me?" and he denied it. I then said "Did you ask me if I was going to pop?" And he laughed as if it was all okay and said "yes" I said "Most pregnant woman would prefer to be asked their due date rather than being told they look like they're going to pop" and I got the blank stare. (not that I think people should be asking due dates anyway) Unfortunately, he recovered rather quickly and then proceeded to ask me what I was having. I caved and said "a boy" hoping he'd be quiet, and then he asked about names! I'm like seriously, geronimo? I don't even know you!! so i say "i don't know yet" then he looks in my car (because he had walked me and my groceries out) and starts taking a tally of how many I have, which genders they are, and wants to know their ages. It was almost too much

    (to be continued)
    ~Tabitha

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  2. It's even worse with ppl i know. case in point: lady at church two months ago: "can I ask you a personal question?" Me: "ok" (SHOULD HAVE SAID NO, i don't answer personal questions! and i fell like now that I have, i opened myself up to do it again in the future!) her: "i have a friend and her husband who believe in having as many children as God gives them" (my thoughts: I HATE IT when people use "God" as the reason for their not using prevention/birth control!, it's not God, it's called nature and it's as earthy and animalistic as it comes), "do you believe that? I just asked because you've had so many so close together" That was so inappropriate Karla, I wanted to cry. Instead I responded that I don't know what God tells other people but he hadn't led me and my husband that way and that we believed in only having as many children as we could handle, physically, financially, etc. SHe then advised me that her friend (who i think is expecting her 11th) got rid of her TV service so that is how they can have so many kids, and it's something I might want to consider. Can somebody out there PLEASE agree with me that that's the epitome of inappropriateness?!?! I was like, our household has never had a tv and we probably won't get one because it doesn't go with my decor. when you engage in trying to answer inappropriate questions, you find yourself descending into mindnumbing, well, mindnumbness quite quickly! Best just not to ansewr at all!

    When 8 1/2 months pregnant with my 2nd, and yes I gained 60 lb that time, a repairman told me I looked like I swallowed a watermelon seed. I've thought of several comebacks since then but I'm starting to wonder if I should just resort to "that was inappropriate" a lot of times, and "I don't answer personal questions" the other times. It's just hard when it's ppl you know.

    When i conceived my third my mom, my own mom (which shouldn't surprise me) said "don't you know how this happens?" I thought she would be proud of me, after all she had 4. She stopped hanging out with her grands nearly as much after that. With every pregnancy (during the pregnancy) I have at least one person ask if this will be the last one or when I'll have another.

    I could go on.... :)

    Oh top it off we never found out the genders of our first three, I got like nasty, hateful comments over that! Some people declared they refused to get me a gift because they just "couldnt" because they didn't know what we were having! When the ONLY gender specific thing babies need is clothes, and I've dressed my babes in whatever I had on hand sometimes since it's not like baby boy 1 will remember wearing pink socks, iykwim.

    like i said, i could go on.......

    ugh

    please be a better person than I am/was and put those people in their place! Do it for all the pregnant women (and the not pregnant women who get asked about pregnancy--yep, I've gotten that, too, in the times in between my pregnancies!)

    ~Tabitha (from Facebook)

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  3. oh, and the horror stories! when pregnant with my first the first thing some old lady said was "so and so would have been 34 today" and tells me the horror story of one of her stillborns. I"m like, "Stop, seriously?"

    at publix the week after the bagboy incident a fat sloppy bag girl looks at me, then my belly specifically with big eyes, and then after making sure I was watching her does the horrified look/gasp and a stumbleback, while croaking out "WHEN are YOU DUUUUUUUUEEEEEEE????". If I ever see her there again I want to do the stumbleback too and ask her when she is planning to wash her face, comb her hair, and lose some weight.

    You know I would never do that.

    I get tired of being the only polite person in middle TN other than most of the older people and about half the men. Gahh.

    ~Tabitha

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  4. And I want to go to FL to meet you just so I can experience being around a polite person. I am sick of the Deep South (don't consider FL to be that and I used to live there many years ago) which is partly why my dream is to move to the east coast northern states where people mind their own business a bit better.

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences with us, Tabitha. You of all people, having been pregnant 4 times, would have heard it all that is for sure. I'm amazed at the things people have said to you, including the Pastor asking you in front of many others!

      I told my husband that if anyone ever rudely commented on my weight(which so far hasn't been an issue as I'm carrying small) I would let them know that I'm however many months pregnant and ask what their excuse is. (like the bag girl you had at Publix). As much as I like to take the high road, I am pretty bold at times and sometimes people need a bit of an awakening as to what is and is not appropriate to say/do or they'll keep behaving in the same manner. I truly believe that you cannot correct what you don't confront.

      You are so sweet. I have to say that FL is probably not much better than where you are (maybe in the panhandle area but that would be about it). I noticed it immediately upon moving down here from Toronto (I find people in Canada to be far more polite in general) and was surprised as I was expecting well-mannered southern belles and gentleman but it couldn't be farther from the truth! ;) I think society in general is on the decline with manners and behavior but I'm not losing hope!

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  5. Dearest Karla,

    I, truly, know how you are feeling. I am sending you a big hug and sweet angel kisses for your new baby. I really do not understand it, yet I know very well the inappropriate things some people seem to enjoy sharing with pregnant couples. My advice is to make a set of rules that you and your husband agree upon; rules being what questions, if any, you feel comfortable sharing with others. Personally, I think this would benefit most pregnant women.
    1. No touching my belly. This is simply an invasion of your personal space.
    2. Do not listen to others with horror stories. All pregnancies are unique and yours will be just fine. Repeat this to yourself out load every day, if it helps.
    3. Never discuss weight pregnant or not. Simply a rude question to anyone.
    4. Names, genders, child birth plans, etc, should be kempt personal or even if you don't recognize it, you are being influenced by others, even if it's perceived positive feedback.
    5. Lastly, do not engage in inappropriate questions period! Then you can enjoy the beautiful life you are building together with Grace and peace!

    Everyone, please just Be Kind; Be Light; Be compassion; Be Light; BE LOVE!

    Love and Blessings,
    Bella

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    1. Hi Bella,

      Thank you for your hugs and sweet thoughts. My husband and I have discussed topics that we do not wish to share with others and so far we have stuck to them. :) In general I've been quite fortunate that there have only been a few odd comments here and there, for the most part everyone has been sweet and supportive. This post is for all the women who have had to endure such comments and questioning shared in points above.

      Blessings!
      Karla

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  6. Great post! I'm not pregnant, nor have I ever been, but it's good to read up on the proper things to say/things you should avoid saying! Also, I once had a complete stranger ask me how I knew that I was infertile. Yup, just came out and asked. To be fair, I had mentioned in a group setting that my husband and I are infertile. But I wasn't expecting for her to ask me how I knew that. It was supremely awkward....

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    1. Thank you, Maggie! I appreciate your candor in sharing this personal bit with us here. I can't even imagine how uncomfortable that moment was for you. People sometimes just don't have any boundaries or thought of other's feelings. With regards to where you're at right now I pray that God will give you the desires of your heart (whether you long to become a mother one day or simply enjoy life solo with hubby, either way I hope you will see your dreams realized). XO Karla

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  7. I have 1 child & im 5months pregnant with my 2nd.I honestly wish people would stop assuming that everyone who is pregnant or has kids are on a tight budget or is struggling. I like to shop, go out, and vacation. Everyone who knows me knows this about me. I've had older women tell me "when that baby comes, you're not gonna be able to shop because all of your money will go to the baby". It offends me because they don't know what my husband & I have in our bank accounts. We could have 2 more kids & still live comfortably. Being the lady that I am, I would never brag about our income though.

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    1. I completely agree, Kelsey. While many people are struggling in this economy, not everyone is and to assume such a thing is silly. Further more, it's not up to them to determine what you will or will not be able to purchase, it sounds as though they are using their own circumstances at their reference point. Good for you, it's none of their business what is in your bank account. Sometimes silence is the best reply to a fool! ;)

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  8. Another thing, I'm 5'2, with a small frame & I'm very soft spoken. I'm 26 years old but most people think I'm a teenager. I wish people would stop assuming I'm a teenage mother. I had a complete starnger come up to me & go off on me about being a "teenage mother". Even if I was a teenage mother, that was very inappropriate. I will not comment on how I handled the situation. Just know that I kept my composure & kept it classy.

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    1. Congratulations on baby #2! Having a youthful appearance is certainly a wonderful thing but there are times (like this) where people can make assumptions. My mother went through the exact same thing (she was 26 when she had me) and people assumed the exact same thing-that she was a teenage mother. She got tired of explaining that she had been happily married for 5 years and was in her mid-twenties. People are so opinionated when it comes to watching someone prepare to become a mother, I just don't understand why people make other people's business their own. Thanks for sharing your experiences, Kelsey! :)

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  9. Oh, I so needed to read this post today. At 16 weeks pregnant with my first, I've already had so many of these moments. The ones that truly are getting dull are the constant "just wait until you have this baby, then ___________" fill in the blank with multiple negative views of motherhood. I have worked with infants for nearly eight years, and I know a thing or two about babies. They talk of the crying and screaming, to which I reply "have you ever been in a classroom with seven crying and screaming babies for almost 10 hours a day? I have, and I think one crying baby will be a blessing!" The reality of motherhood is one thing, but the negativity about babies that I hear from women never fails to shock me.

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    1. Hi Brittany,

      Thanks so much for sharing. I'm so sorry you are dealing with this but I'm glad this post was timely for you! I really did not enjoy stories that began that way, they were always negative. I found it interesting after having my little one, the amount of things that turned out to be untrue that others told me all/most babies go through during the first 6 months. I heard so many horror stories about crying all day long (colic), moms who told me that it will take a while for the baby weight to come off (which in my case, thanks to clean eating, breastfeeding and good genes happened in just a couple months), and how you can never leave the house because everything revolves around baby. While life is different with a baby, you learn to adjust but it was nowhere near what others told me about. We feel blessed to have a sweet, easy-going and super happy baby who really never cries with the exception of when she's overtired, I've missed her feeding cues, she's uncomfortable or the first 5 mins I put her down for a nap. I say all of this not to sound like a braggart but because I want to encourage other new mommies-to-be (like yourself ) that these negative stories and commentary which others try to bestow upon us with our best interest at heart is nothing more than a guise for creating fear.

      I believe the words we speak and what we meditate upon truly shape our world. I had to ignore these mothers/parents and just focus on praying for the things I wanted our daughter to be: calm, peaceful, happy, healthy, sweet, playful, curious, loving, a good sleeper, a great eater, etc. We started this before I was pregnant and continued it while she was growing in the womb and still continue to pray these things over her life today. Often times we get what we expect.

      With your experience around infants, it will help you as a mother. It sounds like you'll be a great mom and as you said, only having one vs. seven when a day is more difficult for one reason or another will be such a blessing! :) Warmly, Karla

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Thanks for stopping by, your comments make my day! I read every single one and will answer any questions you have. I hope you'll visit again soon! :)

Warmly,
Karla

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