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Stupid Comments: Leave Pregnant Women Alone!

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Have you ever noticed that the expression "If you don't have something nice to say ..." does not apply to pregnant women?

Smiling pregnant woman

Jennifer Ginsberg: When I was pregnant with my first baby, the comments I received ranged from mildly disturbing to excruciatingly unbearable.

When I arrived at my synagogue for Yom Kippur services, I was greeted by Cantor Sarah with a "Holy crap! You have doubled in size since I last saw you!" This was particularly upsetting because I had seen her just ten days earlier on Rosh Hashanah.

When I was at Costco shopping for toilet paper, an elderly man approached me, rubbed my stomach, and said, "You will have lovely triplets."

The worst of all occurred at Whole Foods Market, in the hot food section. It was a Sunday evening, and the store was packed. I ran into my friend's husband, who took one look at me and almost keeled over. "Wow," he said, eyeing me like I was the freak show exhibit at the circus, "you are huge. You look like you are going to explode! Any day now?"

"Actually, I have two more months to go," I reluctantly admitted, dripping in shame.

"Good God!" he exclaimed. "There is no way you will ever make it that long. You look like you are going to pop any second. How much weight have you gained?"

I was stunned. In whose universe are you allowed to ever ask a woman this question? Oh yeah, I was pregnant, and normal social standards clearly did not apply. My body was an open target for any assault.

"I really don't know," I answered. This happened to be the truth. Once my weight reached a certain undisclosed amount on the doctor's scale, I stepped on it backwards with my eyes closed and begged the nurse to not reveal the number to me under any circumstances.

"My wife only gained 15 pounds when she was pregnant! Can you believe it? Fifteen pounds!" I didn't tell him that I had gained that amount in my first trimester. "I would say you have gained at least 25 to 30 pounds by now." He was gleeful.

They called my number, and I went to the counter to order my food. "Take it easy with those enchiladas!" he burst out laughing. "You don't want to explode."

I went home and sobbed. "I still have two more months to go!" I told my husband, completely distressed. "If I am getting these comments now, what are they going to be like next month? I am not going to be able to leave the house!" (Little did I know how true this was. By my eighth month of pregnancy, my maternity clothes no longer fit me. All my tops became half-shirts as they hiked farther and farther up my rapidly expanding tummy.)

After enduring the humiliation of having my body constantly critiqued and condemned throughout my first pregnancy, I decided to try another approach the second time around. As soon as I began to show (which was approximately two days after I conceived), I had my pat answers ready.

"When are you due?" is a seemingly benign question, but within it lurks the most dangerous of traps. For when you actually reveal your due date to someone, you open yourself up to a whole array of criticisms. The most memorable one I received was, "How weird! My best friend is due in May also, but she is so tiny compared to you." I learned to sidestep this completely by answering, "Sometime in the spring," then abruptly changing the subject.

When people approached me and remarked, "You are huge!" I would give them a big smile and enthusiastically say, "Thank you!" They usually got the point.

Why is it that people feel free to assess a pregnant woman's body so blatantly? Is it acceptable to say this to a woman who is simply overweight, but not pregnant? Of course not! There is something about being with child that entitles people to say whatever the hell they want.

When we venture out into the world pregnant, we feel vulnerable. What we need is kindness, not critique. How about only making positive observations? When you run into a pregnant friend who looks like she is ready to give birth right there on the street, tell her, "You look beautiful."

By the way, I am pleased to report that I actually made it all the way to my due date two times without popping or exploding, thank you very much.


next: Why Teens Are Killing Kids
31 comments so far | Post a comment now
PlumbLucky November 4, 2009, 4:51 AM

Heh, when a friends husband kept going on about it and refused to take several subtle hints, I reached over and patted his beer belly and asked him about it.

He didn’t say another word for the remainder of my pregnancy ;-).

I do not recommend this as anything but a last ditch effort with someone you know though.

MarMar November 4, 2009, 7:15 AM

I had the same things happen when I was pregnant! Such rude comments! The uninvited belly rub is awful too - since when is it OK to rub someone’s abdomen for no reason? We had a really hot guy who worked at our office at the time, but I would’ve gotten fired had I walked up to him, rubbed his tummy, and said “Wow John, great abs! Have you been working out?” Yet it was perfectly OK for my co-workers to come up to me and start rubbing like I was their own personal Buddha statue. (And unfortunately, John the hot co-worker was not one of them, in case you were wondering!)

Jessica November 4, 2009, 9:02 AM

During my first pregnancy my own husband would comment on how huge I was. Thanks alot, hunnie.

The second time around I ended up giving birth to an almost 9 pound baby and the entire last month of my pregnancy everyone assumed I was pregnant with twins! Even the nurses in the OB clinic!

I could not agree with this post more. Why is it ok to say things like this to a pregnant woman? IT’S NOT!! Easy as that!

Thank you for sharing your story!

m November 4, 2009, 9:52 AM

I don’t mind the uninvited belly rub, but the bug eyed question, “WOW you are HUGE! is it TWINS?” did bother me. I had a 10 lb baby, which I guess could have been two 5 lb twins, but geez how embarrassing!

Andrea November 4, 2009, 11:40 AM

Just remember what you are doing is amazing, and if us women weren’t pregnant the human race would have stopped a long time ago.

it’s not right that we have to put up with hurtful comments, but keep your head up and think of the end result.

Ash November 4, 2009, 12:02 PM

“There is something about being with child that entitles people to say whatever the hell they want.”

Apparently Some women think “Freedom of Speech”, and an obvious show of congratulations from a male, should come No closer than 50 yards from where they are, When this “Predatory” act is probably going to take place.

lolwomen.

Ricky November 6, 2009, 10:12 PM

I wouldn’t rub a belly without being invited to do so.
But I’ve made comments about the size of it to lots of pregnant women, and I always meant it in the best possible way.
You ladies do realize we don’t think you get that big from eating cheeseburgers, right? A pregnant woman is a beatiful thing; she’s a strong reminder of where we all come from. She’s a living breating symbol of new life. That’s what I think when I see those big bellies, and I want to comment on them strictly as a congratulation to the women.
I’ll certainly be more careful about doing that in the future but rest assured that, at least in my case, no harm was ever intended.

wow November 15, 2009, 12:26 PM

People can say things without realizing it. They don’t think about the way it sounds when they say it. Nobody I ever knew got pregnant (I’m at a semi-young age where not many people are having babies, at least not among my circles), so I have never commented on a pregnant woman (It’s none of my business, after all.) but I know now how to act! ^_^

Jen December 16, 2009, 7:04 PM

This happened to me too….I gained 42 lbs during my pregnancy, which compared to some people isn’t that bad and I had a fairly small baby, (6 lbs 15 oz)….so they were stupid to make an assumption it was a big baby or twins just based on how I looked…some people made the rudest comments…I just couldn’t believe the lack of manners!

quesadilla January 21, 2010, 11:50 AM

I would be amiss if I did not tell you straight-up that women who are overweight in any category of overweight-ness receive horrifyingly rude comments, looks, laughs, and so forth…all the time. Be grateful that there are no public service advertisements or products or food companies who are out to rid the world of your (pregnant) body type. Our society is not intolerant of pregnant women in general. If a woman gains weight due to a pregnancy she is usually treated with a degree of delicacy. If a person gains weight by way of a tumor, they are treated with delicacy as soon as it is discovered that they have an unusual growth. Every human bodily condition in this world is accepted by the general public except these: overweight/obese and mental illness. How disgusting is it that even serial killers have a slew of followers, but a gal can’t be fat and walk down the street without being harassed?

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