For some reason the moment a woman becomes pregnant, it seems to be acceptable to make all kinds of highly inappropriate comments about her appearance. From everyone. Close family and friends, work colleagues, neighbours, shop-keepers, all the way through to random people at the bus stop (oh my goodness the bust stop becomes a whole new place of sociability, but that’s another story!).
But if it is not acceptable to say to someone who isn’t pregnant: oh, you’ve got big tits, or you look a bit fat, or your skin is a bit shit, or your hair looks weird, then why oh why do people feel it is acceptable to pass comment on pregnant women? So here is Birthzang’s guide on what not to say to a pregnant woman, and giving you some easy guidelines of what to say instead
Don’t say: Your bump looks big/small
Do say: your bump looks perfect!
I mean really this is akin to saying: your bum looks big in that! Apart from the fact that we all come in different shapes and sizes, heights and proportions so, er OBVIOUSLY our bumps are all going to be different, who made you the expert of exactly how big or small a bump should be at any particular stage in pregnancy?
The fact remains that despite outward appearances, bump are pretty uniform in terms of fundal height (the measurement between your pelvic bone and the top of your bump) and this is something the midwife does regularly. There is an uncanny precision between the number of week and number of cm, but when you stand up, we all carry the bump in a different way.
And if your baby is measuring a bit big or small for their gestation it is still something rarely to be worried about, and still your unhelpful comments about the size of my bump are frankly none of your goddamned business.
AND DON”T EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING MY BUMP!!!!
Best reply: Well, you have really big tits! Your have a really small arse! Or my favourite, how dare you pass comment on my body, fuck off!
Don’t say: You must be really excited
Do say: I am really excited for you!
I mean of course when you see the two pink lines of course you are really excited! Whether your pregnancy was planned or not, it is a life-changing moment. But you can’t sustain this level of excitement for 9 months and frankly after a few days it starts getting really old.
And then the morning sickness kicks in and it is even harder to maintain any level of excitement with your head down the toilet ten times a day. We are mostly all thrilled about being pregnant, but it can also be really hard work and sometimes really unenjoyable.
Much better if you can maintain that level of excitement on my behalf.
Best reply: I am so excited I threw up! Fuck off!
Don’t say: Was it planned?
Do say: What a wonderful new journey for you to be on
This is the equivalent of saying: so did you use contraception or are you a dirty stop-out? I mean just think for a SECOND about this comment? What business is it of yours how I conduct my sex life?
Planning parenthood is a very tricky subject and what makes you think I am going to discuss it with you? Any answer is just about making a judgement on me. If I did plan it then does that make me more responsible, more grown-up, more ready, better equipped, more likely to be a “good” parent? If it was unplanned does that make me slutty, irresponsible, not sticking to my 5 year plan, less equipped and more likely to be a “bad” parent? No? Well then what goddamned business is it of yours?
Not only that, you have no idea what kind of journey people have been on to get pregnant. It may have been full of pain and heartache and loss and one that people just don’t want to share.
Best reply: It’s none of your goddamned business actually! Fuck off!
Don’t say: You’ve got a big bump, are you sure it’s not twins/are you sure there’s only one in there?
Do say: You have such a beautiful bump, I am so happy for you.
It is not funny. We’ve heard it 50 times. And basically it just feels like you are making a judgment about the size and shape of my body. It may have been twins and one miscarried.
If it was twins i would be SURE to know (remember everyone has a scan at 12 weeks and it is virtually unheard of to miss an actual baby), and I would be telling you with glee!
What a ridiculous thing to say.
Best reply: Can you think of something more original to say? Why do you feel it is appropriate to make comments about the size of my bump? Fuck off.
Don’t say: Make sure you get lots of sleep before the baby comes (haha)!
Do say: Make sure you pamper yourself as much as you can.
Sleep and pregnancy are two words that don’t go together very well. In the first trimester you are totally exhausted as your body is putting all its resources into growing your baby. And I mean ALL your resources.
Coupled with varying degrees of morning sickness which is also draining, all you want to do at the start is sleep. However, most people keep pregnancy a secret in this trimester so you have to go around as normal trying to muster all your energy just to stay awake the entire day.
Once the second trimester kicks in and the placenta takes over nourishing the baby, you feel a lot less tired. But the bump is getting bigger, your lungs start getting squashed, your organs are being compromised and you start to get aches and niggles in your back and hips, and if you are unlucky, pelvic pain can rear its ugly head.
By the third trimester sleep has done a runner. You can’t get comfy in bed, turning over is a mission in itself, you wake up every hour for a wee – again, mission – and then you can’t get back to sleep. Pregnancy insomnia is very real, very annoying, and very frustrating. And then baby starts kicking the shit of your vagina. But you are still at work and/or have small kids so you can’t rest anyway.
And by the tie you finally get to bed it is the most unrestful place imaginable.
Best reply: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Fuck off.
Don’t say: I had a wonderful pregnancy and bloomed throughout!
Do say: You look beautiful!
Well BULLY FOR YOU!!!!! See above comment on sleep.
Add in all the symptoms you can possibly get in pregnancy: tiredness, nausea, severe vomiting, heightened smell, repulsions, cravings, enhanced hearing, back ache, hip pain, bladder weakness, insomnia, carpel tunnel syndrome, loss of appetite, increased appetite, weight gain, fluid retention, swollen feet and hands, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, really sore boobs, cramping, bleeding (light or heavy), ligament pain, braxton hicks contractions, bloating, UTIs, constipation, wind, piles, thrush, metallic taste in mouth, dry mouth, excess saliva, bleeding gums, vivd dreams, headaches, blocked nose, leg cramps, restless limbs, nosebleeds, heartburn & indigestion, spots and acne, hot flushes, dizziness, topped off with crazy hormones making you feel REALLY FUCKING EMOTIONAL ALL THE TIME!!!
Just really, REALLY?????
Best reply: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Fuck off.
Don’t say: I hope your labour isn’t too horrific…[proceeds to tell horror story about labour]
Do say: It is a great idea to prepare for labour, are you planing to do any antenatal classes? Have you heard of Active Birth?
There is an old adage that says if you believe something is going to be amazing, then you’re right, and if you believe it is going to be awful then you’re right!
OK, well I can’t guarantee that believing you’re going to have an amazing labour and birth does not guarantee an amazing labour and birth, but I am convinced that expecting a dreadful one sets you well on the road to having one. Your mindset is crucial in your labour and birth and listening to other people’s birth experiences are not really that helpful.
You do need to have realistic expectations of what might happen, but at the same time you need to ensure that you fill your head with as many positive birth stories as possible.
Doing an antenatal class is so beneficial and when you do something like Birthzang’s Active Birth workshop, we spend a lot of time getting into the right kind of mindset, whilst backing it up with a host of practical tools to cope with labour.
Best reply: Can I just stop you there, I don’t really need to hear about your dreadful birth experience. Can you give me any advice on what you found helpful?
Don’t say: [On or past due date] Have you had that baby yet? They must be very comfortable in there!
Do say: Do you fancy a coffee?
Due dates are a complete load of utter nonsense anyway, but the very LAST thing a pregnant person wants to hear is have you had your baby yet?
I mean, what kind of question is that anyway? If I had had the baby the don’t you think I would have told you? But yet from about 38 weeks friends and family and total strangers text, phone, email, tag you on Facebook and constantly ask you if baby has arrived.
And if they haven’t (which, obviously they haven’t otherwise you would have told them), then what follows is some kind of helpful comment about how the baby must be comfortable.
Yes, because being a 9lb baby curled up inside a woman’s uterus surrounded by amniotic fluid is comfy. You can’t stretch your legs, or lift your head, or move for that matter, plus you are head down so think about that kind of headrush, not to mention about being pushed through a vagina for some (or many) hours imminently = not comfy!
Jeez, people just make it all about them. And of course all the tips about how to naturally induce a baby come out (don’t get me STARTED on Pineapples) nearly all of which are just as much tosh as the concept of a due date.
Best to just keep shtum and stalk people on Facebook until they make their announcement 9and it goes without saying that you don’t announce for them on FB, right? maybe not, best mention it as well).
Best reply: Actually my baby’s head is just crowning so I’m a bit busy right now, can I call you back in 5? or Fuck off!
Don’t say: I hope you know what you’re letting yourself in for, parenting is really hard.
Do say: Parenting is such a wonderful journey, please do feel free to contact me if you ever need any support
No-one, and I mean NO-ONE can truly prepare themselves for the roller-coaster of parenting.
From the first few minutes and for the rest of your life, this bundle will be all-consuming in ways you cannot imagine. What can you really say to prepare people? – nothing.
Even if you come up with the perfect bits of advice, pregnant people can’t ever really understand what it will truly be like, so will still never be truly “prepared”.
It is an experience that is unique to an individual and cannot be described. A bit like explaining the colour green to a blind person. Just don’t bother.
Make yourself available to them and understand that nothing you say right now will make any difference and will probably just serve to worry them.
Best reply: I shall certainly be looking to you for support when the baby comes. What’s your phone number?
The general rule of thumb: be nice
It is pretty obvious (isn’t it? Apparently not!) that you just shouldn’t say this kind of negative, judgemental shit to a pregnant woman.
It is unkind and serves only to make them anxious and/or upset and there is ENOUGH in pregnancy to deal with without you adding your shit to the pile.
Just be nice. Just say nice things. Don’t try to impart judgement or compare them to you/other people. Celebrate their uniqueness and the miracle of life developing in their belly. Compliment their looks if you must say something and don’t try to offer advice unless it is asked for – believe me it is not wanted.
Have I missed anything? Did someone say something to you that made your blood boil? Please do comment and let me know.