For me, pregnancy was the worst. In fact, I'm pretty surprised I did it three times. I vomited all day, fell asleep at my desk, cried randomly whenever someone looked at me the wrong way, and felt like I was dying. I also discovered that some people are really rude to pregnant people. Fortunately, interspersed with those crappy moments were others I'll never forget. When I learned firsthand from a few awesome people about the kindest things you can do to a pregnant woman, I was able to gain perspective and realize that, no, the world isn't full of pregnant people haters. Thankfully.
For example, there was my husband, who not only went out late at night to get me the weird foods I was craving, but also was kind enough to hold a barf bag for me when I had hyperemesis gravidarum. That's a sign of true love, for sure. There was a student in my yoga class who told me how strong I was for teaching yoga while pregnant. Later, when I had to stop teaching, she also told me how proud she was of me for listening to my body.
Most memorable, though, were my mom friends, who instead of romanticizing childbirth and new motherhood kept our conversations and their advice super real about things like epidurals, incontinence, sleep deprivation, and how hard breastfeeding can be. I couldn't have become the mom I am without those friends. In the end, being pregnant may have been the worst, but at the same time there were so many moments that gave me renewed faith in humanity, like the following:
Tell Her How Strong She Is
Honestly, I think we are way too quick to comment about pregnant bodies in our culture, telling moms-to-be how radiant or huge they are, or inquiring about their due dates or if they are having twins, or commenting about what those bodies are doing, eating, or drinking. It's so rude and objectifying. Instead, I propose we start telling pregnant people how badass they are for growing human beings inside their freaking bodies. They deserve it.
Cut Her Some Major Slack
So yeah, growing humans in your body is hard. Please don't judge us for falling asleep during meetings, skipping playdates or happy hours, or not wanting to do much more than plop our pregnant bodies down on the couch for some Netflix. Empathy is kind.
Listen Without Judgment
People, for the most part, always assume that when a person is pregnant they are happy about it. That's not always true. In fact, I would argue that's rarely true, because even when you're happy you're also scared and overwhelmed and unsure. I think one of the kindest things you can do is listen without judgement, and wait to learn how a pregnant person is feeling before doing or saying anything about it.
Give Her Time Off
We've got to start supporting women when they need time off due to pregnancy or related conditions. I've had supportive employers and downright discriminatory ones, so I can say with authority that it can make a huge difference to have support from your boss when you're pregnant.
Buy Her Coffee
One time I was at Starbucks in my third trimester when a stranger approached me and asked me how far along I was. I was ready for a fight, because I definitely thought he was going going to chastise me for drinking coffee while pregnant, but instead he offered to pay for my latte. The real MVP.
Bring Her Food
My husband was always going out late at night to get me weird food I was craving. When he discovered that our kids were eating my pregnancy snacks out of the cupboard, he bought me a huge file box for our room with all of the foods I was craving and could keep down during pregnancy.
Treat Her Like A Person
I think the nicest thing you can do for a pregnant person, by far, is to actually not mention their pregnancy at all. I mean, they are a person after all, and being pregnant shouldn't mean treating them any differently.
Ask Her What She Needs
Every pregnant person and every pregnancy is different. You really can't assume that a person can't safely run a marathon, lift a package, or push a grocery cart while pregnant. You also can't assume that they are healthy enough to walk, or even get out of bed, either. So, instead of assuming try asking a pregnant woman what she needs.
Be Honest About Mom Life
During my first two pregnancies, my group of friends was really crunchy. They told me how I had to have a "natural childbirth" and how easy breastfeeding was. When I ended up getting an epidural, and having pretty much every breastfeeding problem in the book, I felt like a failure. In reality, I was doing just fine.
The last time I was pregnant I surrounded myself with mom friends who were not afraid to share their struggles, offer real advice, and support me in making my own choices about pregnancy, birth, and parenting. They knew I didn't need things sugar-coated. Honestly, their offers of solidarity and commiseration were just about the kindest things that anyone did for me, and they made all the difference.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.