Guest blogger Ronda Kaysen: It's Monday morning. I'm 37 weeks pregnant. I just dropped my unbearably cranky 3-year-old off at preschool after enduring two tantrums, one that involved him needing to clutch his dirty socks at the breakfast table. I've been having Braxton Hicks contractions and a backache for a week. I'm very cranky myself.
I am now standing in a long line at Dunkin' Donuts with all the other commuters waiting for our early-morning caffeine fix. I make my way to the front. I give the cashier my order: a small coffee with milk, no sugar.
He responds, "Regular or decaf?"
I hadn't mentioned decaf. Why on earth would I go to all this trouble for decaf? "Regular," I say.
"Are you sure?" he says with a smirk.
He has to be kidding. He must be kidding. There is no way this middle-aged man working at Dunkin' Donuts -- which, I must say, sells terrible, weak coffee, despite its sizeable fan base -- knows what's best for me. "Why wouldn't I want regular?" I ask.
He glances at my enormous belly and shrugs. I grab my coffee and leave. I am now seething. Did I mention I'm very cranky?
Ten minutes later, at my now-weekly prenatal visit, I tell my midwife of my recent encounter. "Next time, tell him the baby's tired," she suggests.
If my Dunkin' Donuts encounter was the first time a stranger had weighed in on the needs of a fetus he'll never know, I wouldn't have been so angry. But it wasn't. It happens with surprising frequency. I've had waiters question whether or not I should order a regular coffee with my dessert, even though one to two cups of coffee is considered fine while pregnant. I've had a neighbor's friend ask me if it was smart to jump on a trampoline with my toddler, who barely jumps at all. And I've been denied half a glass of champagne at a friend's wedding before I had to give the toast as the Matron of Honor. (If there's ever a time that a pregnant woman needs a sip of bubbly, it's when she's about to make a speech in front of 200 strangers.)
For some reason, when you're pregnant, your bump becomes public domain. Perfect strangers feel the need to offer advice on matters that are none of their business. People feel the urge to comment. And as my bump gets larger and begins to resemble a large beach ball protruding from my overstretched maternity shirt, the comments and unsolicited advice seem to only increase.
Pregnancy is a period wherein your body becomes a subject of public speculation and conversation. People guess the baby's sex based on how fat your face looks or how oblong your abdomen happens to be. People comment on how tired you look or whether you're carrying "big" or "small." And then they comment on the things you do and the foods you eat.
It's hard enough being pregnant. Your body is being held hostage, your clothes don't fit, you can't tie your own shoes -- and that's before you even consider the heartburn, insomnia, nausea and exhaustion.
Add to that the meddling comments from the guy at Dunkin' Donuts, and a girl could scream. If I could have one wish for pregnancy, it would be that strangers would look at me, smile and say, "Congratulations, you look lovely," if they are compelled to say anything at all.