You would think that offending or upsetting a pregnant woman would be the farthest thing from any well-intentioned person's mind. But you would be amazed at how often perfectly nice people manage to say or do something that they really ought not to have, without even realising that they have done it. Having been at the receiving end of these faux pas this pregnancy and last, I thought I would compile a list of them:
- A little chivalry will never be misread. Offer to carry a heavy bag, give up your seat on a bus or in a conference room or go out of your way to drop a pregnant woman home, and she is sure to send some good karma your way.
- But there is a caveat to this, don’t go overboard. Pregnant women may be heavier, more easily tired and less able to perform strenuous tasks, but they are not invalids and over-solicitousness can be irritating. Last time around, I remember I drove my car to a conference (at a hotel 15 minutes away from my house) in my ninth month and everyone was like ‘Are you crazy? Why are you still driving?’ And I felt like saying, ‘What? Do you think I change gears with my belly?’ Or when I sit on the ground at a get-together, some five people hop out of their chairs and insist (over all my protestations to the contrary) that I couldn’t possibly be comfortable on the floor.
- Avoid trying to guess how far along a pregnant woman is. Unless you have the rare gift of predicting gestational age to the week, this never turns out well. Underestimate and you risk leaving her feeling that she is not putting on enough weight for a healthy pregnancy and baby. Overestimate and you leave her feeling fat, a cardinal sin when dealing with women – pregnant or otherwise. One would think this is obvious stuff but this particular topic seems to be a standard opener when talking to a pregnant woman. Last week, I happened to bump into someone who guessed that I was two months further along than I actually am and when corrected, she continued to stuff her foot further into her mouth by wondering if I was carrying twins!!!
- On that note, if you are not a hundred per cent sure she’s pregnant, pretend like there’s nothing different. Early this year, I met a colleague who gushed, ‘Wow! You’re pregnant again?’ I was depressed for two long weeks till I took the pregnancy test and found that I actually was. Now, of course, I think she was clairvoyant rather than rude but it could have gone either way… And then there is another colleague who got the not-guessing part down right but then a couple of days ago ruined it by saying something to the effect of ‘Phew! You are in the family way. I have been wondering about your weight gain for the last few months but felt it was rude to ask’…
- If you are waiting in a queue at a public restroom and there’s a pregnant woman behind you, let her go first. I know it goes against every grain of a big city dweller to give up their place in a queue but seriously, try and imagine having a really full bladder and then imagine someone putting a 2-kg (or more) weight on top of your bladder. ‘Desperate to pee’ takes on an entirely new dimension when you are pregnant.
- The upside of being pregnant is that men no longer talk to your chest. The downside is that everyone (men and women alike) talks to your belly instead… Staring at a pregnant woman’s belly is just plain rude. And unless you are a really close friend or family member, touching is even ruder.
- We all have at least one scary story about pregnancy, labour and/ or post-natal experiences. Miscarriages, premature deliveries, post-partum depression – there is no end to the number of things that could go wrong and the chances are that each of us knows of atleast one such event. But it’s probably best to keep it close to your heart if you are in the vicinity of a pregnant woman. Trust me, she’s worried and hormonal enough without you adding fuel to the fire…
- Unless you are the doctor or the spouse, remember that it is not your job to keep the pregnant woman on the pregnancy path of virtue. So hold your horses on chastising or interrogating her on her choice to drink an occasional glass of wine, watch a scary movie, wear small heels, carry her toddler when he’s upset, colour her hair or eat Chinese food, amongst the many other supposedly taboo things. I am sure she would have thought it through before she did any of these things (maybe even checked with her ob-gyn) but even if she hasn’t, it really is none of your business. And unsolicited advice falls into the same domain.
There, I think I got them all. Feel free to add on if you feel I've missed something.