One thing I have noticed throughout this experience is that pregnancy and motherhood seems to open up your body, actions and choices to comment, judgement and unsolicited advice from all and sundry, including total strangers. Now, most of the time I realise this is done with the best of intentions, or maybe just without thinking first about how these comments will affect the recipient. These are things I never would have thought about myself until having joined the pregnant club, so I decided I would like to share some of the things that get said to pregnant women that irritate me the most. I am not at all intending this as a dig at anyone, but rather an attempt to share what it feels like from this side of the bump.
|I reckon this chick knows where I’m coming from.
Bear in mind that pregnant women are going through a huge change in both their body and life, and they are necessarily awash with hormones, so yes, maybe we are a little oversensitive at times. I think it’s pretty undertstandable! It occured to me the other day that PMS is just pregnancy hormones which then go away when no pregnancy occurs and you get your period. However, when during that time, you do get pregnant, then the hormones just ramp up to support that little life inside of you and all the extra life-support it requires in there. Therefore, pregnancy is pretty much like 9 months of PMS on steriods.
Yeah – handle with care, people. You have been warned.
No seriously, we’re not all pregzillas, but we are still women, and we are going through a major life upheaval. Really all we need is a little tenderness and consideration. Bearing this in mind, here are some things NOT to say to a pregnant woman.
1. “Wow, you’re HUGE!”
“Twins or triplets?”
“Are you eating for two or three?”
“Holy crap, look at your boobs!”
Any other comment about the size and shape of her body.
Suddenly, when you’re pregnant, people all of a sudden feel that all normal social rules are off and your body is open to blunt comment and rude jokes. Newsflash – pregnant women are still women. No woman wants to be called huge, pregnant or not. If you’re surprised at the changes in her body, consider how she must be feeling, considering the changes are happening to her own body and she hasn’t the slightest bit of control over it (and no, just because her butt is also getting bigger doesn’t mean she’s using pregnancy as an excuse to stuff her face – every woman puts on weight differently in pregnancy and there’s not much she can do to control it).
|Pretty much sums it up.
When you think about it, pregnancy is a lot like puberty. Your body is undergoing a whole bunch of weird changes that you don’t quite understand and have absolutely no control over. So can you imagine going up to a teenage boy and saying something like:
“oh wow you’ve got a really hairy upper lip for a 14 year old!” or “ooh your voice is still pretty high for a 15 year old isn’t it? Have your balls dropped yet?”
If the boy in question had any kind of gumption whatsoever, his perfectly legitimate response would be “fuck off”.
And yet somehow, it’s ok to comment on all manner of body changes in a pregnant woman (“oh, I thought you must be almost due, are you having twins?” “wow your boobs have gotten HUGE!” “oh, you’re that far along, where is the baby?!”) and she is meant to smile and what – agree with you?
I understand that pregnancy brings about rather quick bodily changes that are pretty obvious and sometimes surprising, but please remember that we are still women. We still want to feel beautiful, we still don’t want to be called “huge”, we still have the right to go about our daily business without every aspect of our body being public game for judgement and comment (just judge us in your head like you do everyone else!).
I should add that this doesn’t necessarily mean every bump comment is off limits. Depending on how she’s feeling on the day, a comment like “ooh isn’t your bump looking lovely today” is a positive and friendly way of acknowledging a woman’s pregnancy without making her feel like a giant blimp. Sometimes a discussion about her growing bump, when done in a positive way that includes excitement about the baby inside, can be a really nice thing to share with appropriate people. One of the things that really peeved me off was comments about my bump as if it were somehow a reflection on me, without any acknowledgement of my baby inside or how exciting that is. Remember that a bump is just a visible manifestation of the fact that new life is growing inside of her, and that new life is what the woman really wants to talk about. Also, I find a comment on the size of my boobs far more acceptable from my sister or close friend, than from my random male work colleague or that guy on facebook that you haven’t spoken to in ages.
Basically, what I’m saying is – normal rules of social acceptability still apply to pregnant women. If you wouldn’t like it to be said to you, chances are she isn’t going to enjoy it either.
2. Labour Horror Stories
Look, I’m going to have to be blunt here – this one really shits me. Whether or not the baby was planned, by the time she’s pregnant enough to notice, you’re pretty safe to assume that she’s going to have the baby. Which is most cases means she is going to give birth to the baby. Out the vajayjay. It’s inevitable, there’s no other way out – it’s just going to happen and there’s nothing she can do about it. Most days I find myself identifying with Harry here:
Bearing the inevitability of this event in mind, no, I do not want to hear about your horrific 36 hour labour or your cracked pelvis or how much you screamed or generally how horendous labour was for you or about the woman who accidentally gave birth on the toilet and gave her child cerebral palsy. How do you think that this is going to be helpful or productive in any way?
For one thing, not everyone has a horrible labour. There are some wonderful birth stories out there, and I think too many women are afraid to tell them because they “feel bad” because not everyone has such a wonderful experience. Well, I say, own your wonderful labour! Please tell me about it! I know I haven’t been through labour yet, so this is something I will have to revisit in a month or two, but I currently believe (or am choosing to believe for my own sanity) that reducing the fear of labour will consequently reduce the pain, or if not the pain, at least the panic of the experience. Why would you think it would be conducive to my own labour experience to fill my head full of fear and terror?
As I have said – the fact that I am going to have to go through labour and birth is inevitable. If I let it, the mere thought of it would be completely scary and overwhelming. I firmly believe that the more fear I allow myself to feel, the higher the chances of having one of those awful labours so many people feel intent on telling you about. So, regardless of whether or not it is true, I choose to believe that my labour and birth can be a wonderful, positive experience. Seeing as it is going to happen no matter what I believe, I would rather spend my pregnancy excited and happy than living in fear of that rapidly approaching day.
I am very sorry for you if you had a difficult labour experience. Please allow me to go into my own experience with an open mind and heart.
3. “Enjoy sleep now before it becomes a foreign concept.”
“Your life is never going to be the same.”
Various other variations on the theme of “your life is now over.”
Look, I get it already – having kids is hard. It’s life changing. They aren’t always little darlings and your life has to completely adapt to them and their needs.
I would like to refer you to the picture of Harry above in section 2. If I am pregnant enough for you to comment on it, then you can be pretty sure I am keeping my baby. Therefore, you are pretty safe to assume that I have some concept of the fact that I will shortly have a baby in my care and that I have considered the implications of this. Some people like to suggest that this means you will never sleep or have sex or really have any form of happiness ever again. The fact that most of these people are already parents only makes it all the more depressing.
As I have said, I am inevitiably going to have a baby. Can’t you just let me be excited about it? Can’t I just be happy about it? I know it will be hard and that there will be all kinds of trials and tribulations that I currently have no idea about. Is constantly reminding me that life as I know it is now over really going to assist in making this a positive experience for me? What is actually the point of these comments other than to impress your own unhappiness upon my experience?
The thing is, I’m sure half of the people who say these things aren’t actually unhappy and really love their children. After dishing out these dire warnings that the end is nigh, they probably go home to a little person who adores them and to all those little tiny moments that make parenthood so special and so worth all the crap that comes with it. But these moments are moments of the heart, not something that can readily be put into words. It’s much easier to put into words the sleep deprivation, frustration, need for alone time. But just remember that this is kind of like sharing your plate of gross vegies with me, and then going home to your dessert which you keep all to yourself, leaving me with just the taste of mushy peas in my mouth (peas are gross, the end!).
Parenthood, like anything, has all kind of elements, some wonderful, some not so wonderful. Catch the right parent on a good day, and they will tell you that your life isn’t over, but rather just beginning – that the depth of what you feel when the child you made looks you in the eye and calls you mummy blows any drunken night of alcohol and the freedom of youthful stupidity out of the water. But regardless of whether you enjoy being a parent or not – I am about to become one and by now, it is too late to change my mind. So maybe, if you don’t have something positive to say about it, perhaps consider whether your comment has any constructive purpose before imposing it upon me. Believe me, I already have enough apprehension about the whole thing to get me through the day without it being added to.
Let’s not forget that this whole thing is a miracle – how it started, what it does to my body, the way it is going to change my life…. it is all a miracle and a gift. I am pregnant, I am going to have a baby, and I am thrilled about it. I feel like my life means something. As someone who was once described as “an experiencer experiencing”, I am loving and embracing the most amazing experience I’ve ever had. If you would like to share in my excitement, please, comment away. Constructively. Just remember that I am still a person with feelings, that your experience doesn’t have to be my experience, and that being pregnant doesn’t open my life up to any old comment that may happen to run through your head.
Look, after I’ve had the baby, I realise that I may very well be back here saying “yes, I was huge, yes, it does freaking hurt, and yes, my life is over!” But this is what it feels like on this side of the fence, and I hope I can remember that once I have made that leap to the other side!