Sunday, June 2, 2013

Why you dont say things you dont say to a pregnant woman.

By now I think weve all seen those lists that detail ALL the things you should never (under any circumstance) say to a pregnant woman. I think those lists are the best thing ever, especially considering the amount of those comments I get every single day of my pregnant life. I think everyone gets the point, but now Im going to explain the reasoning behind it.

I have had a lot of friends read those lists and then apologize. See, they had said those things to me and they really didnt understand why they were such a big deal, or why anyone would find innocent comments so offensive. Thats fair enough, so here I am, speaking on behalf of all the women who have been on the receiving end of a comment that made you cry, and not been able to explain WHY (and had it chalked up to "hormones", amiright?).

So, lets imagine that youve been horribly sick for a few months. Its not life threatening, but it is debilitating. You have to navigate this sickness, plus all of your normal responsibilities, and you have to pretend that you ARENT sick because no one can know. In the course of a few months, through inactivity and eating whatever you can manage to keep down (carbs, always carbs), you might have put on a few pounds. Hey, you might have put on MORE than a few pounds. But its not your fault, right? Youll lose it when you feel better and besides, youre just trying to get through this awful, all day sickness ....

Now imagine that all of your friends, and most of your family, and even a lot of strangers, say something EVERY TIME THEY SEE YOU. That something is along the lines of "OMG, youve gotten really fat", "wow, you are SO BIG, is that normal?!", "why have you let yourself go like that? My friend Jane had the same thing that you do and she didnt show it until she had it for at least seven months". Or the kicker, "when I was sick like that I stayed in all my pre-sick jeans the whole time!".

I think you get the point. I feel like some people believe that commenting on how "huge" someone has gotten is just a form of "look, youre pregnant!". The fact is that a lot of us dont hear anything about pregnancy. We hear "huge", which translates to "fat". So imagine that for the better part of 6 months (or whenever you might start to show), every single day someone says to you "holy shit youre fat". Eventually, no matter how strong your self esteem, that will wear at you.

As it wears at you, you will begin to look in the mirror more. And in the way of your beautiful blessing, the thing you prayed for, hoped for, went through hell for, will be a big huge block of letters that will say FAT. And instead of being proud of your big huge bump of life, you will be ashamed. You will try to look as small as possible, and some days you wont even want to go out of the house. You will preempt any conversation about your due date with the words "I know, Im really big. I know, its crazy. I know, by xx date I wont be able to walk. I know". It will become your mantra, to try to use as a shield so you dont get any hurtful offhand comments.

Now imagine that you are over the sickness and feel just fine. But for some reason, you have grown a large patch of discolored skin on your face. You cannot cover it up - its there for the world to see. You didnt ask for it, its just the way your body works and thats what you have to live with. Its not hurting anyone. Its not cancerous or going to hurt you. Youve been in consult with your doctor and he or she assures you that its only temporary and really, you are perfectly healthy.

But, its the same thing. EVERY WHERE you go, people gawk at you. They stop and ask "are you SURE thats okay?", "is it cancer?", "have you talked to your doctor?". After awhile youd want  to scream, because OF COURSE YOU HAVE. And if something was wrong, your doctor would helpfully tell you, wouldn't they?

This seems to be the case with short girls who get very huge (or anyone really, but I have to sympathize with my fellow short girls). Yes, we get BIG. Guess what? There is no where for the baby to go. We have no torso so we tend to grow OUT. Thats a good thing! That means that there is a baby growing inside of us. But when you hear from person after person "are you SURE its just one?!", "is your doctor okay with you being THAT big?" and always "my sisters cousins friend is as far as you and she doesnt even show!".

*On a side note, I have heard from my very tiny friend that this is not a phenomenon reserved for women who get very big, and that she heard all sorts of opposite comments from being very small - "are you sure the baby is okay?", "God, gain some weight!", ect. Equally hurtful, no doubt,

Please believe that the majority of pregnant women are seeing a doctor or midwife. Those medical professionals monitor the pregnancy, and even the weight gain. They will inform the woman if she has anything to be concerned about - weight gain, weight loss, or otherwise. That is their job, and why they get paid. These questions produce the same result as above.

Pregnancy really is a blessing, there is no doubt about that. Every day with your baby is a gift, and I wouldnt want anyone to ever think differently. It is difficult, however, when you might fall outside what society as a hole thinks of as "normal", which is whatever they or their immediate circle have shown to them.

Not all of us look like maternity models. Some of us have long torsos and the baby can stretch out, some of us have no torso and we carry the baby 5 feet in front of us. Some of us glow, some of us lose all of our "pretty". Some lose weight, some gain weight, but unless you are one of those rare people who dont care who you offend (and if that is the case, there is a karmic envelope with your name on it somewhere ....), I think its safe to follow the "if you dont have anything nice to say, dont say anything at all" rule, when it comes to pregnant women.

You dont have to lie to anyone - if your pregnant friend looks crazy and terrible, you dont HAVE to tell her shes beautiful (though, it wouldnt hurt). But asking her something snarky or hurtful certainly doesnt seem to have any benefit either. Trust me, she can see who she is in the mirror. She knows when her maternity jeans are too small (yeah, who knew THAT could happen), when she cant see her feet anymore. She knows that she doesnt look like her best friend, or her neighbor. She knows that she isnt exactly going to be asked to pose for a perfect maternity ad. She knows it, and she lives with it. Let that be enough.

Pregnancy seems to be one of the times where people believe its okay to say whatever they want. They seem to believe that pregnant women have a forcefield where comments wont crush their self esteem. Thats so opposite of true - in fact, during a time when your body is undoing all the work that youve always put into it, when you cant find any clothes that fit you, when you dont look the same as the people around you ... pregnancy can be even harder on your self image. If you toss in there a history of poor body image and low self esteem (and trust me, you dont know who has or is suffering from that), it can be a very dangerous thing to keep tossing out offhanded comments to someone. It can hurt way more than youd imagine.

Im probably a little over sensitive on the issue, given that I am a freak of nature (yes, I admit it). At 5 foot nothing I grow STRAIGHT OUT, and my last baby was over 9 pounds. I gained a lot of weight, and I had a lot of horrible things said to me. This pregnancy Ive been lucky to be surrounded by a group of supportive, uplifting, positive women who are so generous with compliments and quick to tell me that I look beautiful because Im creating life. I cannot express how much those words are like medicine when you need it the most. Im challenging everyone to be THAT friend. The one who goes out of her way to tell her friend how beautiful she is, how gorgeous her baby will be, and how NORMAL she looks (even if she doesnt, consider it your karmic payment for the week).

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