It seems pregnancy is a public event—or at least that is what it feels like! Growing a bump seems to give people license to make any number of inappropriate comments. These are my top five.
You are too big/small/wide/fat
Every pregnancy is different. Some bumps pop out early and grow large. Some bumps seem to take forever to arrive—a hard-earned, rotund sign of the effort it takes to grow a baby.
No matter the size of her bump a pregnant woman will inevitably worry it should look different. Am I too big? Am I too small? Am I too wide?
The only person allowed to offer any version of this phrase is the woman's primary medical carer. If you do not fit this description but find yourself uttering these words I advise you to back away slowly.
Should you be eating that?
The list of foods and activities to be avoided during pregnancy grows longer each day. Most pregnant women are already paranoid about everything they put near, in or on their bodies. They have more than likely spent hours researching lists of things to avoid or being frightened by the ever-present risk of harming the baby. When coupled with insatiable pregnancy hunger these restrictions are enough to drive anyone crazy.
My advice? Hand over the chocolate and no one will get hurt.
Your horrific and tragic story
Specifically anything involving birth, death, small children or animals. For some reason people feel the need to share all sorts of scary stories with pregnant women.
Pregnancy hormones have flicked an empathy switch I don't know how to turn off. I am already worried and upset about stillbirth, miscarriage, horrible diseases, dying in my sleep, traumatic labour, children being run over, children being abused and any number of tragically terrifying things.
If you add to my anxiety I may dissolve in a puddle of continuous tears—you have been warned.
Get as much sleep as you can
'Because once the baby comes you won't be getting any'. This pearler is thrown my way whenever I've had a particularly poor night's sleep. Pregnant women crave sleep. We daydream about getting lost in sweet slumber where aches and pains are gone and there is no constant urge to pee. I realise a new baby is not easy. But pregnant sleep isn't exactly a walk in park.
I hate the baby name you've chosen
'Oh, you're thinking of calling him that? I had a cousin with that name who was a real pervert'... 'Isn't that the name of that serial killer who chopped people up?'... 'That's my dog's name'...
These are the reasons I have stopped talking about our favourite names. We've decided to let the child and the name arrive together. People are more likely to criticise the abstract idea of a name than the name of a tiny, adorable little person.
What to say instead
Having had a rather hard first trimester I am encouraged when people specifically express their excitement and joy over my impending parenthood. In the midst of my anxious, sick and tired state these have been wonderful reminders to look forward to the next phase of life.
It is heartening when people take the time to listen and acknowledge the difficulties that come with pregnancy: the merry-go-round of physical and emotional changes. Every woman is different and I greatly appreciate it when people offer that age-old piece of advice: all the hard work will be worth it.
The Bible says children are a heritage or gift from God. They are a blessing, a pleasure, a joy. At times the fog of pregnancy can make it difficult to grasp this delight. The strain of incubating a tiny human can make us a little crazy.
So next time you see a pregnant lady take my advice: listen before you speak and try a little encouragement instead of telling her how fat she looks.
Sophia Sinclair has qualifications in English, Theatre and Journalism. She is a Kiwi living in Sydney with her husband Andrew and their son Guy. Sophia is currently expecting their second child, due in 2017.
Sophia Sinclair's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sophia-sinclair.html