Monday, October 3, 2011

Small Talk with Pregnant Women (and Moms)

'A great joy is coming' photo (c) 2010, Rachel Carter - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/As I have never been noticeably pregnant, I have yet to know the world of becoming a public spectacle. I just wrote a guest blog, "On Bellies, Babies, and Unwanted Attention," about my fear of receiving lots of attention from strangers once I become pregnant again for Adam McHugh, author of the highly-recommended book Introverts in the Church.

While doing some fun research for the piece, I asked mom friends of mine for feedback about the comments people would make to them while pregnant. Although my post for Adam's site didn't include them, I still think it would be valuable to post the helpful tips my friends provided. I know that I've done a lot of these no-nos in the past, so I myself have learned from this list.

Things NOT to say to pregnant women:

Do not mention how big/small they are. Most pregnant women are worried enough about their health and the health of their child without everyone else constantly pointing out that "the baby seems small" or "that's gonna be a big one." If you think telling them that they're small is helpful, it's not. It only makes them worry that the baby isn't growing big and strong. 

Do not mention any thing else about their body. "You're carrying so low/high" of "Wow, your boobs are huge" are not helpful comments and only make them self-conscious. Believe it or not, pregnant women do look in mirrors. They are aware of how they are carrying. Body image is a big issue for pregnant women, so don't make it worse by reinforcing the idea that they are defined by their bodies.

Do not rehash horror stories from other pregnancies you have experienced personally or through a loved one. "Well you never know how things will go 'cause I was on bedrest for the last two months of my pregnancy" is not helpful. 

When you see a pregnant women with young children, do not make jokes like, "Don't you know what causes that?" Do not say that her hands are full enough already or that she needs to hire a nanny. Every child is a blessing and is worth celebrating with sassy jokes, even if it's child #15. 

Do not touch a pregnant woman who is a stranger without asking for permission. Seriously people! If you are friends and you would ordinarily hug or touch without it being weird, then touching her belly might not be so horrible. But try to think about touching someone's belly in terms of hugging them: If you wouldn't go up and randomly hug a stranger in public, why would you touch their belly? 

"You look like you are about to pop." Really? What does this even mean? She's not a balloon, and she's not about to pop. 


Things that are OKAY to say to pregnant women:

Simple remarks about her body are fine, as long as they are positive and you don't linger when looking at and talking about her body. You can say, "Oh you're simply glowing" or "You look beautiful" and then move on. 

Offering resources to a women is fine, but assess her reaction carefully while doing so. Yes, she may love to hear about your church's program for new moms or the wonderful care you received at your hospital, but she might already know about this information and be sick of hearing it over and over. 


Things that are GREAT to say to pregnant women:

Congratulations!

Give any helpful advice if they have asked for it or if you are a close enough friend that you have the permission to speak into their life. 

"Would you like my seat?" Any chivalrous gestures of holding doors or helping with heavy lifting seem to be appreciated by all of my friends. (But don't be stubborn and insist on carrying her purse if she says she's fine. She might actually not want a stranger carrying her stuff.)

Please ask lots of questions about things other than her pregnancy. Pregnant women (and moms) love to talk about their kids, but they are also normal humans who love to talk about other things. They are teachers, daughters, bakers, authors, engineers, etc. Inquire about other areas of her life. Please, please, please, talk about something else every once in awhile.


Anything I'm missing here moms? Or do you disagree with any of these?

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