Six Things I Resolve to Never Do to Other Pregnant People

Before this year began, I really was pretty clueless about pregnancy and childbirth. I had several friends, a sister-in-law and a few other acquaintances who had been pregnant, but I don’t think I really realized much about the entire process. I didn’t really have an understanding of how drastically my own body would change, all of the crazy symptoms that come along with pregnancy, and perhaps, most surprisingly, I completely underestimated the ways that common strangers might begin to approach me in new ways.

So, as I sit here, about 10 days from my due date, and feeling like more of a spectacle each time I leave the comfort of my air conditioning and brave the outside world, I offer you my list of the top six things that I resolve never to do to another pregnant person again, now that I have personally experienced them for myself.

1. I will not just assume that it is ok to rub her belly. I get it. Bellies are cool. It’s pretty amazing and impressive to know that every pregnant person you see is growing a baby inside there. And really, I don’t have big personal space issues. I love it when my friends and family rub my belly as a sign of love for their coming granddaughter/niece/cousin/friend/etc. And if people I know are fascinated by the belly, and they ask whether it’s ok to rub, I usually give them the green light. But to you, random 50-year-old man in Starbucks whom I have never met before: walking up to me, rubbing my belly and saying, “This baby’s dropping soon, huh?”, is not appropriate. At all. This is my belly. It’s still attached to my body. If I weren’t pregnant and you came up to pat my abs, people around you would be horrified and it would be called sexual harassment.

2. I will not simply volunteer to tell her my pregnancy horror stories. Since I hit seven or eight months pregnant, I have been really curious to hear other people’s birth stories. I’ve been asking friends and acquaintances to share their tales with me, and when I ask, I expect that I’ll hear some of everything: great, relaxed birth stories, tales of births that didn’t go quite according to plan, and testaments of very long labors. But what I didn’t expect was that strangers would, out of the blue, offer me stories of the worst labors they (or their friends) have ever experienced. Stories of incompetent doctors, labors that lasted for 56 hours, etc. This is not encouraging. If you’re going to inundate me with something during pregnancy, shouldn’t it be with stories about how glad you were to have your baby or how memories of labor pains fade over time…

3. I will not make value judgments about the size, shape or placement of her belly. At the beginning of pregnancy, I couldn’t wait for my baby belly to start showing so I could stop looking “nebulously chunky” and start looking full-blown pregnant. For awhile, I thought that perhaps I would never get large and I was crushed every time a stranger would say, “Oh, there’s no way you’re 5 months pregnant” or “You’re too small to really be that far along.” I was sure that I was doing something wrong and was somehow growing the world’s puniest baby who might never reach full size. But now, my how the tables have turned. Beginning a month or so ago, people began coming out of the woodwork to tell me, “Wow, you must be overdue,” or “What have you been feeding that baby?!” Again, not so reassuring for a woman who is getting ready to push this child out, and who still has a month (or maybe more) to go before this baby is even overdue. So, a word to the wise, which I never really would have understood prior to being a paranoid pregnant person: It helps no one to make random value judgments about my belly.

4. I will not stare at pregnant people in public.  I know, I know.  I do look a bit more like a sideshow attraction every time I venture out in public, and I’m probably wearing clothes that have more in common with a tent than they do with the clothes I was wearing 9 months ago or that regular people like yourself are wearing today. I know this and you know this. BUT, you brazenly staring at me while I navigate my way through the grocery store and climb in and out of my car does not make me feel less conspicuous. The occasional glance is cool, but remember, I’m just pregnant, and it’s still ok for me to be out in public. I can offer you about a 99% guarantee that I am not just going to drop this baby on the spot.

5. I will not judge her birth choices. Frankly, there’s enough guilt out there surrounding motherhood to go around, without everyone feeling like they need to get in on the action. I am really excited about our birth plan, and I will happily share with anyone who asks how we are planning. We’re hoping to go natural, avoid medication and intervention as much as possible, etc. But I’m certainly not under the impression that this is the only way to give birth, and I know that often circumstances can change. So, I’ll respect your birth choices if you’ll respect mine. Let’s just make a deal on that one.

6.  I will not comment on her sweaty, flushed countenance. OK, now this one seems like a no-brainer to me. It’s August. I’m pregnant. It’s hot. If you haven’t had a chance to experience this personally, try sticking a warm watermelon under your shirt and carrying it around outside for 20 minutes. I guarantee: you’ll be sweating, too. And seriously folks, it’s not that I don’t know that I look “hot” (and not in the sexy sense, either). And, frankly, you remarking that, “I seem warm” will not help either you or I to feel better about my melting mascara.

To be fair, there are so many ways that people have responded that I appreciate and I want to remember to emulate when I see pregnant people in the future. I will: compliment her appearance, tell her a happy pregnancy tale, offer encouragement, be willing to let her share her own stories and thoughts when she’s excited and scared, offer to help carry her groceries to her car, help her family move across campus in the dead heat of summer, etc. I have been blessed to be surprised by kindness from family, friends and strangers all throughout pregnancy.

But I will always carry these six memories with me as a reminder of the patterns that I don’t want to foist onto any pregnant people who cross my path in the future.

If you are or have ever been pregnant, what are your favorite and/or least favorite memories of other people’s responses to you from that time?

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “Six Things I Resolve to Never Do to Other Pregnant People

  1. Erica

    I will never tell someone that they must be having twins because of how big they are. I always hated when people that obviously weren’t pregnant (30 year old males) parked in expectant mother parking. I loved your list it is so true it’s like all boundaries go out the window when people see a pregnant lady. Good luck on the coming weeks!! We are excited to meet/see our neice!

  2. I will not guess what you are having…since we don’t know what our baby is – people need to guess….its a bit crazy! Belly placement to the guy in the post office rubbing my butt to determine the sex – is crazy!

    Thanks Hannah, especially about the “you seem warm?” Actually, I am hot not warm and I sweat and stink almost all the time and there is nothing I can do other than go to a hotel and set the ac at 40 (which I did several weeks ago, and I still threw off the covers!)

  3. Jennifer Gingerich

    Well written, Hannah! Thanks for sharing. It’s great for those of us who haven’t been pregnant to read about these experiences too so that we can be more sensitive when we encounter pregnant women around us. 🙂

    • Hannah Heinzekehr

      Thanks Jennifer. I am pretty sure that I replicated some of these actions before being pregnant, too. It’s just a whole other set of experiences that I really wasn’t very sensitive to and/or aware of.

  4. Thanks for this, Hannah. I have not had children and don’t plan to, but I so honor the experience of others’ pregnancies. For the most part, I think I succeed in being sensitive and respecting pregnant bodies, but you have some helpful reminders in here. Thank you!

    • Hannah Heinzekehr

      Sue – Just from knowing you, even many years ago as a teacher, I am very certain that you are highly respectful of your fellow women’s bodies and journeys. Thanks for reading!

  5. Hope Greiser Graber

    You may have had this experience, too, but my favorite has been preaching a sermon in the heat of summer in a building where the a/c is struggling and then having to shake hands with congregants after the service. If the back of my dress is sticking to my skin, what makes you think I want to hug you? I appreciate the sentiment and the fact that you want to ask how my baby is doing, but really, a long hug and rubbing my sweaty back are not terribly helpful. (In fact, it’s sort of gross!)

    On the other hand, one of my best pregnancy experiences so far has been having my extended family lay hands on me to pray for me and for our son. After losing our baby last fall, those moments spent together praying for this baby and this pregnancy has been such a blessing and is a memory I will always cherish!

    • Hannah Heinzekehr

      This is a good pair of experiences. I love that your family prayed over your belly. That is so special. And, thankfully, I have not had to preach since the 6th month of pregnancy, when I was still able to maintain a fairly reasonable temperature, but the horror of imagining this experience now is enough to make me feel appropriately sorry for you!

  6. The way I look at Hannah if I ask to rub your belly smack me!

  7. Joy

    Hannah, thanks for your great six points, good reminders to all of us (maybe those of us who are most excited about THE NEW BABY.) Oh, yes, there is a mother attached to the baby.
    I do remember how hard those last weeks were. I also remember that I honestly wondered if I would ever be “my real self again,” especially the same size. Yes, you will be. Then there was the time I ran, actually waddled, from a store after knocking over a large display of canned goods — I turned too fast and forgot how big I was. It is really rough having to deal with a different body.
    I am so sorry it is hot, hot, hot. Hope you are finding ways to keep cool. I am thinking and praying for you every day, Hannah. I hope the best for the three of you.

    • Hannah Heinzekehr

      Oh Joy, thank you for this wonderful anecdote about your own pregnancy experiences. I have run into so many things with my belly and also spilled a myriad of foods on it, just because I don’t quite have a good sense of myself. It is truly a crazy experience that your body undergoes, and I’ll be much more prepared for it if I’m ever pregnant again. Thanks also for the reassurance that my body will return to some semblance of itself again. It’s certainly hard to imagine right now!

  8. Pamela Dintaman

    Hannah, Along with you, I don’t understand why people tell birth horror stories to pregnant women. Is the person actually not aware they are promoting unhelpful fears?

    My biggest learning during two birthings was that the process is like many things in life: do it step by step, stay directly in the moment, let it unfold in its own particular amazing way, and when unexpected things come along become like a willow blowing in the wind and shift as needed. I remember thinking in the midst of unexpected changes in my own birthing plan, “I can’t believe the education I’m having!” Wishing you and others well in this period of waiting and nourishing… Pamela Dintaman

    • Hannah Heinzekehr

      I will hold this advice. I’ve been working on my meditation and relaxation skills, so hopefully I’ll be able to cultivate a flexible attitude during the actual birthing process!

  9. Brenda

    i have been pregnant in august, delivering on the 23rd, and i would add to that watermelon. the weight part is right on, but watermelons don’t generate heat, and being pregnant equals a furnace inside.

    • Hannah Heinzekehr

      Brenda – You are so right. The weight + heat combo is what can really get you. I’ve been sitting inside most days with the AC running and a fan trained directly on me and still can’t quite shake the sweaty feeling…It’s definitely like nothing I’ve experienced before!

  10. Kristine

    It’s great reading your thoughts and the comments. I’ll echo a few comments that also project right into the early months with a baby (one or more): “Things will change, so stay loose and go with the flow” was an approach that worked well for us especially when trying to find an arrangement where everyone got their best sleep. The baby’s developmental stage changes, we respond, it works for a while, repeat cycle. Also, carrying a baby, holding a baby, sleeping next to a baby, makes for an external furnace! (My “babies” are twin boys now 12 years old.) Take care!

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