Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How To Talk To a Pregnant Woman

(image from Corbis; not my belly)

This is a quiz.

You see an acquaintance/stranger with a pregnant belly. You say:

a) Oh my god! Your belly is HUGE!!!

or

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.

62 comments:

Jim Di Bartolo said...

Mwah Beautiful :)

And I'm sure you recall my comment to mystery-author at BEA: "Smooth. Real smooth." (and you know I wanted to say more... ;)

xoxo
Husbles

Heather said...

I kind of giggled when I read your post because I have been there too. I couldn't believe some of the things that came out of people's mouths during my third trimester! At least your blog is nicer about it than I was on mine - check out May 13 2008 if you want proof!

Chin up! You'll be holding your darling girl soon.

Anonymous said...

I once hear someone on NPR who said that women's backs are built to accomadate their pregnant bellies, but that if somehow men were to become pregnant they would be so unstable that they would topple over like bowling pins.

:)

S R Wood said...

As a man, here is my Maximum Safety approach to anyone who might be pregnant:

Do not acknowledge. Do not ask. Do not suggest. Ever. Ever. Ever. Even if the woman is IN labor, do not say "when are you due?" Also, apologize a lot because odds are you've performed some oafish misstep without even realizing it.

Instead, I wait for them to bring it up first, in which case it's safe to talk about. IN A TACTFUL MANNER.

Once I was walking with my sister, five years old and precocious, when an enormous (not pregnant) (I think) woman came rolling down the sidewalk toward us, clothes straining.

My sister said loudly, "What's that man got under his shirt?"

I am saving this story for her wedding.

Pregnancy is a beautiful thing. But like many beautiful things it is fraught with risk for thoughtless passers-by!

Heather said...

You would think people could just figure out regular old biology and think, "gee, she's growing a HUMAN in her body, where else would it go but out?" I used to get especially irritated when men commented, like THEY knew what was going on! I for one, very much enjoy looking at pregnant bellies, they fascinate me still and probably always will.

AS for the other stuff - sure I've eaten cold meals, but that was usually because I was nursing my gorgeous little bundle and there is nothing sweeter than that. Yes, I have sleep deprivation, but are there any University students out there that don't? People who work the night shift? Anyone?

The fact is that creating a human is the purest expression of love you can offer your spouse. It's a gift. And it is a way of immortalizing the two of you. It's combining your genetic codes and making something...better. Unless you are twins married to twins, there will be no one else in the world out there like little Professor - she will be completely unique, even if you provide siblings for her.

She will be the best work of art either of you has ever done.

Rachael King said...

You know what? You're life doesn't change THAT much. All those people who said to me, shaking their heads, 'Oh, boy, just you wait,' as if I could have no idea what hell I was in for... well, sure, the first 6 weeks is incredibly intense, but it's a bubble, and you get through it and it's amazing as well as hard. But for those living the kind of life that we do (self-employed, creative, i guess) a baby can just fit in pretty nicely, really. Yes, things will be different, but not like going to live on the moon or anything. You adjust. And your sleep comes back in a few months, which is nothing compared to a whole lifetime.

Chantele said...

Life does change, but not for the worse!:) I hated it when complete strangers would come up and try to touch my belly. With both of my pregnancies! It drove me crazy! When a lady at a check out stand turns around and pats me on the stomach saying, "Wow. How far along are you?" It gets a little old. Since I was only 7 months at the time. Grrrr... I wasnt' really offended, but I was a little annoyed. Keep your hands to yourself people!:) You are a beautiful pregnant lady by the way!

Anonymous said...

I love this post, Laini. It makes me think of 3 related stories, but from a different perspective than yours.

1. I once went to a dinner for my husband's company. After loading up my plate at the buffet, I came back to the table where my husband's coworker said, "So I've got to ask. My wife has a really good sense about these things--are you guys pregnant?" I wasn't. Awwwwkward. I laughed it off (and went to the dessert table twice just to be defiant). It's great advice to never ask a woman if she's pregnant, but really, under no circumstances should you ever, ever, ever ask that question when a woman is eating, unless you want to convey the message, "hey there, you're looking a little chubby and also like you're eating for 2!"

2. I was once sitting next to a pregnant acquaintance when the baby started to kick. Before I had any time to react, the woman said, "Oh my God! Feel!" and grabbed my hand and pressed it to her belly. Some people might be totally comfortable with this, but for me it was really surprising and awkward. This is a woman who we generally greet each other with a stiff awkward hug or a friendly wave, so to have her grab my hand and put it on her belly felt like quite the personal leap.

3. (Your comments about people feeling the need to share "war stories" is what makes me bring this one up.) So I recently had a miscarriage. The day before I went to the hospital for the D&C procedure, I called one of my good friends to tell her what was going on. She had had a miscarriage the previous year (and is now currently pregnant) and I was craving some supportive words from someone who had shared this experience. I asked her what I could expect at the hospital, and this was a mistake on my part because what I was really wanting was for her to tell me everything is going to be all right, you have nothing to worry about. Instead, she told me the D&C was the most painful, excruciating, awful experience she'd ever had, and she asked if I had valium or any prescription painkiller that I could take in the morning before I went in. I was horrified, to say the least. (And she's a very intelligent woman so I was shocked that she would freely recommend a friend do something so dangerous as to self-medicate before a medical procedure.) She also told me that I shouldn't get my hopes up about getting pregnant again too easily and that it could be a very long, drawn out process. While this may be true, I think this is one of the absolute last things you should ever say to someone grieving a pregnancy loss.

I don't know what it is about pregnancy that makes us abandon our filter for what is polite and not polite, what is compassionate and not compassionate. I think most people have an understanding of what should and shouldn't be said, but have their occasional foot-in-the-mouth moments, and then there are the people who probably say or do inappropriate or impolite things quite frequently in all aspects of their life, but the effect is just much more pronounced when they're interacting with a pregnant woman.

bookduck said...

Wow. I never thought about how easily "My don't you look big" comments slip out when people (including me, I'm sure, although I can't recall specific moments)speak with pregnant women. No way would anyone behave in the ways you specified with non-pregnant women.

As a college student, I don't have many pregnant friends/acquaintances yet, but engagements are already being declared, and I'm sure there will be babies in a few years. I will definitely try to keep your suggestions in mind.

Thanks for another thought provoking post!

Anonymous said...

I'm a big fan of your blog, and all I can say is, I'm so happy for you :] So many women don't realize the miracle of being pregnant, or having a baby, but you do.

Alicia said...

I completely agree--I got the "HUGE!" comments and the horror stories all through my pregnancy, especially, it seemed, at times when I was most worried about the whole thing.

I forestalled some of the "you're so big!" comments with a cool shirt-- it said "Geek Inside" with the same image as the "Intel Inside" logo. Nobody ever had anything but positive comments when I wore that one.

Laini Taylor said...

Anonymous (the longer Anon, three posts up), I'm so sorry to hear about your miscarriage. When I had a miscarriage last year I did a much more brief "public service announcement" here about how not to console a friend who's lost a pregnancy. The "it's nature's way" comments really killed me -- how did they know? As far as tests could conclude, there was nothing wrong with my baby. All you can say to someone is "I'm sorry." And my GOD, I can't believe your friend told you all that right before you had the D&C!! I had to have one too (for the placenta only), and it was not at all painful, but even if it WAS, I wouldn't tell that to someone who was about to have one! That's pathological insensitivity. It took me about 7 months to get pregnant again, which seemed like a long time but really isn't. A friend of mine was pregnant again in 4 months. But that reminds me of another unthinkable miscarriage comment. Someone told her, "I told you you shouldn't have told people you were pregnant yet." Ack! Can you believe that??? An "I told you so" at that time. I don't think they're friends any more.

I wish you the best of luck in getting pregnant again soon (as soon as is healthy!) -- and having a healthy and easy next pregnancy!

:-)

carolyn said...

Making a human from scratch is both ordinary and miraculous. My theory is that people have different levels of comfort with the earthy magic of it.
Some people want to make or re-new a connection to it, hence the gushing, touching, and sharing. Some people are made so uncomfortable by the process, which is so private and yet so public (unless you choose to go into "confinement" for the duration of your largeness) that they try to belittle it. Consciously, or unconsciously...

storyqueen said...

I think we touch bellies because we are hardwired to do so.....kind of like how in the animal kingdom all babies look cute and vulnerable so as to inspire protective instincts. I think when we see bellies with babies inside, it somehow breaks through our "filters" and fills people with awe and wonder. Maybe it psychologically takes us back to being three or four, when we just had to touch everything. Or perhaps it reminds us that something very wonderful (like a miracle) is going to happen soon and, well, who doesn't want to touch a miracle?

As for the war stories...well, I attribute that to post-traumatic stress. We forget (repress), most of the time, our birthing experiences, but when we see a mommy-to-be, well, it all just comes flooding back, and faster than we can put the breaks on, stuff just tumbles out into the air from our mouths....profound, sensitive things like the number of stitches and the hours of pushing. The truth is that we wear our battle stories like medals, because we survived something that was really, really hard, and long ago, many of our foremothers didn't.

You are not the first to notice the phenomenon....I wrote in a journal about it when I had my first baby. I was teaching and afraid to go into the lounge for fear of what horrible story lay in wait for me that day. Uggghhh....the memories.

Mommies-to-be are beautiful!

Shelley

(And don't fear the sleep deprivation. Having no sleep inspired most of my picture books....true story.)
www.storyqueenscastle.blogspot.com

Courtney said...

Laini - I am sure at some point I have failed at the etiquette that should be used with those who are pregnant. Having never been myself I try desperately to remember tact when speaking with those who are much like the gentleman aboves comments about "not commenting until she brings it up". I cannot imagine making some of the comments you listed or those other people have listed to someone who is pregnant. My sister gave birth to 4 beautiful children & she would have smacked me had I ever even mentioned her "HUGE" belly. I was always fascinated with that part of pregnancy. How the body just accommodates everything is nothing short of amazing. It is Life that rolls & flips within that belly. It is the Future that will be cuddled by its mother. It is such a gift. I know that if/when I am lucky enough to have a child there will be complaints about some bodily changes, but I truly pray that I will see its beauty first & foremost.

Don't listen to the war stories, my siblings who have kids may have endured late night feedings and loud lungs, but those kids go on all the trips, give all the sticky popsicle kisses, laugh at all the weird faces their dads make & love with all their hearts. I think it is worth a little sleep deprivation for all that...I love your blog Laini. You are such a light - your child is already so blessed.
Your last descriptions about how you view pregnancy are beautiful.

TansyRR said...

I'm 32 weeks pregnant with my second and I have to say - having people comment on the fact that I am blatantly pregnant is way better than them *acting surprised* or *me having to tell them* which was still happening a couple of weeks ago.

Okay, I'm not skinny, but seriously it was KINDA obvious and it's a touch bewildering to have people just assume that the large person-shaped bulge in your midriff is a result of too many sandwiches.

The 'huge' comments tend to kick in about 7 months, it's true, and it's bizarre. I mean, there are lots of pregnant women around, it's not that unusual. We don't all go into confinement for the last few months. Considering that all the baby does for the last two months is grow, it's going to get SO MUCH BIGGER.

Funnily enough by the time you are 8-9 months those comments tend to fade away and people just stare at you like they're too embarrassed to say anything.

Any comments that associate pregnancy with unnatural size (or being overweight) are really horrible to receive and show I think how uncomfortable many people in society are with a) larger bodies and b) physical evidence of pregnancy.

Having a baby will totally change your life, to the point where you can't imagine what it was like before. But there is no way to imagine how different it will be, no way to prepare for it. And the stuff people talk about - sleep, nappies etc - is just stuff. That isn't what will change you at all. Being a Mum or a Dad is overwhelming and marvellous and one of the most exciting life changes you can go through. I have a four and a half year old and I still boggle about it.

TansyRR said...

I should add: just before I had my daughter, like a month before, a woman I barely knew in the workplace came in, sat next to me at the computer, told me in a very clinical voice all the steps you go through when you have an emergency caesarian, and then went away again.

I was shocked. Upset. Blindsided. I couldn't believe she had done that to me, and it completely freaked me out.

But a month later, when it turned out I did need one, I was ridiculously grateful.

The horror stories may feel tactless, but they are often told for a purpose, and it isn't to be competitive or to scare the hell out of you. It's a fellow woman trying to prepare you for the unpreparable. They might land with the resounding crash of a brick through the window, but often they are meant with love.

The best thing you can do is take it, try not to emotionally engage with it, and file it away, hoping you never need it.

(caesarian story aside my theory has always been that you shouldn't imagine or prepare for the worst, because thinking bad things ahead of time doesn't help you when bad things happen)

I should add that, despite my horror beforehand, my caesarian was brilliant and I came out of it feeling very positive about my body and my baby, though I know a lot of women don't feel the same about theirs, especially if unplanned. I don't know if that little bit of preparation about what to expect helped with that or not, but it didn't hurt to have some idea of what was involved.

TansyRR said...

I should add: just before I had my daughter, like a month before, a woman I barely knew in the workplace came in, sat next to me at the computer, told me in a very clinical voice all the steps you go through when you have an emergency caesarian, and then went away again.

I was shocked. Upset. Blindsided. I couldn't believe she had done that to me, and it completely freaked me out.

But a month later, when it turned out I did need one, I was ridiculously grateful.

The horror stories may feel tactless, but they are often told for a purpose, and it isn't to be competitive or to scare the hell out of you. It's a fellow woman trying to prepare you for the unpreparable. They might land with the resounding crash of a brick through the window, but often they are meant with love.

The best thing you can do is take it, try not to emotionally engage with it, and file it away, hoping you never need it.

(caesarian story aside my theory has always been that you shouldn't imagine or prepare for the worst, because thinking bad things ahead of time doesn't help you when bad things happen)

I should add that, despite my horror beforehand, my caesarian was brilliant and I came out of it feeling very positive about my body and my baby, though I know a lot of women don't feel the same about theirs, especially if unplanned. I don't know if that little bit of preparation about what to expect helped with that or not, but it didn't hurt to have some idea of what was involved.

Sarah said...

Good grief, Laini, I totally understand what you're talking about. The things people say to pregnant women! My baby is four months old now, but I remember how I couldn't go out at all without someone having some kind of comment to make.

I had the opposite problem, though. My baby was small (below the 10th percentile), and not surprisingly, I was worried about him. It didn't help that people were constantly telling me how tiny I was or not believing I was nine months pregnant. The worst were the other pregnant women comparing their bellies to mine, like "Wow! I'm only six months pregnant and I'm way bigger than you!" It just made me worry about my baby and feel like I was doing something wrong. Then on the flip side, some people would tell me I looked like I would be going into labor any minute. You just can't win!

And, I have to say, if I thought people randomly touching my stomach was surprising, I am completely shocked by how many strangers touch my baby. People are constantly grabbing his little hands (which go straight into his little mouth...ewww) or touching his face. I don't know where their hands have been. Sigh. One piece of advice...sometimes it helps if you wear your baby in a sling or some other kind of carrier. People are less likely to invade your personal space!

giftsofthejourney said...

I have to say...I read tons of books, attended childbirth classes faithfully and did everything I thought possible to prepare myself for childbirth and at the end of it all...there was one thing I still remember thinking, "I wish someone had told me to expect this part."

It was not written anywhere and a total shock that I still remember.

I'm kind of like TansyRR...I might have been shocked at first by what happened, but I would have had a different experience had I known to expect this one thing.

I'll tell you gently by email if you want to know...

silly little girl said...

This is a great thing to share! I remember my mom being pregnant with my little brother, now over 11 years ago. As her daughter, I was of course welcome to touch her belly, but I never did much and now I regret it. They are just so fascinating! How is it the human body can do this? Women are amazing creatures.

Best of health to you!

Libby said...

what a great thread! I think I'm wtih storyqueen, above, who said that people lose their filters around pregnant women. Sometimes it's positive, sometimes it's just weird. I was huge, esp. w/ my 2nd (the nurses at the OB/GYN even commented) and the comments didn't bother me too much b/c, yes, I really *was* huge. It's the unsolicited touching--of the belly, of the baby--that I found most annoying. (I was also the most whiny pregnant person you've ever met--I complained constantly!) I'm glad you are doing so well, though; you look magnificent!

BJW said...

So my name is Ben and I am an insensitive oaf. Hi Ben. Hi everybody.

Yes, I admit that I am a guy and as such, a few years ago offended a new mom by opening my big mouth. It's true. Now, anytime I'm in the presence of anyone with child or even possibly close to anything of the sort, I shut my mouth and stare very hard at the ground and pray I don't make a sound.

But let me explain how my male brain works. I was trying to rush in and out of a grocery store and bumped into a guy and his wife that I barely knew but couldn't ignore because I knew them enough.

With almost all my brain completely detached and considering which bachelor food would take the least effort and be the most filling, a very tiny little portion of my brain still tried to engage in some personal interaction to show I cared about these people. I vaguely remembered a baby was in the picture one way or another.

Unfortunately, out came, "So when's the baby due?"

Followed by a hard look from the husband (I didn't even LOOK at the wife) who answered coldly, "she had the baby two months ago."

The rest of my brain immediately understood that I had stepped on a land mine and caused major damage to myself and everyone around me. I muttered an apology and I mercifully don't remember the rest, except for my girlfriend (now wife) mentioning how smooth I am.

The last thing in the world I wanted to do was insult these nice people, but being a dumb guy, I did exactly that and felt horrible. I have now lost the privilege to initiate any communication with any woman remotely pregnant or not.

On behalf of only the ignorantly stupid guys (not consciously mean) that have the subtlety of hippos, I apologize. Please pass this on to the woman who years ago I deeply offended.

Women with babies are miraculous and maybe as guys we feel somehow like we are treading on sacred ground where we just don't belong with our muddy boots. We DO admire it but it is beyond our reach to express. Guys who are dads seem to get it much better than those who aren't. But thank you for the tips! Could've used those YEARS ago.

Amber Lough said...

Oh, I hope I didn't say any of these bad things last time we spoke! Apparently, I have PPD and didn't realize till later how depressing my word choices had become with everyone around me. Last week, I got to see a doc and am now on meds, which are working amazingly well. It's as if the clouds have parted.

(As for diapering, we use Bum Genius One Sizes during the day and sposies at night.)

BJW said...

And good for Jim for sticking up for you! I like Jim. He seems like a great husband and cool guy.

BJW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Emilie said...

A little off-topic since I'm not pregnant and don't want to be just yet, but I get the "just wait until it's your turn" comments ALL THE TIME. Granted, I work in my church's child care facility, mostly with otherwise-stay-at-home moms of preschoolers, but it's as if some of them feel the need to tell me how awful the experience will be when my hubby and I do have one of our own. I'm not an idiot, I know it will be crazy and that birth freakin' hurts, but seriously, if it was so awful, why did they have a second child? And why do they take care of other kids for their job?

As you said, practical tips are appreciated. Random doomsaying--not so much:)

Good luck with the next few weeks!

brittany said...

I KNOW!!! It's all true. and it doesn't stop when the baby comes out. babies are apparently free reign. strangers stop and talk to me all the time. it's of course much more pronounced this time around with twins, because apparently EVERYBODY loves twins:)

you should have seen the way people would react when I was pregnant with twins and they would see/find out that I had other children. sometimes it was downright rude. or just humorous. and people have actually asked me about birth control.

anyway, my first labor/delivery was wonderful. We did it completely natural and my husband was an awesome birthing coach. I loved the thought that I just did what women have been doing since the beginning, like I had joined the ranks of the incredible people (who are mothers). the whole thing was so surreal and then I couldn't believe it when they just told us it was time to leave and we put her in the carseat and LEFT! We went in two and left three and it felt so crazy.

I'm so excited for you guys. and I can't wait to "meet" Professor and see what it's like to be the mom from your perspective.

xx

Kjersten said...

I love your attitude about pregnancy, Laini.

I wish you blessings for your last few weeks of pregnancy, your birth experience, and most of all I wish you blessings and enjoyment of those first precious weeks of your baby's new life.

I always felt like I carried a happy secret those first few weeks of my son's life. I carried the happy secret that I loved those midnight moments, all the rest of the world asleep, only my beloved and my beloved new child awake: listening to the sweet new little voice cry out. Those were our moments alone. And they were delicious.

myrna said...

LOL!

The belly touching by strangers is the weirdest for me. I've got a bit of a space bubble when it comes to strangers.

So. Story. I was almost 9 months pregnant with my first when a group of my friends from my freshman year of college invited me to get together with them. I'm walking down the sidewalk when I hear someone quacking and laughing behind me. It was someone who was such a close friend that I totally recognized his voice without turning around, which is good because I could feel my face was flaming with humiliation. And he didn't understand why I wasn't laughing with him. Hilarious.

And the advice was annoying. Unless I was asking for it. I'll admit that I didn't sleep much after my babies were born, but part of that was because I had a hard time taking my eyes off them even when they were sleeping because they were so beautiful and amazing and funny. Newborns are so . . . you'll see. And it's so hard to sleep that last trimester anyway. Mine always wanted to do gymnastics when I went to bed. My first had the hiccups at 10:15 (almost exactly) every night that last trimester. We didn't know what it was until I was in labor with her, and the nurse told us.

You are one of the most beautiful pregnant women I have ever seen pictures of. And it is so worth it.

Kat said...

Yes, yes, I remember this... some people are just obnoxious. Others are not badly intended, but say the wrong things. I did find it weird that perfect strangers would touch my belly. It was kind of nice, though, if their space was pleasant enough. People rally around new life, want to contribute to it, be a part of it. I thought that was pretty cool. I actually had a whole lot more positive comments and conversations than otherwise. I did have to say, "Thanks, but I'm not accepting horror stories at this time." to a couple of people. And you know what? Everything will change, at least for a while, that's true. But it's the most beautiful change you could ask for. It's hard when you're tired, but the journey, and the sweet little person you will be privileged to raise, are worth it.

Toni said...

Every pregnancy and labour is just as unique as the child. With my first, my son, I was quite young when I had him and I had friends who didn’t have children come up and say things like, “You’re crazy having a baby so young!” it hurt me because they said thoughtless comments like that and thought nothing of it, whereas I was left feeling dejected. Eighteen months after him, I fell pregnant with my daughter (she was also planned) and the next thing I knew were people saying, “Are you pregnant again? How are you going to cope with two children at your age?” I eventually felt like just screaming at them to go away, after all it wasn’t as though I was asking them to look after them!
Your labour and baby will be unique to you, so you really don’t need to listen to other’s stories. The fact of it is that some people have a worse time than others, but I think that the thing that all new mothers share is the joy of holding their little baby that they’ve carried for nine (long!) months, for the first time. You know then and there that you would do it all over again, every day if you had to, for this little bundle of joy! My first labour, to put it lightly, made me not look forward to the second. But with the second I had less pain relief, and a water birth, and it was actually easier! I really think it has a lot to do with the state of mind you're in.
The thing that really grabs me when I look at my children is the fact they are half me, half their dad. I know that sound’s a silly thing to say, but it is amazing picking up on the different little traits of us they share, and having these wonderful little human beings the two of us share, and were made out of the love between us.
In regards to the sleepless nights, it doesn’t take that long to get them into a routine, and babies nap a lot during the days, so just be sure and get a rest whenever she is sleeping. A wise thing my mother said to me was ‘the house will be there when you’re not.’ Try and remember this and not let yourself get too hung up on making sure everything is spick and span! My son is almost 4 now, and my daughter is 18 months, and every day I am taken aback as they learn something new or do something funny. You are so fortunate to have all this to look forward to! There is nothing more satisfying than peeking in on your baby whilst they are sleeping peacefully, and feeling the pride and protectivness that you do for them.
Wishing you (and Jim) all the best!

tone almhjell said...

Oh, I totally understand you, dear. You're doing great!

Me, I AM huge. Aparently, I carry little Gameboy entirely on the outside of my frame, which means that tiny, little me now looks like the head of a mumin troll. And the great, big hunger that controlled me for a couple of months this spring has manifested on the rest of my body like a flesh version of 'told-you-so'. And it is heavy, and I can't sleep and I am uncomfortable.

Even the guy selling =Oslo (our version of The Big Issue, you know, a magazine that people in difficult circumstances can sell on the street to earn a little money on their own) outside my local grecery store stared at me, eyes bulging, and said 'How many pounds have you actually gained?' I had no choice but to laugh and admit '30'.

Well, it's all a little funny now, I guess, but I have to say I really do hope they come off again. Soon. Effortlessly. Man.

And then there's the envy. I envy the slim, pretty young things sauntering by my balcony, where I preside as some big fat mama too proportionally challenged to go outside anymore (don't worry, I do go outside, haha), and they're so energetic and perky and have nice, new sundresses that swirl around their tan, skinny legs. I envy anyone who can sleep on their tummy, and anyone who can sleep for long stretches of time at all. I even envy my kitten for bouncing here and there on a perpetual bumble bee hunt. So bouncy! So free!

But then there's the kicks, you know, and the way the baby goes ballistic when I sing to him (either he loves it or he has inherited my brother's perfect pitch and is in agony in there), and the way he pokes out his toes at me when I pat him. Everyone who likes to tell pregnant ladies (and pregnant couples, too) that all their relaxed, good times are soon to be over can just shut up. That's all beside the point. Cause in less than two months, he's going to BE here, this new little person. Wonderful.

Linda said...

One of my friends blogged about a comment she got while pregnant: "You have grown so beautifully." And I thought that was just the nicest thing to say. So I will say it to you, Laini, because it is true.

You really have grown so beautifully.

And I wish you all the happiness in the world with your new little love and your sweet husband.

Families are just the best.
Bloggy hug! (sometimes the best kind).

Tammy said...

I had the same thing when I was pregnant, most often in the form of birth horror stories. I always tell people that the day my son was born was the best day of my life, and I'd do it all over again.
But I was baffled by this desire to scare the mommy to be.

But the unsolicited advice in pregnancy just prepares you for the new advice you'll get when you have your sweet baby. Is she sleeping through the night? People always want to know that. Then they'll tell you how their baby slept all through the night from Day 1 (just put some cereal in his bottle- ack!), potty trained seamlessly at 18 months, and graduated college at the age of 8. I think it prepares you to smile and be gracious and not kill people, although these people should watch it, the pregancy hormones rage on and we want to hurt them!

lkmadigan said...

Wait till you're in your ninth (or tenth!) month of pregnancy, and you start hearing, "Haven't you had that baby yet?!"

I promise you at least one person will say it. And there's really no response, since clearly ... you haven't had 'that baby' yet.

:-)

Lisa

Laini Taylor said...

Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! There is a lot of insight here :-) I definitely agree there is something about the sight of a pregnant belly that touches some instinctive place inside of us; how I said pregnant women are in the "public domain" as far as comments and touching? Maybe a nicer way to say it is that babies bring us closer together as a society, like propagating the species is a collective work, and anyone involved in it is both doing something personal and intimate and something *collective*, for the good of us all! It's something to bond over, to many a common touchstone. I haven't personally had too much belly-touching, and that which I've had wasn't overly invasive. But I've heard stories!

As for "war stories" -- I think various things motivate those: Yes, having been through something extreme, one wants others to know. I felt that way to an extent with my miscarriage, which was the worst thing that ever happened to me. (I did talk about it a little, but I hope only in appropriate situations!) Also, there is the *teaching* aspect. This, however, I think can be counter-productive. Being aware of all the bad possibilities can't really prevent them (in some cases, perhaps; there are things that are good to know so you can advocate for yourself). In labor though, from all that I understand having not yet gone through it, fear = bad! Fear is the ultimate bad in labor, because fear clenches muscles, and that's not what you want. In our "school" of birthing education, we're basically taught that the pain of labor is exacerbated by fear, and for that reason we're supposed to decline to hear horror stories.

The place for sharing those stories is, I think, more appropriately among other mothers who are not currently pregnant. In my current situation, I think it's a really good idea not to try to scare pregnant women.

I love the stories above. People! Wow.

And Kjersten, I didn't know you have a son!

And Tone, I'm sorry for the discomfort :-( I'm carrying right out in front too, but I think you're much tinier than I am! I'm sure you are as beautiful as ever, or more so! And Gameboy will be here so soon!

Oh, as for the comments above that strangers will be touching the baby more than they ever touched the belly: oy! I never thought about that! That is definitely worse :-( I'm definitely going to be using a sling; I imagine that WILL help. Good idea!

Kiersten said...

I love this post, Laini.

I think part of the reason people are so weird to pregnant women is that, simply by looking at you, they know some rather intimate details about your life. A) You have sex (obviously this is an assumption since there are other ways to get pregnant, but it's a fairly safe assumption) and B) You are going to have a baby.

When else in life can you automatically know two such huge details about a person? It creates this sort of false connection, I think.

Having been through all of that, I now ALWAYS say, "Wow, you look GREAT! I was way bigger at [insert months here]." Or, if that isn't true, I tell them that their belly is adorable and that they really look good.

Because that IS true. I love love love pregnant bellies!

As far as the horror stories, just try not to dwell on them. Go into your labor informed about different things that can happen so it isn't as scary if they do (I had to have an emergency c-section, but I knew it was a possibility so I was able to stay calm)(also I am the size of a twelve-year-old, so don't you worry about that happening to you!). And go you for going natural!!

I probably should have just emailed you, lol...

Gia said...

OH MY GOD - I love this post. The comment that is making my skin crawl right now is when people say, "Hey little mommy!"

I'm not really a mom yet and, what's more, I will never be their "little mommy." It could be a southern thing but it makes me want to move north.

Amber said...

This made me LAUGH! Haha! Maybe that author had some kinda aspergers, or something. LOL! WHAT a jerk.

I think people DON'T mean it like that. I think it sorta means, like, "WOW, you sure are doing a GREAT job growing what is OBVIOUSLY a healthy, happy, sure to be a beautiful genius child in there". Yes? Don't you think?

Like the bigger the better the mommy? Because when people used to say I was small, I would get offended. LOL! Like they didn't think I was taking care of it, or something.

And also, I HATE when people give you horror stories!! WTH is WITH that?? That is what I remember. And they woudl ask what kind of birth I was planning, and when I woudl tell them drug free, they would LAY IT ON about how I could not do that, and I "would seeeee..." SHUT UP! LOL! Jeez!

So let me say, YOU will have a LOVELY, calm, peacefullll, SAFE birth. ALL will go well, and it will be THE most empowering experience of your whole life. Beauty will abound. Jim will think you are a goddess (even more). It will be amazing!! :)

Just shut those people out.

oxox :)

Amber said...

And OH! I can't believe I forgot to add this: I had a coworker touch MY BOOBS when I was pregnant with Wyatt!!!! "You sure are getting big ones", she said. LMAO!! Everyone in the room just stood there with their mouths open, and she walked away like she had just told me my eyes were lovely. HAHAHA!

(she was a sweet but very odd therapist, I worked with...you know how those therapist types can be odd. ;)lol )

:)

Robin said...

Love this post, Laini. Your honesty is so refreshing. :-)
Just so ya know...I had a big 'ol belly with my son. I thought he might come out as a teenager, it was so big. But mother nature knows exactly what it needs to make a lovely creature.

I had natural childbirth and I promise not to go into any details (because you're sooo right about the fear thing) but we found this fabulous CD called Music To Be Born By (or something like that). It was put together by Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead. It created a magical feeling in the room and our nurses loved it too.

Can't wait to hear more as you guys get closer. Hugs!!!

Karina's Pen said...

I completely understand what you mean. When I was pregnant, I was just shocked about how often mothers wanted to share their negative experiences! I certainly didn't want to hear it, especially because I was so looking forward to my baby's birth and the whole experience. Now, I make sure I share all the positives with my friends who are pregnant and try to soothe them instead of add worry. Maybe it's easy because my baby is only 6 months old. I don't know. So far, I'm loving my life and by the way, all that stuff about not resting, I'm not sure that's completely true. I mean, life is different, yeah, but it's amazing and surprising and wonderful with a baby growing up right there. And, I have to add that since my baby boy was born, I have been more focused and dedicated to my writing than ever.

Oh, as far as big bellies go, I got all sorts of comments, from the regular are you carrying twins, triplets, jajaja to the fact that people started teasing me that I was carrying a baby dinosaur!

One thing I kind of didn't appreciate though, was all those strangers coming up to offer advice. I mean, I wanted to say, "If I didn't ask you and especially since I DON'T KNOW YOU, please refrain from sharing!" I never did. I only smiled, nodded and walked away.

Enjoy your belly! Being pregnant is beautiful!

Elise Murphy said...

I like to think I gained a certain belly sensitivity during my pregnancies. I was quite large with my singleton and was asked if I was having twins. I thought my belly was lovely and lush.

Three days before I gave birth to my twins I was afraid my husband might slug a man that nearly fell out of his chair and gasped when I swung around in a restaurant. I was astoundingly big, but like you, on my feet, active, happy.

I always disliked the unsolicited touching of my belly. Who would do that to an unpregnant woman without permission?

Both pregnancies left me with a gigantic star shaped series of stretch marks that surround my belly button for miles. I love them. My very own, special, mother-nature tattoo.

I imagine you are quite beautiful with baby!

Kjersten said...

Love this thread Laini.

Yes, I have a two-year old. He's the best thing that's ever happened to me (he was a surprise).

Also, lest you only hear about people telling you how much you can't do when you have a kid: I have been happily surprised at how much I can do. It feels awesome and empowering to still work hard as a writer/illustrator/artist and be a mom. Attitude has been everything.

It's your life; you get to do what you want with it. All those people that tell you how it is going to be are telling their stories. Your story will be your own, unique, special, yours.

Sara Easterly said...

Fabulous post and thread, Laini! I've been sitting here laughing like a crazy lady while wading through all the comments, as I sooo remember being in your position last summer at almost this very same time.

In the last two months of my pregnancy, just about everyone I encountered told me how HUGE HUGE HUGE I was, and one of my worst belly rub-downs took place at a BEA booth. It was so extensive that I wanted to go back to the hotel for a shower. A month before my due date, a Home Depot clerk guaranteed me "There's no way you're making it to your due date, hon!" (Boy, was she wrong, considering my almost 10-pounder arrived two weeks late!)

I'm glad you're taking the comments in stride. A lot of my friends got really upset by any belly-related remarks, but like you, I wore my pregnant belly like a badge of honor. All the comments, even the ignorantly rude ones, just made me even prouder of what my body was capable of doing. Just wait until you're reveling in the amazing feeling after you've given birth to your little Professor. Words, even for us writers, cannot do it justice. But nothing compares!

And I completely agree with what Kjersten said. Your life will most definitely not be over. You'll simply be starting an even better chapter of it. On top of all the new baby fun you're going to have, you'll still get romantic dinners, movies, and yes, sex. (With #2 already on the way, I am living proof!)

Ben, don't feel guilty about the post-pregnancy question. I had a woman who worked at Babies R Us ask me the same thing a month after my first was born (even though the baby was right there with me in the shopping cart). You were bach-ing it and had a good excuse. But she definitely should have known better! :)

Can't wait to see your gorgeous belly soon, Laini! You are ever so beautiful and amazing!

persnickety_jen said...

As they say, it takes a village. I guess some people take that more literally than others.

I don't have any children, but when/if I do, I hope I am able to deal with all the 'helpful' tips I receive...

Three of my friends have had babies in the past year, and the stories they tell about being 'belly-violated' in public are astounding. One of them had a complete stranger walk up to her on the street and ask, "Isn't it awful knowing that everyone knows you've had sex?" Oy.

A different friend gained about 50 lbs. during her pregnancy, but she was radiant and completely gracious - even when a waiter asked her if she was 'having a litter.' (!)

I always feel a little shy around pregnant women and newborns, so I've never felt the urge to touch my friends' bellies, let alone a stranger's. But I agree with everyone: pregnancy is beautiful, YOU are beautiful, and I'm sure little Professor will be beautiful, too!

Annie said...

Gotta chime in here:
1) My favorite bit of pregnancy "advice" was from that mostly-dippy 90s show "thirty-something" when one of the moms says to a preg. friend- "No one ever tells you how much you are going to love the baby."
SO TRUE!
So here it is. You are going to love that baby sooooooo much!

2) In re. the comment that nothing is ever going to be the same- for one thing, that's such an exaggeration. Also,people say it as if it's negative. But we don't have babies because we want our lives to stay just the same, do we? We know we are welcoming a totally dependent new life into the world. That does not = life staying the same!
3) Something I love about this post is people admitting the tactless things they've said. Haven't we all been on both sides of that? My goal is grace, regardless of which end I'm on! Not there yet, but always trying.

Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Oh Laini I feel you! A friend of mine called all the words people like to share with you when you're pregnant "Ass-vice."

It doesn't end when the baby comes out, either. People assume you come from the stone ages when there never existed books, the Internet, and other moms, and therefore they will tell you things like: "You know, babies need to eat..." and "your life will never be the same." Things you just *couldn't possibly figure out on your own*

It's just that once you become a parent you can't help but feel a little bit expert after you've survived the chaos of it. I have caught myself doing it too.

You'll be a fantastic mother and I envy your daughter her parents and their magnificent imaginations.

Michelle 42 said...

I always love to read your blog, Laini, but it is a testament to the topic that I have read every word of almost 50 responses! Just fascinating.

Reading this makes me remember my own positive experiences, and also the "worry-instigators." I was very excited about my planned home births, but other people could be very judgemental and tactless. One neighbor actually commented that she would be able to hear me screaming from her house.(!) Upon learning of my desire to have an unmedicated birth, many women would make comments to convince me otherwise or to say that I was crazy. Why did it matter to them whether or not I had an epidural? Or where I had my baby? Baffling.

My births were beautiful, bearable and amazing. An anti-horror story for you.

You know what scared me more than other women's stories? Those books like "What To Expect When You Are Expecting" and "What To Expect The First Year" etc. Those books just made me worry.

Laini, I think that you are lucky to be such a gifted writer and artist because you are creating eloquent, permanent memories of your experience. I often wish that I had written more details and thoughts about the pregnancy and birth because memories, however joyous, fade. Thanks for sharing some of your details. It helps a forgetful mom like me remember again.

Charlotte netz said...

Hej Laini!

As I mother of four children and a witness of atleast 1000 births (I´ve worked at a delivery ward for more than 20 years) - I must say this: Pregnant women SHINE! They are living, magical goddesses and leave me in awe everytime I am present when a the new life goes from one dimension into another...

You are BEAUTIFUL and the professor will love your haircolor. She will be pretty in pink too! I grew up with artist parents, and I know she picked you guys for the magic you create and share with the world. And right now - you ARE IT. Just wait until you start producing milk! It´s amazing what our bodies are programmed to accomplish. I know the ups and downs of being "new born" parents - but I tell you this - its all worth it. And things never stay the same - change is the name of the game.
I have survived using this phrase: It is just a phase! It will pass.

So - keep spreading you GLOW. And it will forever stay with you.
/from the land of freya - sweden

Wyman Stewart said...

"Miracle" is what I think of the whole process in my mind and heart. However, being a guy, the gentlemen above have stated the mistakes I have made and I wish we could post them for the WHOLE world to see, so all of us could try to avoid such mistakes. I take no pleasure in my errors.

Let me close by noting I have seen the birth of a baby lead guys to unexpectedly become mature, responsible men. Birth has a ripple effect on all of life, some of it visible, much of it subtle.

I enjoyed your post and all the comments. Best wishes.

Alison said...

My favorite comment of late? "You've had such an easy pregnancy that your baby is DEFINITELY going to have colic."
This followed by a surprise 30 minute video in our birthing class of assorted women in natural childbirth. As someone just 2 1/2 weeks from her due date, listen to me -- you DO NOT need to see other screaming and crying their way through childbirth. HOW is that supposed to help?
No wonder animals go off into a cave and hide when they go into labor. Sigh.
Good luck in the last few weeks!

hanna said...

Wow, in retrospect, I found it a little painful and somewhat callous when some pregnant women seemed to gloat about their easy going pregnancies while mine was riddled with unexpected complications (I truly wanted and aimed for an easy one, too... just wasn't dealt that lucky card). I think sensitivity from both sides would be a blessing. Happy for you, though, that you were one of the lucky ones.

Laini Taylor said...

Wow, Alison, really??? Our birthing class has focused entirely on calm, scream-free natural births! The whole premise of our class is to alleviate fear and focus on deep relaxation. I can't imagine!!! And that comment is priceless.

Hanna, I take your point, and I hope that my relief and gratitude for my own [so far] easy pregnancy are not misconstrued as gloating. After having had a miscarriage last year during a not-trouble-free pregnancy, I know what that feels like too. I'm not sure if you're chastising me a little ... if so, I'm sorry to have offended, but I'm embracing my blessings right now, because though my pregnancy has been "easy" it has been anything but worry-free, after what I went through last year. I sincerely hope that things turned out all right for you and your baby.

artsymommachic said...

Just a quickie on a small part of your fantastic post. When I was in labor with my twins I just kept thinking about what I was actually doing, bringing a new person into the world, this, for me anyway, made the pain feel less, I'm not just saying that either, I didn't use drugs during labor either! Just breathe and think about what you are doing and you will be fine!!

BJW said...

PS Cheers Sara, thanks.

chest of drawers said...

Oh my goodness - I can think of only one explanation for all this freaky talk and questions - so you can write a book about it all! I´m sorry but I´m rolling around on the floor laughing...and that´s coming from someone who´s had 3 children. Here´s a little joke for you...a small boy was always picking his nose and his mother told him that if he continued he´d get really fat. One day, the boy saw a pregnant woman on the bus, he went over to her, pointed at her belly and said "I know what you´ve been doing!".

godiyeva said...

I have been pregnant three times, and I have to say, I loathe going out in public. It is like the belly takes over : strangers who would never speak to you feel moved to make personal comments, and people who do know you apparently forget that you are a person in your own right with interests beyone pregnancy. Instead of "how are you?" you get "how's the baby going?". You get talk about clothes, and nappies, and god knows what. Not, "What have you been up to lately?" Or "What do you think of the situation in Iran?" or anything to suggest I might be an intelligent person with an interest in the world. No, I am just an incubator on legs. I wish people could just ignore it all completely. And the worst? PEOPLE WHO COME AND PUT THEIR HANDS ON YOUR BELLY WITHOUT EVEN ASKING FIRST. Hello?!!

jesse joshua watson said...

Oh mercy, so awesome. I love this post! I also love the advice near the top, for guys: do not acknowledge, do not say anything. Ha! Classic.

There is, in my humble opinion, some honest to goodness magic that surrounds mamma bellies. It is not a defense of the belly touchers, the "huge" commenters, the (shame on them) horror story telling moms, or anyone else, but there really is an incomprehensible glory that surrounds many 'bout-to-be moms.

It is my very favorite scene in life! And I have been guilty of praying secret blessings on both mamma and baby, though mostly I refrain from doing anything visible but smiling.

Pregnancy Symptoms said...

Do you know what? I had the same thing when I was pregnant, most often in the form of birth horror stories. I always tell people that the day my son was born was the best day of my life, and I'd do it all over again.

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