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I have never been pregnant, but my wife has been - six times - and I've talked to several other women who have reminded me what strange and insensitive behavior some of us exhibit toward women who are expecting.

First off, people suddenly think they have been given physical access to a pregnant woman's body. Not just friends and relatives, but total strangers in public places routinely consider it perfectly acceptable to pat her tummy.Now, really, if they have no such access when a woman is not pregnant, why should they suddenly think it has been granted because of pregnancy?

Whatever the reason, they do.

A friend who is expecting tells me she went into a store and the sales woman, whom she did not know, came around the counter purposely to touch her tummy and say, "So - how did this happen?"

See if you can come up with a reasonable answer to that question.

Other people feel the inexplicable need to estimate how many months are left in the pregnancy based on the evident size of the prospective mother.

"So - you must be, what, EIGHT months along?"

No, turns out it is a mere five or six months, making it a big-time insult. What does the woman say to such a question?

There are some possibilities that might make the one asking the questions take pause.

"No - actually, I'm 10 months - who knows when this baby will ever COME!?"

Or another one worth considering:

"It was due YESTERDAY! I'm sure it will come ANY TIME! Will YOU help me if it comes ANY MINUTE?"

Other people feel the need to compare their own pregnancies with that of the woman facing them.

"Gosh, if I were ever THAT big, I think I would DIE! How will you ever take off the WEIGHT?"

You could go for the benign answer: "Deborah Norville gained 60 pounds during her pregnancy, and she looks pretty good now."

But the preferable zinger would be: "I hope you won't be embarrassed when I tell you this - but the fact is I'M NOT PREGNANT - I'm just FAT!"

Some people's questions are more simple but just as shocking: "How did you get so BIG?"

To which the logical answer is, "I ate a lot, but I can lose weight by eating less. How did YOU get so UGLY and WHAT CAN YOU DO ABOUT IT?"

Maybe you think the answers I'm suggesting are rude. Well, no more so than the questions.

Another way to treat this problem, of course, is to just be direct.

When someone says, "Gosh, you are roughly the size of an elephant - I feel so BAD for you," a pregnant woman could just say, "For you to make such a rude, insensitive remark is shocking to me and hurts my feelings. In fact, it makes me want to cry."

That sounds OK, and it may even make the questioner feel remorseful - but the victim is usually shocked at what people are capable of saying and might feel more like crawling into a hole.

That's why I would still advise the "top the first insult with a second" route.

A lot of people who make such comments probably do not consider themselves insulting or insensitive. They just see a pregnant woman and they utter the first offensive comment that pops into their minds.

Well, it's time to start thinking FIRST, and then say something tactful, friendly and gentle.

"You look great. Pregnancy agrees with you. I'll bet you're going to have a cute baby."