A safety guide for dealing with pregnant women.
So having never been pregnant, I can honestly say I don’t have the first freaking clue about how a woman feels during these nine months of torturous trimesters. This being said, I have had some experience being around pregnant women and I could have gained some insight from them.
As the father of two “adult” children, I might like to think I know stuff. Alas, I like every other man who did not raise a child alone, know exactly jack shit. I know you’re thinking wait a minute buddy, I changed diapers and fed my kids and wiped butts and bathed them and, well, all that stuff. Truly you and I might have accomplished this but not without training and or direct supervision of the “boss”.
Face it guys, “Mom” is directly in charge when it comes to all decisions about that baby. Just because you placed the order doesn’t mean you really have any “input” after that. So before I run off in a different direction, let’s go back to the intent of the piece. Over my lifetime I have witnessed classic, heinous and unwittingly horrible mistakes made from both sexes and from all ages when interacting with our little “Chariots of Fire”. Here are a few things you should never do, some things you can try, and mostly a whole lot of what not to say.
Our case subject is a grown woman in her late 20’s. She is college educated and a successful military officer. No sooner did the blue cross show on the stick, suddenly people want to tell her when to sleep, what she should eat, what type of shoes she should wear, what travel is appropriate, and the list goes on and on. Do you know why people feel this is Ok? Because she’s pregnant.
Well – intending strangers and loved-ones alike want to comment on everything from the clothes she wears to how much you should work out while pregnant. Surely her doctor wouldn’t have skipped this area all together. Her friends and family probably mean well, but, as her belly grows, so comes the deluge of unsolicited opinion and comments. Most of which she is not interested in at all. Yet she smiles and tries to be polite because that’s the way she was raised. Still when your own Father leads the ludicrous with a snarky “getting kind of fat, aren’t ya”? Seriously Pops! I would have been ducking if I would have ever said that to my daughter pregnant or not. How could anyone think this is good-natured? Ok, all set up….sit back for the ride.
In the beginning: Start with what not to assume: Big boobs and swollen stomach do not always equate to expectant mother. Oh, everyone thinks they can tell but don’t go flapping your gums about “when are you due” until you’re sure. I lost an important vacuum sale when my partner made that assumption. Shouldn’t she have known better? Isn’t there some form of estrogen radar that gives a signal? Apparently not, when I heard “I’m not pregnant” I just packed up and left.
What not to say: “Pointing at her stomach “hey do ya know how that happened? Who’s the daddy? Boy you look like you’re going to explode, you must be close to launch, those ankles are holding on for dear life, was it planned, are you sure you’re not having twins, I think you’re having a “blank”, can I touch your belly, your breast-feeding right, your boobs are huge (congrats to your husband), you shouldn’t eat that, you need to eat this. Hankering for pickles and ice cream right, am I right”? “No you’re a douche because I didn’t want anything till you opened your yaw”.
Back to the doosies: “You are so big; it is going to take a while to lose ALL that weight! Well there goes your life, no more fun for you ever”. Ever? “Know it all mothers” from bygone eras seem to be the worst. “Good lord Grammy they don’t put you in a berthing stall in the stable any more, they have hospitals”. “Well in my day, if it’s high and round it’s a girl. If it’s low and pointed, it’s a boy. If it kicks real hard, it’s an Armadillo”!
Now pay attention this is important: “Hey Preggo”. I don’t know anyone pregnant or not that is flattered by this term. If you’re feeling froggy go ahead and try it, but do you really want to go toe to navel with a woman who’s five month pregnant.
What not to touch: Everything! Backs, fronts, bumps, cheeks, chins, ankles, butts, boobs, anything with veins and especially tummies. Just because she rests her hand there is never a reason for you to think sharing is in order. Unless she places your hand on her child’s condo to feel a kick, never touch a pregnant woman. You have no idea what hurts and as everything probably does, no touchy-touchy. This is where relatives get their feelings hurt, they think that all women who have previously experienced childbirth belong to a Carte-Blanche rub club. Wrong.
It’s OK to say: Congratulations, how far along are you? You look great (this is especially helpful if she does not look well). You will be a wonderful mother. Those are actually your only options. Sometimes you can try the “radiant line” or how happy you seem but those are iffy. For unless you’re talking to Kate Middleton, the mother to be will never feel that radiant (especially since she hasn’t stopped sweating since conception). So beware lines that can be seen through with the developing eye of Mordor or mother in training.
Men are no help, steer clear: We want to be involved and helpful but we are definitely out of our element. We can put cribs and changing tables together, paint rooms and build toy boxes, but some things….well like nursing bra’s and breast pumps are problematic. No matter how old the father to be is, these items drain every ounce of maturity out of a man. I’ll just leave that there.
One of my favorite real life stories was from a friend that worked at “Toys r Us”. He was stocking the infant section one day when a guest asked him about breast pumps. Try as he might, he could not keep himself from looking directly at the woman’s chest. Much to his dismay she followed his eyes and blasted him with “it’s not for me”! OMG awkward, (beet red face) sorry ma’am, and how can I help you with these pumps. First off no guy should really be discussing the workings of breast pumps. Sure we may be able to comprehend the physics but have no way of answering the obvious, like does it hurt, how long does it take /per volume received, when do you switch nipples? And no, growing up on a farm does not help your plight. Men should run top speed from these conversations. “Umm yes madam all the directions are on the label, that’s all I got, seriously. Let me call a manager, “guest assistance needed in breast pumping”, “I mean boob draining”, “mammary siphoning”, “good lord just bring my final check to aisle 76”!
End it already: Support works, suffocation – not so much. Unless there is an identifiable real health issue and you are a doctor, keep your yap shut. Even if you’re the Octo-Mom you only know how your births went. Leave the poor girl to the advice of her doctor and her mother (some things can’t be changed). Support her, help her out of the car, make sure fluffy doesn’t fall off the curb. Protect her from harm and tell her how freaking beautiful she is every day. Those faces she makes during labor will come soon enough, but for now, everyone she knows should ensure she’s aware how happy you are for her and not to worry. Everything has a way of coming back together.