“Do you feel fat?”
At nine months pregnant, I’d gotten my share of tactless comments. I learned that most people knew how to talk to pregnant women, including my sister’s 3, 5, 7, and 9- year-old kids, but some people struggled.
“Yes,” I answered to that tactless, yet very timely question. Of course I felt fat. My belly was like five full blown balloons combined into one. I had purple veins stretching across my thighs and hips, and I had to hold my belly to flip over in bed. But I was getting used to this talk, and I was surprisingly not moody that day, so I jokingly responded, “Why, do I look fat?”
“Yes,” said the elderly volunteer who I worked with.
Then I felt my need to protect women in future conversations and said, “Never tell a pregnant woman she looks fat.”
“But you do,” she said, matter-of-factly. “It’s for a good reason though.”
“Still…No pregnant woman wants to hear that. You just don’t tell a pregnant woman she’s fat.”
She and the other volunteer standing with her in the hall, waiting for the elevator, acted genuinely surprised.
“Really?” They asked, as if they’d never considered this.
13 weeks ago, I bundled Haven up in a snow suit, and we walked to Wal-Mart to buy a pregnancy test. That day, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. Now my stomach is jutting out and I’m just waiting for the comments to start rolling in, but this time, maybe I won’t be so nice. I’m coming up with a mental list of awkward answers for the crazy questions coming my way, but in the meantime, all I can do is try to rid the world of a few uncomfortable moments. Here are some tips on how to talk to a pregnant lady.
WHAT NOT TO SAY:
Anything with the word “big” or “fat” in it.
Seriously, just exclude these words from any conversation with a pregnant lady unless you’re referring to a roast you’re going to cook for her. I’ve seen pregnant women whose bellies look seriously swollen—I know it’s hard not to look and say something, but just secretly snap a picture or something and show your pals later. It’s such a weird sensation to have your body completely change, but it’s even weirder that people suddenly feel comfortable enough to talk to you about it. I know there are some pregnant women who feel awesome and beautiful, but the rest of us just feel like whales. Just stay safe and don’t say big or fat…ever!
Are you sure there aren’t two in there?
Oh my gosh. I think every mom I’ve talked to has heard this one. It’s not funny. Just…don’t.
You’re pregnant again? Already?
If a woman has told you she’s pregnant, there’s no need to repeat the statement. She probably really is. Already. Also, who’s to decide how close in age is too close for kids? That ultimate parenting rule book we’ve all been waiting for has not been published yet, so nobody knows the rule. Cut ‘em some slack.
Any of the following words: cupcakes, ice cream, cupcakes, chocolate, cookies, etc.
Most pregnant women are still themselves; they can still control many aspects of life, but cravings may not be one of them. Don’t mention sweets, unless you have something ready to give her. When I hear the word, I suddenly HAVE TO have it. I might be worse than most people though…I can’t even drive to the post office without craving a cupcake because I know that one of my favorite bakeries is just a block away. But just be safe and don’t use these words. (Now that I’ve written them, I have to find a way to get a cupcake STAT!)
Your horror stories.
Seriously ladies, why would you do this??? I was surprised by how many moms divulged their terrifying labor experiences to me during my first pregnancy. I had already imagined the worst, but then having women tell me about how bad it was for them was terrible! I think a lot of us probably already expect it to be the most painful, terrifying experience of our lives.
When I was your age, I already had ___ kids.
No need to one up. I’m sure this seems like an innocent comment, but you never know why someone is having kids a little later. A lot of people my age have a full on family and are probably even done having kids. Sometimes I feel a little behind only having one and it feels like I don’t quite fit in with some women my age, but if I had more kids, that would mean I’d have a different husband and a different child, which is a terrible thought. I also know a lot of people who have struggled with infertility, so when someone says, “Finally!” or “I had all of my kids by the time I was your age!” that could feel like some seriously stingy salt in the wound. If a couple decided to wait even though they could’ve gotten pregnant, that’s their very personal business. Also, some people get married later in life, so they naturally get started on their families later. It’s oookay.
You’re excited now, just wait…
I know I’m not the only one who had naysayers making me think my life would be hell once I let a kid into the world. Why would the same people who ask you when you’re going to start having kids then act like it’s the worst part of their lives? Being a parent is hard, but let people make their own decisions about how wonderful or terrible it is.
WHAT TO SAY:
Even if you think she’s too young or too old or it’s too soon after she got married or too close to her last birth, just smile and say, “Congratulations!”
You look beautiful!
I worked with a lot of elderly people during my last pregnancy, and not to generalize or anything…but a lot of them made some pretty insensitive comments (most are mentioned above). One day, I was getting breakfast at a café near my work and the cashier, who happened to be a senior too, said, “You are the cutest pregnant lady!” She made my day. My week. My life, probably. I certainly didn’t feel cute, but I was on top of the world when she said that. It was a refreshing break from all the comments about how big I was.
I got you a cupcake.
I don’t know why this doesn’t happen more often. Cupcakes aren’t expensive. Neither are cookies or shakes. Just be generous.
Being a parent is the best.
Or you could say some variation of this. This would be nice. Tell a pregnant lady what you love about being a parent or how much fun you have. I met a woman who has five children and when she told me that, I said, “Oh wow, is that crazy?” Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but I say dumb things too sometimes…She said, “It’s so fun!” I’m 95% sure her life is crazy, but I love that she actually acts like she likes being a parent. Even if you do feel like your life is in shambles, maybe just try to pick out one positive thing to say and keep the rest to yourself.
I’ll do the dishes. You go lie down.
Fatigue is for real, friends! Pregnant women are not just being lazy, I promise. Hormones, stuff going on with blood, and all the physical changes going on in her body can truly make a pregnant woman exhausted. I sometimes feel overwhelmed because I have a lot to do every day (like everyone else), but by the time Haven is down for a nap, I climb in bed to write and end up falling asleep too. I know I’m not alone. But I also know a lot of women don’t have the luxury of actually being able to take a nap like I do, so instead, they have to walk around like zombies, trying to find the energy to pick up the magnetic letters scattered across the floor so they slip. Just do the dishes. Don’t ask, just do.
I got you a gift.
When I was pregnant with Haven, one of my male coworkers said to me, “I know a lot of people get something for the baby, but my sisters said it’d be nice to get something for the mom.” He gave me stretch mark cream, but I was not offended at all because it was so nice. If you’re going to a baby shower, just throw a little lotion or lip gloss in with that pack of onesies that’ll get stained anyway.