What Not to Say
What Not to Say to Pregnant Ladies
I’m throwing it way back here to six whole months ago when I was heading into the last trimester of my first pregnancy. I feel that, before we can move on to talk about my thoughts on Mothers Day Out rejection letters or how I believe that sisterwifery would not be a terrible lifestyle for first time moms…we need to talk about something.
Can we just?
Can we just talk about this phenomenon where people forget how to speak to people immediately after they get pregnant? It’s as if instantly after conception, a woman begins to release an aroma that, when inhaled by those around her, breaks something between the mind and the mouth. THE WORDS…they just stop working how they should.
I do not quite know how to explain this thing that happens naturally in the wild for us, as I speak from both camps of victim and perpetrator. Is it the hormones that make us extra sensitive? Is it the fact that our bodies have now ALL OF A SUDDEN become objectifiable by people who wouldn’t normally objectify bodies so quickly (or vocally)? Is it because it is such a strange mystery that the human race still doesn’t know how to comprehend or respond? Is it because people are sweet and they need to have something to say? Is it because people are awkward and they need to have something to say? Is it because they’re jerks and they need to have something to say?
I don’t know. But the fact remains…we get down right goofy when people start growing other small people inside of them.
The process goes as such…
First, we get goofy in our striving to have the words.
And then we or someone close to us experiences said words first hand and they’re hurtful/stressful/embarrassing and we vent to our friends how dare they.
Then we fall off of a bus or something and get some sort of amnesia and forget that the words were an issue.
Leaving us only to get goofy again and whoops…now we’ve gone and done the thing we hated.
This is my effort in recording what I can remember…as the amnesia is already starting to set it…to help me and us in the future when we run into someone who is in the vulnerable business of making or trying to make a baby.
So, I’ve gathered up some remarks from my own experience and the experiences of other ladies around me to give us all a quick course on some of what not to say to these women.
Don’t say: “Oh, you’re not sleeping right now? It’s practice for the next 18 years.”
Because?: This just isn’t helpful. It is actually quite sad. I want to cry just typing it out. And it’s not completely true. Yes, sleep deprivation is a real and wild thing. But it is different pre-delivery and post-delivery. Yes, you may only get an hour between feedings at first, but you get to eventually sleep on your stomach or your back again! And you don’t always feel like you have to pee. And you’re not a walrus every time you change sides. And the thing that is waking you up after labor is the baby you’ve been waiting on and growing…and that baby is no longer hijacking your entire body. It’s different. And besides…who wants to hear this? Would I tell someone who is getting an ingrown toenail removed, “Just consider it practice for all the other ingrown toenails you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life.” I would not.
Don’t Say: “Welp, welcome to your fun being over.”
Because?: Lies. Babies are fun. They are also other things like hard and emotional and time consuming, but really? Fun? Over? No, no. It may feel like this the first 4-6-10 weeks postpartum when you think that the lady in Target with five children hanging off of her buggy must be a mirage. But fun and socializing and sunshine and functioning in the world and laughing…they get to happen too, and it’s great.
Don’t Say: “You must be having twins.”
Because?: This is rude as all get out. Because…is this news to anyone?…the baby bump is still part of the woman. If you are calling her belly big, it can feel like you are calling her big. And if you are saying she looks like she’s carrying multiples when she is not, that can feel like it insinuates that something is abnormal about her body, or baby, or the way she is taking care of both. Please stop saying this to women.
Don’t Say: “You’re really starting to show, especially in your face.”
Because?: Babies aren’t gestated within faces. Therefore, again, you just sound like you’re commenting on weight gain.
Don’t Say: “Girl, walk right. You’re waddling.”
Because?: Carrying a baby full term feels like having a bowling ball bounce up and down on the inside of you. Not to mention the fact that babies can sit on sciatic nerves which mess with the hips, and feet can swell no matter how much water you drink, and your clothes feel weird, and your back is achey, and if it were possible not to waddle I’m certain women would choose not to.
Don’t Say: “My ex-wife was overdue like you and she had to have an emergency cesarean.”
Because?: You are in danger if you are telling war stories to a tired, anxious, overdue mother when she just wants you to take her order at the pizza place in the mall. Back away from the mom…apologize and back away slowly. No wait, a large pepperoni. Now, back away slowly.
Don’t Say: “Here comes big belly.”
Because?: That’s offensive. And I have a name.
Don’t Say: “You are just really coming on out there; that is going to be a big baby. A really big baby.”
Because?: What if he’s not a big baby? What if I’m just a big momma? You’ve just given me a whole host of worries and self-doubt and we both know that if I now birth a 5 pounder, it’s going to be slightly awkward for the three of us. Let’s make our future together as comfortable as possible.
Don’t Say: “I might have gotten to your size by the due date.” (When the mom was 6months pregnant.)
Because?: Do I have to explain this one? This is sad for us both.
Don’t Say: “You’re carrying that baby like my niece carried hers. She gained weight all over, not just in her belly.”
Because?: Everyone wants to be that “little basketball belly” of a mom who you can’t tell is pregnant unless they turn around. Please stop pointing out that this is not the case for people. Once this baby is out in the world, this momma will have to do the hard and heavy work of helping her whole body not just her belly (as you’ve pointed out) get back to normal. You’re not telling her something new or something kind. In similar news, don’t lie to moms and tell them that you can’t tell they’re pregnant from behind when you and I both know you can tell I’m pregnant from Hong Kong.
Don’t Say: “It’s about time for you to start popping out those children, don’t you think?”
Because?: She may be trying. They may be trying. They may have tried and there’s a piece of this story about loss that you’re not aware of. They may not be ready and that is their right, not our business. This is wound territory that we best be taking all sorts of care to choose our words well while navigating–or better yet, just listen.
Don’t Say: “Your nose looks like a bell pepper.”
Because?: I can’t. I won’t. You shouldn’t.
Surely we all feel a little more prepared now, right? However, Let’s not just leave it at the don’ts.
Here’s a few things that gave me and/or other women that extra boost of energy or confidence right when we needed it…
Say: “Follow the peace.”
Because?: The answers and remedies are different for everyone.
Say: “The days are long, but the years are short.”
Because?: So many seasoned moms I’ve talked to have vouched that it’s true and bitter sweet (mostly sweet). Plus it’s validating.
Say: “What are you craving and when can I drop it off to you…at your door…without coming in.”
Because?: You don’t have to have comments when you can have treats.
Say: “You are doing a big, beautiful, hard thing.”
Because?: It is so the truth.
Say: “I can tell you’re going to be a good momma.”
Because?: It is empowering.
Say: “Come over and prop your feet up and let me get your a lemonade.”
Because?: Omgosh, yes.
Say: “I can’t wait to come hold him so you can take all the naps.”
Because?: These are words from where Jesus lives.
Ultimately, I think it is important to realize that when someone is growing new life, they need all the extra life poured into them that they can get. And whereas, I don’t think pregnancy and all that surrounds it should require the world to walk on eggshells, I do believe that we can be kind. And in a way, help the life inside grow with words that build up, not stress out or tear down. And when all else fails and you feel that at any moment, you could fall off that train and get goofy again, try to remember these simple rules.
- Listen. And let her comment on her body.
- And if using words, offer help or (real) encouragement.
- Or just get her the pizza, and walk away.