Whether she’s a close friend or someone you just met on the elevator, talking with a woman who’s pregnant can be awkward for both of you. From my experience during my first pregnancy, I have met people who were genuinely supportive, those just talking about my pregnancy like they talk about the weather, and some who I’m sure could not possibly have heard what came out of their mouths. Here are some ways to be helpful and supportive, and not just the latest in a long line of irritating interactions she’s had to have.
- Don’t touch. Don’t even ask to touch.
- Sometimes we don’t want to talk about it. Sometimes we really want to talk about it. There are days when I am so tired of everyone asking about the pregnancy that I want to just tell everyone that I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat, so they stop asking. Other times, I’ve just gotten news or gone to a class, and I’m really excited to share the information. As a rule of thumb, if all you want is a “things are going well” answer, don’t initiate the conversation. If you are open to all the gruesome details and have the time to actually listen, then ask away!
If you’re a stranger, introduce yourself before you initiate a conversation about our reproductive state. It always surprises me how many people are interested in my baby’s name, gender, due date and general health without even knowing my name. These are fairly intimate personal details for elevator conversation. Am I asking about the results from your last colonoscopy or prostrate exam? Not until we’re on a first name basis, at least.
- Sometimes we’re really scared. There are several terrifying stages of pregnancy, especially for first time moms. There’s an enormous risk of miscarriage in the first 12 weeks. Even after that, the risk of other complications ranging from mild to fatal continue throughout the pregnancy. Depending on many factors and tests, we could be facing those possibilities at any given point. In my current pregnancy, we tested “positive” for the first Down’s Syndrome test, and I chewed my nails for two weeks before the more detailed test came back saying everything was normal. For those two weeks, it was really hard to answer all the people who kept asking me, “Are you excited?” Yes, I’m excited. And terrified. And anxious. And happy. And sad. I am all the emotions. If you’re talking to a pregnant woman, try to show a legitimate interest in more than just the one.
- If you wouldn’t have made a comment about our body size/shape before we were pregnant, don’t make one now. I don’t know why being pregnant gives everyone permission to talk to us about how big we are/should or shouldn’t be. I’ve had people tell me I’m not big enough, I’m too big, or that I look “great.” Even if the comment is meant to be a compliment (i.e. You don’t look that big), it’s best just to keep it to yourself.
- My pregnancy is not your political campaign. I can’t believe the number of people early on in my pregnancy who used the fact that we had heard the baby’s heartbeat as a launchpad for their pro-life speeches. There are many reasons during a pregnancy that a woman may consider terminating it. Making assumptions about her political stance just because she is currently pregnant just serves to isolate her and, if she ends up making that decision, leaves her feeling judged and unsupported.
- Sure, we’re irritable. If you had to put up with everything we do, you’d be irritable, too. Of course hormones probably have something to do with it, but the truth is that a pregnant woman has to deal with a lot of irritation every day. There are restrictions about what we can eat. We can’t do some of our favorite activities. Some of us are not smoking for the first time in years. You know how you get to unwind with a beer at the end of the week? Yeah, we can’t. Our clothes don’t fit. Everything hurts. We’re stressed about the pregnancy, how to be moms, working while pregnant, how to make ends meet during maternity leave, etc. On top of that, we get all of the well-meaning but sometimes irritating interactions listed above. So if we’re a little snippy in response to your light-hearted joke, try to keep in mind that we’re dealing with a lot right now. And never, ever inform us that we’re acting “pregnant.”