Pregnancy can be an exciting, wondrous time for many expectant mothers. But even when that's the case, pregnancy can also be a trying, uncertain, often scary time. No pregnant woman in the world needs to be bombarded with negativity, however well-meaning, during this time. So I present the cruelest things you can do to a first-time pregnant woman in the hope that no one will ever do any of these things ever again.
Some women love being pregnant. I am not one of those women. My pregnancies weren't as bad as others' — I wasn't put on bed rest and I didn't have hyperemesis gravidarum or anything like that — but my experience doesn't have to be the worst for me to be open about not enjoying all of it. Between the two pregnancies, my second was probably more uncomfortable, but my first was worse. Because on top of the general discomfort and crankiness there was the aforementioned anxiety of never really knowing what was up. That newness, yes, made it more exciting, but it also made it more stressful. Every morning was, like, "What fresh hell is this?" Just as I got over one symptom, a new pain in my ass would make itself known. In the case of sciatica that struck in the second trimester, it was a literal pain in the ass.
And you know what made all of that even worse? People talking down to me. Because I don't know if you know this, but your pregnancy has a tendency to make everyone around you think they're a pregnancy expert. When you've already had a gestation under your belt you're more able to fire back, correct them, or otherwise twirl on your haters because, meh, this ain't your first rodeo. But when it's your first time that can be more difficult and, in turn, make the pregnant experience more difficult.
So if you've ever found yourself doing any of the following to a newly pregnant loved one... stop.
Tell Her Your Horror Stories
Did your morning sickness never go away? Did you wait too long to go to the hospital and give birth on a subway platform? Were you in labor for three days? Did you experience fourth degree tearing? Was your C-section the pits?
Seriously. If you had an avoidable problem and you want to impart some gentle, non-terrifying advice to help your loved one steer clear of the same fate, fine. But if you just went through some of the harder trials and tribulations of pregnancy or birth due to some bad luck don't go on about it. Nightmares during pregnancy are bad enough without you putting ideas in her head.
Talk About Miscarriage
Honestly, it's like saying "Macbeth" in a theater: it's not actually bad luck or anything, but it is deeply unsettling for some people and, really, never necessary (unless, like, you're performing Macbeth, I suppose).
If you've had a miscarriage and then someone in your life is pregnant, trust me, I know it can be incredibly painful and may open up space in your brain to talk about your own experience. But don't make their pregnancy your space to find catharsis. If you find yourself wanting to open up about your experience as a result of someone else's pregnancy, take this as a cue to discuss it, certainly, but not with them. That's not to say you have to keep it a secret, but don't get too graphic.
Tell Her How She Has To Deliver
"Trust me, get the drugs!"
"Natural birth is the greatest experience a woman can have! You don't need the drugs."
"Honestly, just schedule a C-section, it's so much easier."
"Do. No. Let. Them. Give. You. A. C-Section. It's never, ever necessary and just a way for doctors to make money."
No. No. No. Nooooooo. Any birth is a valid choice and you are in no position to tell a woman what to do with her own body, certainly not during one of the most consequential experiences of her life and certainly when you don't know anything about her medical history, her pregnancy, or her preferences.
Talk About How Huge She Is
No one likes to hear that, pregnant or not, and no matter how many times you've had a baby. So don't be a jerk and avoid it all together.
That said, I'd argue that it's probably worst to say, in general, to first-time moms. Many women experience an unsettled feeling about their bodies during a first pregnancy because, with subsequent pregnancies, you've been through a change, you know what to expect, and you know what things will (generally) look like when you're done. With a first pregnancy, every morning is a game of "What are my nipples doing today" and "Can I still see my toes?" This ultimately devolves into a daily crisis of "IS THIS FOR EVER?!" and "HOW AM I EVER GOING TO LOOK NORMAL AGAIN?!"
Use The Phrase "Just You Wait" In Literally Any Context
Unless you are singing the opening number of Hamilton to amuse and delight a pregnant woman, this phrase is condescending and diminishing.
"Oh, you think you're tired now? Just you wait!"
"Oh, you think you're stressed now? Just you wait!"
"Oh, you think money is tight now? Just you wait!"
Dude! People are allowed to be tired, stressed, and strapped for cash without a kid. Will the kid probably make things more difficult? Duh. It's a baby. The pregnant person complaining of fatigue, stress, or finances is likely aware of that fact. You rubbing it in with a smug laugh doesn't help anyone.
Show Strong Gender Preference
The pregnant person has literally no control over this whatsoever. Literally. They have two X-chromosomes, and that's all they can pass on. The rest is up to their X-and-Y-chromosome carrying partner. You gushing over how much you want a boy to carry on Grandpa Jack's name or a girl to play dress up with can ultimately have the effect of making the new mom feel that a child of the opposite gender would not be as loved or welcome... and good grief, the poor woman is hormonal enough as it is without worrying about that.
Tell Her Why She Should Switch Over To Your Practitioner
She is an adult who has made her decision, which has nothing to do with any decisions you made. Look, if she's complaining about her care provider and expresses a desire to switch, by all means recommend your person. That's kind and helpful. Or if you know that Midwife Dahlia is actually a serial killer who steals babies or something 1) tell the police, why are you just standing there? And 2) tell your friend so she can head for the hills.
But if said pregant woman has expressed satisfaction with her provider — or, more generally, if she hasn't expressed displeasure — then leave her alone and trust she has made the best choice for her. I don't care how amazeballs your doula was.
Assume Or Insist You'll Be There For The Birth
Oh hell no. Invitation only, friends. You don't get to make that call. This is a deeply personal, intimate experience and even if you feel you and she are at that level, she is the one who gets to make that decision.
If you don't wind up with VIP access, it's OK if you feel hurt. Or pout. Or complain... but not around the mom-to-be. Vent to a neutral third party and respect mom's wishes.
Let Her Know You Think Her Baby's Name Is Bad
Taste in names is so subjective that there's literally no point in you making your feelings known... except to be rude. Maybe she thinks your baby's name is bad. This is just one of those things that we let everyone have their own opinion on and we don't involve ourselves in any way unless it's to say something complimentary.
Don't Police What She's Eating Or Drinking
The science of what a pregnant woman should or should not eat is not... well... it's not actually a science in a lot of cases. Besides, pregnant women know what's up and they're probably much more invested in their pregnancy than you are. And unless you're an OB/midwife, that pregnant person probably knows more about the rules than you do. And you know what? Even if you are an OB/midwife, unless you're her OB/midwife, you need to back off, because you don't know her or her pregnancy.
And so help me God if you're doing it because you "don't want her to gain too weight" I swear I will lose my mind, and not in a fun DMX way. Dude, come at me.
Tell Her What To Do With Her Career
Statistically speaking, what she does career-wise will be less of a choice and more of a necessity in order to, you know, buy food and pay rent. Or maybe her continuing to work doesn't make sense because it wouldn't cover the cost of daycare. Or she does have a choice and she "leans out," temporarily or permanently. Or she wants to keep working because she loves her job. Or because she wants to give her children opportunities that wouldn't be possible unless she worked.
And you don't need to know her reasons, because she doesn't need your "OK" to do what she's going to do. You either keep quiet about it or you support her in whatever decision she makes.
Make Any Of Her Choices About You
Ultimately, all of these points boil down to this one simple piece of advice: someone else's pregnancy is not an opportunity for you to talk about what you would do in her shoes, or what you did when you were in her shoes, or that her shoes are looking puffy and bloated. You're there to support and dote upon your pregnant loved one. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I think that starts with letting the parents know, before their baby has even arrived, that you're a villager they can trust. That's easier to do when you show love, compassion, and respect.
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.