It’s been a long time since I’ve been pregnant, and I have absolutely no plans for future pregnancies. I do, however, encounter pregnant women often. Many of my colleagues at work are just starting their families, I am friendly with pregnant women who go to my shul, and I have relatives who are now or recently were pregnant.
So on an almost daily basis, I am stunned at the awful things people say to pregnant women. For some inexplicable reason, people in general think that a pregnant woman is an open target upon which they are entitled to hurl cruel comments thinly guised as humor. I can’t count how many times, during each of my pregnancies, I was involuntarily brought to tears as a result of someone else’s nastiness, and it upsets me to see this still happening to other women.
When I was pregnant with my third son, I created the following list of the top 10 most upsetting things that others said to me. This list is a compilation of questions and statements from each of my pregnancies. While the people who said them may not have truly intended to hurt me, that was the effect. I’ve consulted with many other current and soon-to-be mothers, and every woman with whom I spoke confirmed that they too experienced similar verbal assaults, some of which brought them to tears.
Now, pregnant women are known for being a bit emotional, it’s true, but that is all the more reason to be more sensitive, more loving, and certainly, more kind and gentle than usual. Please use this list as a guide for what not to say to pregnant women, even if you think it would be funny.
1. My God! You’re Huge!
Even if this is true, the pregnant person certainly doesn’t need to be reminded. Getting bigger is part of the normal process of growing a baby inside one’s body—we know this already. Unless you’re speaking to a bodybuilder, remarking that another person is “huge” is generally not a compliment.
2. Are you sure your due date is correct? You look like you could “pop” any minute.
It doesn’t matter how much time remains of the pregnancy, just don’t say this. Ever. All pregnant women carry their pregnancies differently and look different from each other. It doesn’t really even make sense to say that a woman looks like she could “pop” or “just drop and have the baby.” Birth doesn’t work like that.
3. Do any of your clothes still fit you?
Unless the pregnant woman in front of you is completely naked in a public place, she obviously must have clothes that fit her. Fortunately, clothing comes in all shapes and sizes to fit many varieties of the human body, pregnant or not
4. You have no idea what pain is until you give birth.
This is a statement meant to do nothing except create fear of the birth process, and it is not necessarily true. I personally found my two bouts with kidney stones to be excruciating, and unlike contractions, the pain of kidney stones is constant, often continuing for days, and you don’t get a baby at the end.
5. Hey watch out, here comes the fat lady! You’re really waddling now!
Seriously, I hope that you would never say this to someone who isn’t pregnant, so why would you say it to someone who is pregnant?
6. You’ve really gained a lot of weight, haven’t you?
Pregnant women are supposed to gain weight, especially if they were underweight before becoming pregnant. But honestly, this is none of your business.
7. Aren’t you worried that you won’t get your pre-pregnancy figure back?
Maybe she is worried, and maybe she isn’t—but why should you care? It’s none of your concern and you certainly don’t need to make her feel self-conscious. She is growing a person inside her body, it is going to change the way she looks one way or another. That is the way it should be!
8. Well, that’s quite a lunch you have there. Are you eating for two or ten?
Nourishing the growing life inside of her absolutely should be top priority for a pregnant woman. She should eat plenty of healthy, nutritious food. Why would you try to make someone feel badly about ensuring the health of her child? Maybe you’re jealous that you have no sanctioned reason to eat heartily, but in that case, why not order some spaghetti?
9. You don’t actually think those birthing classes are going to help you, do you?
Actually, birth education classes helped my husband and me tremendously with all of my pregnancies. Would you recommend that a woman experience birth completely unprepared for what the process entails? The fear of birth, created by comments like this, doesn’t help anyone, whether they have a birth plan or not.
10. Life is easy now; just wait until the baby is born.
No, that just isn’t true. Nothing about being pregnant was easy for me. All of my pregnancies were so difficult, and they seemed so endless. I discovered with the birth of each of my sons that life became better once my baby was in my arms. Yes, being a parent is an incredible responsibility, and it exhausting and hard, but it is an incredibly rewarding responsibility filled with joy.
So, instead of commenting on a pregnant woman’s body or trying to tell her how awful birth and life with a baby will be, why not try to make her feel beautiful, loved, and cared for? Tell her that she looks wonderful, regardless of whether or not you think she does. Tell her that her baby is lucky to have her as a mother, help her to feel confident. One of the best things to say is the traditional Jewish wish for expecting parents, B’sha’ah Tovah, which means that we hope that all pregnancy-related things should happen at the right time. We hope for the pregnancy to be smooth, for the baby to be healthy, and for the birth to happen without complication.
It would be wonderful if we could try to help pregnant women to be calm and content so they can focus their energy on growing a new little person. We can all be the change we want to see in the world, starting with helping to nurture those among us who are creating new life within.