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

17 August 2007

One of my many observations on being pregnant, which is supported by the concurrence of my pregnant friends and those who have recently been pregnant, is how unbelievably annoying it is that pregnancy seems to create this social expectation that the mother, her belly and everything she does or plans to do in relation to the pregnancy and/or child is suddenly open for public discussion. Here are the top ten most annoying things people have said or done on a recurring basis during my pregnancy so far. For those of you who are pregnancy etiquette-challenged, consider printing this off and carrying it with you as a cheat sheet for the next time you encounter one of us.

#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 They are full of outdated, 90’s information and scare tactics and no pregnant woman in her right mind should expect or be expected to act, eat, or think that way during pregnancy.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.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. Iris permalink
    17 August 2007 20:12

    Hmm. I guess the collective hive mind figures that if you have the obvious signs of continuing the race, that you belong to us all. Or else, I guess that you’re the only one with proof positive that you actually got laid, you hussy.
    Get over yourself. People rub MY belly all the time and I don’t get cranky.
    (Ducking nd Covering)

  2. Auntie Lynn permalink
    21 August 2007 02:23

    Lori — why don’t you say how you really
    feel. Just kidding!!! You are fabulous. You
    should publish this blog! You are great
    writer. As for me, I have no judgements, will ask no questions, and won’t be touching your stomach. So, what can people talk to you about??? Your smart
    @$$ aunt-in-law … Auntie Lynn

  3. 21 August 2007 11:21

    LOL>>> again.. another hilarious post to which I can totally relate =)

    but then… I walk around rubbing my own tummy =)

    I bet my kids could add a list of things that make them cringe… especially my daughter.. (9) she’s sooo sick of question # 9…
    and my son.. oy … I am constantly telling him that people have no idea what they are talking about when they say “you’re so big, you MUSt be having twins!” (especially when the next idiot.. er… friendly person we encounter says I’m ‘so tiny’! UGH!)

    I lOVE the if you didn’t put it there rule! =)

  4. 21 August 2007 11:45

    *ignoring Iris, for her own good*

    Auntie Lynn, you can talk about anything we used to talk about before I was pregnant! πŸ™‚ Most pregnancy-related topics are fine as well, just not the ones listed here.

    I know what you mean about the size thing, Jenni. It’s enough to give you a complex. When I was at a restaurant in Old Town with my mom & sister almost two months ago, some old guy told my sister (not even me — although I was sitting right there!) to not let me eat any more or I might explode… then I have co-workers telling me that I look little. Because, you know, we’re all the same size BEFORE we get pregnant… *roll eyes* Glad you could appreciate the sentiment of the blog — apparently I scared everyone else!

  5. 22 August 2007 15:07

    Similar in spirit to one of my recent posts –

    Be well,

  6. 22 August 2007 17:54

    lol…. maybe they SHOULD be scared! hee hee πŸ˜‰

  7. Tim permalink
    23 August 2007 10:59

    I’d be scared but, fortunately for me, I put it there, so most of the rules don’t apply to me! Suckas! πŸ˜›

  8. Stephanie Johnson permalink
    23 August 2007 12:24

    You are so fabulous. And since I haven’t seen you recently, can we get absolute confirmation that you’ve set down the crack pipe? If not, I’m gonna have to start with #10 and work my way up. But if you are hitting the pipe, chances are you won’t care anyway. πŸ˜›

  9. .Bittersweet. permalink
    24 August 2007 09:53

    Stephanie hasn’t seen you recently? Obviously she forgot that she JUST saw you six days ago. :-p

  10. 24 August 2007 11:17

    Hey, six days is a LONG time to go without seeing me. Withdrawal symptoms set in for most people after a mere 24 hours. πŸ˜‰

  11. bullpoet permalink
    3 March 2008 19:23

    Brilliant. As a newly pregnant woman who has experienced half of the situations on this list already, you are my HERO! And, as a fellow writer, you should definitely publish this. You’re an excellent writer. πŸ˜‰

  12. Jennifer permalink
    9 June 2008 20:33

    I just stubbled across your blog, and OMG you had me LMAO!!! It great to know that I’m not alone and I forwarded your rant to some of the people I know, that think I’m nuts for feeling the way you explained, to show them I’m not alone and yes it is offensive and hurtful. Pregnant or not, no one wants to hear that they’re HUGE or unsolicited advice/comments!!! Thanks for writing this! You made my day!

  13. 14 July 2009 20:31

    Hi! I’m newly into my third trimester and I hope you don’t mind but I’ve copied this post (with acknowledgement) to my blog – it’s just what I’m thinking these days!

  14. Momof3 permalink
    30 January 2010 19:49

    Hey I found this by accident and loved it you made my week. I am actually having twins and have experienced everyone of you top ten with each of my pregnancies, just from my mil and bro-in-law. I prefer dealing with public. I still have another two months to go with this but it really cheered me up to read this. Good luck with pregnancy.

    • 30 January 2010 23:15

      Julie — Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! It’s hard to believe I wrote this entry two and a half years ago, and it’s great to know that I’m still making pregnant women laugh. πŸ™‚ Best wishes for a healthy last two months and beautiful twins to hold in your arms soon.

  15. Pao permalink
    27 January 2011 02:45

    Heyyy so I just literally sat here for about 20 mins crackin up about all da stuff u said. I was so down n annoyed before dis actually put me in a great mood. Thanx πŸ™‚

    P.s dis bein my first pregnancy, I was terrified I was the only one feeling dis way, haha thank you for dis post!!!!

  16. Kirsten permalink
    11 April 2011 19:38

    I just found this. I’m 38 weeks along with #2, and I just have to tell you that you rock. Really. You rock.

  17. Maria permalink
    16 May 2011 11:32

    I haven’t laughed so hard in a really long time. I am 11 weeks pregnant and just last night I had a lady tell me: ” WOW you going to get FAT!” It made me feel horrible at the time, I even felt like crying some, but this has made my day. Thank you so much for sharing!!

  18. Brittni permalink
    18 May 2011 22:57

    This is wonderful. Written four years ago and still amazing. Clearly, or it wouldn’t have came up so high on a list of things not to do while pregnant google search. Even though I was looking for things that I shouldn’t do, not what other people shouldn’t do. Either way, made my night for sure.

  19. Buddy permalink
    11 April 2012 21:27

    I hope you don’t mind a I have printed out this page, laminated it and stuck it on the door to my office!

  20. Christina Casper permalink
    21 September 2012 15:59

    I was annoyed by the comment, “yay, now we have a designated driver for 9 months.” Really? Because I’m so eagar to go sit at a bar with a bunch of annoying drunk people until 2 in the morning drinking fizzy drinks and pretending like I don’t feel like vomiting.


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