Public Service Announcement
It seems that any remnant of tact, delicacy and good sense leaves people when they are faced with someone in the family way. Below are the top seven things not to say a pregnant woman. And yes, all of these things were said to me when I had a bun in the oven, or said to friends when they were expecting. Please treat the following as a light-hearted public service announcement, a helpful guide for the vast majority of the population (including myself) that is not currently pregnant. I have even given alternative conversation starters to help us all out.
- Are Your Sure / Really?
When on the receiving end of a pregnancy announcement, close your lips and keep your feet out of your mouth. Do not blurt out things like ‘But… how?’ ‘Who’s the father?’ ‘You are not having another one are you?’. Or my personal favourite: ‘You shouldn’t be having children at your age – you should have had them in your twenties’.
What to say instead – ‘Congratulations’ or ‘I am happy for you’. Followed by something dull but safe such as ‘When is the due date?’
- I Thought You Were Because…
Try to also refrain from saying that you already had your suspicions she was pregnant. Besides the fact that the pregnant woman usually likes to surprise friends with the happy news, any admission of guessing beforehand implies that her teetotalling behaviour was a dead giveaway since she was such a huge lush. Or, even worse, that she already looks bloated, tired or blotchy. A friend of mine said that when she made the announcement at work, a colleague said ‘Yes! I suspected it from the look of your boobs’.
What to say instead – see number 7 above. And please avoid discussing boobs. At least in the workplace.
- Have You Thought of Any Names?
I am as guilty as the next person of asking this question so I do understand that this seems like a gentle topic to discuss with an expecting parent. However, after being asked this a million times in nine months, what I wanted to reply was either ‘Oh my goodness, I had completely forgotten about the whole name thing.’ Or simply ‘Yes but I am not telling you’.
What to say instead – ‘You must have some favourite names picked out?’ or ‘Have you and your partner agreed on names?’. A subtle but gracious alternative.
- You Look Tired
Never, ever, ever tell a pregnant woman that she looks tired. There are no exceptions to this one. On top of working, home life and being a great friend, she is aiding in the construction of a tiny human, right down to his eyelashes. It is taxing.
What to say instead – anything, anything at all. Tell her she looks glowing. Pregnant woman love that. If you cannot manage it, engage in some light banter about the weather.
- Are You Sure There Are Not Two in There?
Now this question is just plain rude. The quick reply is ‘There is only one baby’. But when I was pregnant with baby number two I would have loved to respond with ‘I have had scans and tests and there is absolutely no indication of another baby, a second heartbeat or anything else, yet you have had a cursory glance at my belly and have decided that I must be big enough to be carrying multiple children inside of me. Thank you for insinuating that I look enormous’.
What to say instead – nothing.
- Have You Had Your Baby Yet?
This is without doubt, the worst question to ask an overdue pregnant woman. It makes expectant mamas feel like a baby-making machine that has been relegated down to one purpose – produce baby now. Talk about pressure! At 41 weeks, I was getting asked this so often, that I dreamt about replying with this: ‘Actually, yes, just like a cat, I had the baby in secret a couple of weeks ago and have not told anyone. Instead I have decided to play an elaborate hoax and am now carrying around a basketball under my top’.
What to say instead – simply ask her how she is. Ask her something that is not baby or pregnancy related. Better yet, visit her at home with frozen lasagna, tell her to put her feet up and offer to fold some washing.
- Hands Off!
This is not so much what not to say, but what not to do. The number one thing on this list of seven is do not touch a pregnant woman’s bump, especially without asking. I know, you are drawn to the round belly; it has an irresistible aura that compels you to give it a gentle rub. But hands off – and ask first.
This applies in particular if you are a male co-worker of the pregnant woman. And you barely know her as you work in another department. And she has only just announced her pregnancy. And there is no visible bump. Yes, this did happen to a friend of mine. Awwwwkward.
What to say instead – ‘Please can I touch your bump?’ (It is OK if the answer is ‘No’).
No Thanks Necessary
My public service announcement is now over. You may go about your day. If I have missed any other top things not to say to a pregnant woman, please reply in the comments below.