Everyone knows not to ask a woman if she is pregnant for fear of mutual embarrassment if the assumption is incorrect. Even though that should be common knowledge, that is not the only pregnancy mistake that a person can make. Would you walk up to a perfect stranger and call them fat? What would you say if someone you had never met walked up and put their hand on your midsection? I have noticed that many actions that are not polite or socially acceptable in everyday life are somehow okay when pregnancy is involved. I seek to create new rules to apply to social encounters with pregnant women so as to not unintentionally offend. Here’s what NOT to say (or do) to a pregnant woman:
- Look, don’t touch. Just because a baby is under that belly, that does not eliminate the need for personal space. Ask before you reach out your un-sanitized hand to touch my belly. There are multiple layers of me between your hand and my baby. Even if there weren’t, I actually believe that a perfect stranger shouldn’t touch my baby without permission and hand-sanitizer anyway.
- Don’t guess how far along I am. You are wrong, and you will undoubtedly hurt my feelings. If you guess too few weeks or months, you will make me feel like my baby isn’t growing well enough. If you guess too many, then I’ll think that I’m either fat or have a really big baby who I will struggle to deliver. Pregnant women are never the “right” size to onlookers. Just ask, don’t guess.
- Don’t criticize. If you have asked how far along I am, keep any commentary related to my answer to yourself. Just say “Aww, that’s nice” rather than “You are so big/small.” If I tell you the name, it is not license for you to issue an opinion, unless of course you like it. If you ask if it is a boy or a girl and I don’t know, that’s my choice. If I do know, don’t feel sorry for me if I’m not having what you think I want or should have. Sample response: “Aww, he/she is going to be so pretty/handsome,” or “I know you are excited to find out who is in there.”
- Don’t share. From your own stories to those of friends and family, if it wasn’t normal, I don’t need to hear about it. Consider this, what purpose is your delivery story going to serve me? (a) Will it stop something terrible from happening to me? I’m shaking my head. (b) Will it give me nightmares until my delivery? (c) Will it reassure me that everything will be okay when my day comes. If the answer is anything but (c), keep it to yourself.
Okay, enough with the negative. What is acceptable to say to a woman with child?
- Tell her she is beautiful, no matter how self-deprecating she is to herself.
- Remind her to drink plenty of water and eat a healthy diet for this beautiful baby.
- Wish her a safe and happy pregnancy and delivery.
- Make sure her “what to expect” from you is loving, joyous and nothing less.