Then, today I was treated to my second birth horror story offered from a complete stranger at the post office. Apparently, entering the public domain when nine months pregnant gives people license to share just about anything with you. Telling a pregnant person that she looks great (or gorgeous—even better!), or that you remember being pregnant in the summer and you feel for her, or asking when she’s due or what she’s having is totally fine. Basically, anything positive is generally appreciated. But there are a few specific things people just ought to stay away from. Did you hear any of these when you were expecting?
Neutral or Negative(!) Comments on Appearance
Observations like, “You sure are pregnant!” or “Wow! You’re big!” just aren’t helpful. I know I’m big. I don’t fit into any of the clothes I could wear a year ago—let alone two months ago.
My friend, Megan, remembers: “I was HUGE with my daughter. Even though I only gained 25 lbs, my stomach measured enormously large, and I can’t tell you how many times I was asked by strangers if I was having twins.
But my absolute favorite horrible people story is this one: At about 36 weeks I was at a fancy banquet style dinner event with my husband. Think wedding reception, but it wasn’t a wedding. I kind of thought I was being a champ for even going. I was walking back to the table from the bathroom when I passed one of the serving staff—an older European man with a bit of an accent. He looked at me knowingly as I walked by and said, ‘Ah you’re having a girl, no?’
Me: ‘Um, yes. How’d you know?’
He looked sheepish. ‘Eh, you wouldn’t like it if I told you…’
Ok, weird. ‘It’s ok. You can tell me.’
‘No, it’s something my mother says. You wouldn’t like it.’
Now I really had to know. ‘Really, you can tell me.’
‘Ok… But it’s my mother, not me. My mother says that when a woman is pregnant with girl, she is less beautiful.’
Maybe he should have kept that one to himself!”
Advice (or Commands) on What She Should or Should Not Do
Another friend, Komal, remembers: “The one thing that my husband would say to me that made me less than happy was, ‘Are you sure you should be eating so much of X?’ I know he wanted to make sure I was healthy during my pregnancy, but toward the end, eating was the only thing that was enjoyable (for me anyway).”
Another friend, Kathryn, remembers: “When I was that pregnant, I was definitely in nesting mode—full force. It was the holidays, and everyone was gathering at our house since I couldn’t really travel.
All I wanted was for the Christmas meal and celebrations to be perfect—a last, blissful memory before new baby and no sleep. As you’ll remember, your energy at that time is suuuuuuper high, and just sitting around is reeeeeeallly uncomfortable. But, in trying to be helpful/watchful, every time I got up to do anything (ice the cakes, baste the turkey, mix the dressing) any relative within earshot would strictly bark: SIT! I almost expected them to follow up with ‘Good girl.’ as if I were their pet!
Birth Horror Stories
My new favorite topic people ought to avoid around me at the moment: birth horror stories. I don’t need to share any here, because to be honest, I’m 20 days from my due date while I type this and thinking through what all COULD go wrong is the LAST thing I want to do right now. However, heading into the library last week, a gentleman felt the need to tell me how terrible his employee’s Cesarean section went—in front of my children, no less! He told me because he knew I looked “plump” or maybe he said “plumb” (as in plumb ready?) Not sure—I didn’t ask him to clarify.
This morning at the post office when the clerk offered her gem of inspiration. Apparently, her cousin’s doctor was going out of town and recommended inducing…when they “should have just had a C-section; the baby was nine pounds!” (completely contradicting the library man’s advice, naturally). I looked at her hopefully and said, “Well, now the baby’s here and she’s doing fine, yes?” To which the clerk looked at me sorrowfully and said, “No. She had to go into surgery…”
I left before I could hear more.