Today in statements you definitely already knew, I had a baby a little over seven months ago. The experience taught me so much about pretty much everything — myself, my marriage, my friendships, and what was important to me.
It also taught me that there are a lot of clueless (and even downright rude) people out there.
Also, people are kind of cliche — they all like to tell pregnant women the same things over and over.
I’m actually a pretty hard person to offend, so while I wouldn’t say anything anyone said to me actually ruined my day or anything, there are a few things that actually could ruin someone’s day or at the very least stuck in my craw long enough that I’m still thinking about it seven months later.
So in the spirit of spreading the wisdom, I’m sharing the four things that I find it really annoying for people to say to pregnant women/new moms — and what we should all start saying instead.
#1: You should sleep when the baby sleeps.
A) DON’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO YOU’RE NOT MY DAD. B) Oh, yeah? Should I? So I should not only be able to control my mind and body enough to drop off at will, but I should also just give up on accomplishing anything for the first three months of my child’s life? I don’t know about you, but if I truly slept every time Vivian slept, I would have literally been living in squalor. My husband works full-time, and my mom was only with us for the first couple of weeks. Should we just not have clean clothes or washed dishes or food stuffs? It’s not practical to sleep when the baby sleeps (and your body is so out of wack anyway, you might not be able to), and all it does when people tell you this is reinforce that there is yet another thing you are doing wrong. Not. Helpful.
Instead, say: I’m free tomorrow from two to five, so I’m bringing over dinner. And maybe I can throw in a load of laundry for you if you have any?
(SHE WILL ALWAYS HAVE LAUNDRY. Plus, she might actually take a cat nap if she knows you’re holding the baby and that dinner is taken care of.) Basically, don’t be the person that says, “Let me know if I can help!” Be the person that says, “Here is what I’m doing to help. I gotchu.”)
#2: You’ll never get your body back.
I had about the same reaction to this as I did when I was getting my engagement ring sized and literally three people told me that I shouldn’t size it down to fit because I would definitely gain a bunch of weight after I got married and/or had a baby. So apparently the assumptions start early.
But you know what? I didn’t. And, as someone who has struggled with weight issues in the past, I found statements like this to be almost equivalent to some kind of terminal diagnosis. (I know that probably doesn’t make sense, but weight issues mess with your sense of reason, yo.)
The point is, who are you helping when you say things like this? I truly think most people who said this kind of thing to me meant it in a “don’t beat yourself up if you can’t lose the baby weight — it happens to everyone!” kind of way, but it always, always, always sounds a little bit…mean. Well, maybe not mean, but at the very least like a subtle dig.
And you know what? My body did come back — I actually think my tummy looks better than it did before because I burned up a lot of belly fat whilst pregnant. That isn’t intended to be some loosely veiled humble brag. I’m just saying, you don’t really know how your body will react to pregnancy, so don’t let people stress you out. Pregnant women should take care of their babies and take care of themselves. That’s really all that matters.
Instead, say: You look amazing!
(Because she probably does look amazing because pregnant women are gorgeous. And because there has never been a pregnant woman who didn’t want to hear this.)
#3 Hoo-boy, are you in for it!
You know that guy in your office who loves to shoot down ideas during brainstorms by saying things like, “That won’t work” without providing any helpful alternatives? Something about #3 just makes me think of that guy.
Granted, no one actually said the words, “Hoo-boy, are you in for it!” to my when I was pregnant, but I like to think of this for a placeholder for every stereotypical negative remark people make to pregnant women. “You’re going to be so tired!” “Get ready for a lot of screaming!” “Guess this means your social life is over!”
I mean…unless said pregnant woman is new to the planet, I’m pretty sure they have an idea what they’re in for. Like, it’s kind of a thing that newborns don’t sleep for long stretches and cry fairly often and you probably shouldn’t go clubbing as a new mom. But you’re not really helping anything by pointing this out. Especially if this particular pregnant woman is already feeling kind of down or worried about the negative aspects of a new baby.
Instead, say: As soon as you feel up to it, I’m coming over with a bottle of wine and holding your baby while you tell me all the gory details.
What’s that? The negative aspects of a new baby can be funny? Or at least a good story later? Not unlike #2, sometimes a pregnant woman or new mom just needs reinforcement that her life can be similar to how it was before — not just a ribbing reminder of everything that is about to/has just changed. Be the good friend who helps her focus on the positives — and who proves that they’re still your friend despite the changes.
#4 You can’t do that when you’re pregnant/when you have a baby.
There are exactly two exceptions to this rule: 1) if you are the woman’s health care provider, and 2) if you are explicitly asked by said pregnant woman what you think.
Because, you know what? In our culture, pregnant women and moms are dumped on, you guys. We are made to feel like pregnancy and babies are the ultimate burden, and virtually every aspect of becoming a mother is made twice as hard by societal implications. Think about it: Maternity leave rarely comes with pay in this country, meaning women who love their jobs have to choose between leaving young children in daycare or giving up their careers. Public breastfeeding is routinely looked down upon, meaning women are essentially shamed into staying home rather than continuing to live their lives. People make comments like, “You’ll never get your body back,” reminding women that they’re only as good as they look and their contributions as mothers and therefore the creators of future society are valueless. (Or am I the only one hearing that when people say things like, “You’ll never get your body back”?)
The fact is, there are very few things you finitely cannot do when you are pregnant and/or have a new baby. In most cases, even medical professionals agree that all things in moderations are generally fine. (Except, I don’t know…arsenic. But, really, that was probably not a big part of your life before pregnancy anyway.) I’m a fairly crunchy pregnant person/new mom, but what other moms choose to do is their business. If I have opinions, I’m almost always going to keep them to myself. (Unless, you know, you’re trying to eat arsenic. In which case, we will have words.)
Instead, say: How are you feeling?
Because actual concern is always a better place to start — and much more helpful — than judgment.
Pregnant ladies/new moms out there, what did I miss? What are your least favorite things to hear?