This is a quiz.
You see an acquaintance/stranger with a pregnant belly. You say:
b) Wow, your belly is magnificent.
Which do you think? If you're ever in doubt, go with (b). Not that there's anything wrong with (a). I know I've said it in the past; I can't remember a specific occasion, but I must have. Everyone does. At least, so it seems to me now, being the one with the belly. Everyone says it, and I know they don't mean it in the spirit of, "Dang, you're an ELEPHANT!" Not at ALL. I mean, my belly is big -- maybe not huge, though. I think we must reserve superlatives for when we really need them. But that is neither here nor there. My point is just that there are better things to say to a pregnant woman. You might try:
a) You look great/beautiful/amazing!
b) Your belly is so cute/beautiful/adorable!
c) I love your belly!
Avoid words like "huge" and "gigantic." Also, make no comparisons with livestock. You wouldn't think I'd have to point that out, but people say the darnedest things. In fact, try not to suggest that the baby incubating in the belly is anything other than human. (Really!) And here's an important one: don't say, "Are you having triplets???" Or even twins -- unless you know it IS triplets or twins. Because that's basically just a way of saying, "You're way bigger than you should be. Either your baby is an enormous mutant, or you're fat."
Any other moms want to chime in here? I really don't want to give the impression that I'm offended. A lovely, dear friend told me the other day my belly was huge, and that was fine. On the other hand, a stranger stopped her car while I was walking the dog to ask if I was "due tomorrow." (Answer: "No, actually, two more months (at that time). But thanks.") Again, that's just a way of suggesting someone is abnormally large. I got the double-whammy from a very successful [male] writer at BEA; "Are you due tomorrow?" followed by, "Is it twins?" and I have to say, his tone of voice was rude, and I can't quite believe there was mere innocent ignorance at work there. Why he would try to be insulting, I can't fathom. I'd never even met him before, but he did not make a good first impression.
Abstain from comments that suggest abnormality. I mean, yes, my belly is big. I'm 35 weeks pregnant. But it's not crazy-big. It's not record-breaking big; Professor is only in the 43rd percentile for size. Have people never seen a pregnant belly before? There's a person growing in there, you know. I just wonder: what motivates these suggestions of abnormal size? You could say it's totally innocent and they have no intention of suggesting abnormality; they're just making an observation. But aren't we trained not to blurt out every observation that pops into our heads? We're not four-year-olds saying, "Mommy, that lady's fat." Right? Anyway, I don't think it's always innocent. It's a weird kind of competition: "I'm more normal than you." See, women who've been pregnant themselves totally make these comparative comments, maybe more than others, because they're coming from a place of personal expertise. They know pregnant bellies and feel qualified to comment on whether you're *normal* or not. But . . . just don't. Pregnant women don't like being told they're abnormal.
You also get a ton of "misery loves company" kind of comments from other parents:
-- "Do all your sleeping now." (as if sleep-banking technology exists.)
-- "Everything will change. Everything." (in toneless zombie voice.)
-- "You'll never see a movie or eat a meal while it's hot ever again."
And birth horror stories. People love to share those. Episiotomies and excruciating back labor and babies strangled by their cords! Why would you tell a pregnant woman that? Why? Again, it's moms who do this more than anyone. I'll really have to try to remember later not to do the same thing, because maybe you just forget what it was like to be pregnant and worry about everything, even without helpful worry-instigators egging you on. Where I am right now, I'm looking forward to birth with great curiosity and excitement; we are preparing ourselves mentally and physically and aiming for a certain [calm, natural] experience, and that's our whole focus. We don't want to hear the war stories.
It's totally okay, though, to pass on the joyous, beautiful stories about laughing and snuggling in the labor room, to gush about how awesome babies are, to tell what your child's favorite toys are and what cloth diapers worked best for you, stuff like that.
I think I sound more defensive and irritated than I am, but really, more than that I'm interested in the "psychology" of how people talk to pregnant women, as if they are in the public domain. You know? There's even belly-touching by strangers, which never happens for any other reason. And I'm interested in how one's perspective can shift with new experience. I never thought about it before I was pregnant, and that's why I'm not offended when someone tells me I'm huge -- like I said, I'm sure I said it myself, before.
To be clear, I'm not ashamed of my belly. I love it! It's awesome. It interacts with us. It entertains us. It is alive. It's the coolest thing ever. And, big as it is, my body can completely accommodate it, which is something of a revelation. I am still perfectly comfortable. I have no back pain, no discomfort of any kind, and no trouble sleeping. I can still pick a frisbee up off the ground, kneel to paint furniture (and get back up after), run across the street. It doesn't feel heavy; it doesn't weigh on me. It's perfectly integrated and balanced, and I find that fascinating. Way to go, Mother Nature! Well done :-)
So curious to hear your thoughts on this stuff.