Chances are, if you're reading this, you're either a pregnant woman who's rolled her eyes too many times today, or a cisgender man who wants to learn more about how to stay on the pregnant lady in his life’s good side (or needs to learn, in the case of those who've had this forwarded to them by said pregnant lady). Reflecting on my own experiences while pregnant, plus the accumulated wisdom (and/or annoyance) of all my mom friends, there are a few things pregnant women need men to know to help make coexisting during this people-making process more pleasant.
When I was pregnant, I saw examples of cis men at their best, namely my husband and close male friends, who helped make sure I was safe and comfortable, while continuing to treat me like a normal person with interests beyond pregnancy. However, I also saw examples of cis men at their most aggravating: manspreading on the subway while I had to stand and pray that I wouldn't crash belly-first into anything at each stop; cracking jokes about how much childbirth was going to hurt; and yelling about how sexy I was as I practically waddled down the street. I almost wished I could puke on cue just to teach them a lesson.
Dudes: do better. We all deserve better company at all stages of life, but especially when we're making new people, and have way less energy to deal with the minor annoyances and major transgressions that frequently make men difficult to live with. Please keep the following things in mind the next time you're interacting with a pregnant woman, OK?
Y'all Just Don't Even Know
Sure, you may have been around other pregnant women, or even helped your sister or wife or partner during a pregnancy. That is not the same as having been pregnant, and it doesn't mean you're qualified to tell pregnant ladies their business. If you feel yourself wanting to give a pregnant woman some unsolicited advice, or judge/scold her for how much (or how little) she's doing while pregnant, take a deep breath and have all the seats. You don't know what she's going through and you never will.
Giving Up Your Seat On Public Transit Isn't Chivalry, It’s Justice
It can be difficult and even dangerous to stand on moving buses and trains while pregnant, especially for folks who already spend a lot of time on their feet. Yes, it's important to give up your seat for a pregnant woman on public transit. But please recognize that for an able-bodied person, simply standing instead of sitting so a person who truly needs to sit can do so is not an act of heroism on your part. It's basic decency.
No, She Doesn't Want Your Opinion On Her Birth Plan
If you can't and won't give birth, and you haven't spent a lifetime humbly learning about and supporting women through childbirth, and nobody specifically went out of her way to ask you your opinion on the subject, that means nobody cares whether you think she should have drugs or not, or anything else that has to do with her birth plan. Save yourself and everyone else the time and energy and talk about something else.
Yes, She Is Physically Superior To You
It's just a fact.
Be Humble About What You Don't Know
Listen way more than you talk when it comes to pregnancy. Look for ways you can be helpful. Research how you can be supportive of the pregnant people in your life. Don't be that guy who tries to mansplain pregnancy to people who are actually pregnant. Yes, people like this exist, and they are the absolute worst of the worst.
Knock Off The Catcalls (And/Or Tell Your Friends)
Catcalls aren't compliments, they're harassment. This is true at any time, including during pregnancy. The overwhelming majority of women walking around are just trying to live our lives in peace, not be interrupted by men’s crude sounds, gestures, and comments. And for every isolated woman who might think they're validating (and why that might be is worth a whole separate post/doctoral dissertation of its own), there are plenty of others, self included, who just feel annoyed and unsafe afterward. Making women (or anyone) feel unsafe is bad at any time, and making pregnant women feel unsafe is even more stressful because she may be more anxious and less able to run if she feels threatened.
If you don't catcall other people, great. Now, please tell your friends and associates to knock it off, too. If you see a pregnant woman (or anyone) being harassed on the street, tell the harasser to stop if it's safe to do so. Use your privilege as a man to make the world safer for the rest of us by pushing other men to do better.
Thank You For Offering To Carry Things
Carrying groceries and such can be really awkward when you have a growing belly to navigate around. Offering to help (as long as you're not pushy about it) is so clutch, so thanks for that.
Unless You Are Really Close And You Know It's OK, Never Touch Her Belly
That's her reproductive system in there. If you wouldn't go up to another dude and feel his balls out of curiosity or amusement, don't go up to a pregnant woman and feel her uterus out of curiosity or amusement.
Chances Are, The Pregnancy Joke You're About To Make Isn't Funny
Because you haven't ever been pregnant, there are soooooo many ways for your joke to fall flat, or be offensive or annoying instead of funny. Spare everyone a moment of awkward stares and silence or worse. Stick to jokes about what you know.
Seriously, Making New People Is Hard (Hashtag Respect Her Journey)
Pregnant folks are doing a lot. Bodies are doing a lot all the time in general, but pregnant bodies are on a whole ‘nother level. Never take that effort for granted, and show the pregnant people in your life some extra love and respect. They deserve it.