Ever since we announced our baby news on a broader level, I've heard the most ridiculous -- and personal -- statements and questions come out of the mouths of acquaintances and strangers. It's strange, but many people seem to view pregnancy as a free-for-all to say whatever they want to your face.
I used to assume that pregnant women must always want to talk about the fact that they were having a baby. Based on that thought, I would ask questions about said pregnancy to show a sense of interest and connection. I realize that some pregnant women enjoy having detailed conversations with anyone and everyone about aspects of what's occurring in their minds and bodies. I'm just . . . not one of them.
I am completely aware that for the majority of the time, most folks truly do mean well and are only trying to be friendly or kind. However, lots of people DO ask awkward, intrusive and repetitive questions about your pregnancy experience, and some lack tact in general.
Which is why I wanted to write a basic PSA for what NOT to say to a woman when you find out she is pregnant (aka, the top 3 things people have said to me now that they know I'm expecting a baby). Lessons on a silver platter from me to you.
Were you "trying"?
Was I having sex? Yup.
Well, that's sufficiently awkward for everyone now.
(True story: my father asked, "How did this happen?!" upon hearing the news when we first found out, and I essentially responded with the above, to his extreme embarrassment.)
This line of questioning about "trying" gets my hackles up, big-time. I mean . . . we all know what leads to a baby, right? In real interactions, I often redirect with "We're very excited!" But I've also heard, "OMG, I didn't know you were trying!" to which I always think, "Why . . . would you know that information?" The fact that I've received a variation of this question more times than I can count continues to surprise me. It's literally the first thing most people asked upon hearing the news.
From my viewpoint, there are only two scenarios within which it is acceptable to ask someone if he or she is getting laid and/or trying to have a baby.
He or she brings it up, unprompted, over a glass of wine.
A small, curious child who hasn't gone through sex ed yet asks you how babies are made.
Look, here's the deal, here's one of those major life lessons that is applicable in literally every situation -- if someone wants you to know something, they will tell you. Or not.
For real. They will tell you! Or not. People tell me all kinds of shit that I don't need to know and I didn't ask about; likewise, I learn random things all the time regarding the lives of other people I know or don't know. And I get it. When I hear that so-and-so is getting married/divorced/having triplets/got promoted/etc., sometimes I have the "I can't believe it!" or "I didn't know that!" reaction and then I remind myself . . . Oh, right, that's not my business.
This notion of expectation exists because some of us do share every little detail of our lives, in real life or online, but that doesn't mean we are, in fact, entitled to know every little detail of each other's lives. It is easy to ask a personal question without aiming to pry; often, we're simply attempting to make conversation about big life changes. But pregnancy is a tricky topic -- besides the fact that it's an intensely personal topic, it can also be a loaded gun. You can't predict the answer. You don't know the details of what's happening in other people's lives, despite what you think you can view from the outside. You don't know how they feel about having children. You don't know the terms of their current relationship. You don't know their health history. And so on.
And most importantly: you are not actually entitled to know such details.
Trust me: stick with the assumption that people will tell you what they want you to know. Examples -- if a couple has been trying to get pregnant, and they are open or public about that process or their journey with fertility and/or infertility, and they DO indeed find out they are expecting a little one? They probably won't shut up about it, and for good reason! If someone has been quietly trying to have a baby, and find out they are expecting? Maybe they'll want to talk about it, but maybe not. You don't really need to know either way, do you? And if someone has no desire to have a baby ever ever ever? Guess what? They'll probably make that clear to you at some point as well. You catch my drift.
In general, the "trying"/"not trying" thing is straight up personal information that nobody else needs to be privy to except the two people who were having sex in the first place. Instead, offer sincere congratulations, and assume said pregnant person will provide any additional details they want to share, or think you need to know, about their baby news.
You don't look pregnant at all/Look at that little belly!
Pregnancy feels so intensely private most of the time -- and yet, it's not. As your belly continues to grow, it becomes this very public topic, and you can't do much to hide it even if you wanted to. (I mean, unless you are a celebrity, because then you can probably afford to be whisked away to a private island to enjoy your 9 months in peace.) It can feel overwhelming to have such a personal experience continually on the table for conversation in general, let alone the fact that your body is on constant display for commentary.
The beauty of keeping things quiet during the first trimester is that very few people will openly remark upon your appearance. They might think "I wonder . . ." but typically, people keep those thoughts to themselves.
Until they find out you're pregnant.
Then people blurt out alllllll their thoughts and questions:
I KNEW IT! I KNEW YOU WERE PREGNANT! YOU ALWAYS LOOKED SO TIRED!
I thought you had put on a few pounds.
You're not showing at all.
Your boobs are definitely bigger.
You're too skinny to be pregnant.
I wondered why you weren't drinking wine!
Aw, look at that little belly poking out/you're finally showing!
Are you finding out the sex of the baby?
Have you picked a name yet?
You should register for XYZ.
Are you getting an epidural? Having a natural birth?
Are you going back to work after you have the baby?
To everyone: CHILL.
Again, I know it's become common practice that the above questions are considered "making polite conversation." I've found it's exhausting to be bombarded with many questions and comments, the majority of which I/we haven't even thought about yet.
And, let me point out something I find incredibly unfair: my partner in all this gets asked VERY FEW of the above questions. His friends and coworkers and family members were essentially like, "Congrats, man!" The end.
As a woman, sometimes you can't win. I know that this double-edged sword often comes with the territory, unfortunately, and in some ways, that helps . . . because no matter what I do, pregnant or not, someone will think I am tall or too thin or too heavy or too gangly or too plain or too pretty or too something regarding my appearance. Someone will think I am being too sensitive or too overbearing or too enthusiastic or too naive about something having to do with pregnancy, motherhood, parenting and children.
And that's okay. I learned from my yoga practice a long time ago that I can receive feedback, weigh the pros and cons, and move forward accordingly -- keeping what works and letting go of what doesn't.
But. The constant scrutiny of hmm, how is she putting on THE WEIGHT and what is she deciding about THIS or THAT does fuck with your mind and makes you feel self-conscious at times.
So, what should you say to a person who is sporting a baby belly? Answer: say, "You look great!" The end. Again, refer to #1 of this blog post: most people who want to talk about their pregnancy will share that information . . . without you having to ask.
How are you feeeeeeeeeeling?
Note: This is not the same as "How are you?"
When you're pregnant, people stop casually asking, in a normal voice, "How are you?" They start saying, "How are you feeeeeeeeling?" with a concerned look and a head tilt to the side.
Which, sure, that's not so bad . . . one time. Or a couple times. But when I get asked this question in this way every single day (sometimes multiple times a day by the same person), I always want to be super dramatic and like, motion the person to take a step forward, furtively look around, and whisper: "I'm feeling . . . like it's a Tuesday and I just ate lunch and have a few deadlines to meet before going home for the day." Or, "I'm feeling . . . goooooood" and break out into the Michael Buble tune.
Just kidding. Again, I get it. The stereotype is that pregnant women have all the feels, all the time. They're crazy, man. Any second, they're going to blow up with rage and nonsense and snark and then demand an entire pizza or box of ice cream!
Hormones are indeed no joke, but I've never felt inclined to answer the above inquiry ("How are you feeeeeeeeling?") with a laundry list of all the ways in which I am anxious or sad or happy or sleepy or hangry. Sure, there are days when everyone is annoying me and I just want to sleep on the couch with a bag of cheddar and sour cream chips at my side. But most days, it's the same growing-a-baby deal: I'm tired and I'm hungry and I'm tired and I'm hungry. You can continuously assume that all pregnant women are tired and hungry, so maybe instead of asking them to reiterate that fact, say, "Can I help with anything, so that you can nap? Want me to bring over a snack later?"
That, my friends, is a win-win set of questions, every time.
There you have it, the top 3 things you may think -- but don't actually need to say out loud -- to a pregnant woman. You are welcome. Trust me, your thoughtfulness and restraint will likely be appreciated.
Above all, I'm insanely grateful for our baby, and I'm very lucky to have had such an easy pregnancy so far. I realize that there are so many men and women who would wholly embrace these overly personal or semi-annoying questions just for the joy of welcoming a child into their family. But it's definitely a weird, funny, wonderful trip, one that keeps teaching me to be mindful about what I say and why.