We've all been there. Someone says something to us that catches us off guard, and we stand there in stunned silence, unsure how to respond. For a pregnant woman, this happens more often than you'd imagine. It's not that people are out to be rude or insensitive, I don't believe that's the case.
It seems though, that when we throw a baby into the mix, small talk suddenly becomes foot-in-mouth mumbling, that leaves the mom-t0-be wondering what in the world other people are thinking with some of the things they say, and the questions they ask.
I'll warn you, some of these seem really rude- and it's because they are- but they've all been said, unfortunately. Here are some things you should never say to a pregnant woman:
15 Was It Planned?
Okay, so this one? This one has no reason to ever be asked. It leaves the mom-to-be in a precarious position. If the baby was planned, then when she tells you that yes, it was, she is also divulging to you that she and her partner were having sex with a goal, which is kind of a personal detail. She may not feel like sharing this with you, the person behind her in the grocery store line, that feels the need to make conversation while waiting.
If the baby was not planned, then she runs the risk of making her baby sound like a mistake that she regrets, even if it was a welcomed surprise. There are so many conclusions that can be drawn from this, and she might prefer to keep this information to herself. There's no easy way for her to get out of answering either, because a response of "I'd rather not say" just leaves more wrong assumptions hanging in the balance.
What is gained from this question? Nothing. There's just no reason and benefit from knowing whether a child was planned or unplanned, and especially not for a nosy stranger in a store line. So let's all agree to not ask this question. The baby is on the way now, does it really matter if he or she was scheduled to be conceived on his or her mom's calendar?
14 Are You Sure You're Ready For This?
This is another lose-lose question. For one thing, the question kind of insinuates that the mother in question is not ready to actually be a mother, and for another, it places doubt in her mind that most likely is already there. Every new mother to be wonders if she's actually ready to handle the incredible responsibility of parenting. She doesn't need it brought up by outsiders, which only cements the worry that she won't be ready for motherhood even further.
Instead of asking her if she's ready for this monumental and life-changing situation, why not affirm her and encourage her instead. "You're going to be so great at this mom thing" and "What a lucky baby" are both wonderful substitutes for questioning a new mother's readiness. Giving an unsure mom confidence and assurance is always a better idea- and after the baby is here, you can bet she will remember the faith you had in her from the start.
13 That Was Fast! Or, It's About Time
These kinds of comments regarding how fast or slow it took a woman to conceive are amongst the most obnoxious. Whether it was a planned pregnancy (see the top of the list) or not, whether it happened quickly or slowly, is really not what the parents want to hear from you. You really don't know why it happened so quickly (perhaps she's always wanted babies as soon as she had a steady job!) or why it happened so slowly (maybe the couple has suffered several miscarriages, and this is the first pregnancy they've decided to announce.) The bottom line is, you just don't know, and comments about the timing can be unintentionally hurtful.
It's just best to leave the timing of the pregnancy alone and focus on how exciting it is that they will be welcoming a child. Instead of making a comment about how slow or fast they conceived, why not try something like "I'm so happy this baby will have such wonderful parents" or "This baby will be so loved." I guarantee those comments are sure to make the parents in question feel supported and loved themselves, which is a win-win.
12 Get Ready For Labor!
I don't know why, but been-there-done-that moms are always so willing to over-share about their horrific labors with first time moms. When I was pregnant I had one "friend" that insisted on telling me about her failed epidural and third degree vaginal tearing when I was about six months along. I left that conversation feeling like I wanted the epidural at that moment, and wondered if I could request that I just be knocked out for the entire labor and delivery.
Veteran moms want to feel proud of what they endured, I get that. It's okay to feel pride in what your body accomplished. It's not okay to make a mom-to-be dread the birth of her child because of your experience. Every birth is different. Every.Single.One. If your comment isn't helpful ("I tore from sun-up to sun-down isn't helpful, in case you're wondering), then leave it out. If a pregnant woman asks about your labor, or wants laboring advice, why not say something like "Every labor is different, and your body will know what to do when it's time. You're going to handle it just fine. Trust yourself, you're going to do great." Isn't that better?
11 A Friend Of A Friend Lost Her Baby
Sometimes people love to share tragic news. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's for shock value, or simply sharing it helps them to process the sadness they feel as a result of the news. The loss of a pregnancy and baby is always an awful and unthinkable tragedy, regardless of how it happens. Unfortunately, miscarriage and still birth happen often enough for all of us to know of someone that has experienced them.
Many pregnant women deal with the overwhelming fear of miscarriage and late term loss every day of their pregnancy. There's constant worry of whether the baby has moved enough, if it's growing enough, and if everything is going according to plan. Speaking about losses that you've heard of with a mom-to-be is your choice, and of course use your discretion as to when you feel it is fitting. However, I do think that it is kind to be sensitive to a pregnant woman when discussing it, knowing that it might cause her anxiety in what can already be a fearful time.
10 Get Your Sleep Now!
Ahhh the old "you'll never sleep again" joke is SO funny to pregnant women! SO.Funny. Hardy. Har. Har. Except NO. It's not funny. So stop. Pregnant women know that sleep is about to get as scarce as that guy at the office that keeps stealing your lunch. They know it.
There's no way to store up sleep for the future. So this comment is just needless and kind of mean. Unless you plan to volunteer to be on speed dial for those middle of the night feedings when little Isabella is inconsolable, then perhaps find something else to comment on.
Instead of this tired (see what I did there?) joke, try saying something like "I know the newborn phase can be really exhausting. If you ever need me to come over to watch the baby so you can shower, please call me. I've been there. It's rough, but I want to help."
Do you see how nice that is? The mom-to-be might even tear up from the support she feels just from those few words of comfort and empathy.
9 You Have To Breastfeed!
We all know that breast is best. It's everywhere. I'm a huge proponent of breastfeeding and I've breastfed both of my children past the age of two. However, even knowing all of its benefits, I still refrain from telling any woman what she should or should not do with her child and her body. It's her choice. She alone gets to decide how to feed her baby.
Some women are unable to breastfeed due to medical conditions or past surgeries. My well intentioned comment that a woman should breastfeed is only going to cause her to feel a sense of failure if she is unable to, or simply chooses not to for personal reasons.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to preface comments or (requested) advice with "It's different for everyone, but this worked best for me." Not only does this give room for the mother to disagree with you or feel free to be open with her thoughts, but it shows her that you are aware that there are other ways of doing things besides yours.
We need more people in the world that can entertain this idea, that there are several right ways to accomplish the same goal, in this case, feeding a baby. Let's all just agree that you must feed a baby. How you do it, is up to you.
8 I Hope You're Not Thinking Of Co-sleeping. You'll Smother the Baby!
This is pleasant, isn't it? Every mother loves to imagine her worst nightmare coming true, usually courtesy of a person that has no business giving advice in the first place. I've co-slept with both of my children. I've safely bed-shared with both of my children. It has been the best thing for all of us, and it has ensured that we all got enough rest to survive the day.
Co-sleeping is simply the act of sleeping in the same room with your infant- it does not always refer to sharing the same bed. A crib or bassinet can be placed in the parent's bedroom, and this is considered co-sleeping. Studies have shown sleeping in the same room with your baby to be highly beneficial, and it actually reduces the risk of SIDS.
Bed-sharing is a personal decision. As long as it is done safely, it can be a wonderful way to meet your baby's breastfeeding needs throughout the night, while allowing you both to get as much sleep as possible. Women and children all over the world bed-share and co-sleep and not much is spoken about it.
There always seems to be that Great Aunt Milly though, that has to add her two cents, just to keep the baby safe, of course. Don't be Great Aunt Milly. Accept that your decision might not be the new mom's decision, and that's okay. If a first time mom has questions about how to bed share safely, then by all means send her an article on proper bed sharing guidelines. It's always better to be helpful rather than judgmental.
7 You Won't Need An Epidural. I Didn't!
I'll say it again. Every birth is different. Birth is unpredictable and there's just no way to know how a woman will tolerate the process of labor and delivery. Having a medication free birth is great, if that's what you want.
Having an epidural or other pain management during birth is also great, if that's what you want. What is also great is honoring your body with what it requires to bring another life into the world. There are no medals awarded for making it through birth medication free, and your baby doesn't wear a shirt on the first day of Kindergarten that reads "My mom had me med-free." (Side note: Please don't make your kid wear that shirt.)
I had an epidural with my first baby, and had no pain medication (by accident, he was born too quickly) with the second. After each birth I felt an indescribable sense of pride because I had just brought a new life into our family and the world. Regardless of how a child is born, the entire process of pregnancy and birth feels like a miracle once it's over.
There's no reason to place your own experience or requirements onto the shoulders of another pregnant woman. How about, instead of trying to set a precedent for other women, we say something like "Birth is so magical. Your body is creating life, and there's nothing like holding your baby after birth. I'll be thinking of you during delivery!"
6 Are You Disappointed It's Not A Boy/Girl?
This question feels like it's unavoidable, especially if the mom-to-be already has one child, but some times it is asked if it's the first child. If she's having a girl, people will ask if the father is sad it's not a boy. If she's having a boy, then she'll be asked whether she's disappointed it's not a girl. It's as though it's unimaginable that a mother or father might be content with having a child of the opposite sex. Not just content, but even happy.
As a mom of two boys, I often received a similar question with the same innuendo: "Are you going to try for a girl?" I was asked this while I was still pregnant with my first son, and I disliked the assumption that if I had another child it would only be to "try for a girl."
Our decision to have another child was based on the desire for another child, regardless of its sex. A good substitute for this question is to respond to information about the baby's sex with a simple "How exciting!" Because it is exciting to be having a baby, whether it's a boy or girl, or the third boy or girl in a row. A new baby is always a reason to celebrate, and its sex should make no difference in your response.
5 Girls Steal Beauty, You Must Be Having A Girl
No joke, a friend of mine was told this by a stranger that approached her randomly at a store. I can't imagine anyone saying this to their worst enemy, so I was really stunned when my friend told me about this awful encounter with an older woman she'd never met.
It's a pretty safe bet to steer clear of any comment about a pregnant woman's looks, unless it's positive in every way. Pregnancy is a time when your body is no longer yours alone, and it makes you aware of this fact on the regular.
Acne, unruly hair, stretch marks, hips that dislocate...pregnancy is a time of awe and wonder, and also a lot of other things women would rather not speak of. If you feel the need to comment on a pregnant woman's appearance, say she's beautiful, she's glowing, she could be a maternity model, or she's exquisite.
Never, ever say anything negative. You're the only one who will come out of it looking ugly, trust me.
4 You're SO Huge Or You're SO Tiny
Believe it or not, I was told both of these things during the same pregnancy. I was not grateful for either comment. Comments regarding a pregnant woman's size are irritating. And it's not for the reason you'd think (okay so maybe it's for the reason you think a little bit).
The thing is, when you're pregnant and told you're huge, you are already aware of this fact, most likely, and you're also sensitive about it. Do you look like you just ate too many tacos on Taco Tuesday, or do you look pregnant? This is part of the problem with that one. Pregnant women want to look pregnant. They don't want to look like they belong to Tacoholics Anonymous.
If you get the other comment, that you're too small, you begin to question the health of your baby. Is the baby malnourished? Do you look like you're not as far along as you should be? Why are you looking so small?
I actually measured a few weeks behind on the last few doctor visits I had, and I was concerned. The truth was, that the baby was smaller and I was carrying differently. The comments about my smaller size late in pregnancy really bothered me and caused me to worry more than I needed to about the health of my unborn child.
Play it safe with this one and stick with "You look perfect!" That's a better reaction to seeing a pregnant woman than anything else you can come up with, trust me.
3 Postpartum Recovery Is Awful
Whether you'll have a Cesarean or a vaginal birth, there is a recovery process involved. It's not great, and there's no sugar coating that. Does a first time mom-to-be really need the nitty gritty details of how you couldn't walk right for two weeks and tore a stitch using the bathroom? Probably not.
Just like birth,recovery is different for everyone too. Sure, it's not exactly a skip through a meadow of flowers for anyone, but that doesn't mean it's going to be the exact same experience for every woman either.
Instead of warning her of the horrors of post birth recovery, why not provide some tips to make healing easier. I welcomed the advice from close girlfriends to ask for extra underwear icepacks at the hospital (a lifesaver), and to use the gel cooling pads in my nursing bra for those first painful days of nursing.
Those types of tips are helpful and comforting for a new mom because she's been given ways to make life easier for herself, rather than helplessly dread how difficult recovery will be. Be the kind of friend that tells pregnant women about the underwear icepacks. They'll thank you later.
2 Don't Do a C-section or Induction
I know it's tempting to try and offer a pregnant friend or relative advice that you think will help keep her safe and healthy. I get that. However, unless you are her physician, it's probably best to stay out of encouraging her to go against her doctor's advice, which could have dangerous outcomes for her and her child.
Feel free to offer your own experience if you feel it will offer her another perspective to consider, but I think it is always wise to default back to the fact that her doctor knows her health history and has made his or her decisions for her care with it in mind.
A birth plan is just that, a plan, and often times it must be deviated from during labor to ensure the safety of mother and child. A mother shouldn't feel as though she has failed if her birth does not in reality look like what she had imagined during pregnancy. Friends and family can either help to dismiss the myth that she has somehow failed by deviating from the plan, or they can encourage it by making comments that dismiss a doctor's opinion regarding important matters such as birthing methods.
Try to be supportive by encouraging her to ask her doctor all of the questions she needs to in order to feel confident in his or her plan for her birth.
1 Call Me When It's Time
Okay so this is a little awkward for both you and the mom-to-be. I'll just put it out there. If she wants you at the birth of her child, she will tell you. If you haven't been invited, then, well, you haven't been invited. Birth is not a party for anyone that decides to drop by.
It's a once in a lifetime event for the parents, and something they will remember and recall for the rest of their lives. It's not your place to invite yourself, and you shouldn't feel left out or snubbed because you weren't included.
Even if you're the grandparents, aunt or uncle, best friend, maid of honor, best man...you get the idea. I only wanted my husband and I at the birth of our children. I was guilted by some who simply could not understand my reasoning, but it did not change my wishes and I'm glad that I stuck to my guns.
Birth is one of the most personal moments of your life, and the one giving birth gets to decide who is there to witness it. Don't be the pushy person who tries to crash the birth of a baby.
I hope this list helps to discourage some of the things that people thoughtlessly say to pregnant women. There are so many better ways to fill the silence, let's try them!