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Dealing with Dumb Comments During Your Pregnancy

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Maggie Baumann, M.A.: What's the worst thing someone said to you when you were pregnant?

pregnant woman

It's been a long time since I was pregnant (my kids are 24 and 22), but I have found one thing that has remained a constant for pregnant mothers in my day and pregnant mothers today:People, especially strangers, say the dumbest things to pregnant women -- often with a negative spin, making you feel like your personal space and self-esteem have been invaded.

When you're pregnant, you are often barraged with comments from people who I think mean well, but just go over the line and cross your personal boundaries. In fact, you may have even made these comments to a pregnant woman yourself before. I know I have.Questions such as:

  • How much weight have you gained?
  • Can I touch your stomach?
  • Want to hear my horror story of labor?

I recently read this wonderful book called, "Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?" by Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei. Mysko is a body-image expert, and Amadei is a mom and former model who went public with her struggle with bulimia. Their book presents the essentials to loving your body before and after baby, covering suchtopics asbody image during pregnancy, baby-bump expectations, sex after the baby, etc.I was particularly interested in the chapter that discusses setting appropriate boundaries with others when you are pregnant. That's where I stumbled upon how women should deal with irritating comments from people about their pregnant body -- and all that goes with it.

I'd like to summarize the steps they suggested. Here you go -- help dealing with everything from weight-gain guessing to tummy-touching!

There are five key steps to setting boundaries:

1) Decide early on which kinds of boundary-probing questions you're comfortable with, and which you aren't.

Are you comfortable talking about breastfeeding techniques with your hairstylist, or is that a topic best left to family members and close friends? You just never know what kind of advice or information you might receive from a complete stranger, so be ready with a "boundary-safe" concrete answer to questions you feel are intrusive. If something feels over the line, say, "I appreciate your concern, but I am not comfortable discussing that topic except with my close friends and family members."

2) Make weight and body-size conversations off-limits.

No one really appreciates weight gain-related questions, pregnant or not. But for some reason, people feel this need to know your numbers when you're pregnant. Is it for comparison purposes? Does it help them feel better about themselves?

Whatever the reason, hearing comments that you are waddling like an oversized penguin or that you resemble a beached whale never adds to anyone's self-esteem. These comments, unfortunately, are often the ones we hear from those we are closest to. And they hurt.

Stand your ground and tell your family and friends that you would appreciate it if no one would comment on your weight gain or body size during your pregnancy.

3) Set up a support team to help you stick to your healthy boundaries.

This is a time when you need to speak up for yourself! You may know in your mind what feels safe in regards to your boundaries and what doesn't, but unless you verbalize these boundaries to your support team, they won't be able to stand up for you if you should find yourself speechless one day against an attacking comment.

Select the people you trust, and ask them for their support if you get caught up in a bind when a stranger is asking you questions you'd rather not answer. Ask your friends, "If you find me in an awkward position with someone commenting on my body size, can you run interference for me and redirect the conversation?" As long as friends and family members are aware of your needs, they should be quick to help you when you need assistance protecting your boundary.

4) Pick your battles.

Well, there's one thing we know in life: We can't control each situation or each person we come into contact with. Sometimes, you may have to let unwanted advice just pass right through you -- especially if it's from someone you have a relationship with. If your outspoken grandma has been telling you how to dress and cut your hair since you were in your teens, she's probably going to have a lot of advice when you get pregnant.

Grandma probably isn't going to change. So in this case, avoiding a confrontation is probably the best solution. If you find yourself having to spend the whole weekend with Grandma, ask your sister or other relative to distract her, and then blow off your steam with someone who does support your boundaries.

5) Practice your boundary-setting message.

As I mentioned in the first point, have set answers to give to probing questioners. This will help protect you against unwanted advice or comments. The trick here is to verbally practice, practice and practice your "comebacks," so that when you're least expecting a boundary attack, you'll be ready to speak your mind quickly and assertively.

It's not your obligation to answer anyone's questions that you feel are intrusive to your boundaries. We've come to believe that we have to answer these questions because most people do. But you can respectfully decline to answer. Voicing your boundary is not being rude -- it is your right to privacy and feeling good about yourself.

So what's the most annoying advice you got when you were pregnant?I'll come back to this topic in a future post ....

next: Could Fertility Treatments Cause Autism?
115 comments so far | Post a comment now
Danielle May 24, 2010, 5:22 AM

I was horrified at all the labor stories. I’ve had 3 kids now and haven’t had one horror story…..which the horror stories made me stay clear of having a baby in the hospital. NO WAY was I going to get induced, snipped, drugged up. I don’t want to start my babies life on drugs. I wouldn’t deserve to be a parent if I couldn’t hold my ground, and when you are in labor you can’t communicate, your vulnerable. You want to concentrate and get through it as quickly as possible. Mostly horror stories of pushy nurses and even self centered doctors.

Another thing was people telling me not to eat fish. IF it was high in mercury I can see the point, otherwise fish is a good source of omega 3 fatty acids. I hated people who haven’t had the good outcomes to even state their experience as good advice to do. Why would I want to listen to someone who took longer than 1-2 weeks at most to recover from labor and delivery??

Robin May 24, 2010, 7:35 AM

On an escalator at 8 months: “When are you due?” followed by “Oh, just the ONE?” I was hormonal and uncomfortable and emotionally screwed up from my husband being in Iraq. I have never been more tempted in my life to push someone down the stairs.

Anonymous May 24, 2010, 9:09 AM

I am pregnant with my second child. When we were in line at a grocery store and a total stranger asked me if I was getting my tubes tied after I gave birth! I just stared at her not saying anything… she said I should and walked away. I was flabergasted!

india May 24, 2010, 2:53 PM

Question: when are you due? My answer: July. Next question: Are u having twins? And that was everyone at my office during the end of my 2nd trimester. I wanted to cuss out every single one of them.

Anonymous May 24, 2010, 3:45 PM

I worked in a hospital when I was pregnant and had to be in constant contact with patients asking them questions and I was so sick and dead tired of people rubbing my belly! Especially sick people! People I didn’t even know would rub me and towards the end of my pregnancy I was so over it, I’d flat out asked them Do I know you? With this WTF look on my face the second their hands touched my belly.

smoore May 24, 2010, 7:27 PM

I’d rather be asked how much weight I gained than to be 7/8 months and people say you dont look pregnant at all,

Elizabeth W May 25, 2010, 2:37 AM

Hey smoore, some of us are very small to begin with so when preggo we only gain belly and boob weight. Ugggh, I hated hearing “no way your 8 month preg! You look 4 month!” But I just laugh to myself when I can still wear my reg clothes till my 7th month and back to pre preg weight a month or 2 later.

NotSoFunny May 25, 2010, 5:00 AM

My husband’s grandmother looked at me and said, “oh, you look like you’re gaining some weight!”. I said “yeah, I’m pregnant!!”

Mary Greenspan May 25, 2010, 5:42 AM

Another GREAT book is called “Mama Never Told Me” by Emily Van Do. Someone gave it to me at my shower it was really funny and so true!!

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I was just talking with my friend about this today at lunch . Don’t know how we landed on the topic really, they brought it up. I do recall eating a wonderful chicken salad with cranberries on it. I digress…

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