Friday Forum: How to talk to pregnant women

This is not me... photo credit

With only 6 weeks (hopefully) remaining in this my second pregnancy, it has come to my attention that some members of society are painfully unaware of how to speak to a pregnant woman. Without leaving her in angry tears.

I'm not sure why this is such a problem -- it's really not difficult. Speaking politely to a pregnant woman is no more difficult than speaking politely to anyone. And it's much easier than getting a telemarketer off the phone or talking your way out of a speeding ticket.

So, here are my rules for talking to pregnant women. Keep in mind that these rules are in general for speaking to unfamiliar pregnant women: strangers that you see on the bus or around town, women with whom you have a polite intermittent relationship (like the checker at the grocery store), or casual acquaintances with whom you share social niceties about the weather and such.

The pregnant women that you are more familiar with and/or related to may have a completely different set of rules. They may also be more prone to cry because you should know better than to say that me! {sob} 

Rule #1 | Treat a pregnant woman more kindly than you would an average woman (or man). Remember, pregnant women are normal women -- just more hormonally precarious, with more unpredictable mood swings and fuller tear ducts. And longer memories and grudges for the people who make them feel bad. Choose your words carefully.

Rule #2 | If/When you start the phrase, "You look _______," be very VERY certain that the word you use to fill in the blank can in no way, shape, or form mean anything potentially unkind/rude/fat. In general, any direct synonym to amazing or phenomenal is acceptable. Unacceptable words include huge, bloated, exhausted, and "done" -- and any synonyms.
Addendum #2a | "How are you feeling?" is an acceptably polite question... except when you can clearly see from the look on her face that an honest answer would be miserable. In that case, just don't ask. Revert back to Rule 2: "You look fabulous!"
Rule #3 | Make no references to twins, an elephant's gestation, or any planet in the our solar system or another. Ever.

Rule #4 | Keep your hands and opinions on pregnancy/child rearing/discipline/the female anatomy to yourself, unless one or the other is specifically invited and welcome.
Addendum #4.a | Don't volunteer your stories of conception/pregnancy/labor/delivery/post-partum unless that conversation is initiated by the mom-to-be. Remember, you are a stranger or, at most, a polite acquaintance.
Rule #5 | If a body part is not visible when clothed (in normal clothes, not celebrity clothes), it shall not be brought up during the conversation. Always included in this rule are the cervix, uterus, and mammary glands.

For a few more specific examples of what not to say, you can read my friend Brittany's story here. And then never go to Wells Fargo again as a show of solidarity for a pregnant sister.

So, to the forum: What rules would you add for talking to pregnant women -- strangers, friends, or whatever acquaintance? And you know you've got stories to share... ;)


Anonymous said...

Yay! Thank you for spreading my horror to the masses. :) Her name is Sandy, she works at 36th and Washington in Ogden. She's the worst.

I work at a construction company. Construction guys are vulgar and rude. I've developed a pretty tough pregnancy skin. But my skin crawls every time a very specific person comes in. Inevitably he mentions my waddle, and/or how he exaggeratedly walks wide around me "just in case her water breaks, I'm not getting wet!" You're gross!

When I entered the third trimester, I was pretty excited. I was telling someone about it and he said, "Oh you're lucky - my daughter's baby was born at that same number of weeks... but her baby died." Very sad for other people, very not good for pregnant women to hear.

Now funny story: I was sitting at church and an unknown older woman comes and sits next to me. An older gentleman in my ward is on the other side pestering me about the apparent twin boys I'm carrying. (You know, because boys are bigger, and if you're gross and fat at 36 weeks it means your body spontaneously grew another baby!) The woman I don't know taps me on the arm and asks very seriously, "Is this man mentally retarded?"

Megan Harmeyer said...

I love this!! I would've LOVED to have had these printed and posted at my work station when I was pregnant. I had one patient ask me if I'm in menopause when I was about 7 months pregnant last time. I actually looked at him and said "Seriously?!"...he said he hadn't noticed I was pregnant.

Speaking of...I have something for you (in addition to the polish I promised you ages ago). I really need to get on the ball!

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I was in Macy's (the grocery store not department store) by the cookies. I swear that one of the worker girls walked by me and mumbled "whore". Either that or "four" - why you are mumbling the word four is beyond me, but lets add the rule that you shouldn't mumble anything about a pregnant person even if just in passing.

Kendra Goodrich said...

Love them! I can't think of anything else I think you've covered all the bases. Having been pregnant twice I think I do a pretty decent job but there are definitely ways to improve!

Bridget said...

My least favorite comment is, "you look just the same from the back!" I know that people are trying to be nice, but since when I am pregnant I can't pull normal pants over my knees, I know that this is not the case.

Andi @ Jane of all crafts said...

Ugh I hate it when strangers touch your belly or ask if you are going to breastfeed. Somehow being pregnant means personal boundaries are no longer there?!! There should be rules for talking to new moms, like don't tell me how to dress my kid, or that they must be hungry to be crying like that-have you tried such and such? No lady I just thought I'd let them cry and see what happens. Babies cry, that's what they do and sometimes you can't always calm them down no matter what you do. Okay rant over. :-)

Kellan and Rikki said...

I couldn't agree more! Don't even get me started! Also, can we extend the same politeness rules to all family planning topics? Do not ask if my pregnancy was "planned" or if we are "done" yet. Do not voice your assumption that we had them all so close together in order to get it over with before we're 30. Do not tell me that if having children was as easy for you as it apparently is for me you would also have lots of close together kids. As far as I know you have not been invited into our bedroom and guess what? while I'm happy with the when and how many we've chosen its not exactly a walk in the park for me either. Thank you. I'll get off the soap box now...

Brianne said...

I would add a rule about the first trimester. For some of us, it wasn't something we want to relive. Whether through others asking us if we were sick, or through telling us just HOW sick you were.

Also, just venting. But if a very pregnant someone asks for tips on going natural (on her blog), don't respond with. "I tried that, it was HORRIBLE." And then proceed to tell exactly WHY and WHAT made it horrible. Yes, this was my mother in law's response. Thanks.

And lastly, a rule about people talking about ANY bad part about pregnancy. One bagger at our grocery store kept talking about how noses of pregnant women get bigger. (not sure where she got that). I didn't used to think I have a big nose! I don't think it's grown with pregnancy either. It's the HORMONES not, a bigger nose that heightens my sense of smell. Ok. That's all for now. :)

Amber and Mike said...

I really enjoyed reading this post! I'm at the end of my second pregnancy and have had many unwanted comments, like "You are the only pregnant woman in this bldg. and you are BIG!" and when they ask my due date, their response to me having 4wks left is, "Are you serious?! You look so ready to be done." and my favorite, a woman in my ward comes up to me and places her hands under my pregnant belly and says, "Wow, I feel like I have to help you hold it up!"

I'm just glad that I'm only 2wks away from the date. I can't bare this Texas heat anymore being preggo. It makes it hard to get "out" with the heat and rude comments from strangers.

Well, I'm so exited for you and your family to have another! I wish you the best with your last few weeks.

Danae said...

I have had 5 children, and I most definately do not do "cute pregnant", so maybe I'm not the best one to ask, but I would say one more rule is that if you make a comment about said Pregnant Woman to your friend/daughter/husband/what-have-you, DO NOT REPEAT THIS COMMENT TO THE PREGNANT WOMAN. I have had this happen at least twice-- once when I was very pregnant and had to conduct a meeting and was embarrassed about having to get up in front of everyone, but they all assured me I looked fine, and then after the baby was born said I had looked like the baby must be lying horizontally rather than vertically I was so big. (Um... thanks?) and another time a woman told me that she knew I must be due soon because she had told her daughter I couldn't possibly get any bigger. My friend was there and told me later it was "so funny" because I kept smiling, but my eyes were saying "Ohmygosh, I can't believe you just said that to me!" which is roughly what I was thinking.
Also, Men-- I know you have wives/daughters/mothers, etc., but this does not make you an expert on pregnancy, and to be honest, we do not want to discuss the details with you. It's awkward. Just stick to the "You look great" comment and you'll be much more appreciated. And if you ask how much longer a woman has, the reply is ALWAYS "Is that all?" or "Oh, you look small for being that far along!" Those are the only two choices.

Amy at Ameroonie Designs said...

Okay, this is hilarious and one of my favorite posts ever!
One other thought would be, don't ask a woman if she's pregnant. if you're curious, ask someone who would know first- then just congratulate her.
But, if you must ask her- if she says no, don't say "Oh, Yes you Are!!" (happened to my sister- no joke)

Anonymous said...

One of the guys I work with (remember, construction company) came in and asked how I was feeling. I didn't tell him about how I threw up into my own hands in the middle of the night. So I responded honestly. "For the most part, really, really good."

His response: "Well you don't have to lie to me. You look pretty bad."

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

Ha! Love this! Agree with Amy... definitely never ever ask a woman if she's pregnant. I can't believe when I hear stories from people who have been asked who are definitely not pregnant.

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