What NOT to say to a Pregnant Woman
This one was a very cathartic one to write. Months of stupid, insensitive comments all pent up came flooding out as soon as I touched the keyboard... thank goodness I did this before the birth!
I appreciate that it's tricky knowing how to navigate this topic, and preggo women can be SUPER sensitive, but over the past 9-or-so months I have heard some HOWLERS. There have been times during my pregnancy that I have lost my shit, sometimes with downright offensive comments, sometimes because I spilt some coffee on myself ten minutes before.
A lot of women have contributed some great material to this list, so if you've shared your experience with me lately, see if you can find yours here!
If you don't know what to say to a pregnant friend, or if you have recently offended a pregnant woman, THIS blog post is for YOU. Avoid seriously awkward moments that neither of you will ever forget (for all the wrong reasons!) and avoid all the pitfalls.
And if you're pregnant and have been recently offended by some ignorant ass-hat, feel free to send them this post so they can learn the error of their ways.
Keep in mind, that these are all things that have been said ad verbum to me or women I know, I didn't just make them up.
Fun game: if you know you've offended me at some point, see if you can find your comment on my list!
Don't tell her your traumatic birth story!
This one amazed me. It seemed as though the closer I got to my due date, the more women wanted to tell me about their own birth story and how awful it was. I had to start telling people to keep it to themselves, that I didn't want to know.
Likewise, don't tell me about your friend who "just gave birth" and how badly it went.
Also, don't imply that it was awful, or say things like "you'll see".
"Should you be eating that?" Or any comments about food…
I had one guy at my gym who any time he saw me eating something with sugar would yell across the gym "hey, aren't you supposed to be some kind of nutrition expert or something?! Not setting a very good example are you?" (God, I hope he's reading this).
What can I say? "Thanks, mate, I'm aware of my less than ideal nutritional choice for this meal, and I feel a bit bad about it anyway, especially since I haven't been able to stomach a vegetable for over a week, but thanks for pointing it out AND yelling it in front of all these strangers. I have had a total of about 5 minutes relief from extreme nausea over the past 2 months, but I appreciate your input. I'll try harder next time."
Don't call me that. Don't refer to my weight. Don't imply that I have put on weight or that my body has changed in any way. This is truer in the first and second trimester when a lot of women feel a bit self-conscious and in denial about their body. (For me, I had embraced it by the third, but still didn't appreciate the suggestion that I had put on weight!)
It's crazy how appropriate people think it is to comment on a pregnant woman's body. I most enjoyed the company of friends who ignored the fact I was pregnant, didn't ask me about it right away and didn't immediately make a comment about my body/belly.
"Are you the mother or the grandmother?"
TWO women have told me that they have been asked this. If you see a woman holding a baby, for everyone's safety and dignity, just ASSUME that she is the mother. If you have any doubt whatsoever that she could be either, for the love of god, just assume she is the mother. Worst case scenario you make an old lady's day, but to be asked this when you are a new mother must just be HORRIBLE.
"You won't have time for all this exercise/sleep/work during your next pregnancy/after the baby arrives"
Cool. Yeah I've heard rearing children is time consuming. So what should I do now exactly?
"Any day now"
If you KNOW that she is 38+ weeks pregnant, then go ahead and make this comment. Maybe even from week 37. After all, it's true.
But PLEASE DO NOT SAY THIS just because she looks very pregnant to you. People started saying this to me at 6 months which 1) makes you feel poo and that you must be abnormally huge/fat when you already have a whole host of body issues going on and 2) well actually, no, if my baby was born now (s)he would be severely premature and would have all kinds of health complications.
"Oh you're so fit, you'll just bounce back"
Sooooooo much pressure! I've got to get through the birth yet! There could be trauma, interventions that I don't want. I could have a C-section or end up with some birth injury that I have to deal with, emotionally and physically postpartum. I could have a really bad diastasis, or a really fussy baby, or I might not cope with the demands of motherhood.
A lot of people have hastened to tell me "just wait until you have kids, it ruins your body and you don't have time to exercise" - so there is already a HUGE amount of pressure to get back into shape, especially if you work in the fitness industry, ESPECIALLY if you specialise in pre- and post-natal fitness and are supposed to know what to do.
"Are you sure you're not expecting twins?"
Well, my doctor hasn't said anything and there's only one heartbeat and one foetus every time I go for an ultrasound, so yeah I'm pretty sure I'm not having twins. But thanks for making me feel like a fat cow.
"Was it planned?"
Don't ask a complete stranger this.
"Are you going to breastfeed?"
I have no idea. I am 18 weeks pregnant and have hardly got my head around the fact that I am actually going to have a child in a few months. I also don't know if I will be able to/what it will be like/if I will enjoy it and don't know the first thing about babies, so... maybe?
"You're having a girl, I can tell from the shape of your belly"
Well the ultrasound says it has a penis so….
Plus, the shape of my bump will be largely due to factors like my posture, the tone of my abdominal muscles and psoas, the specific positioning of my pelvic organs and the length of my torso… but yeah your gran says boys are all out in front so she's probably right.
"Your bump is so big/small". "Wow you're huge!"
I had a colleague tell me my bump was super small compared to hers, then 5 minutes later another colleague turned the corner screaming "OMG you're SO BIG! You couldn't even tell I was pregnant at your stage!"
Every pregnant woman is already comparing herself to others, there are times in her pregnancy when she feels huge and wonders if she's getting fat or if she has a huge baby. Don't add to that body image drama.
"Really, you gained that much weight already? When I was pregnant, I lost 5 kilos!"
Or maybe "You've ALREADY gained 12 kgs? I only gained 9 throughout my entire pregnancy"
Just don't compare.
"Will you be getting an epidural?"
Maybe, maybe not.
For a lot of women, a natural, unassisted birth is the major goal.
For others, it's pure madness.
But both groups tend to put a lot of their fears and sometimes misconceptions on other women.
I came to feel for myself that I would like to have as little intervention as possible, but that I understand that:
Birth may not go the way I planned, and I need to be open to that
I may need an epidural for medical reasons
It could be a long labour, I could be tired and I might not be able to do it unassisted.
These are all huge uncertainties in my mind as I go into this birth, and as I sit on the fence, in the middle, in the grey area (as I do on most topics) I realise that this is a hugely polarized and highly charged issue for lots of people.
(Like vaccines, crying it out, nutrition and politics)
And for someone like me I've felt pressure from both sides.
I've had women tell me "no, you don't understand how much it hurts, don't try to be a hero" and "don't be one of those women"
And from other women I've received pressure, that I should be "strong enough" to do it without. We talk about "giving in", "not being able to do it" which I think can be really disempowering for lots of women.
There's this kind of social pressure to "succeed" at birthing.
Ultimately... Don't force on her your birthing choice, or assume that your way is the only way to do it.
If she wants a natural birth, don't tell her that she should get an epidural, or assume that she is naive, or say patronizing things like "you just wait".
Likewise, if she wants the epidural, or a scheduled C-section, don't try to convince her to have a natural, unmedicated birth. Assume she has done her own research and has chosen what is best for her. Everyone experiences their body, pain and birth differently. Don't assume that everyone will experience it like you.
You know what, just don't give her unsolicited advice of any kind.
She is probably getting it left, right and centre, and she's probably knee deep in all the books (if she's not, even more reason not to give her advice that she doesn't want)
Ok, that was a bit heavy for this blog post... back to the funny stuff...
"You look tired"
I feel tired. I feel the worst I have ever felt in my life. But I'm really happy that it shows.
"Don't tell anyone until after the first trimester"
So this comment came up around week 10 when I had already told most people.
(Interestingly, it was the same guy who would scream bloody murder about my nutrition choices across the gym. )
Thanks, I'm aware of the social convention to wait until the end of the first trimester as there is still a higher risk of miscarriage or complication at this stage, but due to a whole host of reasons that you are unaware of, I choose to tell people before.
Also, it's funny that you assume that I wouldn't know this already, and that you don't just assume that I have chosen to do otherwise.
"Are you pregnant?"
Don't ask. For so many reasons.
She might not be ready to tell
She might be so so sick of talking about it
SHE MIGHT NOT ACTUALLY BE PREGNANT - I hear this so often from mums who have diastasis or who gave birth a few months ago, (and sometimes ones who gave birth YEARS ago).
She will bring it up when she is ready.
One woman told me that someone asked if she was pregnant while she was holding her 3-month old baby - use your brain and do the maths.
"Just wait until [the baby arrives]"
Yes, I've heard it's hard, and I'm genuinely shitting my pants about that, but thanks for the reminder.
"How much maternity leave are you going to take?"
10 years maybe...
I have zero idea how I'm going to cope with the complete upheaval of my entire life.
I don't know how I am going to cope with having a child, and how and if and when I will feel normal again and start to be able to cope with work.
Guessing how far along she is: "You must be about 7 months by now"
Actually, I'm 12 weeks, but I'm glad to know you think I look more than 28.
Interestingly, I got asked if I was 7 months both in my third month AND in my nineth month. People genuinely have no idea what stage you are at and it is a totally wild guess.
Just ask instead: "How far along are you?"
And just a little bonus rant...
...pregnant women don't tend to know how many "months" they are - everything is in weeks - the doctors, nurses, books, apps all talk about "weeks". I had someone tell me "why do you all answer in weeks, it's difficult for me to work out how many months that is" - well it's difficult for us to work out how many months that is! (especially since they technically count 10 months...)