With this pregnancy, as with my first, I’ve found that there is no need to wonder what strangers are thinking. They regularly share their thoughts unprompted, those thoughts are often rather strange, and they are typically about three things: size, gender, and timing.
1. My Size. When I was about 6 months pregnant, I attended a dinner. A stranger approached and announced, “You’re pregnant!”
“Yes,” I responded.
She asked how far along I was and then informed me, “You look too big for six-months.”
“Well,” I explained, “I’m very small, so the baby only has outward to go.”
There’s a reason I look like a three-sided plus-sign (again), and comments about my being “too big” are both rude and false.
2. Dreaming of Boys. Opinionated Washingtonians have consistently insisted that I must be carrying a boy. According to a woman who saw me this winter, my gaining weight only in my belly, rather than all over my body, was the give-away. My body must like head-faking, because several sonograms have confirmed that Matzah Ball (our nickname for my baby-to-be) is indeed a girl.
There was also the unknown man by our building’s elevator who struck up a conversation. When he heard I was having a second girl, he commented, “Oh, I’m so sorry.”
“Why?” I asked. After all, I’m not a queen from an era when producing male heirs was critical for my nation. This man couldn’t explain, but apparently believes boys are better.
The strangest encounter of all was at a spring carnival. After exiting a photo booth with my family, I was accosted by an older woman who wanted to know when I was due and what I was carrying.
“My second girl,” I told her with a smile. She insisted the doctor was wrong; I expressed confidence the doctor was right. “Did you look like this last time?” she asked skeptically.
“Yes,” I assured her.
“Are you going to try again, for a boy?”
“Why?” I asked, stunned by the question. “I’m happy we’re having a girl.”
“But your husband, he must want a boy.”
“No, he’s very happy we’re having a girl too,” I answered, while rapidly fleeing the increasingly intrusive questions.
3. Timing. At an April dinner, I was seated beside a man who asked about my pregnancy and learned I was due during D.C.’s famously hot and humid summer.
“Well that wasn’t very smart planning,” he chided.
“If I could have chosen, I would have picked another time,” I assured him. But really, does any parent believe we have that much control over pregnancy timing (or anything else)?
In June, a woman thanked me for not going into labor, as I left an event we’d both attended. I wasn’t sure how my laboring would have impacted her dinner, but I nodded, noting, “I’m not due for a while.”
On my way to the dry cleaner recently, a woman stopped me, insisting I explain what was in “that heavy bag.”
“My husband’s dirty shirts,” I replied.
“Oh,” she said, easing up, “are you on your way to the hospital after that?”
“No, not for another several weeks.”
“You look ready to go!” she exclaimed.
Was that meant as a compliment?
I suppose in their own way, these strangers are trying to share my pregnancy joy, which is nice. But, the aforementioned comments all made me different degrees of uncomfortable. Strangers, you know nothing about me, and it’s unbelievably forward of you to raise some of these incredibly personal subjects in a first (and only) conversation. Have you no sense of boundaries?
If you don’t know what to say to a pregnant woman, “Congratulations!” or “B’sha’ah tovah!” are ideal. Those high-spirited remarks eliminate awkwardness and will more accurately convey the cheer you intend to share.
And to all my fellow mamas with summer due dates, keep cool, and b’sha’ah tovah!