Not sure about you guys, but when I was pregnant, I felt like there was some kind of buzzy neon sign flickering above my head instructing people to “please say whatever comes to your mind and definitely do not filter it,” because I got some doozies from perfect strangers (looking at you, work acquaintance who had too much wine at that after hours event).
People feel fine saying all the things they actually shouldn't say to a pregnant woman, probably because looking at a pregnant woman is like staring into the sun, apparently. I mean, people are obviously so blinded by that particular woman's bright glow that they lose the ability to think or see straight, and it makes their face feel kinda funny and hot.
Now that a couple years have passed since my pregnancy, I’m mostly over the trauma that many of these awkward conversations caused. As a result, I can finally think clearly enough to realize that, bummer, I missed some good comeback opportunities. However, you, dear reader, are in a unique position to let my losses be your gains, and learn from my mistakes. Here’s a carefully curated list of all the things people say to pregnant ladies that test patience, raise eyebrows, and leave us so stunned that the snappy responses don’t come until it’s too late.
"You Barely Look Pregnant!"
That’s the thing with human bodies and with pregnancy; they’re all different. If the maternity photo comparisons that have gone viral are any indication, we should try to avoid making assumptions about how a pregnant woman should look or should be carrying.
Exception: She’s perhaps dressed in an elaborate Halloween get-up and most definitely looking for reassurance that her baby bump is not a distraction to her costume.
Again, I could see how this might seem like a pretty standard observation of a pregnant woman. However, in my experience, putting anyone on the spot to have to explain their appearance is questionable territory at best, especially when they’re growing someone else with their own body.
Exception: She’s perhaps dressed in an elaborate Halloween get-up and most definitely looking for reassurance that her baby bump is working as part of her costume.
"Are You Scared?"
See, that’s the thing with fear. Sometimes, people who are experiencing it would rather not be reminded of it during casual conversations. I was super scared during my pregnancy, and in the off-chance that I was out and about, having someone bring up my fear was not my favorite.
Exception: You and the mom-to-be are ride or die, and you suspect she’s dying to discuss her worries with you.
"Were You Trying?"
I can’t think of any other circumstances where people inquire about the intentions of your sex life, though I’m sure some exist. Either way, does it really matter?
Exception: I’m sure there’s a reason medical professionals could need this information. However, if you’re not one of them, probably better not go there.
"You’re Not Going To Vaccinate/Circumcise/Insert Other Medical Choice, Are You?"
Unless you’re at a support group meeting for people who share specific views, these could be sensitive topics. Furthermore, they could very well be things she and her partner are still deciding. They're definitely none of your business.
Exception: Again, medical professionals have wiggle room here.
"Better Get Your Rest Now"
Maybe it’s just me, but this one came up so often during my pregnancy. I knew the other person was likely making what they thought was a lighthearted joke, but I could barely even muster a laugh. The subtext says, of course, “Get ready, things are going to suck soon.” Given the fact that I was already way behind on all the rest I wanted when I was pregnant, I didn’t need someone reminding me that labor and delivery wasn't going to provide me with an opportunity to sleep.
Exception: It appears like she’s nesting so hard that she’s completely forgotten about the human body’s need for sleep.
"Let Me Touch Your Stomach"
I mean, I know some people like to live on the edge, but asking to touch someone you don’t know all that well is a bold move in my book. Better to just keep it to yourself. Don’t worry, if you hang out around a pregnant woman long enough, she’ll probably bump into you soon anyway since those growing bumps can indeed make one a bit clumsy.
Exception: Oh, wow, look at that. Another one for medical professionals and medical professionals only. I’m sensing a trend here.
"Are You Going To Breastfeed?"
Not sure about everyone else, but I heard an insane amount of horror stories about breastfeeding challenges when I was pregnant. It felt like every time the topic came up, I had to cushion my answer with an explanation that I knew it could be challenging but I was hopeful and prepared and blah blah blah, because that’s often where the other person was going to take it.
Exception: You are from some sort of organization who gives prizes and treats to women who breastfeed and you want to make sure you put her on the list for presents and gifts and cash rewards.
"Are You Quitting Your Job?"
I’ve known pregnant women who were, indeed, going to quit their jobs after their babies arrived. I’ve known even more that weren’t going to quit. I’ve known many who thought they were going to do one thing, and ended up doing another. I’ve even known some who had plans in place that they simply didn’t want to share, because, hello, a woman’s career trajectory can be a complicated thing that she's still figuring out. Either way, like many of these topics are showing us, it’s best not to assume.
Exception: You’re her boss and she hasn’t come to work for, like, a week. At that point, I could see a need to clarify.
"I Was Wondering If You Were Ever Going To Have Kids"
Let’s pause for a moment. How does one actually respond to that? In a perfect world, she could laugh and say, “Me too!” but the world isn’t perfect and this comment will likely catch her off guard.
Exception: You’re a fortune teller admitting that you’re not good at your job.
"I’m Definitely Not Going To Have Kids Anytime Soon"
I’m sure she’s totally sorry to hear that her major life change is giving you all the feels, but reflecting aloud about it while she’s staring back at you isn’t really going to help it.
Exception: she straight-up asks you about your plans for childrearing and you don’t mind answering (which, for the record, is on my list of things not to say to non-pregnant people, but alas, she may not have gotten that memo).
*Insert Personal Story About Someone You Know Going On Bed Rest/Having Complications/Almost Dying During Pregnancy*
Yes, I’m sure it can be traumatic for someone you know to go through an intense medical situation, and you might want to talk about it for some really valid reasons. Trust me, though, she doesn’t want to hear about it. It’s the equivalent of walking up to someone who’s about to get in their car to drive home and saying, “Oh hey, did you know you might get into an extremely serious and possibly life-threatening crash?”
Exception: Eh. Nope. Even medical professionals have better ways of broaching these topics than through the unnecessary sharing horror stories, I assume.