Pregnancy. Unless you are an adult film star, never in your life will your body belong to so many people other than yourself. Doctors, midwives, family, friends, co-workers, cashiers in the check out line at the grocery store, your hairdresser, that woman on the subway….everyone will have an opinion or a piece of advice about every single thing you do. You will spend more time naked, with your legs in the air then you ever thought possible, and every single bowel movement, burp, outbreak of acne and passing of gas will be up for discussion and on display. Suddenly your body belongs to the world. Books, magazines and of course Google will tell you what to eat, how much to eat and when to eat it. Your doctor or midwife will tell you a cup of coffee a day is ok, but the raised eyebrows of the woman in the next cubicle will make you doubt that decision. People, often strangers, will tell you exactly what you should do with that body of yours. Food, exercise, clothing and even hair and make up. After all, it isn’t your body anymore. The second you announced you were growing another person, everyone around you suddenly bought stocks in the investment that is a baby. Now, don’t get me wrong. I have been blessed enough to have four healthy pregnancies and each one of them was an amazing miracle from start to finish. But every one of those pregnancies was a bit different. And even miracles can be ridden with anxiety and a little messy. Growing a person is mind blowing, and the pressure we put on ourselves while pregnant to make sure we give our baby the best and healthiest start in life is enormous. So guess what world? We are already worried enough for everyone, so unless you are handing out donuts with that advice, or we actually asked to hear it, kindly back off. Having been pregnant four times, I have compiled a little dos and don’ts list for the world surrounding pregnant women, both in and out of the delivery room. It’s time we reclaim our bodies….at least a little bit.
1.) Don’t ask her when she is due. If she wants you to know she will tell you. Out of four pregnancies, three of mine went more than ten days past my “due date”. I am usually a very mild mannered mama, but by day five I was not a woman to be messed with. In fact, I am pretty sure that the poor girl in the drive through at Tim Horton’s that made the mistake of asking when I was due may still be off on stress leave….Trust me, she is more obsessed with her due date than anyone, and once that date has come and gone the last thing in the world she wants to is constantly explain that to strangers. And, unless she is your best friend from birth or you are her doctor, do not ask about her mucus plug….I mean seriously.
2.) Do not EVER guess how far along she is in the pregnancy. This is the equivalent of that game where the carny guesses your age at the county fair. Every pregnancy is different, every woman is different and everyone gains and carries their baby weight differently. Asking this question almost always leads to responses such as, “Oh wow, you are still so small.” This response leads to the poor pregnant soul immediately worrying that she is somehow starving her baby, not eating enough, not eating the right things, putting her baby at risk for low birth weight etc, etc. Or, my personal favorite, “Really? You are already so big! Wow. That must be a big baby.” Why? What on earth makes anyone say those things to a pregnant woman? First of all, you are making her paranoid in our already weight obsessed society at a time when she really shouldn’t be thinking about weight, and second of all, and most importantly, are YOU pushing that baby you just called huge out of your lady parts in a few short months? No? Well then shut the hell up.
3.) Don’t touch her….please don’t touch her. This single act reminds pregnant ladies again and again that their bodies became time share properties the second they started to show. Unless she invites you to feel those amazing, miraculous kicks, hands off. She is spending far too much time being groped by doctors inside and out, has an actual person taking up real estate in her womb and even her partner hasn’t been allowed to touch her in weeks, so why complete strangers feel that what she really wants is a good belly rub is beyond me. Pregnant bellies are an invite only event.
4.) Don’t tell her what to eat. Eating during pregnancy is extremely stressful. Things that you once ate without thinking about it are now dangerous, and things you may have never eaten may be touted as a miracle food for your developing baby. Pregnant women read every scrap of information they can find about pregnancy including nutrition. They know donuts are not vegetables, they know coffee is bad and they also know that their bedtime burrito habit is causing their heartburn. Here’s the thing, when they are gaining weight, dealing with sleepless nights and losing control of their bodily functions, that bedtime burrito habit may be the only thing helping them maintain their sanity. So, unless you see her enjoying a bag of dishwasher tabs, back off. She already knows….
5.) Do not ever underestimate food cravings. This “don’t” may actually save the lives of a few partners out there, so pay attention. If a pregnant woman is craving something, that and ONLY THAT thing will do. Do not ever, ever substitute, regardless of how closely related you may feel the two items are. If your spouse asks you to pick up an apple pie from her favorite bakery on your way home from work, it means she really, really wants apple pie. If, for some reason you feel inspired to instead purchase a gluten free, sugar free, mini apple pie, don’t go home. Just keep on driving….a life on the run will be far easier than what is waiting for you at home when you present her with that sorry excuse for a craving substitution. Trust me on this. Also, do not ever question the cravings. In her logical mind she knows that waking up at 2 a.m. to fry bacon and dip it in spicy mustard isn’t really a good thing….especially when she is usually a vegetarian. But those cravings simply cannot be ignored and you pointing it out to her just makes her feel bad. So, grab some dipping mustard and a piece of bacon and call it a night.
6.) Don’t tell her how busy she is going to be. This is one for those mom’s that already have a little one, or two, or three at home and usually have them in tow while waddling with a very pregnant belly through town running errands. I got this one all the time. “Oh wow, you sure are going to have your hands full.” Really? I hadn’t thought of that. Aren’t babies usually born with nannies and maids as part of a package? Don’t you just select the self feeding, self changing and self washing babies when you are growing them in the womb? Isn’t there a button for that? Oh, and thanks for mentioning that this next child will suddenly make me “busy”, because right now I spend all my time lounging on the couch in my pajamas eating chips, so good to know that my life will suddenly change. We know we will be busy!!! We are already busy!!! So, unless you are going to join us while we run errands and keep one of those other children from running off or knocking over a store mannequin please respond with “what a beautiful family you have.” Because that is what we are actually trying to accomplish.
7.) Don’t tell her she’s glowing…unless she actually is. Pregnancy has a different effect on everyone. With one of my pregnancies I had beautiful, glowing skin and gorgeous hair. I felt beautiful. With the others I had acne, pregnancy mask, dull hair and gas….with those pregnancies I hated it when people gushed that I was glowing. I knew it was a load of crap and they just didn’t know what else to say. Becoming pregnant doesn’t mean that we suddenly remove all mirrors from our homes. We know if we are “glowing” or not. It’s ok, if we don’t look like pregnant supermodels. Just tell her she looks healthy, or better yet, don’t mention her appearance at all. Just ask her what she’s craving….
8.) Do not tell her stories about terrifying deliveries. What the heck is wrong with people?? I don’t know why, the minute a woman announces her pregnancy everyone from her sister in law to her dry cleaner feel the need to traumatize her with horror stories from the delivery room. Stop it stop it stop it!!!! She is already obsessing night and day about doing everything in her power to ensure a healthy baby and a healthy delivery. Why add to that worry with stories about your neighbor’s cousin’s hairdresser who was in labor for three days with a fifteen pound baby that was born sideways? Vaginas are tender areas on a good day, so the idea of pushing a baby out of there is scary enough without your tales of terror. Instead, talk about that insanely magical moment when your baby was placed on your chest for the first time. Or the sound of your baby’s first cry. Keep it positive people.
9.) Do no question her in the delivery room. For all those partners out there, whatever she wants in the delivery room goes. You may sit down ahead of time, especially if this is your first, and develop a detailed and beautifully organized birth plan. This will fly right out the window when active labor kicks in. Do not stand over her, frantically waving the birth plan around, demanding to know why she suddenly prefers silence over the soothing ocean sounds you selected together, or why she hurled your wedding photo across the room when you held it in front of her to focus on during a contraction. Just roll with it. Simply be grateful that her new, on the fly birth plan still allows for you to be in the room, and do whatever she says.
10.) Do not mention her pooping on the delivery table. I cannot stress enough how important this is. It may be the most important point of all. After nine or more months of weight gain, morning sickness, heartburn, hair growth, hair loss, acne, gas and loss of bladder control, if you feel the need to ever, ever mention that she lost control of her bowels while giving birth, you are on your own. You will likely be sleeping on the couch indefinitely, and that couch will likely be in the garage. Some things simply do not ever need to be spoken of. This, is one of those things.