What Not to Say…

to a Pregnant Woman.

People say weird shit to pregnant women. Every other human who’s ever grown a child with their body, knows this to be true.

So in the spirit of everyone getting a long a little better, I’ve decided that the rule to live by, should you find yourself talking to a person “with child”, is to not say anything you wouldn’t say to a non-pregnant person. Here are some examples:

  1. Do not tell a pregnant person she looks fat. Would you tell a non-pregnant person they look fat? No. (Or at least I very much hope not.) I’m presuming that anyone who throws this kind of insult at a woman who’s probably already feeling weird about their body, is actually trying to say, “your bump looks bigger.” If this is the case, I suggest the ol’ faithful “you’re blooming.” Everyone knows this is code for “oh my, you’re expanding at a rate of knots,” but the fact that it implies you’re opening up like a beautiful flower and that yes, you may be the size of a small fishing vessel, but it doesn’t matter because you’re growing a human (which is a frikin miracle), makes it all okay.
  2. Do not comment on how much a pregnant person is eating. Unless you’re a medical professional, in a medical situation, I don’t think it’s a good idea to comment on the amount that someone is eating, especially if you think that amount is a lot. It might be that you see this lovely pregnant woman at the same time every day, the time in which she has rewarded herself for all her hard work (and pregnancy is bloody hard work) with a cupcake and a packet of crisps. The rest of the day she might be quaffing highly healthy smoothies and homemade vegetable soups, you don’t know! And even if you did, it is precisely zero business of yours!
  3. Do not comment on what a pregnant person is wearing. It’s not always easy to get dressed when every day you wake up and are a little bit bigger than the day before. Your wardrobe all of a sudden consists of about ten items, somehow you have to dress for work and leisure using just these ten things and all of your tights and pants feel like they might ping off at any second, hurting people as they ricochet around the room. So when you finally dress yourself and go out into the world and someone says “gosh, that’s a bit tight, isn’t it?” it can feel pretty hurtful. You would never say this sentence to anyone not pregnant, unless you’re related or have known each other at least three years, have seen each other wee, cry and possibly throw up. So don’t say it to a pregnant woman, she might just say it back!
  4. Do not laugh at a pregnant persons’ birth plan. If someone, in all seriousness and sincerity, told you their five-year plan or their holiday plans or their marriage plans, would you laugh in their face? Probably not. People plan their weekly shop, they plan for Christmas; they plan every event in their lives from the mundane to the remarkably important, so why do some people think it’s ridiculous to make plans for the single most significant life event that can ever happen to anyone? Plans don’t mean “this is definitely going to happen this way” and no pregnant woman’s birth plan means “this is definitely going to happen this way.” We may have baby brain but we’re not stupid. Our birth plans are how we would like things to go, based on months of research and serious contemplation. We are aware that things might go differently on the day. Telling someone not to plan for birth because it might not go to plan, is like telling someone not to plan their wedding in case it rains. Yes, your dreams of getting hitched under a beautiful canopy in a stately home garden may be somewhat dashed when a minor hurricane rips off the roof of said canopy, but you get married somewhere else in the lovely stately home and the outcome is still something resembling what you always hoped it would be. Also, based on the correlation between a birth in which a mother feels out of control and unprepared, and post-natal depression, I don’t see why we’re not all encouraging mothers-to-be to think about how they would like to give birth. And with the tendency for people to tell you how harrowing childbirth is, we’re somewhat staring down the abyss here. If you laugh at someone’s birth plan, chances are you’re laughing at a very nervous woman who needs your encouragement and not your derision. Think about that.

I do find it a bit odd how people treat pregnant women and it’s been a bit of a surprise to encounter all of the above. I think the rule of not doing/saying it to a pregnant person if you wouldn’t do/say it to a non-pregnant person is a pretty good rule to go by. For example, and this hasn’t happened to me (yet), you would never place your hands on a stranger’s tummy, but I’ve been told that this happens an awful lot to pregnant women in their last trimester.

What we’re doing is a great privilege but also, we’re getting stretch marks, our skin might be mottled and a lot hairier than usual, our boobs are becoming unrecognisable, we might be in serious pain or discomfort, we might be throwing up three times a day, we might be shitting ourselves at the life-changes afoot. Be nice. It might make a real difference.

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