It's happened to so many of us. We're out with our brand-new baby — days, weeks, or months after giving birth — when some rando comes up to us and utters those horrible words, "Oh my gosh! When are you due?!" Maybe they'll even rub our deflated but still protruding bellies for good measure... like a jackass. This is always an awkward (and let's face it, often hurtful) moment that can be difficult to navigate, but don't worry: I'm here to help you figure out what to say when someone thinks you're pregnant postpartum.
Before we get into that, let's talk about the other side of this equation: what to say when you think someone might be pregnant. Lean in close, this is a complicated and important secret...
Nothing. You say nothing. Because it is none of your goddamn business whether or not someone is gestating and, I promise you, the answer will really not affect your life in the slightest. If it will, you'll find out soon enough.
I'm being completely serious here, my personal policy is that unless someone tells me they're pregnant or they are crowning in front of me and need medical assistance, I don't ask about or mention pregnancy unless they bring it up first. This is not difficult. It's actually very easy — I just mind my own business and treat them the same way I've treated them up to this point.
But, say you are postpartum and encounter someone who has not yet figured out my brilliant* methods of human interaction. Here are some of the responses you can feel free to give in this socially fraught situation...
A Curt "No"
As women, we're train basically from birth to always put other people's feelings ahead of ours — be nice and don't make anyone uncomfortable, even if it means you have to be uncomfortable. But I'm going to give you permission (not that you need it, but you might be encouraged by it) to just go ahead and shut that down quick and without any regard to whether or not you're being polite or gracious or sparing someone embarrassment. Let them be embarrassed and unsettled and worried whether or not you're mad. Toy with them. This is how they learn.
Blame It On Your Pants
"Yeah, well, I wasn't sure if I wanted another baby so soon, but I really wanted to keep wearing my maternity jeans. These things are rilly comfortable, but they don't let you wear them if you're not pregnant. It's the law. And it's not even a state-to-state ruling, it's a federal thing, so... *shrug*"
Act Surprised, Then Look Down At Your Belly And Start Screaming
You can let the shrieking speak for itself or you can use the rope they gave you to wind them up: "How did this happen?! When?! I can't do this again! Not yet! Not so soon! I don't understand what's happening to me!"
Do not allow them to interrupt your screaming. Do not permit them to console you. Just keep it up. Get louder and more hysterical if you have to. (That last bit is just good advice for any number of situations, by the way. You're welcome.)
"Thanks! It's A Food Baby!"
Go into detail about how large your last meal was. If they apologize and get flustered calmly reassure them. "Oh no. Don't be embarrassed. Really, this is a blessing. I know delivery is going to be long and hard, but it's going to be worth it. Since it's a pizza baby, for names we're thinking either Domino or John, after his Papa."
"And Yet I Haven't Had Sex Since This One Was Born: It's A Miracle!"
"You read about these things in folklore and religious texts, but you never think it's going to happen to you. But, like, here we are. My partner was so surprised and a little skeptical at first, but now we've had a couple of months to process the fact that this is the fulfillment of a several-thousand-year-old prophecy that's going to usher in the end days, we're really excited for our little messiah/baby. Ooh! And we're thinking gray and gold for the nursery! Won't that be pretty?!"
Ask When *They're* Due
Feel free to get really aggressive about rubbing their belly.* If they try to tell you they're not pregnant just pretend you didn't hear them and start talking to "the baby" in an obnoxious cooing voice. The sex and gender of this person do not matter in the slightest. Do it to literally anyone (hey, it makes about as much sense as a clearly postpartum person being pregnant again, right?)
*For the purposes of this joke, yes, but in real life, no, because even dipsticks like this shouldn't be touched without permission.
Shred Celebrity Magazines In Front Of Them
Because, clearly, this is a person who is getting their ideas about postpartum bodies from garbage magazines that promote damaging, garbage beauty standards, like "How [Celebrity] Got Body Back After Baby 27 Seconds After Giving Birth." (They always say breastfeeding, yoga, and "chasing after baby"... like liars, because we all know baby isn't going anywhere, unless they're miraculously chasing it through a one-on-one Pilates session.
In response, we really just need to sit these people down an partake of some sort of revolutionary therapy that allows them to really and truly understand the source of the ignorance and the error of their ways.
Do The Last Monologue From 'Rosemary's Baby'
"... Satan is his father, and his name is Adrian. He shall overthrow the mighty and lay waste their temples. He shall wreak vengeance in the name of the burned and the tortured! Hail, Adrian! Hail Satan!"
If they're cool and have seen the movie they'll get the joke and laugh. Otherwise it's a really magnificent (and artsy) way to freak people out and encourage them to mind their own business for the rest of their lives.
"Yes... And It's *Yours*!"
The other person's sex and gender is completely irrelevant to whether or not you should use this response. When they look confused or amused just get angrier and more insistent. Talk about their responsibilities to you and your child. Shout after them if they walk away.
No Words; Just Glare
I really cannot overstate the efficacy of a well-placed withering stare. I'm from Connecticut: this is the way of my people... my cold, passive aggressive people.
"What Do You Think Postpartum Women Look Like?"
If you're feeling magnanimous, use this as an opportunity to educate someone (but righteously, obviously, because you need to feel some vindication here, too) go ahead and inform them that your uterus went from being the size of a pear to the size of an actual watermelon, so it's absolutely absurd to expect that my body is just going to go back to looking the same as it did before pregnancy so soon afterwards, or even look like it didn't just spend the better half of a year growing a human being.
Let It All Out And Burst Into Tears
As with curtly telling people "no" and letting them squirm, this is a great way to make people uncomfortable and "encourage" them to learn. Let them see how it affects you and let them reflect on their assumptions and how, maybe, making any kind of commentary on someone else's body is something they should steer clear from.
Besides, you could seriously use this catharsis — if anyone needs a good cry, it's postpartum moms.
After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.