How to Talk to a Pregnant Woman
I’ve been pregnant for 39 weeks now. Over the last few days I’ve had a handful of people pay me truly lovely compliments, and continued comments from my friends, family, and fabulous husband have helped me maintain emotional balance throughout the process.
Unfortunately, I’ve also gotten my share of insensitive (or just plain rude) comments along the way, as pretty much every pregnant woman has. Here are a few things people have actually said to me, and my suggestions for how to make them sound more like the compliments I trust they were originally intended to be:
Actual Comment: “That’s quite a bulge.”
No. It’s really not. A bulge is excess fat that hangs over your too-tight pants because you’re trying to pretend you’re still a size 8 even though you’re a 12. A belly is a sweet, gently rounded abdomen that is accommodating the miracle of life within. A bulge is gross. A belly is cute. We want to have a baby belly.
Suggested Alternative: “Looks like baby is growing wonderfully!”
Actual Comment: “WOW! You must be having twins!”
Why, because I’m enormous? Really. Thanks. Would you like to comment on my crazy-hormone-acne, as well? Or how about the arm flab I just noticed the other day? I could show you my new stretch mark, if you wanted. I mean, as long as you’re reassuring me about all my insecurities.
Suggested Alternative: Shut up. If your only comment on her pregnancy and upcoming bundle of joy is related to her overwhelming size, I promise, she doesn’t want to hear about it.
Actual Comment: “How do you feel?”
Ok, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this question. My problem is with people who ask “How do you feel?” in the tone of voice you would use when addressing someone who just fractured their leg in six places or found out they have terminal cancer. The woman you are speaking to is pregnant, not critically injured or ill. Whether she’s feeling great or not, she doesn’t need your pity. She could probably benefit from your encouragement, though.
Suggested Alternative: Same phrasing, but try it without projecting your bummer expectations about pregnancy on the recipient.
Actual Comment: “You’d better hurry up and have that baby!”
This was a month before my due date. Turns out, she had me confused with another pregnant lady and thought I had passed my due date already. An honest mistake. However, had I been approaching 42 weeks as she’d thought, the comment probably would only have served to make me feel more pressured and anxious about the fact that I still hadn’t had a baby.
Suggested Alternative: “I bet you’re excited to meet your baby!”
Actual comment: “You look so big/huge/tired/fat/ready to pop!”
A growing belly is the sign of a healthy pregnancy. We want to get bigger, and most of the preggers ladies I’ve met are delighted with the process. But consider- just for a moment- how your phrasing will sound to the woman you’re talking to. As I continue to be the recipient of these kinds of comments, I’m increasingly tempted to respond with things like, “Aww, so are you!” and “You barely fit into that top!” But I keep them to myself, and then write blog posts about them later.
Suggested Alternative: “You look so beautiful/healthy/amazing/incredible/glowing!” (This one, using any of the suggested words or any derivation of them, is always safe. ALWAYS.)
Actual Comment: “You’re still pregnant.”
Trust me on this one. If it feels to you like she’s been carrying a baby for a long time, it doesn’t feel like it’s been any less time to her.
Suggested Alternative: “So, when are you due?” (Again, another one that’s always safe.)
Actual Comment: “That shirt’s workin hard.”
Alright, this one doesn’t bother me, but only because my husband says it to me. It’s a line from Juno. We think it’s funny.
Suggested Alternative: I do not recommend trying this on anyone but your best friend who has also seen Juno and liked it and would definitely remember the line.
In any conversation with a pregnant woman, carefully consider your relationship with her and your level of intimacy before saying something you can’t take back. My close friends and family can make comments and ask questions that acquaintances would never get away with. And if you are so socially awkward that you don’t know the difference between preggers small talk and asking if her nipples are weird now, maybe you shouldn’t be talking to her at all.
What about you, moms and mothers-to-be? What unbelievable or humorous-now-but-not-so-much-at-the-time comments did you receive during pregnancy?