In honor of the one-year anniversary of starting Miriam's Advice Well and our advice columnist's second pregnancy, Miriam decides to share her thoughts about how to talk to pregnant women.
In honor of my birthday (today!), the one-year anniversary of starting Miriam's Advice Well and my second pregnancy, I thought I'd share my thoughts about how to talk to pregnant women. If you're also pregnant, a close personal friend, or my parents, feel free to sit back smugly and appreciate how much more sensitive you are than the strangers, barely-acqaintances and bus riders I'm about to lambast.
Speaking of smugness, when I was pregnant with my daughter, a friend sent me this youtube video. It made me laugh for sure, but I thought then and think now, "I'm not smug, I'm uncomfortable, I'm tired and I miss my real clothes." However, after rewatching the video, I have another theory: Pregnant women speak in cliches because they're sick of answering the same questions over and over. We come across as self-righteous because it's more comfortable to say something trite than to tell the lady who works at the sunglasses store that, "Actually, my back hurts and I just want to go to sleep, but, as a consolation prize, I guess I'll get new sunglasses."
In the spirit of actually giving advice, here are my tips for talking to the pregnant among us:
- This should go without saying, but some people still haven't gotten the message: Never, ever ask a woman if she's pregnant or imply that she might be unless she tells you she is.
- Don't ask, "How are you feeling?" unless you really want to know gory details about pregnancy or expect to hear something trite (see above).
- Better yet, just don't ask, "How are you feeling?" I recently attempted to deflect a conversation away from my pregnancy by immediately replying, "Fine, thanks, how are you?" only to find out that the person I was talking to had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson's. Just don't ask and I won't be tempted to ask back.
- Avoid comments about appearance in general. When you're pregnant, there's a short distance from, "You look great!" to, "You look great considering there's a watermelon-sized alien growing inside you!" If you wouldn't have made comments about how I look before I was pregnant, please don't make them now. (Other pregnant women, close personal friends and my parents are the exceptions here as well.)
- If the woman in question is someone you already know, talk to her how you talked to her pre-pregnancy. If she's not someone you know, then you really shouldn't be talking about her personal business anyway.
- Avoid phrases like: "It must be nice to eat whatever you want," "You're glowing," and anything involving a friend's difficult labor.
Lest I come across as totally bitter (because really I'm not, I'm just here to entertain and maybe enlighten a little!), I also want to take this opportunity to thank my amazing family and friends for supporting me, both when I'm cranky and pregnant and when I'm just one or the other. On my daughter's first birthday, I thought that the party should be for my husband and me instead of for her. After all, her survival through that first year was thanks to us. Though I have a few more birthdays under my own (ever expanding) belt, now that I'm a parent, I appreciate my own parents in new and wonderful ways. So, on my birthday, I want to say thank you to them — for giving me life, for being endlessly supportive and for teaching me what it means to love unconditionally.
With thanks to them and parents everywhere, be well,