Uncomfortable questions pregnant women get asked frequently… and we wish you wouldn’t.
Pregnancy is full of changes. Obviously, right? I knew myself that things would change and be different, but I wasn’t really ready for the magnitude of changes that I would be going through. It’s a whole new experience and something you can never prepare for once your body starts changing, inside and out, and is doing things it has never done before. For me, it’s actually quite unnerving. It’s exciting to be creating a life, but it is scary to say goodbye to the body I knew and experiencing rapid changes as a little being is growing in there. Going into pregnancy imagining the movie Alien (complete with some little being clawing its bloody way out of my f-ing body) didn’t help either I’m sure. I had lost a lot of weight a few years back, and am not even close to being back up to my heaviest weight, but the entire shape of my body is changing. Things that would fit when I was at my heaviest don’t fit anymore. It’s hard to be confident sometimes when your hips are wide, feet are swollen, and skin is in crazy mode. I’m sure the hormones have a large impact on self-esteem and moods, too!
I am very lucky to have an extremely supportive husband, family, and friend circle. I feel even more supported by women now that I am pregnant than I had before. Pregnancy brings a new community around you that you never had before, and is almost like being initiated into a sisterhood. It’s a beautiful experience. With that being said, there are also those who, I’ve experienced, don’t really have a filter when asking pregnant people questions. Even more surprisingly are the ones that have been through pregnancy and still ask silly questions. They may not mean any harm, but it isn’t any less hurtful or detrimental to a pregnant women’s state of mind. Here are the worst questions I’ve been asked so far, and here’s why:
“You’re in your second trimester, shouldn’t you have more energy/not feel sick/not be tired/etc?”
Oh, you’re right. I don’t actually know how I’m feeling, but the books and websites do. Okay, being a little snarky, but it’s very difficult in any situation when people assume they know how you should be feeling instead of understanding how you actually feel. Yes, the second trimester is a lot better for many women. Yes, I do feel better overall than the first trimester. However, growing a human takes a lot of resources, and everyone responds to pregnancy differently. For me, I am tired very often, it’s hard for me to exercise at anywhere near what I was used to doing, and I still don’t feel well first thing in the morning. And that’s okay. It is important for pregnant women to set their own boundaries and limitations, and is equally important for partners, friends, and family to accept it and be just as supportive. Instead of asking the question in the former way, why not just say “How are you feeling these days?” or “Tell me about that experience.” I am always touched when someone asks how I am doing, and actually means it.
“Wow you look so big. You’re only [X] months?”
Does any woman, pregnant or not, like being told that they look big? Hell no. No one I know would appreciate any comment like that. Pregnant women are no exception. It’s a delicate time for them, with their bodies growing– exponentially at the end—and even though a big belly might mean a healthy baby, many women are still uncomfortable about themselves. Every single woman carries a child differently, and a lot of factors go into that: height, starting weight, bone structure, weight gain, diet, genetics, etc. The person might have meant something else, but all the woman hears is “You look large.” Ouch. Instead, try to just give a compliment, or saying “I love seeing that baby belly!” Women are typically excited that they have a baby belly, because it means baby is growing! They just don’t love thinking of themselves as large, or how large they might potentially get.
“Are you sure it’s not twins in there?”
Oh you mean am I sure that the human I have been growing for months and have seen on an ultrasound is singular? Yes, actually, I’m really damn sure. I was expecting to get this question, but wasn’t expecting to get it at only 5 months. Even though I thought I was prepared, I was hurt. I felt embarrassed. I felt like I looked large and unattractive. It was way too early in the pregnancy to start feeling like that. I should definitely not be giving anyone enough power to influence how I am feeling about my body that is growing organs on a cellular level, but it is hard not to sometimes. Again, the speaker may not have meant any harm, but it’s hurtful. Just don’t ask the question. Don’t act surprised at the belly size. Just be kind.
“Are you planning on breastfeeding?”
Usually, if I am asked this question it is from family or close friends, and I don’t mind discussing it at all. Usually, in that case it is just out of curiosity, especially from friends who don’t have kids yet. When it becomes awkward is when strangers or coworkers ask you about breastfeeding. In that case it is usually because they are being nosy, or want to tell you why you should breastfeed. I am a strong believer in a woman doing whatever is best for her and best for her child. Sometimes women cannot breastfeed, or need to do a combo of breastfeeding and formula, and that is perfectly fine. As long as the woman is informed and her doctor is guiding the process so that baby is getting whatever s/he needs, it should be no one else’s business what her plan is.
“Are you just loving being pregnant?”
No, actually. I’ve heard about and read experiences of women who love being in the state of pregnancy. They feel great, they love the little kicks, and feel just dreamy for ten months. That is perfectly wonderful. I am not one of those people. I don’t hate it; far from it. I just don’t love it. It is a unique female experience, and I find it fascinating, wonderful, and frightening all at the same time, but I wouldn’t describe my feelings towards it as adoration and love. I love creating a little individual that is one half my husband, and one half myself, and I do feel reassurance and wonder at the little kicks I feel. The experience is not likely to prevent us from having more children (God willing), but I doubt I will look back on it and say “Oh I just adored being pregnant.” And that’s okay, too. Some people respond to this answer with blatant confusion and disapproval, which always induces feelings of shame at my own pregnancy experience.
It appears, among other kinds of shaming of women, that there is a lot of shaming involving pregnancy and the expectations that go along with it. It’s okay to not love being pregnant, it’s okay to be terrified of birth and not want to go through it, it’s okay to not want to be told you look huge, and it’s even okay to be disappointed when the baby’s gender isn’t what you hoped it would be. This is an individual’s experience, and absolutely no one should be judging anyone’s experience of pregnancy. Women should be supporting each other as sisters, and defending each other to judgmental outsiders.
So next time you see a pregnant woman, just tell her that she looks great and super adorable with that baby bump. No questions asked.