hile visiting with some girlfriends recently, the conversation turned to pregnancy. Since one of the friends had recently given birth to twins, the topic was inevitable. Besides the usual talk of layettes, nursing, and labor pains, my friends also started sharing the unusual, shocking, and downright cruel things that have been said to them by otherwise well-mannered strangers. Usually, I’m very uncomfortable during these conversations, having never had children myself. But this time, the topic spoke to my sense of duty to educate the public and improve their social skills. So I started asking questions to find out just what should a person say (or not say) to a pregnant woman. I realized that by inviting that conversation, I was breaking one of my own
rules, but for the benefit of the readers, my friends answered my questions with candor and humor. Every comment I quote in this article was reported to me as an actual exchange that took place. To begin, a wise person should never, ever ask a woman if she is pregnant. No matter how obvious it may seem. There’s a variety of reasons for this rule, but the most basic is that the question is far too personal to ask. In this age of TMI, we’ve lost sight of the boundaries that define personal from public information. Pregnancy is very personal and intimate, despite the public display that accompanies the condition. So even though you can see a belly doesn’t mean you should ask. The second, more obvious reason not to ask: many women still appear pregnant even if they have already had their baby (or worse, have recently suffered a miscarriage). One friend was even asked when the baby is due while she was pushing a grocery cart in the store—with the baby in the cart! A woman’s size should never be a topic of conversation. Never. (Nor should a man’s, quite frankly!) And, if she is pregnant, it’s not appropriate to ask, Wow, how many are in there? or Have you gained a lot ofweight? or Man, you look ready to pop!
Conversely, avoid commenting on how small a woman is, as well. Surely her doctor is monitoring her weight. Whether or not you mean well, refrain from talking about the size of the bump. An extension of this rule is to avoid commentary on the clothing a woman is wearing, which may or may not make her appear pregnant. Flowing dresses are fashionable; consider the possibility that you aren’t up-to-date on the latest trends. If you have confirmation that a friend is, in fact, pregnant, be cautious about the questions you pose to her. As one smart friend of mine pointed out, there are three questions a pregnant woman is asked a million times each day: When are you due? What are you having? What are you going to name him/her? If your friend is forthcoming about her pregnancy and you are curious about the future arrival, try to come up with a more creative way of asking so as not to agitate or overwhelm the poor woman. She has probably answered the due-date question a few times already that day. Simply telling your friend how great she looks will likely invite her to volunteer the information. If she doesn’t offer it, let it drop. You willfind out when the baby arrives, sometime between the second you discover she is pregnant and 40 weeks later. Perhaps the sight of a pregnant (or seemingly pregnant) woman is so intimidating to a person that they lose all ability to engage in civil conversation. I am slightly terrified of pregnant women, believe it or not. They seem so fragile, yet so god-like. The reality, however, is that these ladies are in the midst of a beautiful and wonderful life process.
you don't know
the half of it
Trends & Traditions with Holly Lynch