Pregnancy is a very exciting but tumultuous time – the last thing you need is people being insensitive and rude when it comes to your ever-changing body shape. You’re already dealing with raging hormones, extreme tiredness and strange, new bodily afflictions which can change daily. Yet a funny thing happens when a woman falls pregnant – suddenly, your body becomes public property.
Strangers, co–workers and family members rapidly develop foot-in-mouth disease, offering constant, unsolicited comments ranging from everything from how you’re carrying, to your bump size and how tired/happy/glowing you look (or don’t look, shock horror). Personally, I think the kindest thing you can ever say to a pregnant woman is: “How are you feeling?” And then listen, really listen, even if she lurches into a mad rant about horrific pregnancy complications which make your toenails curl.
When I was pregnant with my first baby, a very senior male manager with whom I worked at a media giant took one look at my blossoming form, having not seen me for months, then remarked with distaste: “Oh! I didn’t think you’d be that big?!”
“I’m terribly sorry to inconvenience you with my growing baby bump, you stupid, sexist male oaf?!” I shot back.
Just kidding. Instead, I was so embarrassed and bewildered; I wanted the floor to swallow me up. Then, with my second pregnancy, there was the elderly male neighbour who’d bellow at me: “Are you sure you’re not having twins?!” every single time I waddled past his house to get to the local shops.
I did give birth to two ten-pounders respectively, but that’s beside the point. When is it ever OK to make loud, public and very personal comments to a woman about her appearance, especially when she’s undoubtedly hormonal, emotional and hypersensitive? And, then there was the other neighbour who repeatedly commented on the largeness of my baby bump. Now, I may not have had the most petite of bumps, both pregnancies, but I hardly compared to say, “Octomom”.
And are women so insanely competitive, we need to measure up our bumps against the size of someone else’s?
Needless to say, I was thrilled when we moved to a new neighbourhood! I say it’s high time we start being a lot kinder to pregnant women. We should offer them kind words of praise and encouragement – if indeed they seek our opinions at all. Whenever I see a pregnant woman, I try to offer a kindly smile and nod of understanding and empathy. Pregnancy can be the most glorious, sexy, wonderful state, but also one often plagued by anxiety, fear and discomfort – we should all do our extra bit to ensure our pregnant sisters feel wonderful.
- Compliment a pregnant friend, family member or colleague at every opportunity. Never tell her she looks tired.
- Ask her how she feels and offer to help her, where possible. Be positive about her pregnancy – comments like “You won’t know what hit you!” or “You think you’re tired now?!” are mean and unhelpful.
- Offer her gifts of rare gems (just kidding) – food parcels are a lovely way to aid her long days on her feet.
- Never comment on the size of her bump, whether small or large. Both are equally offensive.
- No tummy touching, unless you have her permission first. Even then, I’d tread with caution. Hormones are a killer, she might (and rightfully so) throw a punch.
- Resist the temptation to regale her with your birth horror stories. This will only add to her anxiety levels, so keep it to yourself, sister.
By Nicole Carrington-Sima