Dear Pregnant Women,
A friend recently announced that she was pregnant and I noticed that the women around her immediately thought it was okay to start bombarding her with the very worst things they could think of to tell her about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.
I don’t like women who treat each other that way.
So here, for the benefit of her and you and countless women like you, is my guide to talking to a pregnant woman without making her want to rip your head off in a hormone-fueled frenzy of violence and gore. Any time someone so much as looks like they’re going to mention your pregnancy hold up a hand, direct them here and tell them you’ll come back to them once they’ve memorised the rules below:
How to talk to a pregnant woman
1) Don’t tell her how horrific childbirth is.
This one should be fairly obvious but it always astounds me how many women think it’s okay to terrify other women. Does she need to hear about your doctor having to put one foot on the bed to tear your baby from your shredded vagina? Or would she prefer to hear that when it’s all over and you have your perfect beautiful little baby in your arms you know without a doubt that you’d do it again in a heartbeat if it meant keeping them safe? Remember what your Mum told you about not having anything nice to say? Exactly.
2) Do tell her that it gets easier.
When she’s just announced that she’s pregnant and everyone around her is congratulating her in one breath and telling her how exhausted she looks in the next, just let her know that she will feel like wonder-woman soon. Those first sixteen weeks can be horrible but it doesn’t mean the rest of the pregnancy will be equally miserable.
3) Don’t tell her she looks huge.
I know this one is a matter of personal opinion (I LOVED being told I was huge because I felt like it was testament to what an amazing job I was doing carrying this monster of a boy) but lots of women don’t enjoy feeling fat throughout their pregnancy. It’s safer not to say anything at all than to try to gauge which camp she belongs to. And while we’re on the subject, also don’t ask her if she’s sure there’s not two in there. She’s had scans, she knows how many babies are in there, she’s heard the same gag three times in the last half hour and YOU’RE REALLY PISSING HER OFF. And if there ARE two babies in there you’re at risk of making her think she’s not big enough if you’re only just noticing. Just don’t say anything at all!
4) Do tell her to enjoy lots of sleep while she’s pregnant.
But don’t ruin it by saying “while you still can!” in a smug tone. Those people who tell you to start limiting your sleep to prepare you for life with a newborn are stupid. Not only does she probably have absolutely NO IDEA how exhausting it’ll be with a new baby, or how long they take to feed in the night, or how many times they wake up, or how often you haven’t got a clue what it is they want, (and nor should you tell her any of this), but she’s also PREGNANT and pregnant women need their blimmin’ rest. Let her see it as a treat; something she deserves. She already knows it’s not going to last much longer, and while we’re talking sleep don’t tell her how little of it she’ll get toward the end of her pregnancy either. She’s already worrying about how she’ll cope when the baby’s here; she doesn’t need to add another layer of anxiety.
5) Don’t take over her pregnancy with tales of your own.
When I was pregnant there was little more in the world than my baby. I felt mildly offended when people didn’t want to talk about, or touch, my massive belly. When she tells you she’s got heartburn don’t tell her how much worse it gets towards the end, or how yours was so bad you thought you were having a heart attack, or that THAT’S NOTHING COMPARED TO THE PILES! Just let her tell you about it, offer your sympathies and ask her what the good bits are. Watch her smile as she tells you about the baby doing somersaults on her bladder and just feel happy for her!
Unfortunately there are plenty of people out there who, for whatever reason (stupidity, ignorance, lack of internet), don’t read my blog. I know, right? And so I have also written you, dear pregnant reader, your own guide to maintaining your sanity.
How to BE a pregnant woman.
1) Don’t let other women scare you.
There are plenty of women out there who will tell you, the minute you announce your pregnancy, how many stitches they had, how many weeks they were in labour for, how many doctors it took to wrench their child from their naval. But they’ve all got one thing in common: they survived it. They probably survived it more than once, and that tells you something.
If it was really that bad there would be no such thing as siblings.
2) Do talk about your pregnancy.
This is one of the happiest times of your life (and, at times, also one of the hardest and most miserable). Tell people. If they don’t want to listen either make them or find someone else. It’s your pregnancy, it’s your time to shine, and it’s your time to be the centre of attention. Because once that baby’s here no one’s interested in you anymore! Make the most of it. If the baby’s moved grabbed the nearest person’s hand and press it to your belly. Whether or not they want you to. Pregnancy is for sharing!
3) Don’t let them tell you things you’re not ready to hear.
There are, as well as the women who terrify you with their birth stories, those who will try to make you feel anxious about every stage of childbirth (and every month of the child’s life until the age of forty-six). Don’t let them. If they start telling you about the piles you’re going to get tell them it makes you feel uncomfortable to discuss your nether regions with anyone but your doctor (even if, before you were pregnant, you were happily sharing tales of the bruise the shape of Italy you were left with when you slipped on a kebab in the High Street). When they inevitably tell you about their stitches and stretchmarks (guilty!) remind them that every woman is different (and they’ll probably never see your abdomen so even if it looks like you’ve been attacked with a red felt tipped pen they won’t know you’re lying if you say you look like a walking advert for Bio-Oil). And most importantly remember this: pregnancy sickness can strike at any time. It’s wise to pretend it’s about to happen any time they say something you don’t want to hear.
4) Do wear what you feel comfortable in.
You’ll always hear complaints about women who wear skimpy or tight clothes throughout their pregnancies. If they wear a bikini they’re immoral, if they wear a cropped top they’re attention-seeking, if they wear a tight vest it’s disgusting that you can see where their belly button’s popped out. But then if they wear leggings they’re told they look like they’ve already given up, if they wear dungarees they’re asked where the second Mummy is, and if they wear billowy dresses they’re told not to be ashamed of their bumps. Sod them all. Do you listen to what anyone says about your clothes when you’re not pregnant? Do they even comment, or do they just suddenly feel like they have a right to tell you now that you’ve become, by way of your belly, public property?
5) Don’t start comparing yourself to other pregnant women.
There’ll be plenty of comparisons to be made once your baby’s here (even if you try not to), so don’t waste the time you should be spending feeling beautiful on wondering why your skin’s broken out in zits when the woman in the next office looks like she’s just come off the catwalks of Milan. I remember vividly sitting in the waiting room at QMC waiting for my twenty week scan, bemoaning the fact that I didn’t look pregnant when a woman sitting on the row behind me was only eighteen weeks and looked ready to burst. I was so close to tears I’m surprised I could hold it in, hormones being as rampant as they were. Ten weeks down the line I looked like I was about to have twins, and that was with another twelve weeks left to go. My Mum’s one of those who says “be careful what you wish for!” and by the time Ted was born my pelvis was certainly echoing her words.
But if there was only one piece of advice I could give to any pregnant woman it would be this: whenever anyone wants to tell you anything about pregnancy or childbirth or parenting and you haven’t actually asked them to YOU DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN. You can ask them to shut up, you can leave the room, you can sing LA LA LA LA until they look at you like you’re going crackers. You can laugh and shout and rock until they’re convinced you really are going crackers. Just make sure you enjoy it.
Pregnancy’s amazing and beautiful and wonderful, and it’s all yours.
Lots of love from a broody, envious woman who wishes she had your bump xxx
PS, if you do decide you want to know more about being pregnant without listening to the women in your office squawking about piles and trapped nerves you might like to have a little look here: Things They Don’t Tell You About Pregnancy.