Being pregnant is such a lovely time (well, for the most part – I definitely had some woes!) But I won’t lie, being pregnant was also extremely stressful for me at times. There are so many physical changes that happen when you’re pregnant, then you add in the internal and external pressures of pregnancy and being a first time mother, and then add hormones to the mix, it can be overwhelming. Oh, and if you happened to be pregnant in 2020 when COVID was emerging, it was extra stressful.
So many changes that happen during pregnancy are sources of joy. I loved hearing things like “You look so beautiful.” and “Being a mom is the BEST.” I also loved watching my bump grow and starting to feel Thomas kick. But there were also some very stressful situations that came with my pregnancy, especially during COVID times. So, all that to say, while it’s a WONDERFUL phase, it’s also stressful and people often said things that added to my stress. But turns out, it’s not just me. I found myself commiserating with friends who were pregnant at the same time about things people said to us.
I don’t think that most people mean to be hurtful or induce stress with their comments or actions. Maybe they’ve never been pregnant so they don’t think about it. Or maybe they were comfortable with some questions that others aren’t. Or maybe it’s just been a while since they had kids and don’t recall the stressors. Regardless of the situation you may find yourself in, today I’m sharing some common themes I’ve heard and also personally experienced that aren’t always received by a mom-to-be.
The bottom line is everyone’s experience is different, deeply personal and there is probably more going on than you realize.
So comment gently. My goal here isn’t to be negative but to help you think through some things you may have said in the past that could be phrased just a little bit differently the next time you’re congratulating a mother to be.
And it’s not just me… I posted in my doula’s private facebook group and within 12 hours, there were over 48 comments of women sharing similar experiences and comments that upset them!
There were so many times where people said things to me (mostly out of love) that just didn’t feel good to hear. So, today I’m talking about what NOT to say to a pregnant person and how this shows that you respect their privacy and emotions.
13 Things Not To Say To A Pregnant Person
1. What are you having?
I know that some people love to share the gender of their baby before it’s born and even have gender reveal parties, but we kept it private, other than sharing with our immediate family and a few close friends. A much better way to ask this is “Are you sharing the gender?” This allowed me to say, “We aren’t, but thanks for asking!!”
2. What’s your birth plan?
Uhh…none of your business! Everyone has their opinions and judgment and commentary based on what they experienced or based on what they hoped to experience! This was a very personal subject to me and a birth is sacred in my mind. We talked to our doulas and OBGYNs about our birth plan and tried to avoid the topic with everyone else, even after Thomas arrived.
In that same vein, avoid these questions:
Are you having an epidural?
No? Oh you will.
Oh don’t even bother with a birth plan. Nothing goes as planned.
That’s like telling someone they should never attempt to eat healthy because they can’t eat perfectly healthy. Or, would you ever tell a runner not to run a race because they can’t win? Nope. So why do we expect women to execute their birth plan exactly as listed? It’s unfair and unrealistic and most women realize it won’t go exactly as they want. It’s a good thing to have birth goals and share them with others, i.e. doulas and nurses, so they can help support you in them. Don’t discourage an expecting mother to not even try.
Are you being induced?
This was a VERY sensitive subject because I did NOT want to be induced and talked to my doctor and doulas regularly about this. So, to be asked over and over about it made my stress around it even worse. And if people found out I didn’t want to be induced, oh boy, the commentary. On the flip side, some women are counting down the days to their induction and asking about it is frustrating.
3. When’s the baby coming? Any signs?
A better way to phrase this would be “When are you expecting your baby?” followed by “How exciting!” Even asking the due date can be frustrating since most babies are NOT born on the due date and if you are close to it (before or after), people likely comment on how close, how far away or how late you are. And trust me, a mom is VERY aware of how close or far she is from her due date.
4. Are you dilated?
Do you realize what you’re asking me, you near stranger? Like, literally, think about what you’re asking me. And just don’t. Thanks.
5. What are you naming him/her?
We kept this private too. We didn’t share it even with our families or those who knew the gender. A better way to ask would be “Are you sharing the name?”
Oh, and if someone does share the name, you don’t need to say, “Oh well EVERY [insert your name here] is a terror! Good luck.”
6. You look tiny! or I can’t believe how big you are already! Are you sure you aren’t having twins?
You never know what medical concerns are going on that may make this an incredibly sensitive topic. I had bi-weekly non-stress tests and ultrasounds for 6 weeks so it was upsetting when people commented on my size, even though everything in the NSTs looked perfectly fine. A better comment would be “How are you feeling?” You don’t really need to comment on someone’s size, ever.
7. JUST YOU WAIT… insert terrible experience
WHY do you want to say this to someone? Most parents know how hard it will be!!! Don’t try to one up their happy experience with your horror stories or hard stuff you’re going through or went through.
Just you WAIT until you’re in labor for 72 hours. You’ll want the epidural.
Just you WAIT until you have a toddler. You’ll wish you hadn’t bought that sofa.
Not that these things aren’t necessarily true, but why do you want to put a damper on this exciting phase? And remember, your experience won’t always be the same as others’ experiences.
If you really want to say “Just you wait…”, why not follow it with a happy experience? “Just you wait until you see their sweet face. It will change your world.”
8. Oh you THINK xyz… but you’ll see…
Well, maybe. But everyone is different soooo. Again, there is no need to rain on any parades. It’s always always ALWAYS best to say encouraging things to an expecting mother (and father for that matter!).
Oh, you think you’re tired now? JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE A NEWBORN.
Oh, you think you’re busy now? JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL YOU’RE A PARENT.
Oh, you think you don’t have time to workout? JUST YOU WAIT. Your runs will go out the window.
Oh, you THINK you love your dog. But just you WAIT until you have kids.
You get the point.
Parents know it’ll be hard. Even if they don’t fully understand how hard it will be, they’ll find out in their own time. Remind them of the good parts instead. Celebrate with them. Encourage them.
9. Are you sure you can eat that? Are you sure you can drink coffee?
Most expecting moms have read a book (or ten) and have talked to their OBGYN about what foods, drinks, etc. are okay during pregnancy. And maybe they’re making a decision that’s different from yours. I personally felt comfortable drinking kombucha throughout my pregnancy, but I know others don’t. Some women won’t touch soft cheeses, but others are okay with it. Some women are comfortable eating sushi when expecting. I wasn’t. Remember, what’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for someone else.
10. Enjoy your sleep. You’ll never sleep again.
Not true. At least not forever. Thomas was a horrible sleeper for a while, but now he sleeps 12 hours a night and is a champion napper most days. And some of my friends babies were/are CHAMPION sleepers right from the beginning. Reminder: your baby is not the same as someone else’s baby.
11. Was this planned?
This is rude and inappropriate. The end.
12. Are you going to have another?
You have NO idea what a mom went through to get pregnant. Maybe it was simple. Maybe, in my case, this one baby is a miracle. And we aren’t 100% sure we can have a second child. So unless you know an expecting mother’s medical history or or she brings the topic up, it’s best to avoid this.
Oh, and for the LOVE, can we stop asking people when they’re going to have kids if they don’t have any? It’s not always that simple.
13. Uh, you know there’s a pandemic right?
You don’t say… I had no idea. All the eye rolls.
The Bottom Line:
Yeah, maybe you could argue that pregnant women are too sensitive. But they could probably argue that you’re too crass or insensitive. A good rule of thumb: be kind, don’t pry, and don’t apply your judgment.
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