What NOT to do when facing a pregnant woman.
There’s a lot of talk about treating pregnant women well. But what does it even mean? Does pregnant woman actually need our constant admiring of her belly size? Is it in the right tone to keep nagging her about stuff (she didn’t show up on a family meeting, etc.). Is it really so hard to let her go first in line in a store?
Our society is more or less taught the etiquette of good behavior. But when it comes to it, some things seem to slip by. I’ve decided to create a list of things that you shouldn’t tell a pregnant woman and things that may leave a mark for a long time.
1. Don’t comment on the belly. It’s more than sure that a woman has a 1+ mirror at her house and knows well how it looks. Doesn’t need people to judge it – “too small”, “too big”. I’ve mostly heard it’s too small and it made me feel weird, I’ve had a thousand thoughts about what’s behind those comments. Seriously, if you’re not really that close with someone to point out each other over- or under-weight – then don’t do it while the other person is pregnant. And even if you are, then remember that pregnant woman is oversensitive and it may be time to let such comments go untold. And there’s even more questions in a type of “how much weight did you gain?” – which aren’t that great either. There are different types of pregnant bellies! Personally, for me, one deviation here would be a situation when you know a woman is on a diet during the pregnancy. I’ve seen an unhealthy promotion of “thin” pregnancies, being super-fit, etc. I feel bad for those tiny tots. Pregnancy is not a great moment for losing weight, counting calories, getting ripped at the gym and worrying about each additional kilogram. If you know a person like that and talking doesn’t help, try to provide specialistic help. Anorexia is a serious illness.
2. Don’t touch the belly if you didn’t get a clear consent. Some women don’t mind it, there are also women for which it’s really uncomfortable. I’m one of the latter. And it was very frustrating for me when someone came up to me and without any introduction just reached out with his hands as he owns it. It was a violation of my privacy, Pregnant woman is still a woman – if she doesn’t want any physical contact with someone – it should be respected. Without any comments, without getting offended, without creating a situation when a woman has to hide behind her husband not to get groped. “But how’s that, why can’t I touch it?” Woman’s body, doesn’t matter pregnant or not, is still her body and it’s her decision who can touch her and who doesn’t. Seem simple, but not always.
3. If a pregnant woman doesn’t ask for advice, then there’s a high chance she doesn’t need them. In practice it’s like this – you get pregnant and right after it turns out there are a thousand experts all around giving, what they think is good advice. Sometimes those are useful things, sometimes they are outdated, no longer valid statements. So if you don’t have up-to-date knowledge in given matter, you should keep your mouth shut sometimes. Of course, that’s unless a woman asks for advice or you see clearly that she’s doing something that endangers her or her baby’s life. Personally, I have one advice for pregnant women – spend as much time as you can to pick the best possible care – a doctor and a midwife. Make sure they are competent. Make sure their knowledge is up to date. Read opinions about them, go for check-up visits. And when you’re ready – trust them and follow on what they say. Not the internet, not your aunt Betty. I can also recommend Dr. Sears books. Not bloggers, not celebrities, but doctors with years of experience, knowledge and a sizable collection of prizes. Then there are also websites like WHO, where you’ll find all the needed recommendations. I’ve been quite determined and consistent about all that.
4. Don’t grab laundry out of pregnant woman hands and don’t treat her like a cripple. Might sound a little strange, right after I’ve said to treat pregnant women with empathy. But being respectful is one thing and being annoying is another. No one likes being treated like a handicapped person. If a woman feels good enough and there are no counter-indication (coming from a doctor), then she can move around, exercise and do whatever she pleases. She doesn’t have to lay down, but if she wants to – she should.
5. Don’t stress a pregnant woman. If someone doesn’t care about her health and consequences of stress during pregnancy, then maybe he should think about why he’s hurting a baby. Hurting? Yes – baby feels that stress too, and premature birth can end tragically. People either lack imagination, knowledge or simply don’t care. It’s sad. And the worst part is that according to statistics, pregnant women are mostly stressed because of people close to her. Where does this lack of understanding come from? I’m pregnant, let’s move this fight by a couple of months. I’ve noticed that on one side, a pregnant woman is being treated like a helpless production facility, who needs to be told everything, but even then there’s no certainty that she’ll do it right. On the other hand, she’s the one to blame for everything. Because pregnancy isn’t an illness, right? I have no words for that. Let’s leave deciding about what to do to the woman herself and her doctor. Noone else should judge or comment on that, because he probably has no clue about 90% of those things. My advice? Cut off toxic people. Sometimes it’s the only solution. If someone doesn’t stop bothering you, doesn’t show a willingness to cooperate, lays claims on everything and expects you always to conform – then it’s sometimes better to say goodbye. Interesting stats – women more often lose a baby than deliver it. Makes you think, right?
6. Don’t marginalize. If a woman tells you she feels bad, don’t respond with “can’t see anything, nothing shows, you’re making it up”. What would the dear commenter like to see here? Fever, rash, vomit? A great majority of pregnancy issues isn’t visible. And as long as a woman doesn’t tell much about them, even a close person can miss half of them. Yes, a pregnant woman has right to feel tired, has right to not go to party/meeting, has right to rest as much as her organism needs it. She’s creating another life right now, and most likely she wants to make it right. So it’s worth it to listen to your own body and don’t let others pressure you. That’s for a physical state. But there’s another thing to that : ) During the pregnancy, hormones can wreak havoc. Don’t marginalize the emotional state of a pregnant woman. It’s time when she’ll need support, understanding and a shoulder to lean on. Treat her seriously and with respect.
7. Don’t tell her stories about some other woman not making it into the hospital on time and giving birth “wherever”. Another, theoretically obvious, case but people think it’s all cool to tell stories like this to a pregnant woman. I have no idea how to comment on that. How can one show such lack of empathy? And no, talking about your past labor and how hard it was, on an aunties birthday party, while you’re pregnant – that’s not okay. Is this really rocket science?
Pregnancy is a great challenge for a woman, both physically and mentally. Its time when she’ll face plenty of new problems, she didn’t even realize existed before. It’s time when hormones do their thing. Her body will change, there may come a moment when she’ll stop to feel like herself. I’ve faced quite a few situations where a pregnant woman was treated like a product, not a person. Abstraction? Not really. It’s enough to walk through the delivery ward and talk with a couple of women there.
Pregnancy is not an illness. It’s one of the most undermining and sad statements, because every one of us, women, go through it differently. It’s a very individual process. Some women fly through pregnancy and feel all dandy, but there also those who spend most of it in hospital. Alright, pregnancy is not an illness. We can’t take meds, we won’t get up from the bed in a week and fell great all of a sudden. Repeating that sentence can make women who go through pregnancy with difficulties feel very insecure. It’s not fair, and it’s hurtful. And this saying carved itself into the societies mindset, it’s repeated over and over.
Each and every one of us has different predispositions, different possibilities, different medical history. There’s no two same pregnant women labors or babies. There’s none. So making any kind of assumptions and comparisons is redundant and wrong. And degrading woman’s role, because there’s been n other women pregnant and giving birth, so it’s not a big deal, in my opinion, is inhumane.
Not many people talk about what’s not comfortable, sometimes you can question your fears and frustrations. If Instagram would show true stories besides pretty pictures, probably many women would finally find their long wanted understanding.