Stop Before You Say “Pop” (and Other Tips for Conversing with Pregnant Women)

November 22, 2015 at 2:47 am

I don’t doubt that the Internet is full of posts like this. I haven’t checked. But apparently humankind is in need of more reminders, so I’m going to put another post out there.

Everywhere I go, people seem to feel compelled to say things. I’m not necessarily surprised, but it is still somewhat mind-boggling to me what people feel comfortable saying to pregnant women. Some of my favorite courses in college were linguistics-based, and I’m pretty sure I remember learning that dogs, babies, and pregnant women change the boundaries of human interaction. There was a fancy linguistics term for this phenomenon, but it escapes me at the moment. (If you happen to know what I’m talking about, I would adore it if you could remind me of this fancy linguistic term.) Basically, if you happen to be pregnant, with a baby, or with a dog, people will be more likely than normal to speak to you (or touch you/your baby/dog). People let down their guard more when they’re around pregnant women, dogs, and babies. I’ve especially noticed this while wearing my babies.

Sometimes these pregnancy interactions are pleasant. Older women often tell me about their daughters who are due to deliver or recently delivered. Men often offer to help me carry things. I don’t mind these kinds of interactions at all. But some of my day-to-day interactions leave me feeling, well… HUGE… or even more huge than I already feel.

Dearest Humans, I love you. You aren’t trying to be insensitive. I get that. But let me just offer a few suggestions that will make all the pregnant women you encounter so very appreciative.

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If you’re about to speak a sentence to a pregnant woman that includes the word “pop,” just STOP. When a cashier made a “pop” comment to me just a few hours ago, assuring me that he was “trained in first-aid” just in case, I said (with a courteous smile), “I still have over a month left, so I better not be popping anytime soon.” I don’t care how huge a pregnant woman looks to you… she may very well be months away from giving birth. I still have 6+ weeks left myself. Don’t guess. Just don’t. Don’t assume. Just don’t. Don’t ask if she’s having twins. Please. And besides… you’ll probably be the twentieth person to say “pop” to her this week, so let’s give her a break.

Unsolicited advice isn’t cool, regardless of whether you’re speaking to a stranger or a friend. Fortunately, I haven’t been the recipient of too much unsolicited pregnancy advice over the years, but I know plenty of women who have. Things like, “Get the epidural as soon as you can!” are common. Even well-meaning words can make the recipient feel like you’re putting them into a one-down position. I like the way John Holt puts it:

Anytime that, without being asked, we try to teach somebody else something . . . we convey to that person, whether we know it or not, a double message. The first part of the message is: I am teaching you something important, but you’re not smart enough to see how important it is. Unless I teach it to you, you’d probably never bother to find out. The second message that uninvited teaching conveys to the other person is: What I’m teaching you is so difficult that, if I didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t learn it. . . . All uninvited teaching contains this message of distrust and contempt (p. 129, Learning All the Time).

When we’re passionate about something, it can be really hard not to want to share it with everyone. But the reality is that we usually come across like Hermione Granger from book one of the Harry Potter series… preachy and didactic, rather than helpful. This is applies to most one-on-one human interactions (whether face-to-face, over the phone, or in social media). I think the beauty of having a blog is that you get to dispense all your favorite advice in a “neutral space” where people who want to hear it can find it and those who don’t want to hear it can simply not read it. Score. :-)

So what kinds of things should we say to pregnant women instead?

The following are nearly always welcome and appropriate, depending on your relationship with the woman…

  • You look radiant!
  • What a beautiful belly!
  • Congratulations!
  • You look great!
  • I’m so happy for you!
  • Can I bring you dinner?
  • Here’s a gift card for a prenatal massage.
  • Can I touch your belly?
  • You make pregnancy look so glorious.
  • You look like a goddess.
  • You’re a rockstar.
  • I can’t wait to meet your baby!
  • Here’s a gift card for a date-night before the baby comes.
  • What do you need to get ready for the baby?
  • What a lucky baby to have a mom like you.
  • Thank you for blessing the world with this baby.

Even just writing that list made me feel awesome. Go make a pregnant lady feel awesome!

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