As promised, a post on things you should never EVER say to a pregnant woman. As you may have gathered, these things have either been said to me or to someone I know in the recent past and with a lot of restraint I have managed to refrain from direct physical attack… thus far. So many people are just completely self-involved and don’t think before they speak; at least I choose to believe that this is the case, because if they do know what they are saying I might well end up having Charly in prison; so I will write this post in the hopes that you will all share it with everyone you know who will share it with everyone they know and less people might end up on the hit list of pregnant women everywhere.
1. “It will all be worth it in the end” – there is nobody more impatient with people stating the obvious than this pregnant woman! Obviously just because I am feeling overwhelmed, my body is destroyed and I am in constant pain, discomfort and fear of all that is to come does NOT mean that I have forgotten how I ended up here or why I chose to go through it all. Feeling awful and saying so does not mean I no longer love my baby or that I am regretting the choices I have made.
I am more than a pregnant woman, I am a person who is having a very real and very physically difficult time and your response makes me feel like I should not be allowed to express how I am feeling, which makes me feel guilty and therefore angry. The only appropriate response to my expressing how I feel is sympathy and perhaps some practical advice – heartburn? try bicarb, fat free milk, sleeping on your left side – hope you feel better soon. Simple and sometimes all we need to get us past this particular bump in the road.
2. “Wow! You are carrying big / small / wide / narrow. Are you sure there is just one in there? Your baby must be really enormous / tiny!” And so on and so forth… No matter how we are carrying – we are aware of it, thanks so much. What we most likely hear when you express your shock / horror at how we look is “You are too fat” (have you no self control) or “You are too thin” (you are not providing what your baby needs) – basically judgement. In case you never feel insecure in yourself (i.e. you are not human) or you have somehow escaped being your own worst critic, nothing you say can be worse than what we have said to ourselves.
We are constantly afraid that we are not doing what is right for our babies, that we look revolting and could do better; however how we are looking probably has a lot more to do with hormones than anything we have done since falling pregnant – so stow your opinions and pull them out when you next feel like criticising yourself; lest a pregnant woman responds and points out that she will return to her regular form at some point after having the baby and you will remain an evil thoughtless creature for always. Appropriate response – you look amazing! Pregnancy suits you! That is all.
3. “Shouldn’t you rather be eating…” Unless that sentence ends with “chocolate”, take your opinion and eat it. Seriously. You have no idea what I eat or if I eat or if what I eat makes me feel sick to my stomach or brings on the worst reflux you could possibly imagine or is the only thing I am able to keep down. Hormones, ‘morning’ sickness, heartburn, reflux, anemia, low blood pressure, allergies – any one of these may be the reason I am eating whatever it is you are looking at right now and judging me for.
I may choose a greasy fried egg and toast over fruit because it is the only thing I can keep down, I need the iron, I can only eat protein at certain times of day and fruit makes my stomach acids make a concerted effort to chew through my stomach lining and dissolve my esophagus. I have made it almost 8 months pregnant and I probably have a much better handle on what I should or shouldn’t be eating in order to survive the physical challenges I am facing than you do.
4. “When I was pregnant/gave birth…” in reference to anything longer than 10 years ago. If you are sharing your experience, that is fine and I am sure we will be awed at the choices you made or shocked at the choices you didn’t have – but don’t judge or give advice based off those experiences.
NOTHING is the same as it was 10 years ago. The hospitals have changed, the technology has changed, the medicines have changed, research has taught us that certain things are dangerous to unborn babies or put them at unnecessary risk, foods have changed – how they are grown, packaged, preserved; women no longer necessarily have a nice desk job that means they can sit quietly at their desk and get on with things until their waters break; woman can choose not to have to go through excruciating pain during childbirth, they can choose (if they are very lucky) to stay at home with their kids, to work from home or to return to work.
And change is just the first thing; the second is – I don’t really believe that your memory of things that happened over 10 years ago can be trusted. Nature or God (depending on your beliefs) has designed us to NOT remember all the trials we face in pregnancy and childbirth or we as a species would have ceased to exist a long time ago.
5. ” Don’t exaggerate / be so dramatic” – Giant big red flag. Don’t say this. Ever. Two people said this to me in my first trimester and I will never forget it or the way it made me feel and I will never really forgive them for it. Hormones are incredibly potent, they take away all your power, they control how you feel and how your body feels, they make you cry or feel happy for no reason at all.
Pregnancy for me has been like living in high definition, running at full speed, feeling raw and open on so many levels, feeling vulnerable and now as the third trimester settles in, hardening me in ways I never thought possible. If someone hurts or upsets me now, I feel it for a second and then I want to completely cut them from my life forever to ensure Charly never ever has to feel what I just felt. The logic being, if this person made me feel like this as a grown woman, my child should never be exposed to them.
If in a particular moment I feel that something is the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone – I have a right to feel that way. Keep your mouth shut and I am sure that feeling will pass and I will forget it ever happened; calling me out and making me feel guilty for a hormonal reaction I in all likelihood had no control over makes you the bad person and that I am unlikely to forget, even if I do forget why,
These are just my personal top 5, there are others, the list grows every day. A few, just off the top of my head – you look tired, I feel fat, I feel tired, you need to get some rest, you will forget all about this once baby is here, women have been doing this since the beginning of time, you are built to have babies, everything will come naturally, you are not the first person to be pregnant…
Basically, there are some things you should never say to anyone – being a considerate human being who thinks before they speak is only going to make you a better person. But when you are dealing with a pregnant woman, who is physically being tossed around by forces she can neither understand nor control, it is worth taking it that little bit further or risk facing the backlash which she might also not be able to control.
We are happy and excited to be parents, but we are more than incubators too. We are struggling physically and emotionally with both real and possibly not so real fears on a daily basis and some days, we just need a little bit of straight up sympathy and understanding. If you can’t provide that or feel the urge to overstep, as my gran always said: If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.