There seems to be a trend to write about what not to say to pregnant women. The articles usually suggest not commenting about their body, telling them about your birth, asking how they will feed their baby, commenting on names or what they are eating. I remember having a lot of people comment on my pregnancies and future parenting choices. People told me how I carried different, told me when I dropped, how one child was bigger than the last, silence when I told them a name, and judged me when I mentioned cloth diapering. The reality in those situations: I still can’t figure out if one pregnant belly was bigger than the other, I never dropped with either (I was induced with two babies who didn’t want to come out), and I really don’t care about others opinions about my choices of names, feeding, diapering or anything else. So overall, I do agree with most these articles. However, when I reflect on those conversations, I found myself most irritated when someone gave me their opinion on my body/birth/parenting when I did not ask. So, what is missing in the articles I have been reading is I want to know “did the pregnant woman ask for the other persons advice”?
I ask this question because I think as women and mothers that we should be honest about the realities of all that is involved when becoming a mother. Our society sets up high expectations about what motherhood looks like, which is then reinforced by social media. I remember when I took my birthing class and the nurse said that nursing a baby is natural so mom and baby will figure it out. I now know that was probably the worst thing someone could say, but at the time it stuck with me. Nursing my first born was one of the hardest thing I had ever done. No one told me that nursing hurt, that it could feel like that is ALL you do and that you would worry about not knowing how much your baby was eating. If I had known those were NORMAL, I would not have felt like I was failing as a mom. I was surrounded by mothers who nursed so easily, while others were judging me for not formula feeding. I would have been very appreciative to hear from another mom that she struggled with nursing. Even if I didn’t really listen when I was pregnant, I most certainly would have called her when I was struggling in those early days.
One thing I have learned as a mom is that I value the input of other moms more then anything when they are being real and honest. Sure I read and like to write about practical advice about being a mom, but in those early days, what I needed most was to be heard. I wanted to know I was not alone and that others had these struggles besides what I read about online. So if you know someone is going to be a mom and she asked you about being a mom or transitioning from a mother of 1 to 2 ect., do her a favor and be honest. It is common to have expectations for pregnancy, the birth and motherhood. However, often when our expectations are not met, one can be left feeling disappointed. So although I understand that people get all upset that a mom would share the truth about how horrific her birth experience was, the reality is no one has an easy birth. So if you ask me, I will tell you how painful, long, and joyous my birthing experiences were because (1) I won’t contribute to a pregnant mamas fantasy that her birth/motherhood is going to be easy since those expectations have consequences such as feeling sad or like a failure and (2) my stories about pregnancy, birth and motherhood are MY stories. I love my stories. I will not lie about them just to ease someone else. So what should you actually talk about to a pregnant woman?
Here are my easy guidelines to talking to a pregnant woman:
1. Tell every pregnant woman you see she is beautiful. Pregnant women need to hear that. Many pregnant women do not feel beautiful since they may be uncomfortable with the weight, being tired and just not wanting to be pregnant anymore. So keep it simple and say you are beautiful. Who doesn’t like to hear that?
2. If a pregnant woman asks you a question about your pregnancy/birth/motherhood then answer her honestly but only about that one question about yourself. Do not tell her what to do. If you have more information you want to share, ask her first if she even wants to hear it.
3. If you have something to say and it is a judgmental statement, just don’t say it. If you do not know if it is, then it probably is one. Some examples would include a statement that implies you are better (I only gained…, I ate…, shouldn’t you…) all are off limits.
4. My own personal request…never say to a pregnant woman “you haven’t had that baby yet”, “you are still here?” or anything similar. I went 42 weeks with my second baby. I heard several times a day comments about not going into labor yet. If you are talking to a pregnant woman, then clearly she had not gone into labor yet. Instead of commenting about it, just say “you look beautiful”.