Some people love to talk about the fact that I'm pregnant (and I happen to be one of those people). So when I come across someone else who’s up for the discussion — particularly a stranger who hasn't already heard all about my food cravings, potential names, and baby-related fears — I’m all about bending an ear. As a result, on more than one occasion, I've put my (swollen) foot straight into my mouth.
A lot has been written about what not to say to a pregnant person. Being on the opposite side of that, I’ve learned pregnant people make mistakes, too.
Here are four vivid examples of when I've absolutely said the wrong thing.
“Are you pregnant, too?”
This is not a question anyone is supposed to be asking. When you ask me if I'm pregnant, you lower your voice to a whisper and wince, as if whispering would make it less offensive if, in fact, I was not. Avoiding asking a woman this question is basically the golden rule, and being pregnant myself does not absolve me from it.
And so I can’t defend the fact that it happened: earlier this month, I was talking to an editor when — in the midst of her giving me some serious mommy advice — I scanned the speaker’s body, spotted a little round tummy and let it slip. The second I said it, I wished I could suck the words right back down my throat.
No, she wasn’t pregnant. She had given birth four months earlier. I mean, she looked fantastic for having just had a baby, and I tried to tell her that, but it was no use. “Your body won’t just bounce back,” she said somewhat grumpily.
“Have you ever been pregnant?”
Sometimes mistakes happen because I feel like I’m monopolizing the conversation. Like the other day, a woman caught me off guard with a compliment and by guessing my exact due date just from the size of my bump. She seemed to know so many facts about pregnancy and was clearly relating. Without thinking, and assuming she must have been, I asked if she'd been pregnant, too.
“No, well,” she paused, “yes, but not really.” There wasn't an easy answer to my question, and it was none of my business to have asked in. Our interaction hung in the air like a fart.
I was only trying to make conversation and be polite. How else could someone know so much about morning sickness? Why else was she so interested in my last ultrasound?
Maybe because she was a nurse, or because she had a sister or close friend who was pregnant. Or because she's been 22 weeks pregnant, like I was at the time, and then she lost the child. You can’t know, really — so all you need to know is "have you ever been pregnant?” can be a sensitive question. After this interaction, it’s a question I no longer ask.
Along those lines, I know better than to assume every woman who has kids has been pregnant. I worked with one woman who purposely adopted a red-headed baby that looked just like her. People were always, always saying stupid shit to her, assuming it was her biological child. Another example: a student of mine has two beautiful children, born from her same-sex partner at the time. Who got to carry the kids is a complicated story, and so I imagine it’s annoying when, in conversation, people assume it was her.
“You didn't want to have kids?”
I'm not so terrible that I've said this one out loud, but when I’m talking to someone of a certain age who doesn't have children — particularly if they’re in a committed partnership — I sometimes wonder. My husband and I wanted kids, so we pulled out my IUD and less than two months later I was pregnant. Tada, how wild — sort of like this lady who got pregnant literally the first time she had sex! For lots of people, however, it’s not that easy.
And there are other reasons why a person who wanted to have children doesn’t. And yeah, some people choose to live child-free, for lots of reasons they may not wish to discuss. Whatever the reasons, I don't judge. And I respect the fact that this is not necessarily a subject someone wants to discuss.
“I feel fat.”
At 25 weeks, most of the extra weight I’ve gained is centered around my belly. It’s also in my face, my boobs, the back of my arms, my thighs, and my butt. Basically, I’ve gained a little everywhere, and yeah, I sometimes feel fat.
But so what?
A couple of weeks ago, I was complaining on Facebook about how much weight I’d gained. Some hours later, I saw a friends status, “I’m not pregnant, I'm just fat.”
It may or may not have been related to my post (let’s face it, it probably was); either way, shame on me. Sure, it's okay for me to feel the way I do. It’s even okay for me to talk about it. But in certain settings or before audiences, I realize it’s better to keep these feelings to myself. My own internalized fat phobia can cause harm, which is not my intention. This experience reminded me that when I share feelings about my weight on social media, I ought to slap on a content warning.
Being pregnant — in my case, for the most part — has been wonderful, and I’m grateful when people want to share in my joy. If you talk to me about my pregnancy, I promise I’ll try not to make you regret it.