Saturday, 18 July 2009

Top Ten Things to Not Say or Do to a Pregnant Woman

This is totally lifted from Growing a Blueberry, because I thought she had it down perfect.

#10: Any sentence that starts with the phrases, “Are you allowed to… ?”, “Are you taking/eating ____?”, “Should you be… ?” or, if you’re a barista at Starbucks, “Was that decaf?”
Newsflash: From the second a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is inundated with a barrage of sources telling her what she can/can’t/should/shouldn’t do/eat/think/feel/want/see. She gets it from friends, relatives, doctors, television, magazines, baby sites and total strangers. I can almost guarantee you that whatever it is she is doing that you are questioning her about she is not doing with thoughtless abandon.

Unless you’re her midwife, doctor or nutritionist or she has asked for your sage wisdom on the topic, then shut it. The child is not going to come out with three heads because you didn’t tell her that you read in your friend’s copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” that she should eat five pounds of spinach a day. Those books, by the way, should be burned. They are full of outdated, 90’s information and scare tactics and no pregnant woman in her right mind should expect or be expected to act, eat, or think that way during pregnancy. Or any time in her life, for that matter.

As long as she’s not smoking, doing crack, or drinking a fifth of vodka a day, the baby will be fine. You, on the other hand, will not be fine if you keep insulting her intelligence by questioning everything she does.

#9: The follow-up question to “Do you know what you’re having?” should not be, “Is that want you wanted?”
No, it’s not what we wanted. We thought about trading it in for a puppy when it was born, but we figured we might as well just keep it and see how it goes.

When pressed to be totally honest, most parents-to-be have a preference for what they want(ed) the baby to be. But guess what? Most parents-to-be get over what they “want” and are thrilled to have a healthy baby of either sex. There is such a thing as a stupid question, and this is one of them.

#8: “Are your ankles that swollen from the pregnancy?”
Is your ass that big from sitting at a desk all day? Actually, my ankles aren’t swollen. They almost always look like this because I have fat legs… thank you for pointing it out. I didn’t already feel like a gigantic heifer.

There are probably multiple things about a woman that you didn’t really notice (or wouldn’t have commented on) before she got pregnant. Apparently, for some, pregnancy miraculously dissolves any sort of social propriety about remarking on physical appearance and it’s suddenly okay to make such brazen comments. If you wouldn’t bring it up when she’s NOT pregnant, don’t even dream of letting it slip past your tongue when she is. Period.

#7: Any statement that begins with, “Wow, you…
…Have gotten big? …Eat a lot now? …Must be having twins? …Look really uncomfortable/tired/sick?

Thank you, Dr. Obvious. Any other genius observations you’d like to make? Trust me, pregnant women are all too aware of how big they look, exactly how many pounds and inches they’ve gained and how pregnant they feel. Pointing it out is not a conversation-starter. This is a human being you’re talking to, not a baby machine. If you don’t know what to say, then don’t say anything at all. I’d much rather talk to a person who doesn’t even acknowledge that I’m pregnant during conversation than someone who makes the first inane observation that pops in to his or her head because they feel like they simply must say something pregnancy-related.

#6: In response to hearing about a pregnancy complaint or problem, saying, “Oh, it’s just _____.”
I’ll tell you exactly where this one comes from… a family friend of ours. He was asking me how things were going after my kidney infection absence, which landed me in the ER with early labor contractions and a subsequent week of mind-numbing pain whenever I tried to eat or drink anything. His response? “Oh, it’s just Braxton Hicks.” What… the… f@&$*%?! It took every ounce of restraint I had to not rip him a new one and drop-kick him by the nuts right out the door.

First of all, they weren’t BH contractions. Second, you’re a male so you’re automatically not allowed to speculate on pregnancy symptoms. Third, if what we were talking about was related to BH contractions, there is no such thing as “just” in relation to pregnancy. Everything affects every woman differently… what bothers one to no end will be no big deal to another. So, even if you’re a guy who has been through a pregnancy or two (or five) with your partner, or you’re a woman who has been pregnant, don’t assume that something you didn’t mind must not be a big deal, or something you didn’t experience isn’t that bad.

#5: Telling pregnancy or labor “horror” stories.
Somehow people think they’re doing pregnant women a favor by passing along what happened to their brother’s co-worker’s niece who was on bed rest from the first trimester, induced at 42 weeks, in labor for 39 hours with a failed epidural and then forced to have a c-section to deliver her 12 pound baby that landed her back in the hospital a week later for an infection. That’s like telling someone who is flying for the first time that they have a better chance of winning the lottery than surviving the trip. Why would you do that?

Fear & stress are the top causes of problems in pregnancy and birth. They are also the reasons why women are scared in to modern methods of prenatal care and “delivery” where interventions actually cause more complications than they alleviate. Instead of educating society on how normal and safe birth is, it’s more fun to pass along urban legends and traumatic tales. This is not the Discovery Channel high-risk birth show. Chances are, the Mom-to-Be will have a relatively healthy, very safe experience. There are enough natural worries that come with being pregnant and having a baby without you adding to them.

#4: Asking about birth or post-birth decisions… and then offering your (unwanted) opinion on the answer.
Breastfeeding or bottles. To circumcise or not. Natural birth or anesthesia. Cloth or disposable diapers. Home birth or hospital. There are tons of choices and very, very personal decisions to make during this time period and, as with the mother’s health-related topics, she will be inundated with information from every angle including well-intended “advice” from family, friends and perfect strangers. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about these things at all. I’m saying you should be prepared for a difference in opinion and willing to accept that your advice may not always be heeded or even appreciated.

Things have changed and are changing on a constant basis with the latest trends, wellness concepts and medical studies. Barring the unlikely chance that you’re a doctor or midwife or you’ve given birth in the last few years, you’re probably behind the curve. If you feel very strongly about a certain topic and you think you really need to add your two cents, it would behoove you to research what you think you know before you go running off at the yap about it to an already overwhelmed Mom-to-Be.

#3: Everything you need to know about reacting to baby names (or lack thereof).
As I mentioned in a previous entry, there seems to be a growing trend to not share potential baby names before the birth. It’s also a trend for grown adults to whine like five-year-olds about not being in on the decision. This is a baby being born to two parents, not a moon-child being born in a commune. You don’t have a right to know. Also from the “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” school of thought… incessant whining and bringing up the topic again and again is not going to change their minds and make them want to tell you even more.

If you’re privileged enough to be told the names, making faces or disparaging remarks at the choices is not appropriate, even if they are better suited titles for fruit, pets, or your 90-year-old great-grandmother. A better idea is to make a big deal out of how great the names are that you do like and refrain from commenting on the rest.

#2: Stating — whether implied or directly — that something a pregnant woman says or does is “just because you’re hormonal.”
This may very well be case, but if hormones are really the cause of the outburst, blog, road rage incident or crying jaunt to which you refer, is it really a good idea to further exacerbate the problem by telling her she’s hormonal? This ranks right up there with saying to a non-pregnant woman, “Geez, are you PMS’ing or something?” People who have won the Darwin Award have had better ideas than this.

Pregnancy hormones suck. The only thing worse than feeling completely out of control over the way you think, feel, and act is feeling like people expect you to be able to behave normally because they have now pointed out why you are thinking/feeling/acting this way. Even if you’re only trying to be sympathetic and understanding… don’t do it by using any derivative of the word “hormone” in a sentence for at least two hours. Your best bet is to be vewwy, vewwwy quiet and not make any sudden moves.

And the #1 thing to not do… unauthorized belly touching.
I have been poked in the stomach like the Pillsbury dough boy, rubbed as a manner of greeting – usually in conjunction with a comment on how big I’m getting, asked by acquaintances and near-strangers if they can touch (if you have to ask, the answer is “No”) and even got violated by a belly rub before I was showing at all!

Here’s the rule: If you didn’t put it there, you don’t get to touch it without permission.

Let’s talk about permission. Permission does not mean asking, “Can I touch your stomach?” while reaching towards the belly in question. Putting a pregnant woman on the spot like that is just as rude as touching without asking. Permission means the Mom-to-Be says something along the lines of, “Oh, feel this!” and places your hand on her belly. Permission is a one-time, limited offer and does not mean that touching privileges are extended beyond the present moment.

Possibly the most disturbing phenomenon to us round-bellied beauties, is the common misconception that once people know there’s a bun in the oven, the pregnant stomach is miraculously transformed to some sort of hands-on public petting zoo exhibit. How would you feel if every time you encountered someone you had to worry about them poking, pushing or prodding you in the stomach? It’s not a good feeling. If you really need to rub a belly rub your own, get someone pregnant, or get a dog.

1 comment:

waterbob said...

Wow! Good post and so articulate.
I am trying to remember if I have crossed the lines that are there.
If I transgress please just point me at the post - I only need a small hint!
There must be a similar list about babies once they are there and everyone feels free to attack them and invade their space.