What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman
A woman's body pays a heavy price to carry and deliver a baby. That's what my doctors say and what I've twice experienced. During the first half of each of my pregnancies, I was so nauseated I could barely function, even with anti-nausea medication during the second pregnancy—nearly bedridden. For the second half of each, a bevy of other issues sprung up, including retention of so much water I could hardly walk. My legs looked like logs. They felt like logs, too. Indeed, if I lived in another time or in another place where I didn't have access to health care, neither me nor my babies might have made it.
But my physical discomfort was matched by social discomfort—and not of my own doing. During the first pregnancy, Shawn and I were youth leaders at our church. When we announced our pregnancy to the kids, I was all red-faced with embarrassment, my protruding belly evidence of our sexual intimacy. My awkwardness? Foolish, I know.
However, during both my pregnancies and post-partum, I've had plenty of legitimate reasons for embarrassment. Apparently, since a personal thing like marital intimacy was now made public, many people felt licensed to let the comments fly. I could cite a litany of inappropriate remarks and behaviors. Here's my short list:
1 … So, who's the father? Christian men I know posed this question. I realize it was in jest, but really? The question rankles me because anyone who knows me understands how sacred and joy-filled my relationship with Shawn is. The mere suggestion of adultery is odious. Joking about it is beyond the pale.
2 … Boy, you're getting fat! Said by a few different Christian men. I know these guys weren't being malicious—they were joking, grasping for a way to strike up conversation about the obvious.
I let this particular comment slide. But given that women can be especially sensitive about their bodies during the pregnancy and post-partum seasons, I advise against making any comments about weight. (In fact, shouldn't we always think twice before commenting on anyone's weight?) If I had low self-esteem or was overly self-conscious, I'd be crushed. For the image-obsessed media and women who take their cue from them, weight gain during pregnancy is now considered a faux pas. Expectant mothers are now expected to be "skinny pregnant." I know women who've undernourished themselves during pregnancy; they put themselves and their babies at risk because they feared weight gain. Let's not make their situation worse by joking about the extra 30 pounds they are carrying around.