“It must be a boy. You’re carrying low.”
“Are you expecting twins?”
“I imagine you’re planning to breastfeed, right?”
Pregnant women are often the centre of public attention. There’s nothing like the swell of growing human life – covered in a maternity dress – to elicit comments from strangers.
Most people are genuinely curious and considerate, but that baby bump is also a magnet for ill-considered remarks, unwanted advice and, occasionally, a random hand touching your body. “Ooooh. Is that a kick?”
As Andrea Symington puts it, “On numerous occasions I had to ask people to step away from treating my stomach like a lucky charm.” This time last year, Andrea’s daughter hadn’t yet been born and the soon-to-be mom was fast approaching her due date. She received a lot of advice, “solicited and unsolicited,” she says. “I always let people share their words of wisdom, but gently ignored any advice that didn’t jive with my overall plan – whether it was about pregnancy, labour and delivery, or raising my child-to-be.”
People had plenty to say, especially about her decision not to find out the sex of the baby. “I remember I was in a children’s clothing store buying a bunch of girl clothes and a bunch of boy clothes and asked about returning whichever ones weren’t needed.” The lady at the cash register asked her if they weren’t able to tell the sex of the baby during the ultrasound. “I replied that we wanted a surprise. She seemed genuinely shocked and confused that we didn’t want to know.”
Andrea came to realize handling comments is all part of the experience of being pregnant. “It seems that nothing is off limits. People feel compelled to tell you what they think.”
Patricia Roy-Papineau is familiar with that scenario. The Stittsville mother of one says, “When you’re pregnant and you meet other pregnant women or moms, the too-much-information rule goes out the window. Complete strangers on the street are not afraid to tell you all the intimate details of their pregnancy and the birth process.” Once she was sporting the baby bump, she says, “It [was] like I had graduated to some sort of special club and was now privy to all the details.”
In the vicinity of a rounded abdomen, Andrea observes, manners can evaporate. “If it is rude to comment on someone’s size when they are not pregnant, then the same rule should apply to pregnant women.” Sometimes she had a thing or two of her own to say. “I’m not a shy person, so if someone stepped out of line with comments, I told them so.”
Moms-to-be, here are some tips to help establish boundaries. Remember:
- You don’t have to answer any questions you’re not comfortable answering.
- You don’t have to listen to anyone’s delivery details unless you asked for them. “Can we talk about something else?” is a question worth practicing.
- You don’t have to make excuses for your life decisions or tolerate rudeness from strangers.