Pregnancy is a funny old time. Usually it's filled with a whole plethora of emotions; excitement, fear, nervousness, happiness, worry….it really is a crazy time. I remember going through ALL the stages and feeling really overwhelmed at points.
There were times people liked to chip in with “helpful” advice, anecdotes or comments. Usually it was lovely and supportive. Other times it really really wasn't. What I've come to realise is that many seem to go through this. There really should be a code of conduct when it comes to dealing with pregnant people. Of course we are all different, and what others find helpful and supportive, others won't. None the less, I've put together a little list of what NOT to say in order to support friends…..damn it, even STRANGERS through their pregnancy. This was put together with a little help from my friends, who chipped in with their worst experiences when they were expecting….
- The number 1 “no no” was the old classic….”are you sure it's not twins in there?”. These words seemed to be uttered to around 50% of ladies whilst pregnant. It's not really helpful or complimentary. After all, said lady is likely to know the configuration of baby/ies in her tummy, and all the comment does is make her feel as large as a bus. Not a great feeling. So just DON'T.
- OK next up….assuming the pregnant lady in question won't want to go out or have fun anymore. No, she can't drink but she CAN still have fun and hold a conversation. Helen Pritchard says “A friend said to me ‘Oh, I didn't invite you to my party because I thought you wouldn't want to be around people drinking!’ Lame – I said I can still make my own decisions even though I am pregnant.”
- Any comments at all about weight gain or shape tend not to be helpful. Whether it's “Wow you are enormous” or “Gosh you're THAT far ahead? You are SO SMALL”. All contributions like this do is make us worry. Worry that we are not normal and ARE in fact too small or too big etc etc. And (possibly) even worse….comments about the rest of the body too. Rebecca says someone said to her “you can really tell you're pregnant now, you're filling out in your face”, making her cry. Rose says her father in law made this HORRENDOUS comment to her – “I thought your tummy was supposed to get bigger not your bum as well!”. Just NO.
- The touching of the belly. Sometimes from friends, often by complete strangers! Pregnant tummies are not public property! Of course, some people may not mind their bump being handled and that is fine. But many are not fans of random hands on them. So for goodness sake at least ask first….or better still, just swerve the bump groping all together!
- I speak from personal bitter experience here. My second daughter was born only a year after my first. I was asked constantly and usually by total strangers “was that planned?”. This inevitably led to an uncomfortable discussion about my sex life. AWKS. Just don't go there. Please.
- Pregnancy can be hard work. It is tiring and emotional and makes you ache in places you didn't even know existed. So when she divulges information about the bad side of it, the worst thing you can say is “You chose to do this, you really can’t complain” (thanks to Mary for this gem). Erm, just because she has taken part in the basic natural instinct to reproduce, doesn't exclude her from the right to have a moan, OK?
- The “just you wait” style comments are never helpful, either. Many people are SO keen to tell you how much worse it gets, which doesn't fill you with happiness or comfort. Classics are “Wow you look tired…just wait until the sleepless nights start!” (thanks for that quote Lisa) or when you say you think you have everything you need for the baby and someone (un)helpfully chips in with “trust me…you are NEVER prepared” (thanks Jen for that one!).
- The labour horror stories. Why? Just WHY? If someone tells you they are about to have an operation on their heart, you probably wouldn't rack your brain to think of all the heart operation horror stories to impart on the poor person, would you? So why on earth do people do that to pregnant ladies when childbirth is both imminent and unavoidable. All it does is create anxiety and fear. Unless it's a nice labour story, just don't go there.
- In a similar vein, passing judgement or comment about a lady's chosen (or NOT chosen!) delivery method is not a good move. What came out top in this area was the trend in implying a lady is taking the “easy option” if she has a c-section. This is not a good move because a) it's bollocks and b) it's just tactless, rude, and makes her feel like crap.
- Last but not least. Before you say ANYTHING, just be ABSOLUTELY SURE she is, in fact, pregnant. Because I don't think there's anything worse than the old “when are you due?!” when the lady in question is not harbouring a baby at all. I've heard several of these stories and they never end well. So unless you have absolute confirmation and proof, just don't risk it. It's not worth it!
This article was written by Sally Bunkham, founder of Mum's Back who provide new mum hampers and gifts for mums in general, focussed on all the yummy stuff denied in pregnancy (wine, pate, cheese, gin, prosecco etc!). £1 from every hamper sold goes to perinatal mental health charity PANDAS Foundation.