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#432: I’m pregnant, I hate small talk, UGH: A Compendium

Who stands like this anyway?

Hey, I’m up here. My eyes and brains are not located in the belly. Helloooooo?

Dear Captain,

I’m pregnant – yay! It’s still pretty early, but if things go well, I’m on my way to being a big gassy pregnant lady. (Right now I am a small gassy pregnant lady).

However, I’m already dreading handsy co-workers who I know will touch my stomach, comment on my weight gain, start referring to me soley as “mamma” and judge everything I do by how good it is for the “baby” (I recently saw one of them cover the ears of a pregnant woman – and not one with whom he was particularly close – when someone used profanity.)

These people are both very sweet and well-meaning, and entitled and infuriating. I’m trying to plan my responses well before I start showing without a planned response, I know I’ll come across as rude and cold, while they’ll look like super-awesome guys who are just trying to be so cool and friendly!

Can you help me come up with some scripts that a) help these well-intentioned bozos realise why their comments and contact aren’t welcome, or appropriate and b) don’t make me sound like the mean office grump who hates good tidings?

- Not “Mamma”

CommanderLogic here, and I welcome you to Giant Gassy Pregnant Lady Land.
 
Congratulations! And also, I’m sorry! Pregnancy is super weird. Different for everyone, but definitely weird.I am about 6 weeks from my due date, 100% obviously pregnant right now, and I don’t know if it’s my good luck or something I’m projecting, but I have yet (knock wood!) to have anyone put their hands on my belleh unsolicited, whether friend, co-worker, or stranger. So, you know, that’s not necessarily inevitable. But people are going to say stuff out loud that will make you cringe. That is actually inevitable. Whether you strangle anyone with your bellyband is not.
 
Here’s how I managed my pregnancy at the office thus far:
12 weeks – Told managers (per HR requirements), asked them to keep it under wraps until the 20wk ultrasound.
20 weeks – Mass email to office mates disclosing the news, including due date(ish), gender info, and current maternity leave plans and prep.Here’s what it said:
Hi everybody!
I just wanted to let you know that I’m expecting a baby in early March. The ultrasound wasn’t conclusive, but we’re about 80% sure it’s a girl, and my husband and I are very happy. I’m planning on being off from March to June, at which time I’ll be back full-time, but I’ll do my best to prepare my projects before my leave starts.  Let me know if there’s anything in our mutual schedules coming up that we should plan for.  Thanks, and talk to you soon!
 
The mass email at 20 weeks with all the information that people could actually ask about kept the office chatter to a minimum and mostly confined to one day where I could prepare for it and deal with it.  I frontloaded it with OMG BAAAAABIIIIIEEEEZZZZ so I could end it with “But for reals, you guys, I’m here to WORK.” The boundaries you set with that email MAY help fend off some of the infantilizing you’ve seen around the office, as will turning any discussion of (ugh) Your Condition away from your condition and onto work at hand.
“Yeah, sorry I had to duck out for that appointment. About the report…”
“I’ll be “Mamma” soon enough, but I don’t see what that has to do with agenda item 3…”
“Eh, that’s a little personal, but thanks for the thought. Now, the conference call on Thursday…”
“Please don’t do/say that. We’re all adults here. The fucking requirements list is due…”
 
Now, I was able to do a 20 week email because I had an uneventful 1st trimester, puke-wise and appearance-wise, but your mileage is going to vary depending on your own body/fetus. If you are a pukin’ machine, or usually pretty slight and look like you ate a beach ball at 6 weeks, you may want to disclose sooner, but I wouldn’t sweat it. Most of the time, people are really into their own lives and won’t notice, or are afraid of being caught out as assholes (“Actually, no, I’m just putting on weight in my belly, but thanks for noticing!”) and so won’t mention it.
 
But, also, you’re going to get asked questions, and it IS good to have some things prepared.
 
For unsolicited belly touching, you can say “I’m VERY sensitive there, don’t touch me!” Many women get itchy from the stretching, so this is plausible as well as true – you ARE sensitive, just about the whole touching thing in general.
 
For verbal incursions, the old standbys of “Huh. Thanks (?). How about that [change of subject]?” or “Actually, that’s too personal.” will serve you in most of these cases, but there are some comment specific things you can say. I’m gonna pop “Pregnant Women are Smug” in here for funsies, but I would like to posit that the reason we come off as smug and cliché-ridden is that we don’t want to answer your question for the brazillionth time that day, and are trying to play it off like it’s no big deal while stifling the urge to kill.
 
 
Some specific questions you will be asked:
 
Do you know what you’re having? – My go-to is “We’re hoping for a baby, but it might be a velociraptor/ninja/kitten.” But with the wrong delivery that can come off acerbic and mean. People just want to know the sex, so if you’re telling people, just tell them if you know. If you don’t know, or are trying to keep it under wraps, a simple “The critter wasn’t cooperative the day of the scan, but everything looks good, so we’re happy.” should end that conversation. Unless it moves to…
 
What gender baby do you want? / Are you glad that it’s a boy/girl? – My standbys are “Whichever one it decides to be” and “YEP! (big grin)” I really, REALLY hate this line of questions. I mean, I know that the gender (No, I know it’s the SEX, but most people you encounter call it gender, so) is one of the few topics around pregnancy that people feel like they can weigh in on without judgement, but it really, REALLY IS NOT. If I’m close with the person, and they push it, I’ll explain my reasons for wanting a girl AND my reasons for wanting a boy. I have reasons for both! But for most acquaintances? It’s not up to me, so stop asking if I’d like my impending kid “better” if it was one sex rather than another. (OH GOD, do not get me started on “I bet HusbandLogic wants a boy.” Pls die a thousand times.)
 
Wow! You look REALLY BIG!/ Wow! You hardly look pregnant at all! – As with all comments on one’s body configuration, this is best met with a puzzled “Thanks? [change of subject]” There’s really nothing you can do about this.
 
Should you be eating that? / Eating for two! Har har! / You’re so lucky that you get to eat as much as you want now! – My answers, in order: “YEP!” “I guess?” “I could eat as much as I wanted before I was pregnant, too. [Big Smile]” Again, it’s all in the delivery, but you can also retreat behind “My doctor’s fine with what/how much I eat.” The food police are not the boss of you at any time, so don’t let them sneak their food guilt onto your plate.
 
Let me tell you horrible pregnancy and birthing stories! In excruciating detail! – I mean, I actually love a gory birth story, but that’s me, and because I was raised by ER docs who would regale us over spaghetti with tales of resectionings. Your mileage, it probably varies. If you are super not into those kinds of stories, you can raise a hand and say, “Actually, stories about pregnancy/birth problems make me very uncomfortable. Can we talk about something else?” and delight in the backpedaling that ensues. People do NOT want to disturb or upset the pregnant lady, not really, so make that work to your advantage. If you can’t avoid the story at all, end it with “Well, I’m glad/I hope everything worked out in the end! How about that [change of subject].”
 
Here is advice that you didn’t ask for and is possibly laughably wrong to boot! – “If you breastfeed your baby, you won’t need to get it vaccinated!” “If you lay the baby on its side, it might die!” “If you sit for 23 hours a day with your legs elevated, you’ll have a boy!” And on and on. People want to help! And if they are not able to carry the baby for you, the next best thing is to burden you with their “wisdom”.  This is the time for the old “Thanks, I’ll think about that!” Then laugh and laugh.
 
Are you going to [decisions from the future]? – Breastfeed? Go back to work? Move back home? Have MORE kids? Attachment parent? Homeschool? Etc. If it’s not immediately applicable to your current situation, or you just don’t want to get into it, the general answer is “We’re going to figure that out when the time comes.”
 
Have you decided on a name? – This is entirely up to you! HusbandLogic and I are keeping our name ideas to ourselves, but I know why people ask: it’s because coming up with stupid names is so much fun. Our go-to has been “Nope, but we have a really long list of names it WON’T be. What else do you think should be on it?” And cue lengthy discussion of dumb names which is where this conversation was always headed anyway, with the bonus that they won’t knowingly hate on your favorite name. (Hepzibah Galadriel is right out. As is Francobal Smit.)

Are you excited? – I’m a pedant about language, so if I’m comfortable with you, you’re going to get an earful about how actually I’m more apprehensive and curious than excited. But most of the time, I’m going to say “Sure” or “Of course” because that’s what people want to hear.

 
Were you trying? – Uh, wow. Let’s talk about boning and anxiety, or possibly months or years of heartache! Usually I’ll fall back behind the screen of “That’s a little too personal,” and then have a pee-mergency (another pregnancy bonus: Pregnant People Always Need to Pee, so you have a built-in out of ANY awkward conversation).
 
Finally, here’s the one that drives me up the wall, for exactly no good reason: Are you feeling okay?
 
NO, I KNOW! I had no idea when I started this pregnancy thing that an innocuous question like “How are you feeling?” would annoy the everloving shit out of me. It’s more a delivery thing than the words said, but it carries a concerned “Are you about to drop a baby right here and now?” feeling to it. It’s not everybody, either. Friends are generally exempt from my wrath. But it’s also some annoyance at myself because I hate feeling weak and helpless; sometimes the question comes when I stand up and can’t stop from doing a little groan. I’m fine, I just have a person inside me right now. I’m not made of glass, I will let you know if there’s something you can do to help me, I don’t want to talk about my body with you right now.  Here are some of the answers I’ve given:
“Fine! And you?”
“A little tired, but haven’t had my coffee yet.”
“Ok, just a little harder to stand up.”That’s what I have for you! Assume goodwill, answer as honestly as you feel like in the moment, coast on well-wishes for pregnant people, and drink a LOT of water.Yours in waddling solidarity,
CommanderLogic
 
P.S. For those who want to know what TO say to pregnant folks, it’s pretty simple:
 
1 – How are you? (I know I just harped on this being annoying as hell, but as long as you’re asking just like you’d ask anyone, and not doing that tone of voice that implies “Are you dying? Are you going to die? Is your fetus in peril? Can I help you not die?” you’re out of the wrath circle.)
 
2 – You look great! (No size mentions! Awesome!)
 
3 – Did you hear about [awesome or cool thing that has nothing to do with babies or pregnancy]? (HOLY CRAP, treating me like a human! YOU WIN ALL THE THINGS!)
 
4 – Do you want to talk about [baby or pregnancy related thing]? (You mean I get a choice? A CHOICE? Bless you. You managed to ask your question without being a pushy jerk, and are the best person to ever speak to a pregnant lady.)
 
More in the comments! What are the best things to say to a pregnant person, or alternatively, what is the most ridic thing that’s popped out of anyone’s mouth on the subject? “Do you miss coffee?” is my current favorite. “Not if I remember where my mug is,” was my answer. 
348 comments
  1. robiewankenobie said:

    I literally remember saying this at the office, “mostly you can’t feel the kid move except in my crotch. i wouldn’t recommend that.” accurate, but perhaps not the most tactful?

    • espritdecorps said:

      I’m glad I didn’t read that 8 months ago. My youngest was breech, and I spent the last trimester being constantly kicked in the cervix. I would have been sorely tempted to make that my default response.

  2. seenonflickr said:

    You’re not naming it Galadriel? *SIGH*

    • commanderlogic said:

      Well, not as a MIDDLE name. ;D

      • seenonflickr said:

        The first iteration of my comment in my mind was “well of course Galadriel isn’t going to work as a middle name – Galadriel Hepzibah Logic flows much better!”

    • manybellsdown said:

      I know a dude whose middle name is Aragorn. His sister’s is Eowyn.

      • Xenophile said:

        I know a guy whose first and middle names are James and Kirk. His younger brother’s middle name is McCoy, and the youngest brother came this close to begin named Scotty, but their mother won that argument.

        • ks said:

          I had a student in one of my classes whose name was James Tiberius Kirk. One of his parents caved to the Trekkie on that one, but if your last name is Kirk and you’re having a boy, I honestly don’t see how you could name him anything else.

          • Xenophile said:

            My parents’ best friends named their first born child Kirk, but most people don’t get it.

          • Windward said:

            My godson is named James Tiberius, but his last name isn’t Kirk, or anything remotly close to Kirk. They call him Tiberius, (though that’s mostly becasue his parents names are James and Jamie.)

      • Why doesn’t anybody call their kid Isildur? At least that *sounds* like something…

        • commanderlogic said:

          There’s a ton of cool Tolkien names that don’t get as much play!
          Morwen
          Nenya and Narya
          Elladhan
          Elinor
          Melian
          Idril
          Anarion
          Aerin
          Cirdan

          But no one should name their kid Glorfindel. That’s just cruel.

          • Just please, not the dwarves’ names….

          • H.Regalis said:

            Grima! Or Thorin. That was one of the better dwarf names, imo.

          • Dee said:

            Ori is actually a legit first name here… so is Dori.
            My sister-in-law narrowly escaped having Galadriel for a middle name, too, and I know someone named Lorien IRL.

          • Portia said:

            My niece’s middle name is Elinor. My nephew’s name is Ben Grandpa’sName Kenobi Lastname. My sister insisted on the first middle name as a buffer.

          • Ali said:

            Bonus: Elinor is a widely-accepted, historical alternate spelling for Eleanor, so it’s only geeky to those in the know.

          • My brother-in-law’s middle name is Durin, while his four siblings all got perfectly “normal” (i.e. traditional) names. No-one’s quite sure why – he was neither the first nor the last child born, so it seems a bit random.

          • Manatee said:

            I like the idea of Tom. Really simple down to earth name, no teasing in the playground, but when people ask about the origin of your name you get to whip out ‘because my jacket is blue and my boots are yellow’.

          • griffykate said:

            A friend of a friend had a black cat called Ronnie. Turned out, it was short for Sauron. :D

          • Galactic Teabag said:

            My sister’s name is Elinor, but she was named for the Sense and Sensibility character, not the LOTR one

          • It’s Elanor! Elanor! Not Elinor! :) El- meaning star and -anor meaning sun, as in Minas Anor (former name of Minas Tirith.

            …ahem. *shifty look* … I mean, hey look, a brand-name handbag?

            My sister is named Elanor after the LotR flower, and I also have friends whose son is named Thorin. I am among my own kind lol.

          • Sam-I-Am said:

            My daughter’s name is Elanor. Yes. After the flower/Sam’s daughter. Although my great-grandmother’s middle name was Elnora so we just tell most people that it’s an alternate spelling based on her name :)

          • Emmers said:

            +1 Amphelise for Elanor! It’s not Elinor ARRRGH!

            Sorry. The baby is making me Tolkien-ragey. :-D

      • Epiphyta said:

        Friends of the Acorn’s biodad named their son Paul Atreides.

        I managed to get out of the room before laughing, but it was a near thing.

        • thesurfmonkey said:

          My husband wanted to name our kids James Tiberius and Paul Atreides. The James and the Paul I was fine with (family names, yay!) but had to put my foot down about the middle names. No no no no no.

          • Ethyl said:

            Oooh. I think Atreides would be a super name for a kitty. I already have a Darwin and a Ripley.

          • Vicki said:

            “Atreides” as a name for a human screams “this person doesn’t know Greek mythology.” Does your husband know those stories?

          • dawnofthenerds said:

            Vicki, I’m pretty sure what that name screams is that there is a huge fan of Dune by Frank Herbert in the family.

      • Revolver said:

        I once dated a guy whose female relatives were named Arwen and Eowyn.

        • CanuckMom said:

          The husband and I are Wheel of Time fans and we went with Lan as a first name for our son. I like it because it is different but not too weird. Also, with more “conservative” friends/relatives we go with “it’s an old Irish name” which is true, just not why we picked it.

    • rebekah said:

      my friend no joke named her baby Andromeda after the Michael Crichton novel.

    • Actually had a classmate in college with Galadriel as a middle name. :)

    • part-time jedi said:

      I have a friend who was about 6-7 when her brother was born. Her parents asked for her input on what to name the baby, and her vote was for Batman.

      So they named him Bruce Wayne _________. It was even more clever, because both Bruce and Wayne were names from within the family :)

      • Windward said:

        Oh wow, does he live in Georgia? Because I had a custome the other day with that name. Honestly, it made my whole day.

  3. Oh goodness, this LW is awesome, and this letter addresses a whole bunch of my major fears about what will happen when I eventually get pregnant. I knew I needed a better plan than “don’t tell anyone! They won’t notice, right?” and this helps a lot.

    CA is pretty quickly becoming a one-stop shop for how to live.

    • MV said:

      “CA is pretty quickly becoming a one-stop shop for how to live.”

      I am not close to becoming pregnant right now but I agree with this sentence in general :)

      • Seconded. (Or, well, thirded really.)

    • Jennie said:

      You might be surprised how long you can get away with “don’t tell anyone!” I was able to go right up to five months with minimal suspicion, but I am very lucky with where I am carrying my weight.

      I am also an intensely private and extremely “no touching!” person. I’ve found that, among my friends, they are already aware of my personality and haven’t even tried to do that weird (for me) touching of the belly thing. For colleagues and relatives, I have actually just been blunt. Whenever someone exclaims “oooh, I can’t wait to touch your belly!” I say “Oh, well, I’m not actually comfortable with that.” I’ve tried really hard not to add an “I’m sorry” as I don’t feel it’s something I need to apologise for, but that’s a personal choice. I’ve had a few people get huffy, but I figure that falls under the heading of actually not my problem.
      I’ve even blanket-banned my mother from asking questions (she suddenly decided my reproductive system and personal choices were open for lengthy and direct criticism). The basic rule is “everything is going well, we will update you as necessary.” I think a lot of it is because I really struggle with being defined by others/as something other than “me”, and I resent suddenly being turned from a person to a people-carrier.

      I would suggest keeping a list of some of the more insane things people might say to you though–it livens up the nights when you are awake because something is kicking you in the ribs. My husband and my current favourite is his mother telling us never to leave the baby in the car because “it might spontaneously explode. It would only take the once, and you’d feel terrible.” That is a level of anxiety I refuse to borrow.

      Wow, that was long, but I hear SO much about how “amazing” a time pregnancy is and, for me, it’s more been about endurance and looking forward to the result, so I wanted to make sure that others who felt the same didn’t feel alone!

      • Brightwanderer said:

        … the baby might spontaneously explode? I had no idea spontaneously exploding babies were a thing even in paranoid pre-grandparental oversight circles! (As I write this, it belatedly occurs to me that she may have meant the car. Which is, I suppose, marginally more plausible?)

        • Myrin said:

          Apparently we read the same thing at the same time. Jennie’s mother-in-law really needs to be clearer. Or maybe not talk about stuff like that at all. :’D

          • H.Regalis said:

            I read that the same. “WWHHHHAAAATTTT oh wait she was probably talking about the car”; which is only slightly less ridiculous than “babies explode if left alone too long” and begs the question, if you’re worried about the car spontaneously exploding, shouldn’t you not be the car at all? It’s not going to not spontaneously explode just because you’re sitting it in with the baby.

      • Myrin said:

        Okay, I totally read that as “the baby might spontaneously explode” for a moment and was all WTH?! Now that I understood what your mil meant I’m a little less WTH?! but still not nearly WTH-less. What’s going on with some people?

        • vorlord said:

          I’m guessing she meant the baby, after hearing stories about overheated babies left in cars, and jumping to wrong conclusions. Like putting an aerosol in the microwave will explode.

          • Emmers said:

            Probably so. “Fatal Distraction” won a Pulitzer a few years ago.

      • “I think a lot of it is because I really struggle with being defined by others/as something other than “me”, and I resent suddenly being turned from a person to a people-carrier.”

        This is exactly my major problem with having people know I’m pregnant; it’s this weird sense that pregnant people’s bodies are somehow public property to touch, and that everyone can suddenly tell you what you can and cannot eat, what products you can and cannot use, etc. GAH!

        But sadly, I’m unlikely to be able to hide pregnancies – they will be super obvious on my body shape.

        • Jennie said:

          @Kasey, yes, absolutely. The amount of well-meaning (and sometimes malicious) advice that people feel the need to throw my direction is astonishing. Luckily, my husband has been absolutely amazing during all of this and not hesitated to back me up, tell people to knock it off or defend my choices to all and sundry.
          Also, I spent ten years teaching middle school. I have an incredible “Are you sure this is a direction you want to go? Perhaps re-assess” face.

        • Well you know, you have a person inside you who’s touching you without permission, so everyone else can too!!! Err….

          To me “people-carrier” is a kind of car which just really highlights how dehumanising it is.

          • hmmm… I’d actually like to think that I give the fetus implicit permission to touch me when I decide to carry it to term. But yeah, I think it’s a lot about “well, I want to touch the baby, and you’re in the way!” like you’re the fetus’ clothes or something.

      • Jennie said:

        Oh no, it was a total WTH moment. I, too, thought she meant the baby. She meant the petrol tank. It is still unlikely.

        This was over the holidays, where I spent the time when my MIL wasn’t listing things to worry about sitting next to my husband’s 94 yr old gran, who was also listing things that were bad for the baby at top volume (fyi, these things include walking, sitting too close to a heat source and kissing). She is 94, and deaf, so she gets a bit of a pass, but I must admit that we fled back home quite quickly.

        At least I can be direct with colleagues at work and friends. The family though….

      • Zatchmort said:

        Okay, when you said “I resent suddenly being turned from a person to a people-carrier,” I gotta admit I was picturing, like, troop carriers. (Like this: http://www.coolminiornot.com/pics/pics13/img4a8ee915dbf4b.jpg) And I thought “Hmm, transforming into one of those would actually be pretty badass…”

        Not to say that you shouldn’t resent that – because that is a totally frustrating thing! – but maybe the image will help for those times when you want to keep a polite smile on your face while mentally strangling someone. :D

      • H.Regalis said:

        I don’t have any kids yet, and my body type being such that it wouldn’t be immediately obvious, but I’ve toyed around with the idea of just not telling anyone outside of close people that I’m pregnant or should total strangers ask me when I’m due, can they touch, etc. saying that I’m not and have just gained some weight.

        Of course, when I once had a total stranger ask me why I have acne scars all over my face, I told him that I was the child of missionaries and while we were living in a third-world country when I was very young, that I had gotten smallpox and that it was very traumatic and I nearly died and I hate being reminded of it–all of which is completely bullshit–so perhaps not the most mature response in the world.

        • Myrin said:

          Oh, I don’t find that immature at all (the smallpox thing is wonderful, tbh; not for people who really had smallpox, of course, but imagining how that super rude guy must have felt afterwards). In fact, I was just talking with my mum about how no one ever realised she was pregnant with me or my little sister. I can still remember the mother of one of my classmates coming up to her when my sister was very little and saying “My goodness, had I known you were pregnant I would have congratulated you!”, so it’s absolutely possible to not tell anyone, I’d say.

        • dawnofthenerds said:

          Blarg. I’ve had pharmacists tell me what acne medication I should be taking when I’m there for something completely unrelated. I’ve had my ten year old cousin ask me “what’s wrong with your face?” Twice. One day when I didn’t wear makeup to class, one of my classmates asked if there was something wrong with me, my face was so red. I’ve had chronic cystic acne since I was about ten, and despite being on pretty much every medication there is for it, I still have it, and just as bad, at 23. I. hate. it. when people comment on it. I’m mildly lucky that my scars are mostly very small pockmarks that are difficult to see when not three inches from my face, but the next person who comments on my acne is probably going to get a lecture powered by thirteen years of frustration and rage. Suffice to say, I love your story, and may borrow it.

          • H.Regalis said:

            I’ve gotten that too. “Are you sick?” “You look better with makeup!” Also my mother telling me, “You used to be so pretty! You should get that acne system they sell on tv. Pantene? Is that it? You should get some Pantene. I can give you some money to buy some.” People >_<

            Borrow away! Respond to ridiculous questions with ridiculous answers.

          • strega42 said:

            I had similar, if not the same, cystic acne when I was younger. Mine cleared up in my mid-thirties.

            I have no advice for you because I’m pretty sure right now you have a black belt in YES I HAVE FUCKING TRIED THAT ALREADY, GOD! So I will simply give my good wishes to you that yours resolves sooner than mine did, and offer you hope that it *will* resolve.

            And the smallpox thing is fabulous; I wish I’d thought of that.

        • Ha! Love it!

          When I was pregnant I didn’t look obviously pregnant until midway through the 8th month (seriously!) despite having a body shape that one would expect pregnancy to be fairly visible on. I didn’t tell anyone outside my immediate family until about I was about 7 months in and I felt like it must be obvious. (It wasn’t – everyone I told was shocked!)

          So it is totally possible for some people to hide it for a long time without anyone noticing, and keeping it a secret really saved my sanity. I don’t know if I could have handled more than 9.5 weeks of obnoxious baby-related conversation from my coworkers. It also helped that I joked around a bit about my weight gain and claimed that I was “fattening up for thanksgiving,” which I think defused any potential “ooh, Cuntess is gaining weight, I BET SHE’S PREGNANT” talk.

          Proof: this is me at 30 weeks pregnant (possibly NSFW as I’m naked but the important bits are covered) http://24.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_ltygy3HS5F1qbqczzo1_1280.jpg

        • Friopalope said:

          This is somewhat unrelated, but one Halloween, my mother stuffed her dress with a pillow and went as “pregnant” to our neighborhood party, but so many people just assumed she was actually pregnant that she decided to go along with it. I’ll never forget silently cracking up as neighbor after neighbor congratulated her and said they’d had no idea she was expecting.

        • Friopalope said:

          Also, your smallpox explanation for acne just reminded me of something else: I have a large, round birthmark on my upper left arm, which is usually not visible because it’s on the inside of my arm, so people don’t always notice it until they’ve known me for a while. When they do see it, they often assume it’s a welt or a bruise or something and ask “What happened to your arm?” Back in middle school when I got this question I would usually tell people that I was born with 3 arms, but one was amputated at birth and left me with a scar. Always cracked me up and weirded people out.

          • manybellsdown said:

            I have occasionally told people that the large open-heart surgery scar on my chest is from losing a swordfight.

          • SarahTheEntwife said:

            Oo, I like that one manybellsdown! I have a surgical scar on my back that I like to pretend was from a vestigial wing removed at birth. It’s not anywhere people will generally see it, so I haven’t gotten to show off that particular story very often :-b

  4. kristinmh said:

    The only stranger interference I got was a dude chiding me for eating chips. I said “Hey, are you a doctor? No? Then go away!”

    I agree that “How are you feeling?” got pretty old. Towards the end of my pregnancy I just started answering for real – “OMG the heartburn and round ligament pain!” and most people didn’t ask a second time.

    Otherwise I was happy to discover that once I was obviously pregnant the street harrassment I usually get stopped. I guess even the kind of assholes who yell gross things at women from moving cars balk at targeting pregnant ladies. So…yay?

    Good luck, LW!

    • Kim said:

      Jerk: “Should you be eating chips? You are what you eat, and that goes for the baby too!”
      Me: “Yup! That’s why I got baby-flavored chips.”

      At least, that’s what I imagine I would say if I were pregnant. :)

    • Erika said:

      Mine was for drinking a glass of wine when I went out to dinner one night. The woman came right up to the table to berate me. My answer?
      “My OB prescribed one glass of wine per week. Unless you have all his years of experience and training, GO AWAY AND LET ME ENJOY MY WINE IN PEACE.”

      Also, I love my OB. His philosophy is that “happy, relaxed mamas make healthier babies.”

      • manybellsdown said:

        Ugh I had HALF a mimosa at 8 months along and the father freaked the heck out.

      • lizbarr said:

        Ergh. That was going on at my office Christmas party the other year, so I regailed the interrogator with the tale of how my mother smoked all through her pregnancy with me, and I was a massive, healthy baby.

      • Ironically, drinking alcohol is more dangerous in the first couple of months when probably no one can see you’re pregnant anyway! Which is why I froth at the mouth a little when people “debate” whether bar staff should be able to refuse drinks to pregnant women, etc. NO. The risk period was MONTHS ago and you have no idea what her health situation is, because you’re not a doctor! You’re bar staff!

        • Xenophile said:

          For the bar, it’s likely a liability issue, possibly having to do with dram shop laws. Even if the pregnant customer, her doctor, her designated driver, and all the staff agree it’s okay, there’s always a fear that someone will misuse laws intended to limit drunk driving to argue that hurting the fetus is akin to hurting someone in a car accident. I agree, it’s obnoxious, but for businesses liability often trumps common sense.

          • Not if the business owner knows ANYTHING about the law. For there to be liability you have to be able to prove damage and causation, as in “before you served that pregnant woman a drink her baby was going to be fine. The baby is ‘imperfect’ in some way. That imperfection can be medically proven to be a result of the drink you served the woman.” Couldn’t be done.

            No, it’s not liability, it’s busybodyishness.

      • cuntessvonfingerbang said:

        Wow, that’s so rude. I’d say I can’t believe someone would do that, except OH WAIT I can totally believe it, because many people seem to completely lose their filter when TEH BABIEZ are involved.

        I was part of an online “due date club” forum when I was pregnant, and I admitted to drinking about 2oz of wine on my birthday (when I was about 6 months pregnant) and one of the other ladies on the forum absolutely lost it on me. She called me nasty names and actually said, “I hope your baby has FAS to teach you a lesson.” I shit you not, that’s what she said. People, they are amazing.

        I love your OB too and I wish mine had been half that decent.

        • Kacienna said:

          WTF?!? The rudeness of course, but then to wish congenital problems on the baby just because you don’t like what the mother is doing? I mean, wishing harm on someone is not nice anyway, but wishing harm on someone who has no control over what’s angering you is really mean.

    • Will said:

      Man, I don’t even care if someone IS a doctor, giving unsolicited medical advice (especially as a form of policing someone else’s body) is NOT COOL. I don’t care if you singlehandedly eradicated cancer, If I want medical advice I will go to MY doctor.

      • staranise said:

        If somebody singlehandedly eradicated cancer, also, they probably have much better use for their time than ad hoc general practice.

        • And probably aren’t an OB/GYN.

  5. Megay said:

    My advice would also be to remember that your body is your own and no matter how nice people are about it, no one has the right to touch your body without your consent. Don’t be afraid to enforce your boundaries.

    Wish I’d known this while pregnant with twins at 18.

    also, congrats, lw!

  6. manybellsdown said:

    I’m going to second the advice about the names. Don’t share what names you like, ever. Invariably the person who asked will reply with “Oh, I knew/dated a guy/girl with that name and s/he was a JERK! Or they’ll tell you it’s too popular, too old-fashioned, too weird (my best friend was told that Katharine was “too weird”)

    As for the touching, I’m a fan of grabbing their ass right back, but that’s really not good advice. For anywhere.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      I had a friend who would warn people “if you touch my belly, I will honk your boob.” I thought it was genius.

      • AnotherKate said:

        Haha yes! A friend of mine did this on a bus when a strange woman touched her belly. She said, “Hey, now can I grab your breast?” The lady was like “OMG no what’s wrong with you?!!” and my friend said, “Hey, you just touched my body without permission. At least I’m asking!” The woman got up and moved away. Win!

        • I love this. It’s totally what I would do. :D

        • H.Regalis said:

          Awesome response!

        • SevenSummers said:

          LW here – That’s amazing! Has anyone had first-hand experience going that route? I’m worried I won’t be cool enough to pull it out. I’m also contemplating the “wait a beat, dead-eyed stare, and blanky ask ‘what are you doing?’ ” move. Not hostile, just…confused. On purpose. (And thanks to everyone for the well wishes! Not a lot of my friends know, so it’s fun to be “out” to CA…

      • I am not a nice person, so I had been planning on threatening to break people’s fingers (really, an empty threat), but I may do this instead.

    • Sam-I-Am said:

      A month or so ago I rubbed a guy’s belly while he rubbed mine. It was the most incredibly awkward, embarrassing moment I’ve had in a while, but it was SO WORTH IT.

      • Darcy said:

        I logged in just so I could tell you how much I wish I could “like” comments on WordPress blogs.

      • This may be the best response I’ve ever seen for this. *adds to mental lexicon for future pregnancy*

  7. I haven’t been pregnant but, it does annoy me the way people seem to think pregnant women are like, a totally different species to other non-pregnant humans.

    I advocate your right to snark at inappropriateness such as unsolicited touching, comments that could be considered inappropriate or rude (eg, if you weren’t pregnant), or people who act like numpties.
    Don’t make allowances for people unnecessarily or just because you want to live in nice/tolerant land. (unless it doesn’t bother you at all, in that case, tolerate away, although it wouldn’t be tolerating it would be existing – but I digress!). But if it does bother you, go ahead and say ‘hey! Would you say/do that to a random non-pregnant lady that you met on the street? No? Then don’t say it to me!’
    Or something along those lines.

    I have been the recipient of unsolicited touching. I have waist length hair. I have learned that the statement ‘can I see your hair, please turn around so I can look.’ actually means “Please let me stroke/pull/smell your hair, I am going to do this regardless of your answer.”
    You have every right to yell “What the hell do you thing you are doing?!” at anyone who does touch you without permission. And if they ask, “sure, can I rub your belly in return?” (I am full of snark, so you might not want to ise that one.) or “sorry, I don’t like being touched.”
    But honestly, why should you have to even say? It is a common thing to have personal space, why is it that pregnant ladies suddenly have none?
    I was also thinking that a sign in your office somewhere might be an idea If appropriate in the context of your workplace. Something humorous such as ‘rubbing my belly will not bring good luck.’

    Anyway, congrats to your pregnancy LW, no doubts you will hear that many times.

    CommanderLogic, your words are awesome as usual and congrats on your soon-to-be bundle of Joy! ;) (lol, cliche)

    • That In A Hat said:

      Heh, yeah, there’s some kind of socially ingrained thing about How to Treat Pregnant Ladies (that unfortunately doesn’t seem to cover “don’t touch them/ask them personal questions”). A coworker is expecting, and I kind of catch myself in some kind of Elf Quest “protect the life-bearer!” mode. By which I mean I’ll jump up to do the pushing/pulling/lifting of heaving things, but I still feel kind of awkward about it, like I don’t want to give off the vibe of “Oh, don’t want you to strain yourself, dearie, you fragile thing.”

      Will never understand why people think they can just up and touch a pregnant lady’s belly. Very important issues of Personal Space aside…her baby’s in there, dangit. You don’t just go up and touch someone’s baby, right? But seriously, not touching someone’s belly without being given permission is…like, first grade stuff, right?

      On another note, what IS it with people and long hair? I had someone just grab a braid while I was drawing one time. Just…reached over the table and grabbed it. It’s happened other times to, but it’s just a little mind-blowing when a grown person just sees something and grabs at it like a two year old. And, “You hair is LONG!” “What? It is? Since when?!”

      • jatkins said:

        For my confirmation I wore my hair swept over into a side braid. When it was my turn, the bishop looked at me very sweetly and said, “I saw you during the homilyand I really wanted to do this. Can I pull your hair?” I’m kneeling on the altar exprecting to be struck down by an angry god for agreeing to a whole lot of things I didn’t actually believe, and a high religious figure wants to pull my hair! Sure, you bet. I figured it would hurt less than thunderbolts from the sky. And it was all the proof i’ve ever needed that, if there is a supreme something out there, he/she/it has a weird sense of humor.

        • That In A Hat said:

          Oh good gravy, are you kidding me?

          See, with a pregnant belly, I can almost understand asking–pregnancy is fascinating. I mean, if the woman wants to, it ends with a tiny person. Growing. Inside a human being. Like nesting dolls. That’s amazing.

          Hair is just hair. Getting it long isn’t amazing (heck, in my case, it’s pure laziness). Asking a stranger to touch/pull their hair is just…*weird.*

          And to be a spiritual leader in the middle of an important ceremony is just…wowzer, that’s mind-boggling.

        • Megay said:

          That is the weirdest thing I’ve read today.

          meep

          • Quisty said:

            I was a few years ago in the position of being bald on my passport. I had had dreadlocks and shaved them off and then needed my passport renewed. I went through airport security with that SO many times and they would look at my picture my (now long) hair and ask, “what happened?” Eventually I just started saying “it grew.”

      • Erika said:

        I was lucky–no one EVER tried to touch me when I was pregnant. Could be because I’m obese, which has it’s own issues, like my dermatologist trying to weigh in on my health, as if he had a better idea than my OB. I now have a new dermatologist.

        I’m with you on the hair thing, but here’s a cute story of someone who went above and beyond NOT to touch: I always had long hair, but I decided to grow it out as long as it would get while I was in grad school. It got long enough that I could sit on it, and that was quite a long ponytail. Two years after grad school, I ran into a classmate at a county fair. He noticed that I’d cut my hair off, and he told me that he used to sit behind me, and my ponytail would make a puddle on his desk so that he had very little room to write–but that he didn’t want to embarrass me and ask me to move it. Oops!

      • Lizalou said:

        “You don’t just go up and touch someone’s baby, right?”

        You would think so, but this is apparently not common knowledge. There are stories of when my sisters and I were babies that terrify me. We all had hair that pretty much stuck straight out from our heads like we had been electrocuted. Complete strangers would come up in public places to “pet” us. Not even asking first, just come up, touch babies’ heads and THEN ask questions “Oh, they are so cute!!!! How old are they!! Are they triplets?!??!”

        (To be fair, we were pretty goofy and adorable looking)

      • rebekah said:

        actually most people will just walk up and touch your baby without asking. It’s so bad that most parents with immuno compromised babies have to have a sign and hand sanitizer with them to keep their baby from catching whatever it is that the person has on their hands.

        • TR said:

          In my hometown, it’s not uncommon for the older ladies to close a baby’s eyes for good luck (especially if the baby is super cute)

        • Rosa said:

          Yeah, the worst was having to take my preemie to the clinic. NO SICK PEOPLE DON’T TOUCH MY BABY HIS IMMUNE SYSTEM ISN’T FINISHED.

          I didn’t get the pregnancy touching – the constant nauseau made me look hostile all the time, so no one came near me. But the baby thing. By 4 or 5 months it didn’t bother me but at first, handsmacking.

    • Natalie said:

      One of my best friends has gloriously red hair that goes down to her knees. Whenever she wears it down (which is often because that is a lot of weight in a braid or ponytail) she has to be all “constant vigilance” like Mad-eye Moody. She’s used to getting questions and remarks and has quick answers prepped, but the people who try to touch it drive her crazy. Why would you do that?

      • Erika said:

        My best friend gave up and shaved her head after one night of getting FED UP over people touching her admittedly-amazing butt-length curly auburn hair.

      • Friopalope said:

        I have really unusually curly hair for a white person, and for some reason people have always taken that to mean they can touch it whenever they want without asking permission. My mom tells me that when I was a baby, people were always coming up to her and petting my head without asking. Back in school, I’d find myself standing in the lunchline and notice that someone behind me was pulling on my hair… While I’d be thinking “You realize I can feel that… it’s attached to my head…” The worst thing was that for some reason, many many people felt the need to pull one ringlet at a time and say “Boing!” when letting it go. I seriously got that joke at least 5 times a day, every day. After high school I’ve gotten a lot less random people touching my hair without asking, but it still happens fairly frequently.

  8. Can you line up an aggressive coworker to run interference?

    Can you intercede when coworkers get all in the face of other coworkers? Like a deadpan “Wow, Joe, you really did just put your hands over Susan’s ears.”

    You can try straightforward “Take your hands off me right now.”

    Also, I think this calls for “Let the awkward build! You were not the one to make it awkward!”

    So what if you come off rude or cold? So what if they’re Just Good Guys, What’s Your Problem, Good Grief, Must Be The Hormones, etc etc yuk. Every time they cross a boundary, like your weight or whatever, you can pause, let it sink in to everyone what was just said, and go on.

    You’re not the one who made it awkward.

    • rosi5 said:

      I completely agree with this, especially when it comes to talking about the baby’s gender, which can belie some serious gender essentialism/sexism. Statements like “I bet your partner/husband wants a boy” or “are you happy it’s a girl/boy” just make me so uncomfortable. I feel like the best response (for me, anyway) would be a totally deadpan “what do you mean by that?”, cue backpedalling and awkwardness.

    • SevenSummers said:

      Good idea! I discovered I had an ally at a work function last week, when she literally booed at one of the guys who, in a drunken state, tried to “push in” a pregnant woman’s belly button. It was good to have some validation and know this woman would have my back.

  9. Jenni said:

    I don’t ask people if they know the sex of the baby but rather, if they are interested in knowing it (before birth, that is). If the answer to that is yes, I end it at that unless they offer the information to me.

    • caryatid said:

      yes, i sometimes ask a variant of this, like “are you planning to find out the sex before birth?” and they will usually tell me what it is if they want to go any further.
      i also ask about names the same way – “have you decided on a name?” so they can elaborate if they want, or just say yes or no.

  10. Honestly, the most ridiculous thing that popped out of someone’s mouth was post- (unsuccessful, unfortunately) pregnancy.

    I was at a farmer’s market looking at handmade soaps, and the lady running the booth was chatting my ear off about the different scents when she suddenly interjects “Are you having a boy or girl (1)?”

    Since the answer was “Neither” I just kind of gave her a puzzled look until she started backtracking by explaining that Oh Gee, Sorry, She Shouldn’t Have Asked That (2) but she’s just careful to warn pregnant women about the lavender soap in case they’re carrying a boy because some of the pheromones (3) in it can affect their development (4)… “But were you pregnant recently (5)?”

    At which point I politely explained to her that I was, that it had ended in miscarriage, and I think I’m done looking at soap for the day thankyouverymuch (6).

    (1) Seriously why. I mean, I know now, but do you really ask random women that at every farmer’s market you’re at? No wonder your booth was empty, lady.
    (2) No, no you shouldn’t have asked that. Ever. For additional information, see (1).
    (3) HAHAHAHA OMG WHAT I DON’T EVEN.
    (4) By the way she said “affect their development” I am about 90% sure she meant “turn them gay.” For additional information, see (3).
    (5) See (1), (2) and (3, minus the HAHAHAHA part).
    (6) Okay, I actually did buy soap because I was embarrassed for her. She felt bad, though, so she gave me a discount. Yay?

    • manybellsdown said:

      …Wow. That was … like she’s one of those people who, when they put their foot in it *just keep right on going*.

      • … Yeah. That’s it exactly. It was like: O_O >_< O_O O_o

        (Also, your username: E. E. Cummings reference? Have I asked you that before?)

        • manybellsdown said:

          Someone did, but I don’t remember who, and yes. :D

          • That is excellent. He’s my favorite :)

      • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

        I think that sort of thing is the conversational equivalent of steering into a skid when the car starts to slide–except more awkward and less scary. You almost have to begrudginly *admire* their commitment to The Stupid when they just keep talking their way further and further into it like that.

        • Sarah B said:

          …isn’t steering into the skid what you’re /meant/ to do? This woman sounds more like she’s trying to accelerate out of it!

    • Hazel said:

      Crying at the “pheromones” line. I wish they taught ethology 101 in junior high.

      • Yeah, I’ve tried googling everything I can think of related to “lavender,” “pheromones,” and “pregnancy,” and I’ve got nothing. I have no idea where she got her information. The whole thing was just utterly bizarre.

        So, yeah – along with good questions NOT to ask when you KNOW someone’s pregnant: don’t ever ever ever ever ever guess. That way lies madness.

        • Katie said:

          I believe she was referring to research about lavender and tea tree oil causing gynecomastia in prepubescent boys. I don’t know where she got “pheromones” from, but here is some more info:

          http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa064725

          • Interesting.

            Although…. I have my doubts as to how much research this woman has read or done. I wonder if maybe she heard it from a friend or something.

            And that still doesn’t explain what it’d have to do with me using the soap, even if I had been pregnant with a boy – I’m not reaching up into my uterus to wash the fetus, after all, so there’s no topical application going on. O_o

            People are weird.

  11. Nerdette said:

    I have a two month old on my lap right now, so this is all fresh for me, and I have a couple things to add.

    First, regarding names. I completely agree about keeping names–even ones you are just kicking around–to yourself. Everybody wants to tell you that they had a dog named such-and-such once or they used to date so-and-so. I had a woman wrinkle her nose up at me and go “Reall? Ew!” and that was the last time I shared name discussion with anybody at all. My go-to line became, “We’re going to wait until we meet her to decide what feels right.”

    Secondly, I experienced Drama with regards to my birth plan. Everybody wanted to know if I was planning on drugs or not, if I wanted to induce by X date, etc. Not only is this none of anybody’s business, but people I thought were safe to share with turned out not to be. Two of my friends got in a fight over whether I was completely clueless and unprepared or not. Later, it got worse when my closest friend assumed she’d be present for my labor, when in fact it was never my intention to include anybody but my husband. Regarding this, my best advice is to share what you’re comfortable with, but of course be prepared for further questions and judgement. However, I do believe it is worth being explicitly clear with your closest people about who you want present (and by extension, whether or not you’ll be accepting visitors at the hospital following the delivery–it’s unbelievably hectic and exhausting and I enjoyed not having a room full of people all the time.).

    Congratulations and best of luck to you!

    • boutet said:

      Speaking of people wanting to be present at the birth… I had a pretty funny conversation with my mom. She was hemming and hawing and really not getting to the point at all, but she was talking vaguely about how some people like having their mothers with them during the birth, and how people need to make plans with the people they want there with the birth. She was super awkward and not looking straight at me. I was trying to think of a polite way to tell her that I didn’t intend for her to be there when she blurted out, “Is it okay if I’m not there for the birth?!”
      It was a lovely moment.

      • Oh wow, I love this story.

        Possibly because I’m likely to face a similar situation with my mom, only without the serendipitous ending. My dad took it upon himself to plant the idea that my mother would probably like to attend any births I may be involved in back when I was, like, 14? That was an odd conversation.

        • boutet said:

          Oh sheesh, that’s really planning ahead.
          Mom’s reason for not being there is that she didn’t want to be their for any of her births either, so she really doesn’t want to be there for anyone else’s, haha

          • lol that’s great logic! I have actually heard that “spectators” are more likely to faint than the person giving birth too, since unless they stay right up out of the way they’re more likely to see the gory bits.

    • staranise said:

      Unless you really WANT to tell, the drugs/method/inducement/etc. stuff deserves a firm, “That’s between me, Other Parent(s), and my doctor.” Everyone and their cousin has an opinion, and I’ve heard a few stories lately about how women whose labours got really complicated and dangerous not ONLY had sucky births, but also experienced social flack (!!) from other people, for ~betraying their ideals~ or ~giving up their commitment to natural birth~ by having a hospiral birth/epidural/c-section. So I think it’s totally fair to limit the number of people who have ammunition to criticize your birthing method, planned or actual.

    • It’s also good to discuss with your partner who gets to visit, how soon after delivery. And who gets to announce what, to whom.

      When I didn’t show up for work Monday morning, being in labor, my secretary called the hospital she knew I was going to, talked to my hsband while I was still being monitored in anaesthesia recovery, and invited herself to visit — about an hour after the baby was born. I was barely in my actual room, feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, and there she was! Can you say pushy?? I nearly killed my husband for not saying “we’ll let you know when we’re ready for visitors.”

      Ooh, I also just remembered (’cause I DID get over it) — he actually called my own mother and told her about the baby. That was MY phone call to make!

      So… apparently these things are not obvious. Get them squared away explicitly in advance. 1) Woman who has just pushed out the baby gets to decide when visitors are welcome, and 2) you can tell your people, I tell mine. Unless your people will tell my people, in which case, woman who has pushed out the baby gets to make her calls first.

      • Myrin said:

        Alphakitty, I cannot believe your secretary here! What was she thinking? Especially since how you phrase it – and please correct me if I’m wrong – she wasn’t even a friend to you or specifically close so what is this? [Not that this kind of behaviour would have been okay if you were best buddies forever, but it’s even more WHAT?!? for me that way.]

        • Actually, I quite liked her, and we had a pretty friendly, informal relationship in the office. And I know she meant it in the nicest possible way: “You had a baby! That’s so cool! Let me share your joy!” But I’d been in active (pushing) labor for about 3 hours before the doctor finally decided we needed to go the forceps + anaesthesia route to extract the little darling (my response when he recommended that: “just get it OUT!!!”), so I was sweaty and shaky and exhausted and I’m a bloody introvert in the first place so NO I was not up for visitors the second I got back to my room!

  12. kathleen said:

    When I was 7 months pregnant with my son, my husband and I flew to another city with some friends to see a concert. On the way back we scored the bulkhead seats (yay for legroom!) and I wound up sitting directly across from some random dude. I was fairly thin at the time, and wearing a lightweight silk tunic that was pulled tight over my belly by the seatbelt. I’d been dozing, which was the baby’s cue to begin his tumbling routine. I woke up because I felt eyes on me. The guy across from me was staring in fascinated horror at my stomach – you could clearly see a foot, a fist, a knee, a shoulder as the baby rolled and stretched.

    I watched him watching me until he finally noticed he’d been caught ogling. He blushed and apologized then hesitantly nodded at my stomach and asked, “I’ve never seen anything like that… Does it hurt?” “Not usually. It can be distracting, though”.

    • FairestCat said:

      I actually kind of feel bad for this guy in that way where it’s so easy to be caught staring at something you know you shouldn’t be staring at, but that just caught you off guard in some way.

    • Pixie said:

      Oh! That is a awkward situation! I feel bad for both parties involved, I had a friend who was also pretty small and had that situation going on and yeah as a spectator it was both horrifying and fascinating. I mean, she was pretty cool about it since we were friends though and would say “Look a foot!” – we were not just randomly staring at her belly. I have never been successfully pregnant but from my two months and a half of pregnancy and friends experiences – pregnancy certainly is a strange experience.

  13. fizzchick said:

    Towards the end, when people asked how I was feeling with an obvious eye to the pregnancy, I gave a literal response. “About eight months pregnant.” It short circuited some of the chitchat, didn’t require thinking about a response, and could be delivered with a smile or snark as necessary. Plus, I hope it reminded at least a few people that asking a question you wouldn’t ask others isn’t always welcome. At least a few followed up with “No, really, how are YOU doing”, which was welcome. Oh, and I only got one unsolicited belly rub, when I was afraid there’d be at least a dozen, so perhaps word is finally getting out.

  14. amavra said:

    I have 2 kids and had very different pregnancy and birthing experiences with each and I admit I am often the TMI lady when my friends get pregnant. I hope they aren’t annoyed or disturbed by it, and they don’t seem to be; I do try to always frame it first as – “Do you want to know what it is like to have a c-section/ braxton hicks/ breastfeed for the first time/ just how much blood comes out of you after?” If they say no, I leave it at that. I personally wish I wasn’t the first of any of my friends to have kids so someone could have talked to me about it while pregnant but I am the sort who is never grossed out by conversations like that.

    I most hated questions about parenting techniques – and when I found out I was pregnant with my second daughter, it was all “HAHAHA 2 girls have fun when they’re teenagers!” Honestly the poor kid wasn’t even born and I am supposed to think about if I’ll give them a cell phone and when we’ll have the sex talk?

    I also don’t recall anyone touching my stomach without asking and few people asked besides my closest friends and family. I didn’t look obviously pregnant until the very end though, which also meant no one giving me their seat on the bus/ train when I went to school.

    Food policing didn’t happen much with me, except always that I should eat more. I was thin before pregnancy and gained 45ish lbs each time but people never wanted me to stop eating. And some people gave me grief for drinking coffee but I wouldn’t have survived without it (and was so strongly effected by caffeine I only drank one small cup anyway).

    • Guava said:

      Thank you for mentioning just how annoying it is when people chime in with the gender stereotypes while you are pregnant/just had a baby. I have two sons, and I hear these three (irritating) comments all of the time:

      1. “You’re so lucky you have boys! Girls bring so much DRAMA.”
      2. “I know you already have two children, but you should really try for a girl. Your boys will get married and abandon your family, but a daughter will take care of you when you’re old.”
      3. “Two boys? You have TWO BOYS? It must be SO OUT OF CONTROL at your house!”

      All three of these sentiments never fail to enrage me.

      • manybellsdown said:

        Even worse, when it didn’t go the way they hoped. When I taught preschool, there was a family with 3 boys. Mom didn’t really want any more, but she had desperately wanted a daughter so they tried one more time … and got another boy.

        I can’t even imagine how those comments made her feel after she knew it was another boy.

        • Guava said:

          Seriously. I know a family with 5 boys. Same story!

          • My grandma jokes about this because they had five girls. Apparently after the doctor came out to tell granddad what sex the fifth baby was (this being back when Men Did Not Enter The Confinement Room) he looked at him and went ‘Jeff, I’m so sorry. It’s ANOTHER girl’.

          • My father is the youngest of five and the only boy. His mother was advised against any further pregnancies after her first daughter because of health concerns, but persisted until she had a boy to carry on the family name.

            In the other direction, I went to school with some kids in a family of 10 kids. Number 10 was the girl the mom had wanted from the beginning.

          • Ace said:

            On my dad’s side, my great-grandparents had 2 girls and a boy. That boy, my grandfather, ended up having 3 girls and a boy. Dad and Mom stopped at 3 girls, they didn’t want 5 kids.

          • Corporal Insight (formerly madaquarian91) said:

            My family, self included, has four girls. When we returned to Africa to visit family after more than a decade in Australia, relatives and friends alike asked my mother when she was having a boy. My mother was in her forties at the time, and my little sister (the youngest) was a teenager. To some extent, I can excuse it as cultural, but the whole ‘at least one from each collection for a matching set’ mentality is cray.

          • Our neighbours had 6 girls before “finally” having a boy to inherit the farm, at which point they stopped having children.

            It’s not really any of my business, but honestly it outrages me that there were so old-fashioned that they don’t even consider that one of their girls might like to farm. (They also sent all their daughters back to The Old Country immediately after graduating, where they were expected to find a nice boy of the right nationality to get married to and bring back to Canada. And they all did as required.)

            I’m pleased to say that my parents eventually came around to the idea of some of their daughters running the farm, partly because they’re the ones who chose to keep working on the farm after leaving school.

      • blitzgal said:

        It always just makes me so sad that even here in America, where we are supposedly equal and all that, people don’t want girls. The poor kids aren’t even born yet and they’re already being judged as lesser, just because of their sex. I would NEVER say anything to an expectant mother who says things like this, but right in my office there are multiple women who were adamant about not wanting girls when they were pregnant. One of them declared, “I wouldn’t even know what to do with a girl!” And in my head, I’m thinking….”but you are a woman and you grew up a girl. How is it possible that you would have no idea what to do?”

        • Myrin said:

          Especially since you don’t actually have to treat a little girl differently from how you’d treat a little boy. This “I wouldn’t even know what to do with a girl!” sounds like you’ll have to do something special and super difficult when you have a girl that you wouldn’t have to do if you had a boy. Tsk.

        • Although it’s also weird that, according to the books I read about adoption–especially international adoption–girls are much more popular as prospective adopted children, to the point of it being a problem in finding homes for kids in equal proportions. (It was even more unnerving when the book detailed that some of the reasons adoptive parents wanted girls were things like “But the family name should be carried on by someone of our own race” and “Girls of are so pretty and exotic!” and…yeah. Shudder.)

      • part-time jedi said:

        People used to give this crap to my dad at work ALL THE TIME. Comments about phone use, even though neither my sister nor I liked talking on the phone. Comments about drama, even though neither of us even shared details like from our personal lives with our parents. Comments about chasing off boyfriends with shotguns, even though my Dad took the much more sensible approach of “Invite the fellow over to see if he’s actually decent.”

        Then there were the guys (and they were always guys) would ask him, “Do you ever wish you had a son instead of two daughters?”

        His stock response was, “No, why would I want sons? Anything I would have done with hypothetical sons, I can do with my daughters, but car insurance is so much cheaper for girls.”

    • Kelly said:

      I have had….such an education from my pregnant friends (even the ones who are just pregnant now and are reading about birth in books). If I had ever wanted to get pregnant – I don’t – their stories may have changed my mind. But, uh, the human body is an amazing thing, huh?

      • miss_chevious said:

        I love you just from this comment, Kelly. From one person who doesn’t want to get pregnant to another, “such an education” is exactly right.

  15. pmscapades said:

    When I was 8 months pregnant, a woman I’d never met came up to me at the bus stop and said, “Is it a boy or a girl?” I told her it was a girl and she said, “You should name your baby Emily Jewel.” It didn’t sound like a suggestion so much as an order. Baby names from strangers: super meaningful!

    I also got TONS of comments on how big I was (I’m 5’3″ and was very thin pre-baby, so I started showing right away and carried it all out front). “Are you sure it’s not twins?” “Wow, you look like you’re about to pop!” “6 months? Really? You look further along than that.” The ticket agent at PDX almost didn’t let me fly because she didn’t believe I was less than 8 months pregnant.

    And then there were the people who insisted that my pregnancy was “carrying like a boy” and the doctors must be wrong when they said it was a girl. These were mostly older women who thought they knew everything in the world about pregnancy, but there were a few younger women in there too. I always laughed and said, “Well, maybe!” (They were wrong.)

    The thing that surprised me most about being pregnant was that I didn’t mind people wanting to touch my belly. I was REALLY freaked out about it before my pregnancy was obvious, and I readied all kinds of responses, and then I found that a) most people were respectful and asked first, and b) I always said yes. I am not a very touchy-feely person, but the people who asked to touch my belly always seemed like they sincerely wanted to share my excitement and happiness, and their enthusiasm completely erased any feeling of having my space invaded, like I feel with, for example, surprise hugs. Others’ mileage may vary, of course.

    The one site I always recommend to pregnant women/new mothers is Ask Moxie– lots of excellent, nonjudgmental advice about parenting and pregnancy, not unlike a Captain Awkward for moms. It’s a great place to read about others’ experiences when you’re feeling insecure or worried about something, especially with newborns.

    • Kelly said:

      It’d be kind of hilarious to tell your kid that you got their name from a stranger at a bus stop, though. The story behind my name is just ‘We liked it’. I want a more interesting story behind it!

      • I’m the fourth of five, only three were planned, and the story behind my name is that they went down a list of names until they found one neither of them hated, though they modified the first one to a variant because my mother used to know someone she didn’t like with the original version.

        And then apparently they got upset when I changed it. Coz that makes sense. It’d be awesome if my name had come from a stranger at a bus stop though because at least that’s a story! “It was the first one neither of them hated” sucks.

    • manybellsdown said:

      Hah I got one of those women who insisted I was having a boy. Since I have medical issues, I had had probably 6 ultrasounds by that point, so we were pretty sure it was a girl. (Spoiler: It totally was a girl)

      I was tiny like you, but for some reason she decided to lie stretched out vertically, so from the back I didn’t look pregnant at all, but from the side it looked like I was shoplifting a watermelon.

    • thesurfmonkey said:

      I’m also a non-touchy-feely person. I get all stiff and awkward if people are hugging each other hello and goodbye and pretty much everyone knows this. But when I was pregnant I felt completely different about people touching my belly. In fact I was a tiny bit disappointed when it didn’t happen much. I kept wanting to get one of those “Rub my belly for good luck” t-shirts, only I never did see any in maternity sizes.

    • SevenSummers said:

      Thanks for that site, and for sharing your experiences. A lot of the mom-to-be communities I’ve found online don’t feel like the right fit – a lot of judgement and very black-and-white about “what’s best for baby”. I’m always on the lookout for good ones.

  16. Kacienna said:

    I have two friend who are pregnant right now, so I’m grateful for this post! I don’t want to annoy them with my curiosity, but I also do want them to know that I’m ready to hear the gory details if they need someone to talk to. (I’m the kind of biologist that relies on other people to determine what is inappropriate mealtime conversation). When I had one of them over for a potluck, I cut out a piece of my rum cake beforehand and left it rum-free if she wanted to avoid the alcohol, but also told her I figured she and her doctor knew what was safe and if she wanted rum in her rum cake, that was totally up to her. But I confess I have asked about sex (of the baby) and names. I’ll think about whether/how to do that in the future. But never “Do you want a boy or a girl?” and definitely never “Were you trying?”

    • Pixie said:

      Yes, I have at least three currently pregnant friends right now who were decidedly not trying so there’s no question there. I just follow their lead, with talking about things and don’t ask questions. For some reason (I don’t know if it’s me or what) but I hardly ever need to ask questions people will tell me, voluntarily, the craziest things. At least with pregnancy and health stuff, I think it’s pretty awesome since I’m a former midwifery student (just didn’t go thru the tests to make it legal in my state) so it’s hard to freak me out.
      For the sex, names, etc. though I don’t ask. I just ask them how they’re doing (if they haven’t already announced they are not feeling well) and let them talk about stuff. One of my friends is having a really difficult pregnancy so she talks a lot. The two others things are going pretty good and we rarely mention it unless it’s something they wanted to share – ultrasound pictures, funny story, etc.

    • Manatee said:

      Seconding the thanks for guidance in how to be a decent friend to a pregnant person! I never know what to say and feel a lot more confident now to be interested without being a massive insensitive jerk.

    • keysburg said:

      One of my closest friends is pregnant, and I am child free. I told her to just go ahead and share whatever she liked with me, because I was curious about pregnancy despite being child free. She wasn’t sure exactly how much her friends wanted to know either, since some stuff is pretty gross, so I’m glad I said something. She’s settled into a once a week email with all the TMI symptoms a person probably wouldn’t share with coworkers. That works well because I know how she’s doing and its not all we’re talking about.

      I knew she was going to be pretty mellow about the whole thing when she started calling her fetus “the parasite” though, which alternately delights and horrifies people.

      • Kacienna said:

        That’s a good idea! I admit that I have essentially no TMI limit with friends. I try to avoid oversharing my own stuff, but if it’s interest rather than judginess, I’m willing to share most things about my life. So I struggle a little bit with the “Wait for them to bring it up if they want to talk about it” on one had, because what if they’re just trying to avoid oversharing but would love to talk, and the “Don’t give details if people don’t ask for them” on the other hand, because what if they’re trying to avoid prying but would love to hear? And then we both miss out. I still figure it’s better to err on the side of politeness, but I really want the perfect script to say “I’m a huge geek and everything is really fascinating to me.” Hmm…for friends, that might be enough in and of itself – they already know I’m a huge geek.

  17. Emma said:

    A good response I’ve heard to questions about the baby’s gender at my office is a plain old, “It’s out of our hands!” or if you’re so inclined, “That’s in God’s hands!” It avoids the question and is also pretty hard to argue with.

    I also have had a pregnant coworker flat out say she wasn’t going to talk about names, because everyone she told the first time she was pregnant had felt the need to give their opinions. It shut everyone up and I didn’t think it came across as harsh at all. That sounds majorly annoying!

  18. ReanaZ said:

    So, we get a lot of the “Small talk is awkward; how do I respond?! (Also, sometimes people are being pushy or rude with their small talk)” questions here, with excellent responses. But I have a flip-side question… how can I make small talk with you that ISN’T annoying? (I mostly have not pushy or rude down?)

    That is, if we accept the premise that small talk is necessary or at least very common to human interaction, and that I am going to get stuck in an elevator or be making coffee in the break room or at a work party with people I only tangentially know, I need to be good at small talk. And I mostly am. But then people complain about how rude people are that make small talk about families or holidays or babies, and then I feel awkward and a bit lost. I don’t want to be rude! I don’t want to make people uncomfortable! I just want to have a mini-conversation that respects you as a human being and that shows interest in your non-work life. (And in the American South, talking ONLY about work and never about personal life with people comes off as really stuck up and rude, so that’s not a global option either.) I think the key to good small talk is to ask bland, broad questions that make a minimal number of assumptions about the person’s situation and to listen carefully to the response and gracefully back-off or end the conversation if the person doesn’t want to talk about it.

    So, accepting the premise that small talk sometimes has a place (and let’s save the debate on the premise to another day), I’d be curious what questions other expecting moms and dads don’t find annoying or even like to be asked. What is the “safe” territory here?

    • ReanaZ said:

      Damn, I NEVER post before i read the whole article, although I sometimes will jot down thoughts during and then post after. But today I am home sick and a bit loopy, and clearly did. So to clarify, what do other pregnant ladies and expecting dads think of CommanderLogic’s questions? Other questions that are definitely okay / definite not okay to you? (Also, thank you CommanderLogic for outlining some useful advice in that arena too!)

      • As a pregnant lady who has gotten DEADLY tired of the overconcerned “how are you feeling?” and endless name/sex talk, I’m a big fan of “how’s it going?” with no particular emphasis (read: staring at my midsection and wiggling your eyebrows). This allows me to talk about pregnancy business if I want/it seems appropriate, OR talk about my weekend or what I watched on tv or cooked for dinner or whatever. I like to ask it for the same reason: I’m not pinning anyone into a conversational topic they might not be up for.

    • commanderlogic said:

      I kind of covered this in the P.S. at the end of the response, but here goes:

      It’s not rude to make small talk, it’s just not something that everyone enjoys. It IS rude to be overly personal when making small talk, but people’s boundaries are all over the place as to what is “overly” personal, and that’s doubly true when we’re talking about pregnancy. Some women want to talk about their pregnancy! Non-stop sometimes! Some women would rather eat glass than talk about their bodily functions.

      Unless you know that person well, you may not know what they’d prefer. This is a situation where you want the other person to lead. Somewhere else on Captain Awkward I talk about how to positively assert yourself, and the comments that you want to let through are compliments, thanks, and positive thoughts.

      Small Talk Rules – Do NOT discuss:
      1 – Politics
      2 – Religion
      3 – Bodies (this covers weight, sex, illness, disability, on and on)

      DO discuss:
      1 – Weather
      2 – Recent activities (movies! concerts! new restaurants! books read!)
      3 – Positive appearance (unrelated to body size/shape) or attitude notices (“That is such a beautiful color on you!” “You seem really happy today.”)
      4 – Other people in a POSITIVE light only (“Did you see X’s new phone? Isn’t it COOL?” “Have you met Y? Isn’t she a delight?” “Did you get on the mailing list for Z’s cookie recipe? Yeah, the gooey ones from the potluck. So good!”)
      5 – Appreciation (“Thanks for holding the door!” “Thanks for picking up the slack on that call the other day.”)

      If you’re at an impasse, think about a compliment, a gratitude, or a positive thought. It will almost never steer you wrong. People may still be annoyed at the small talk, but it won’t be about being annoyed with you, it will be about the social convention.

      • Sports is also a very good topic for small talk. If someone is wearing some kind of sports team logo on their clothes, asking “Oh, are you a {team} fan?” is a great idea.

        • Xenophile said:

          That works well if the person is wearing a team logo of some sort, but can be awkward if they don’t know anything about sports in general or that region’s sports specifically. “So…how about them Patriots?” “Uh…is that a basketball team?”

          • We did a whole thing in my last Māori language bit about “what’s your favourite sport [to play]?” and didn’t have anything on the sheet for “I don’t play one”. The class was at the top of a huge flight of steps so I was turning up with a walking stick (normally only use it on high pain days) and had to facepalm a bit at the assumption everyone plays or even enjoys sport. It’s the sort of thing that you only want to get into if they are displaying a sport logo, really.

            Though the day after a big game I will totally mess with anyone who tries to smalltalk sports with me. “What game?” “Crusaders, that’s the Manawatu team, right?” “Sorry, I don’t follow hockey.” (national sports being rugby and cricket)

        • Remy said:

          I was in the grocery store once, and a man old enough to be my father *growled* at me. I blinked at him with what must have been a HORRIFIED look, because he immediately began backpedaling and talking about a sports team I’d never heard of and asking if I was a fellow alum of his school. I had NO idea what he was talking about. I finally glanced down, based on his gestures, and found that I had thrown on my girlfriend’s sweatshirt, which she’d gotten secondhand, but which had the name of said university on it. Apparently their mascot is something that growls, and this is the traditional greeting between fans. SO BIZARRE.

      • ReanaZ said:

        Yeah, I apologized for posting before seeing the PS. I blame the illness/drugs. These are good tips (thanks!), but they’re more “small talk with total strangers” tips, which I feel I’m down with. They start to fail for people who see every day (like coworkers), where walking the line of semi-personal “I care about you as a person outside of work but don’t actually know you well enough to ask anything too personal.”

        While I definitely would talk to expecting/new mothers and fathers about non-baby stuff as well, it seems weird and culturally inappropriate (american south+non-profit world–high level of expectation for showing interest and caring in people’s lives, even people you don’t know super well) to totally ignore and not mention something that is seemingly a major part of someone’s life? I don’t know.
        You shared some good tips in the post-scripts. I do tend towards a general “How are you doing?” and taking it from there. But I am curious what other conversation topics parents and soon-to-be parents find most interesting/least irritating in the world of frequent-casual-acquaintance small talk.

        • staranise said:

          I don’t feel that those tips are terribly impersonal–it’s what I use with friends and family, a lot. If I want to make conversation with them for the purpose of happily conversing, I do that–find something about them (compliment, gratitude, positive thought) and serve up the conversational volleyball. “It was so cool to see you excited last week about that new hobby. I hope that’s going well for you.” “I’m so glad we got to go to that movie, I was so stressed.” “We’ve all been run off our feet lately; I hope things get better for us soon.”

          People vary hugely in what they want to talk about. “Parents” encompass a very wide swath of humanity. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, ALL she wanted to talk about was her pregnancy! So the same conversational protocols exist for this as for everything: demonstrate interest without demanding answer.

          There’s a big difference between “talking/asking about” and “prying into”. Prying = “What are you having? What’s its name? How are you delivering it?” Asking = “So you’re pregnant! How’s that going? Anything new happening? How’re you coping?” It’s the difference between closed-ended and open-ended questions.

          If the person REALLY WANTS you to know the details, they’ll respond to open-ended with, “We just found out it’s a girl! We’e naming her Susan.”

          (I wish I could teach people this about disability. It’s not that you notice and mention something; it’s how. Marching up to me and asking, “What’s wrong with you?” = seriously, omgwhat. “That’s a very stylish cane, is it new?” = super-graceful conversation opener.)

          • apricity said:

            Yes, well said. I’ve heard conversations described as being like tennis: you lobby a topic to the other person, and they either return it and you have a rally, or they let it go out and you start again. If someone’s let a topic go out, then it’s rude to keep pelting it at them like an automatic tennis ball thrower.

            I think also with your coworkers, over time you will start to have a shared history of small talk which you can build on. So maybe one day they talk about their love of a sports team, or of knitting, and then a little later you can bring it up as small talk. It’s using the same techniques as you would for a stranger, but by referencing your shared knowledge, it’s a bit more personal.

        • thesurfmonkey said:

          In general (but even more so when I was pregnant) I don’t like small talk that makes assumptions. When pregnant, stuff like that can come off as really heavy-handed in the “of course you’re going to do it this way otherwise you are a terrible mother and a worthless human being and maybe we should call someone to take your baby away” kind of sense. For me personally, I especially hated questions about the baby’s name (so personal!) or whether I was going to have more kids (seriously? let me finish this pregnancy first and have that discussion with my husband) or what sex I wanted/whether I was glad it was a boy or did I actually want a girl (that one in particular made me nuts).

          But the general topics weren’t usually the problem, it was the act of being subtly controlling by making assumptions that bothered me.

        • The appropriate compliment with follow-up question can also be good here, depending on how well you know the person — “Those are cute shoes; are they comfortable?” is one I might use with someone I’m fairly well-acquainted, but not necessarily friends, with. “I love your rain boots; I’ve been looking for a pair like that but haven’t had any luck” would be one for someone I know a little less well. It gives the other person several options on how to reply/continue the conversation — anywhere from “Thanks!” to “Actually, I got these at X just a couple of weeks ago, and I think they’re still on sale.”

      • apricity said:

        CommanderLogic has some great small talk suggestions! I’d also add Current Events as #6 (bearing in mind the no-politics-religion-bodies advice here), so for example talking about the Golden Globes that just happened. It’s really a variant on #2, a sort of Recent Events In Our Society topic, not just recent events that either of you have participated in.

        Comradde PhysioProffe also has a great suggestion about sport, although now that I am suddenly into sports I find that they are less useful for conversation than I had thought. That said if anyone asked me about my teams I would be super pleased with the conversational direction. SUPER PLEASED. LIKE I AM SUPER PLEASED THAT THE HOCKEY IS NOW BACK ahem.

        I also like to make small talk about anything interesting I’ve heard about/read/watched recently, like for example here in Australia now is a good time to see Jupiter, so I made small talk about that with my coworkers the other day. I will make the caveat that a lot of people find this a bit odd, but it can lead to some quite interesting conversations. Or some very strange looks. People’s mileage may vary considerably on this one.

      • VA said:

        My absolute favorite small-talk starter is “What’s been keeping you busy lately?”. The other person can steer the conversation to a topic that interests them *and* that they feel comfortable sharing, or they have an easy out to say “Oh, just life. What’s new with you?” if they don’t feel like talking about themselves. It works equally well with friends, acquaintances, coworkers, relatives, and strangers at cocktail parties.

  19. Koiane said:

    I’m pregnant now (13 weeks, yay!), and have started telling friends and acquaintances about it now. It’s weird how that makes it feel more real, somehow. So far I’ve only gotten one “should you be eating that?” which I welcomed because it showed genuine concern about bacteria that might be dangerous to the fetus. I knew her information was outdated, because it’s been three years since she was pregnant, and these recommendations change when new information is had.

    On the other hand, I have also gotten “nah, that’s okay, I ate lots of that while pregnant with our two, and they are ok”. This is in relation to listeria and toxoplasmosis, btw. My reply: “I am really not up for discussing why I won’t eat this. I have good reasons because this is what our national health directory recommends and I can send you the link later if you want to learn more.” That shut it down nicely, and I admit it was a little satisfying that the other person looked a little like a fish on land. It can be nice to refer to experts that laypeople really can’t contest with. Another variant that also works: “Yes, I know it is extremely rare, but the consequences are so enormous that I’d rather not take the risk.”

    Last time I was pregnant (six years ago) I got maybe one person touching my belly without asking. Not okay, but not traumatic either. Also, rather strange, one of the students in a course I was taking asked, very non-threateningly, if he could touch my belly – because it was so beautiful and pregnancy is such a beautiful and almost sacred thing. That was weird, but I said yes. Slightly flattering and slightly creepy/fetishising. This time, if anything similar happens again, I’ll probably say no with a confidence I didn’t have when I was younger.

    Last time, we didn’t tell anyone that we were expecting a girl, just to deflect a little of the massive onslaught of pink stuff that we knew we would be getting :| fuck I hate pink and when my baby is still small enough not to care that is not the colour it will be in most of the time jfc.

    Re discussing names: I told ONE close friend that we were considering a certain name if it was a girl, and she reacted with utter disgust because: “that’s a weak name and also it reminds me of this other name which belongs to the most horrible person ever so you should absolutely not get that name”. Well. Screw you too. That turned me off discussing potential names with anyone ever again, because I really don’t want that to happen this time around. Name is a decision for me and my husband, and our soon-to-be six year old daughter will maybe get a say in it too. But probably not.

    • Man, I can’t imagine saying anything in response to a possible name other than, “That’s really nice.” And possibly a reason why I think it’s nice. If I actually hate it I’d probably go with, “Is it a family name or do you just like it?” or something neutral like that.

  20. Darthtrina said:

    Back before ultrasounds, when my mom was expecting me, she was asked “Are you hoping for a boy or a girl? Well, as long as it’s healthy, right?” She replied, “No, I just want my baby,” which shut them right up. I imagine it may have helped signal that while having a baby in NICU was stressful, it wasn’t the end of the world for her.

    • THIS! ^^^

      Both my boys have a developmental disorder, and my eldest was in the Special Care Nursery (the one for sick babies that aren’t quite bad enough for NICU). I really couldn’t give a crap what genitals my kids have, I just wanted them to be born.

      I didn’t bother finding out the sex of my second because… irrelevant. I skipped the 20 week ultrasound entirely because I was young, low risk, and really couldn’t be bothered.

    • Pterinochilus murinus said:

      “No, I just want my baby.”

      VERY good answer. I’m going to store that one up for if I ever need it.

  21. Guava said:

    I totally second the advice to keep your baby names a secret until after the baby is born, and you have signed the birth certificate. Especially if you come from a family/ethnic background with a tradition about names, and you don’t plan to follow it. Or if you happen to gravitate toward unconventional names.

    I can’t tell you how many times I dealt with a variation of this conversation when I was pregnant:
    Person: “So, any ideas about what you’re going to name the baby?”
    Me: “We haven’t decided yet.”
    Person: “Oh, but what are some of the names you like?”
    Me: “I dunno…”
    Person: “Oh, come ON. You can tell me!”
    Me: “Ok, well actually I really like [name]”
    Person: “UGH, you can’t name him THAT, that’s horrible!”

    • manybellsdown said:

      This is SO TRUE and why I never get offended when even my closest friends choose not to share names with me.

      • caryatid said:

        who does this?!! how could anyone ever shit on someone’s BABY NAME! like their taste is so much better than pregnant couple’s?

        can you imagine if someone did this in other social settings?
        “what kind of pizza do you think you’ll be ordering?”
        “um, probably pepperoni, i really like it.”
        “OH MY GOD DO NOT ORDER PEPPERONI IT IS THE WORST, i know someone that had it once and they got bad gas and OMG how could you order that?”

        • My sister in law had told her boyfriend of two weeks our baby names. I called her (as I was suppose to baby sit her daughter) and this guy answered and when he asked who it was he said “you can;t name your baby xxx, that’s a horrible name” all I could say was “who the hell is this?!?!”.

        • Ace said:

          In an extreme case of shitting on baby names….

          I’m due next week, we know we’re having a girl, and we’re quite happy to tell anyone who asks that her middle name will be after my husband’s younger sister who he was really close to and died 6 months before we got married. (he wants to keep it her middle name, first name would be too painful for everyone involved) We figured, who would possibly object to that? It throws the name people a bone and anyone who objects looks like the biggest asshole ever. Which is exactly what a former co-worker did. She actually said something along the lines of ‘Oh sweetie, you can’t let him name her that, it’s so old fashioned. You should argue for something more modern like…’ and proceeded to rattle off half a dozen names.

          • Guava said:

            That is so obnoxious! My SIL did something similar. When I was pregnant with my eldest, I told her the names I was considering (after much badgering on her part.) She called me up a week later with a list of alternates!, because she said, “he’ll be bullied with a name like that.” Needless to say, we didn’t tell her anything the second time.

        • too-ticky said:

          I can certainly imagine people doing that in different social settings! Growing up I often witnessed friends and family members loudly denouncing their conversational partner’s taste in music, food (mostly beverages), cars, sports teams, etc. I’ve always been rather shy and worried about my peers not accepting me, so this obviously added to my issues with smalltalk. When someone asks me what bands I like or what my favourite dish is, I freeze up because I’m afraid of giving the ‘wrong’ answer. Every so often, when I’ve managed to convince myself I’m being silly and people aren’t that malicious, I run into someone (usually an adult!) who thinks it’s perfectly appropriate to judge me on my tastes and even include words like “ewww” in their reply. I can definitely see that pepperoni conversation happening, word for word. Needless to say if I ever get pregnant I will keep all the details completely quiet until after the fact, even from certain friends.

    • Note re: sharing baby names. I’m Jewish, and in Jewish communities it is actually extremely rude to ask about potential baby names, as the parents usually don’t reveal it until after the baby is born (hurray for miscarriage superstitions!). This makes it really easy to avoid the whole conversation, and I totally plan to take advantage of it when (if) I have kids.

    • Shaenon said:

      When my aunt was pregnant with her second child, some friends hated her top name choice–Elliott, an old family surname–so much that they wrote up a twenty-point list of reasons it was a bad name. Entries ranged from “Elliott sounds like a nerd” to “I knew a kid named Elliott in third grade and he picked his nose.”

      It was intended as a joke, and my aunt and uncle had a good laugh over it… but they didn’t name the baby Elliott. He grew up to be a nerd, though, so maybe that should have been his name after all.

      They also invited his older sister, who was four at the time, to name the baby. She picked “Tumblebum Cat-Cat.” Carson it was.

      • Tumblebum Cat-Cat is awesome.

        Of course, I wanted to name my younger sister “Pretzel,” so… there’s that….

        • Friopalope said:

          Until my parents brought my younger sister home, I was 100% convinced they were on board with my suggestion to name her Anastasia (after the cartoon).

  22. Suzy said:

    My friend’s wife had a fantastic way of dealing with unsolicited touching; she’d just look horrified and say “what the hell are you doing? I’m not pregnant.” She was, but the way people would try and backpedal was hilarious.

    I’m not pregnant, but I don’t like being touched by strangers ever, and I don’t understand why anyone would think they’re entitled to encroach someone’s personal space. Unwanted touching OF ANY KIND is legally defined as assault, regardless of the intention.

    • Guava said:

      OMG that line is hilarious!!! I didn’t get much by way of unsolicited touching during either of my pregnancies. Thankfully. I don’t like being touched by strangers ever, either.

  23. sdellis2 said:

    I am not pregnant, but several of my friends who recently had babies, or are currently pregnant have been dealing with this very issue. I went out to coffee with one, and she felt as if she had to defend her right to drink coffee to me (i said nothing other than an enthusiastic “yes” when she asked if anyone wanted to join her). The idea that people don’t know their own bodies or haven’t discussed the changing needs with their doctor is ridiculous.

    As for the touching. People are forever trying top touch me – no clue why. I find that “Why are you touching me” is a great way to make them stop.

    Best of luck LW!

  24. Tangentially related water-cooler conversation at work last month-ish:

    ME: Hi! How are you?
    FRIEND: Pregnant! How are you?
    ME: Um. Not pregnant!

    I still feel like we should have followed that up with a high-five.

    • A couple of weeks ago when the shit was hitting the fan about the stupid amount of work to be done between then and February, the Bosssman and I had the following conversation:

      ME: Well, I do have good news for you.
      BOSSMAN: What?
      ME: I’m not pregnant.

      He looked started, and then extremely relieved. I still giggle about that.

  25. I’ve never been pregnant, never wanted to be either, but I’d go through the roof if I was and someone touched me. I flinch from people sitting next to me on the train accidentally bumping or brushing my side with their elbows; it feels so intrusive. Anyone who felt free to touch me deliberately would get a reaming, colleagues, strangers, whoever. If it was colleagues (not that mine would) or people I knew, it’d be “Did you feel free to touch me like that before I was pregnant? No? Then what makes you think it’s okay to do it now?” Strangers would get a KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF comment just like any handsy creep ever has from me. I don’t care what their intent or goodwill is.

  26. boutet said:

    I found a really fun way to deal with people who touch my belly without asking (I’m just past 24 weeks now). They always touch up at the top of the bump, so I say, “No, actually, that part is me. If you want to touch the baby you have to go down here,” and I pat the lower side of the bump. It’s close enough to my crotch that no one has ever taken me up on it, and the idea of rubbing the “me” part of my belly isn’t appealing to them.
    I like watching their faces as the retreat.

  27. Linden said:

    What I found weird and unexpected while I was pregnant was that some men really gave me the eye on the street. You’d think being ready to pop with another man’s child wouldn’t be a turn-on, but for some men it is, go figure. Because I’ve proven I have had sex, they’re hoping to be next?

  28. Kelly said:

    Voraciously reading all these comments and the post .My group of friends are in our mid-late 20s and on the third pregnancy – but the first two were with someone who’s super-physical, and incredibly open about discussing her body at all times. Trying to remember to be more sensitive for our current pregnant friend and the others who will fall pregnant in the future. DO NOT TOUCH THE BELLY KELLY.

  29. ona555 said:

    Worst two pregnancy experiences– first pg, 7 months, getting on a bus with my arms full, two steps away from the bus entrance an elderly woman plants her hand onto my crotch. I was carrying low, you see, so crotch = belly from the outside observer. I am afraid I did not handle that well, if memory serves my response was a combination of “OMGWTF” and freeze then full bodily recoil. In later pregnancies it became more common for people to ask first probably because I was ten years older then. Those few folks who didn’t ask first got the freeze-and-stare. Let the awkward build, as a poster above quoted.

    Next experience was a few different letcherous men I encountered during my other pregnancies who thought it was their perogative to inform me that I “must have been busy.” Cause baby + pregnant belly = slut, which is bad for some reason, which of course then = public domain for gross comments and stares from strangers. Whee. The last time this happened I informed the offender loudly that I did not even know him so who the hell did he think he was talking to me like that (in front of my kids no less). He scoffed and huffed, but I sure felt better than I would have had I stayed silent like the times before. I am not known for my social tactfulness though so ymmv.

    I like CL love a good gory pregnancy or birth story, and have had to consciously refrain from telling my own to new prospective parents lest they be traumatized, and also, because TMI.

    • Rosa said:

      Oh my god, that is horrifying.

      One time I missed my eating schedule because of working late, and had to get off the commuter train to puke. These teenage girls who got off at the same spot laughed and pointed and were all “she’s so drunk! Look at her!”

      So I stood up right there in the gutter and bitched them out. Opened up my coat and shouted “I’m FUCKING PREGNANT and you better BE CAREFUL or it will HAPPEN TO YOU”. They were scared and probably thought I was insane but it made me feel so. much. better.

      I have a friend who almost got in a fist fight over a parking spot at the maternity clinic. People should be more careful around the pregnant women, some of us are aggro.

      • A friend of a friend of mine sent a woman to the emergency room.

        Friend was loading groceries or something into her car with her newborn in a carrier (one of those detachable carseat things? What are they called?) on the ground next to her. Apparently this woman was waiting for her to finish so she could pull out of the parking space next to her, and got impatient, so she WALKED OVER AND KICKED THE CARRIER WITH THE NEWBORN IN IT.

        At which point, Friend turned into The Hulk, grabbed the woman’s hair, and beat her with her own car. The woman had to get stitches.

        Luckily, the woman told the police what happened (including the part where she kicked a baby) and they were like “You’re lucky Friend didn’t kill you. Don’t do that anymore.”

        So yeah, seriously. Being A Dick To Mothers, Current Or Expecting = You Brought That On Yourself. :p

        • Utter East said:

          ROOOOOOAR MOTHER ANGER

          SERIOUSLY though, who kicks a baby? What the actual fuck. o_O

        • theamander said:

          Pennyposh, your friend of a friend is AWESOME.

        • RIGHT?

          I am usually super-uncomfortable and/or totally against endorsing even hypothetical violence… but I guess there are exceptions to certain rules. You kick a baby, you get what’s coming to ya.

          And, yeah, I’m kind of in awe of this lady. :)

        • Rosa said:

          Wow. Just fucking wow.

    • goldenpeanut said:

      Re: Busy comments:

      “No, it took 2, maybe 3 minutes. I just had to lay still.”

  30. My response to, “Are you hoping for a girl?”/”I bet husband really wants a boy!”/”What sex to you want?” was always, “Well, as long as it’s not an iguana, I’ll be happy. Although an iguana might be pretty cool…”

    People tended to get quiet and walk away after that, although if they laughed, I knew I’d probably found a Friend Person. :)

    • Elodie Rose said:

      I once (insensitively) asked an acquaintance if she knew what she was having and she answered like this, but subsituting dragon for iguana. I saved face by responding “we’ll that’s right, boys and girls are much the same to raise but the teething problems with dragons are a nightmare!”

  31. MamaCheshire said:

    As a person who has been pregnant twice, I would like to say that all of this is EXCELLENT advice.

    As for the “what are you having/what do you hope for?” question, since we decided on FirstKid’s name very early on and the short form of FirstKid’s name (and how we always refer to FirstKid) is gender-neutral, we always said, “We want a [FirstKid’s short name], so whichever way it goes, we’re set.”

    FirstKid turned out to be a girl. So of course when I got pregnant with SecondKid, there was lots of speculation that I’d want a boy – in that case, I’d talk up all the advantages of having a second girl, notably, that it would mean that FirstKid and SecondKid could share a room in the long term, and possibly SecondKid could wear FirstKid’s clothes.

    FirstKid and SecondKid do, indeed, share a room – but when SecondKid wore baby sizes, she was always changing sizes at the opposite season from FirstKid and thus the hand-me-downs were minimally useful. FirstKid and SecondKid also have substantially different builds, coloring, and tastes in colors, which means that with the possible exception of school uniforms there won’t be a whole lot of hand-me-downs.

    • Jess said:

      Don’t opposite sex siblings share bedrooms? I did til I was seventeen.

      • I did with my younger brother for a long time, then started with my younger-older sister (the younger of two who are both older; I have two brothers, two sisters). I’m actually a trans guy so either way I have shared a bedroom with a sibling of the opposite gender or sex. :) We rearranged the bedrooms when my oldest sister was overseas so probably I was… 12-13 when it switched to sister instead of brother? Definitely before I was 15 anyway.

      • MamaCheshire said:

        It’s complicated for me. I work in social welfare in the state where I live, and one of the “housing rules” that comes up when e.g., approving foster homes or deciding how many bedrooms a family needs for assistance is that opposite-gender siblings over the age of six should not share a room except in a short-term emergency. I don’t even necessarily agree with it, but it’s official state policy and I’d feel weird breaking it as an employee. *shrug*

  32. Halite said:

    I also have my little two-month old hanging out here with me and while I was really dreading people touching me, I got super lucky and managed to avoid like ninety percent of the pregnancy weirdness from other people.

    Mostly when people at work asked me “And how are yoooooou?” obviously wanting to talk about the pregnancy, I answered with a status update about whatever project I was working on at the time. I really wanted to make it clear that the pregnancy was only one of the many interesting things going on in my life.

    The only unsolicited advice I got was not to walk near construction zones because the noise was bad for the baby. Which was just so WTF that I couldn’t do anything but make O.o face.

    Dealing with the *family* weirdness is a whole ‘nother box of frogs. *sigh*

  33. Halite said:

    Also, I avoided the name weirdness by laying a guilt trip on ppl.

    I’d tell ppl “We’ve named him after Mr. H’s grandpa who was a Canadian war hero and who recently passed away” and then give them A Serious Face.

    No one ever said nothing :P

  34. randomwaltz said:

    It’s been 21 years… I don’t remember any trouble with people touching me uninvited. But lots of people will want to put their hands on the cute little baby. The best thing was the baby bunny-suit. Pink (oh well), with ears. Nearly everyone was able to restrain themselves from poking her nose, and just tug on her bunny-ears instead.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      Yes. This drove me bazoo. I practiced Serious Face and saying “please don’t touch my baby” after it happened a few times, because seriously: don’t touch my baby. Especially not my newborn baby and its immature immune system.

    • Jolly said:

      Man, this makes me want to screenprint up some newborn-sized onesies that just say “DON’T TOUCH ME PLEASE.”

  35. TheMama said:

    Always, ALWAYS:

    “SLEEP NOW*!! Ha, ha!! Your life is gonna change once that baby’s born!!”

    *replace with whatever you’re currently doing/talking about doing, be it eating in a restaurant, watching a movie, spending time with your partner, but it was usually sleep.

    1. Fuck off. It doesn’t matter how much sleep I get now, I’ll still be delirious after the first two days of no sleep once the baby is born. Please don’t make me feel more guilty and anxious now, before baby, than I already am.

    2. Fuck off. I want to be excited about this baby and I’m already nervous. Why does everyone jump straight to fearmongering when they see a pregnant lady?

    3. Fuck off. I KNOW MY LIFE IS GOING TO CHANGE. What, I got pregnant and breezily thought, “oh I’ll just have the baby and then continue as I was, I can always leave it an extra bowl of food when I go out, or give it twenty bucks for a pizza when I want to pop out with some friends”? Anyone who is pregnant knows shit’s about to get different really fast. We know that. Please don’t patronize me by pretending I’m an idiot who has never heard of parenthood.

    • Rana said:

      That sleep thing always has baffled me. It’s not like you can store up sleep!

      • caryatid said:

        oh how i wish you could! :)

      • manybellsdown said:

        It won’t matter anyway, because you don’t get any sleep that last month BEFORE the baby anyway. Having to pee every hour like clockwork interferes.

      • Friopalope said:

        Actually, there is something called the “sleep bank” theory. I kid you not. If I’m remembering this right, basically how much sleep you’ve been getting lately is more relevant to your energy level on any given day than how much sleep you got the night before. So regular sleep habits will help you be more alert for at least the first couple of sleepless nights.

    • J_L said:

      Oh god, the “Sleep now” comments. During the last month of my pregnancy, I couldn’t lie on my back which is the position I always sleep in, had constant ligament pains in the nighttime, and woke up a million times a night to use the bathroom. I slept better after the baby was born! She was, thankfully, quite a good sleeper from the start.

    • Guava said:

      Yes, I hated that one too. I was on a hike once (while visibly pregnant) and some jackass passed me on the trail and called out, “Your life will NEVER be the same!” This was from a complete stranger. I shouted back, “No shit!” and kept hiking.

    • Virginia said:

      Jeebus, I didn’t even BEAR the kids, just married their dad, and my life hasn’t been the same!

      My gosh, if only I had seen that coming, what with the presence of kids there right in front of me and all.

  36. manybellsdown said:

    Oh my god, I just remembered the WEIRDEST pregnancy-small-talk conversation I had. I was teaching preschool still, and one of the dads asked me if I wanted some of his wife’s old maternity clothes. Except … what he meant was did I want her old maternity PANTIES.

    I kind of stammered something like I was just wearing my regular ones under the bump, thanks, and he said “Well that’s not very attractive.” At that point my brain kicked back into gear and I said “I was not looking for your opinion on the attractiveness of my underwear, thanks.”

    • caryatid said:

      eewwwwwww…so inappropriate!

      • Guava said:

        X 1000

    • Elikit said:

      Okay, that’s just creepy. I wonder if his wife knew he was out there trying to get other women to wear her undies…

      • manybellsdown said:

        And really, how are giant maternity panties MORE attractive?

        • That In A Hat said:

          Second-hand giant maternity panties, no less…

          • Sarah in Tokyo said:

            Everyone’s got a fetish, I guess…

    • staranise said:

      My dad’s family has a history of really old-fashioned English names, and a serious aversion to throwing things away. They’d much rather bequeath old things to a new generation.

      Thus did I once find myself saying, “No thank you, Grandma, I do not want any of Great-Aunt Ethel’s panties.”

      • *dying of laughter*

    • ReanaZ said:

      Whoa. That’s… all kinds of weird. I mean, the clothes are one thing (depending on the place’s culture, tone, and his personality, maybe creepy or maybe totally fine), but a man offering a different women only his wife’s maternity underwear?! All kinds of bizarre.

  37. I was still at uni when I was pregnant with my first. One day I was walking back to my car when a post-grad student RAN ACROSS THE ROAD to stop me and ask if I would be interested in participating in his study on how overweight people manage weight loss…

    I just looked blankly at him and replied, “Well, I’m 7 months pregnant so I don’t think I would fit your criteria.”

    He was Scandinavian and I don’t think I have *ever* seen somebody turn so red.

    A couple of weeks later I was submitting paperwork to Centrelink (Australian social security) and had to explain to the lady behind the counter that I was exempt from looking for work because I had less than 6 weeks till my due date. She looked me up and down and said, “Are you sure you’re pregnant?”

    WTF???

    • Guava said:

      WTF, indeed! Something similar happened to me when I was 8 months pregnant. I was purchasing lunch in a sandwich shop and paid with my debit card, which has a photo of me (taken before I got pregnant).

      The shop manager (an older man) made a big show of studying my face, then studying the card, then studying my face again, then he said, “My, my, you have gained a great deal of weight!”

      [Meanwhile the girl making sandwiches behind him stared at him in horror]

      “Yes!” I said. “That’s because, as you can see, I am 8 months pregnant.”
      “No, no,” he protested. “I am not talking about your belly, I am talking about your face!”

      [Girl making sandwiches placed her face in her hands]

      • Private Editor said:

        I just. I can’t. What.

        I’m with the girl. That’s a face-in-hands moment: the moment when your boss makes a gigantic jackass of himself in front of god and everybody.

  38. Elikit said:

    When my friend was pregnant, her co-workers were the WORST.

    She has a period of being very puke-y and tired, and one of her co-workers said, “I bet it’s a girl. Girls make you weak. Boys make you strong.”

    Then another one chimed in with, “And girls drain away your beauty!”

    Way to tell an expecting mother that her baby girl fetus is a succubus who’s making her weak and ugly!

    • Do people not understand the problem with saying “you really screwed up by having [a boy/a girl/another boy/etc.]”?

    • Drew said:

      That fetus owes me tree-fitty!

    • Lill said:

      Worst one I ever heard, to a friend who was expecting twins – a boy and a girl – “I bet [boyfriend] is super excited about the boy!”
      Her response was the best ever: “Actually, I think he’s planning to love both of our children equally.”
      Use the awkward, people. Use it to your advantage.

      • I can’t figure it out, but there is really something about the wording there that makes this even more perfect than most passive-aggressive awkwardness acknowledgement… Possibly the “I think…” since it also has the implication of “You know, I haven’t actually asked him whether he’s already picked his favourite, but….”

        Regardless, it’s pure awesome!

    • ona555 said:

      My own mother told me after my daughter was born that girls steal your beauty. She’s got two daughters, and I am one of them. So basically, she told me that she thinks she’s ugly and it’s all my (and my sister’s) fault, and that due to the birth of my brand new baby girl, I’d become ugly as well. So many layers of wrong.

  39. J. Preposterice said:

    I think Commander Logic’s boundary-drawing suggestions are all good ones. I’d add in some of the Miss Manners responses as well — “Why would you say that to me?” is a favorite, as is “Why do you want to know?” — and oh, darn it, who is it who came up with “Wow” (followed by awkward silence and then topic change)? That one’s good, too.

    One thing I thought I’d say because birth horror stories always upset me and I never wanted to be the person who did that to anyone else, and then after my son was born I was talking to a pregnant neighbor and it just CAME OUT OF MY MOUTH — I think that, in my case, I was more traumatized than I knew (I was fine, baby was fine, it was just a rough birth), and my jerkbrain decided HEY LET US PROCESS OUT LOUD. I think this might be the case with lots of people who do this, because we don’t have a super-great mechanism in our culture for dealing with these kinds of things. After I horrified my poor neighbor, I decided I needed to talk about this with my therapist a LOT more, but even now (years later), I don’t feel like I’ve really dealt with the problem and end up biting my tongue around pregnant women a lot to avoid spewing it out again. Anyway — I’m not suggesting that you don’t draw boundaries with Horror Story People, but I did want to give some insight into why that happens, sometimes, because it was a complete mystery to me until I turned into one of them.

    • commanderlogic said:

      I think the interest in telling birth horror stories is that they can function as a comforting mechanism for the mother-to-be. “It was awful, but look! I survived! So you’re going to be okay, too.”

      Also, there’s a storytelling bias for the bad stories; the 54 hours of unproductive labor, the early surprise baby, the baby who didn’t breathe for an hour, the 14-pound behemoth, etc. That’s the stuff that makes people’s ears perk up. No one gives a damn about your eight-hour, epidural pain-free birth of a normal-sized baby from which you recovered in a week, but those stories are out there, too. Some births are fast and simple.

      But if you don’t want to hear the stories at all, that’s cool! Stand your ground!

      • J. Preposterice said:

        I think there’s some of that, too — it was horrible, but everyone is fine! — but I do wonder how much of it is HERE IS MY DAMAGE LET ME SHOW YOU IT OH WHOOPS *internal sobbing*. Because that’s definitely what it was for me.

        These days I carefully offer “well, I had two difficult births, but they turned out well”, but that’s because of using my teeth as an interrupt switch on my tongue…and lots of therapy.

      • Rosa said:

        I got the opposite – I was so sick, I mostly got a lot of “you are a lazy whiner just do this thing that totally worked for me and get over yourself” and then after he was born some condescending sympathy about “my birth experience”. Birth was fucking AWESOME, people, pregnancy was what sucked for me.

        Some of those people, I puked on. The rest I just tried to kill with my eyes, and one condescending prick of a chiropractor I wrote a really bad online review about.

    • staranise said:

      That’s the kind of stuff I think actual parenting groups are good for–where you meet in the basement of a community hall or something every week for a few months, and every night you talk about some different aspect of parenting, and then break for cookies and juice. It’s a good space to get the stories out and get perspective from others, so it’s not just stored up wordvomit.

    • I had a coworker who must have been traumatized or something. She’d had her kids 3 years before and was STILL talking about pregnancy and childbirth. To make it even more totally inappropriate both me and my boss (the other people who had to hear this rambling) were and are uninterested in having children or the medical process thereof. (I am also totally creeped out by pretty much the whole of biology, so any kind of biological process is the last thing ever want to talk about. I have fainted from hearing medical texts read at me, this is not a joke.)

      At the time I just was really annoyed by it, but now I wish we were still in touch so I could tell her to get a therapist.

      • J. Preposterice said:

        I have a friend who does workshops on healing from traumatic birth. I know a lot of folks (myself included) who kind of…look at them longingly but think “ours wasn’t THAT traumatic, compared to [insert person with worse birth story here]”. I think there is a lot of this kind of thinking out there, and not a lot of support for “hey, it’s ok, you deserve help, too”.

        Basically, I don’t know how it is elsewhere, but in the US we are super screwed up about birth in a lot of ways, and end up not helping a lot of people who could use help because of it.

        • rebekah said:

          I think a lot of it comes from the fact that many women especially if they get pregnant really young know none of the things that go on during pregnancy and labor and so sharing that information is their way of trying to make sure someone is more prepared then they were for it.

        • “Other people have it worse” is a HUGE issue on all subjects. I do hear it most from elderly people who we often have to convince to accept help (work with a non-profit doing disaster recovery) but it does cut across all demographics. Mixing with the weirdness Western society has about pregnancy and childbirth can only make it worse I suspect.

    • RedSonja said:

      I have never been, nor do I intend to be pregnant. But I make a point of telling all my pregnant friends about my college roommate who had an epidural, it wore off, she got another one, and then the baby practically fell out. The end. I always preface it with “This is to counteract all the horror stories you’ve been hearing!”

  40. Tbird said:

    One co-worker, older Christian man, stopped to lecture me about how if my baby was a boy I should circumcise him because “it’s cleaner”.
    EVERY MOTHER I KNEW had to tell me horror stories about childbirth. No exceptions.

    • Jolly said:

      Haha, wow. People thinking it is appropriate to discuss a child’s reproductive organs without invitation… that is really a whole ‘nother level of fucked. I hope you thanked him for caring so much about your child’s genitals.

  41. Key said:

    It so happened that my sister, 9 years younger than me, and I had our first babies at the same time. It seemed to me that she got WAY more unsolicited advice and commentary from acquaintances and strangers, especially after the baby was born. I got it very rarely, and it’s not because I give off any kind of “don’t mess with me” vibe – I’m pretty extroverted and conversational.
    My theory is that people feel entitled to tell young-appearing mothers what to do – anybody else experience that?

    • Monica said:

      Oh yeah – over and over. I also get the line, “But you look so young to have children” to which I reply, “That’s because I am.”

      • That was my answer as well.

    • manybellsdown said:

      I didn’t get so much of the “telling me what to do”, but possibly that was because I looked *really* young. At 24 I looked about 14 on a bad day, so mostly I got horrified stares.

      There was one old guy, though, who came up to me at the supermarket, pointed at the stroller, and said “You should be in there.” I thought he just meant I looked really tired. It took me a few minutes to realize that he meant I looked like an infant.

      • ahahaha when I was 18 and still identified as a lady I was in a relationship with a guy a couple years older than me who had a 2 year old sister. Everyone in my family looks younger than they are – my 35 year old sister still gets IDed for alcohol and his mother’s first reaction on seeing me was “Are you sure she’s 18?” I got glared at SO MUCH when we were out with the sprog. So, so much. I always wanted to just yell at them, “She’s not even mine!!”

  42. Sarah G. said:

    Write your baby’s name down clearly and give it to Person In Charge Of Such Things at your hospital (SO, nurse, doctor, whatever), or it may end up misspelled. My bf is Michael, and his mom was unconscious from surgery, and the nurse who filled out his birth certificate wrote “Micheal.” His mom didn’t get it corrected in time because he was a NICU baby and she had more on her mind. It is a *giant hassle* to fix a birth certificate, so make sure the name is spelled right!

    • J. Preposterice said:

      Oh yeah — don’t assume anything about birth certs, either! My father filled out the paperwork for one of my siblings, and assumed that, because he was married to my mother, he could just…leave father’s name blank & the state would put him in there automatically.

      Not so much, turns out. AND the state doesn’t actually have forms to fix that problem! They kept telling my mother they would need her to fill out a form informing her husband she’d had a child out of wedlock. It was eventually sort-of straightened out: the birth cert for that sib STILL says “Father Unknown” on it, unless one requests the “amended” version. Luckily, everyone finds it amusing at this point.

      • Mary said:

        >>They kept telling my mother they would need her to fill out a form informing her husband she’d had a child out of wedlock

        Whaaaaaat??! It’s the state’s job to tell a husband that his wife’s been “straying”? Holy crap.

        That’s even worse than the alert that pops up on the British registration database that says, “Alert! Baby’s name is different to father’s. Proceed?” Which my friend refers to as the “undermining patriarchy klaxon”.

        • Neither of which is as bad as Saudi Arabia, which now texts husbands whose wives are leaving the country. Because EVERY woman has to have a male guardian, and must have permission from that guardian to travel outside the country. The man doesn’t even have to request this helpful “service.” No doubt there are lovely aspects of Saudi culture, too, but I count my blessings I was not born there.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          It was some kind of thing where if they informed my father she’d had a child out of wedlock he could then magically assume legal paternity of the child? Or something? I was a kid at the time but I remember my mother spending HOURS on the phone over a period of a year trying to get it sorted out. “This baby’s father IS my husband. He’s the father of ALL my children. Why is this so difficult?” I should ask her sometime how she finally got it to its sort-of fixed state….

          Years later, this episode came in handy during an argument about marriage equality — some hosenozzle was asserting that since paternity of children born to married couples is assumed to be the husband, what happened if a lesbian cheated on her wife with a man and got pregnant? then her wife would legally be the “father” and that makes no sense and that is a DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE FOR SURE. He had no comeback to the response “you know that’s not true everywhere, right?” with true-life example My Sibling!

    • Oh lord, that reminds me of Magrat’s daughter ending up named Esmerelda Note Spelling in whichever Discworld novel it was (Carpe Jugulum, I think).

  43. staranise said:

    I have an unnaturally curved spine and I carry fat on my belly. Normally when anyone asked me how far along my baby was, I’d curl my arms lovingly over my pooch and say, “Oh, no, it’s just fat.” I’m not offended because I don’t think it’s bad. So it’d happen maybe once a year and I’d move on.

    But now I’ve gained a bit of weight, and also apparently I live in an apartment building now where my neighbours (who are often not native English speakers) think it is SUPER FRIENDLY to be like “Yay! You’re pregnant!”. So I get asked about it every other week sometimes. I’ve started to actually feel bad when they get upset or embarrassed when I say I’m not.

    But I don’t know a better tactic. It’s not like I can stay three months pregnant all year round.

    • Mercy said:

      Because of the particular body type women in my family have, plus the mysteriously enlarged spleen and liver, plus how I stand when I’m tired and my slipped discs hurt, sometimes I look like I’m 9 months pregnant with twins or triplets. If people ask me if I’m pregnant, I say ‘nope, not pregnant, just fat’ most of the time, which embarasses them much more than me unless it’s a very bad day for me. Sometimes people ask me if I’m having twins. Sometimes I answer THOSE people “yeah, spleen and liver”. >.< I've looked this way for at least the past four years, by now it's mostly strangers who intrude.

  44. Kathleen2 said:

    I got no unsolicited touching, only good friends who knew me well would ask occasionally. I suspect the fact that I’m almost 6 feet tall has something to do with this. Also that pregnant women get to dress like professional adults now, instead of the fluffy todderware they used to make – Continuing to dress like a serious adult will slow down the patronizing.

    My son knows he has the normal version of a Hobbit name and is rather please by it, ( he’s heard the books, seen the movies and owns the Lego sets…)

    The funniest thing anyone said to me when I was pregnant was the goofy electricians assistance who yelled as he was leaving “Bye! Thanks! Have a nice baby!”
    ( we did) Good luck!

    • Irene said:

      I remember when I was in college a woman who worked in the cafeteria was going on maternity leave, and a bunch of folks sang “Happy Birthing to You.”

  45. noirem said:

    I’m 39 and a half weeks pregnant and only had one person other than my husband or midwife touch my bump and that was my boss/friend who apologised after I went with “wow.”

    with the “are you hoping for a boy or a girl?” question I always answer “yes”. When people push I say we’re just hoping for 10 fingers and 10 toes, though an extra of either isn’t really a problem.
    My mother, otoh, has been telling everyone the gender “though we’re not entirely sure” which explains why my aunt sent us a fuscia track suit. My husband and I had the exact same “dear god, what is that thing?” reaction to it.

    • commanderlogic said:

      Oh man! Even though we’re only 80% sure we’ve got a girl on the way, we were getting pink stuff at an uncomfortable clip. I don’t mind SOME pink, but gah! And “princess” and “shopping!” branded stuff is right out. I finally put a stop to it by reminding people there’s a 20% chance it’s a boy, and we aren’t about to turn away good clothes; boy or girl, you’re getting pictures of the baby in this tutu.

      The thought of a boy in a tutu by their own hand tends to freak out the gender essentialists, and delight everyone else.

      • My current plan to stem the flow of OMGPINK (if, when I one day have child, it’s turns out to be a girl) is to just make it clear that whatever clothes I get for this baby will be used on any and all subsequent ones (which I may or may not ever have, but they don’t need to know that).

        • karinacinerina said:

          Jungle themed clothing tends to be beige and green and altogether (to me) much cuter than “Daddy’s Princess” even if it’s in navy blue.
          Also the selection of nerd-parent-friendly baby crap out there is astounding!!!!!

      • Natalie said:

        That is brilliant, in a “turn their own issues against them” sort of way.

  46. Sally said:

    Having not had a child myself, I tend to resort to silence as the best policy, as I don’t have anything personally relevant to add to any discussion.
    On a similar thread, my oldest and bestest friend is going through the midst of IVF treatment. She clearly wants to talk about it with someone neutral and not emotionally involved, but I made a conscious decision to leave the conversational-opening-ball in her court.
    I’ll throw out a generic “how’s things?” And if she replies, “Oh fine, did you watch the news last night?” Then that’s fine, obviously today is a “not want to talk about it day”. But if she replies with “well the drugs are making me super bloated and I was sick in the night and I… and I… and I…” Then I try and listen as best as I can. Because I know her so well I’m pretty in tune with knowing the questions she wants me to ask, and the ones she doesn’t.
    I try and remember when she has hospital appointments and text to wish her luck… Basically trying my best to let her know I’m thinking of her, without pressurising her for any info she doesn’t want to give. I’d like to think that the same rules will apply in the months to come, and the same will go for any other pregnant person I encounter.

    • Allison said:

      You sound like an amazing friend. She is lucky to have you.

    • MHM said:

      I love your approach. So gentle & supportive.

  47. dromance said:

    The advice for non-preggers small-talkers is soooo much appreciated. I’m not particularly great with or interested in kids, which means I’m even more useless at talking about them, so when my friends and co-workers are pregnant I often end up awkwardly emulating the ‘expected’ small talk lines, which I can see now are often problematic. Lesson learned!

    • TheJackdaw said:

      Seconded! I’ve just reached that age when suddenly everyone is pregnant and on more than one occasion the ‘was it planned?’ question has popped out before I’ve even had a second to think ‘that’s a gross thing to ask, TheJackdaw, let’s not be gross in public’.

      For me, it comes from a place of being really quite squicked by the idea of pregancy and babies and that question is usually my way of stopping myself from saying ‘but why??’. This is a timely reminder that other people’s wonderful news is not the place for me to air out my feelings about certain things. Thank you, Commader Logic and the Awkward Army!

      • Utter East said:

        Hahaha, I’m with you on the “BUT WHY” part; I’ve had to savagely clamp down on that impulse whenever a friend announces they’re getting married as well, although it’s more of a “what for?” in that case.

  48. blitzgal said:

    Wow, I just had this conversation with a co-worker! We’ve had a bit of a baby boom in our office over the past five years or so — I’d say around 20 babies born, and another on the way. I was asking someone if people kept trying to touch her, and she said no, that “people have learned that it is rude to do that.” I took that as a sign of progress, if people in general now understand that it’s still a person’s body they are dealing with, and that being pregnant doesn’t mean you are somehow public property all of a sudden. But I can still see that there is all kinds of “drive-by mommying” that goes on, even during the pregnancy.

  49. Ace said:

    I must have hit the pregnant lady lottery because I’m 39 weeks today and have yet to have a stranger touch me. I’m totally cool with friends and family trying to feel baby kicking (and have done my best to inform them when it is) but they all ask before touching too. And my husband and I are in the middle of trying to sell our house so we’ve got a revolving door of strangers in and out to view, none of them has even asked for a feel (thank goodness)

    I have gotten all the same questions as above and am generally happy to answer all of them except for a little dodge around the name. We’ve got an (almost) bullet-proof middle name (after my husband’s sister that died 6 months before we were married) so no one really bothers us about it, and we say we’ve got a few ideas for a first name but are waiting to decide on the final until we meet her. That usually gets us out of the conversation but if it doesn’t, saying that we’re working on it and listing a few names that people came up with that we didn’t like, or even better, names we like but can’t use because of initials (We live in London, ARS, HMS, PMS, B_S all are no goes.) is a quick discussion that usually gets it out of everyone’s system.

    I did have a district manager (male) that while I was at work treated me like a plague carrier in the nicest way possible if that makes sense. He would make all the polite chit-chat about how i was feeling or how I was getting on at work etc, but he’d stand as far away from me as possible and always looked a bit like I was contagious. It made a contrast from the very international crew I worked with who wanted to talk all baby, all the time. Because they were very international I got every old wive’s tale you’ve ever heard, at least 2 per continent (except Australia). And it was kinda weird when a few of them said they knew I was having a girl because you know, I was getting wider and that’s the way girls carry. (Even more annoying for them to be proven right at the scan)

    Best of luck LW, I’ll give you the best wishes I’ve received so far which was that I hope everything for your pregnancy, delivery, and baby that you hope for yourself. (from a retired midwife! how nice is that?)

    • Private Business said:

      We’ve definitely got a loooong list of categories of names we are Definitely Not Considering, and Unfortunate Initials is among them. I’m glad to hear that “let me tell you about names we don’t want!” has worked as a distraction from the “what are you naming the baby”. :)

    • Good for you for considering the initials! I had a middle school teacher, Mrs. G___, whose husband really wanted to go with Frederick Alexander, but was quickly and easily convinced to switch the order once the initial issue was pointed out.

  50. Siobhan Clarke said:

    Another reason not to share the name is that you will find people start referring to the fetus BY NAME which is just unacceptably creepy in my book (plus, Jewish, so that also feels like the height of tempting fate to me, but I know people have very different feelings about that one).

    We also went with disclosing the gender because we wanted to stop using “it” when we referred to the baby-to-be, but each time I did I diverted the conversation by framing the gender disclose as “the tech said 95% probability, so if I birthed this same baby 20 times we’d get a boy once!” so I gave the info but simultaneously moved the conversation on from gender to slightly absurd and baffling approaches to statistical analysis. (Also, we are androgynous enough lesbians that we were confident we would not receive anything pink for the kiddo, and that turned out to be so.)

    You will also hear labor horror stories because there’s a lot of labor trauma out there and nowhere to process it, and women and their relatives will be triggered when they see you. That doesn’t excuse the bad boundaries–it’s definitely not okay for them to dump their trauma on you!–but it’s a fact in our culture and something to be prepared for. I got stories from acquaintances, co-workers, even the cashier at the party-goods store when my mom and I were picking stuff up for my baby shower, and that one wasn’t even about her but about her daughter-in-law. Just remember that labor is incredibly variable and if it’s not your mom, your sister, or your biological aunt, their stories have absolutely no bearing on what your experience will be like.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      Yes, big yes, on the labor trauma & lack of processing space. It’s messed up, but that’s the way it is. Like I said above, realizing I needed to process my birth in therapy helped a lot, but it’s still…there, trying to come out of my damn mouth.

    • Key said:

      “You will also hear labor horror stories because there’s a lot of labor trauma out there and nowhere to process it, and women and their relatives will be triggered when they see you.”

      This is so true.

    • We have a family tradition, which I love, of referring to fetuses as “BJ”, for “Baby “. I was BJ once, as were both my brothers and all of my cousins, and if I’m ever pregnant, I expect I will also refer to the spawn as that until it’s born. Though it’s mostly used by our family and friends.

      • That was supposed to read “Baby (lastname)”. I think I broke the HTML…

      • staranise said:

        My family has fetus names, like Pretzel and Peanut. I am years and years away from having a baby, if ever, but I have already called dibs on “Seamonkey”.

  51. smb said:

    Here’s a trick for dealing with belly touchers that worked for me, FWIW. When I was pregnant we were attending a church where some people were really handsy, and I didn’t like it. So I giftwrapped an empty box and brought it to church with me. People would ask, “Oh, who’s the present for?” or “Oh, what’s in the box?” which gave me the opportunity to reply, “It’s an empty box. I’m just using it as a physical barrier because I really don’t like it when people touch my belly.” And then I’d add lots of disarming laughter, in the manner of an eccentric who thinks her idea is just a gas.

    Okay, it’s a bit circuitous, but what it let me do was to tell people that I didn’t like bellytouching, in advance of their having so encroached, and in response to an actual question of theirs.

  52. TimS said:

    Great comment. Very helpful for someone who worries about proper social interaction.

    Re: “I bet HusbandLogic wants a boy.” As a father, I hate that attitude SO MUCH.

    Relatedly, please STOP trying to give me a (metaphorical) cookie for being an active co-parent – like when I’m taking him to the park without Mom. I like raising my son and want to do a good job of it. Complimenting me for trying (as opposed to succeeding – it sometimes happens) just gives cover for people who don’t want to try. GRR.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      You should see the lasers that come out of my husband’s eyes when people compliment him on “babysitting” the kids. I think you’d appreciate it.

  53. For a more or less similar topic, when I have friends who are engaged or redecorating, I often ask, “do you have any wedding news? // Do you have any housey news?” They can say “Not really” or “things are going fine” if they want to change the subject, and I don’t insist.

  54. [Disclaimer: none of the following will probably be of any use to the LW, who sounds a bit less passive-aggressive than I am…]

    I am not pregnant or planning on getting pregnant, but this post got me thinking about how I would react to this stuff.

    Generally, if someone is saying or doing something with an ulterior motive, I get annoyed by the manipulation and choose to take their words or actions at face value so the person is forced to confront their own secret motives. Meaning: most people who make pregnancy small-talk are just looking for validation, not for actual honest answers to their questions; they’ll say really stupid things without thinking. I think they deserve to know their questions are stupid.

    Therefore, if I was pregnant and told someone I was having a boy and they asked “Oh, are you happy it’s a boy?” I’d probably say “No. It’s devastating. I don’t think I’ll ever fully be able to love him, actually. Sure, I’ll pretend…but it’ll always feel a bit hollow, and I think on some level he’ll be able to sense that.” I’d say this in a really hokey, deadpan way so they’d know I didn’t mean it – but I bet it would shut them up.

    If someone asked me about names, I would give a deliberately horrible name – and when they pooh-poohed it I’d say “Oh. Well, when my beloved grandmother was on her deathbed I swore to her that I’d pass her name on to my first born…but naaaah, you’re right, it is a stupid name. Well, back to the old drawing board!”

    If someone I knew touched my belly without asking, I’d honk their boob or grab their ass. If they got offended, I’d say “Oh, I’m sorry, I thought this was get-up-in-someone’s-personal-space-without-permission day.”

    If a stranger on the street touched my belly without asking, I’d shriek “What the fuck are you doing?!?” and if they said something like “…I wanted to feel the baby…” I’d go “It’s not a baby. It’s a basketball-sized ovarian tumour that I’m on the waiting list to get removed. You were close, though!”

    Okay, I might not have the guts to do that last thing. I’m terminally shy and have a hard time defending my boundaries sometimes. I’m also not sure I’d feel comfortable inventing a dead grandmother story. But the other things, I’d totally do.

    • Myrin said:

      I’m seriously in love with the get-up-in-someone’s-personal-space-without-permission day. Like, seriously.

    • Suzy said:

      Yeah, I think if a stranger went to touch my abdomen I’d freak and scream somethin. I’d make it awkward for them, I’d probably just walk away after and leave them feeling hopefully bad that they’d scared a pregnant woman.I do NOT like to be touched by strangers ever. People can be sickeningly entitled. I’m really twitchy about boundaries, especially physical ones.

    • Okay, see, no you wouldn’t. You would not. And the reason is that all these people who are getting up in your face with their stupid shit, they are trying to be nice. They are happy for you! They want to be nice to you! They just suck at it. Also, they are going to be one of these people:

      – Your boss
      – Your partner’s mother
      – The extremely sweet daffy old lady who gets up on the bus to give you her seat and speaks wistfully about her own babies who are all grown up now
      – The director of the best daycare you can afford
      – Your anesthesiologist during labor

      Or other people you can’t bring yourself to piss off. So really, my guess is that, just like all the other pregnant women out there, you would make that polite grimace that says, “I know you’re trying to be nice,” and move on with your day.

      Seriously, I am so over people who explain that they’ve never been harassed, but they know that if they ever were in that situation, they would handle it with such ruthless finesse that their harasser would immediately implode in a tiny fireball of shame.

      • I didn’t say I’ve never been harassed. I said I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve been harassed for other things, and yes, sometimes I did say similarly outrageous things to make people shut up, and it worked.

        Other times, for a myriad of reasons, I did not have the guts to say anything. And my original post openly admits that I have days like this.

        So your problem is…?

        • commanderlogic said:

          The same problem that made me hesitate to let your comment through moderation: you’re being abrasive and a shade unforgiving.

          You AND metaphortunate need to stop speculating on what the other person would or should do, because this is just going to get gnarly if you don’t, and then warning and banning and gnashing of teeth. Okay?

          NOW, perversecowgirl, you are correct about the actions that you probably would take; you’re the boss of you, and know you, and that’s fine. Metaphortunate, however, is correct that the people who are going to do 99% of the commentary mentioned are very sweet, nice people who mean well but are bad at communicating and negotiating the boundaries of pregnant people. That’s why none of the responses I suggested were “Won’t you be better able to eat that bag of dicks if you take your hands off me, asshole?” Fun to think at someone very loudly, but I’m not about to say that aloud to my Aunt Mildred or even Co-Worker Janice.

          Intent isn’t magic, but I find it good to be generous with my assumptions about people’s motivations. Annoying questions are just annoying, not threatening, and people don’t necessarily know your boundaries before you state them. Now, if someone doesn’t respect my boundaries once I’ve stated them, IT IS ON. Touch my belly once, shame on you, touch me twice, lose an arm.

        • My problem is I lost my temper, for which I apologize. What you said was really a very mild example of the sort of thing I am objecting to; I should not have picked you to go off on. Sorry.

      • Emmers said:

        The only bellytouch I’ve had so far was a sweet (not really daffy, I don’t guess) old lady. Same thing though.

        Surprisingly, the other person to *ask* me was this random dudebro I know. High-five for asking first (and taking no for an answer), dudebro! (In seriousness, he went way up in my estimation for that.)

  55. Deborah said:

    I had decoy names with my two girls. I told people my first daughter was to be named Pruscilla Penelope Plum and my second one was to be Malailai Lulu.

    • manybellsdown said:

      I told my super-Christian SIL we were going with “Jezebel Lillith”.

      • I’m planning to tell people, “Mordred for a boy, Salome for a girl, after my pet rats.”

    • ninjamom said:

      My neice’s last name is McDonald and she tells everyone “Ronald” which is brilliant since they’ve already announced that they’re having a girl.

  56. Once again, lovely how all of these conversational solutions are so adaptable to almost any line of invasive questioning.

  57. Private Business said:

    Amazing timing because I’d been wishing I could email in a question like this myself. I’m 13 weeks pregnant and soon to be telling people, and I am totally borrowing some of these responses.

    As it turns out, we do know almost totally for sure (side effect of testing for extra/busted chromosomes), but don’t want to tell people because of gender-policing and gender-specific gifts. Any tips avoiding pastel blue/pink and getting things in nice primary colors and gender-neutral?

    • commanderlogic said:

      Well, the pastels are even harder to avoid than pink/blue, so you may be stuck there, but you can inject some saturated color into your registry items if that will help.

      Your options are to either tell everyone the sex and emphasize as many times as you need to that you want gender-NEUTRAL clothing/items please, or keep the sex to yourselves.

      You don’t have to tell people the sex. You really don’t! But if you don’t want to say “we know, but we’re not telling” (the most annoying answer to the most annoying question) I recommend that you choose a white lie and stick to it. Either:
      1 – We want it to be a surprise, so we asked the tech not to tell us.
      2 – The tests were inconclusive, and we’re not doing any scans that aren’t medically necessary, so…. [SHRUG!]

      I’ve used #2, which had the benefit of being true for us, and people tended to back off. Choose your own adventure, and congratulations!

    • duaecat said:

      I saw somewhere up there, where someone said “Don’t know, but whatever we get we’re using on the kid, no matter what!” And most gender-enforcers tend to go neutral out of fear that *GASP* you might put your boy in pink!

      You can also try raving about your favorite color being *color* and how much you love *color* colored baby stuff, especially with an adjective. So not “green” but “emerald green” or “firetruck red” or “lemon/sunshine yellow”

      My husband has already said when (hopefully) we reproduce, it doesn’t matter the sex, he would like a Mardi Gras color theme, which I love the idea of.

      • Vicki said:

        A friend of mine did pretty well with telling everyone “my favorite colors are green and blue, so if you’re getting something for the baby, go with those.” She did still wind up with some pink things (she had cheerfully told everyone she was expecting a girl), but not many.

        Then again, part of her trick was to tell all her relatives how difficult and/or expensive it would be to carry things across country on an airplane (she’s in New York and has a lot of family in California) and add that she doesn’t mind shopping for stuff, so some people who might have otherwise given her very gendered clothing handed her gift cards. (I was pleasantiy surprised that this didn’t just lead to lots of pink onesies and the like being sent by UPS/FedEx/etc.)

    • My sister told everyone that her baby-shower was going to have a Jungle theme for their baby boy – so lots of elephants and monkeys and giraffes would be appreciated, thank you. She also announced that the color scheme was green, tan, and brown – just like for a wedding.

      It was brilliant. Everyone was so excited about giving her monkey onesies that she hardly got any specifically gendered stuff at all.

      A couple of people have mentioned it already, but I also really like the idea of “We’ll dress the baby in whatever you send us!” and letting the gender essentialists deal with the resulting what-if-I-put-a-boy-in-a-dress anxiety. :p

      (Although, oddly, I don’t think they’d worry as much about putting a girl in a pair of overalls with a truck on them. Hmm.)

      • Private Business said:

        That is brilliant. The prospect of monkey onesies is terribly exciting! :)

        • It was adorable. He’s just over a year old now, and has a little fleece jacket with bear ears on the hood – it’s about the cutest damn thing I’ve ever seen in my life.

          • Epiphyta said:

            ARGH, no one I know is having kids right now (my agemates and I have children of an age to spawn, though mine’s not likely to) and I want to go look for monkey onesies and jackets with bear hoods!

  58. Just wanted to hopefully make some of you laugh, I am of the “childfree thank Jeebus” variety, and as such, I sometimes greet impending childbirth with my own perspective and/or dismay.

    The three worst thoughts that ever crossed my mind when some (willing, happily coupled) friends announced to me that they have become In The Family Way were:

    1. (This was NOT shared) “Oh shit, now they’ll NEVER get a divorce.”
    2. (Blurted without thinking) “Oh god! What are you going to DO?” (as in, abortion? adoption? (gulp)…HAVE IT?)
    3. (Blurted without thinking) “But you’re the glamorous one [of our group]!”

    So there are TONS of extra ways you can mortify your lady friends who are Up The Spout.
    Including referring to their condition to their face as Up The Spout.

    Congratulations on your happy impending event and best of luck with the dopes like me!

    • Rosa said:

      Oh! I was an Unwed Mother (on purpose) and a lot of work-type people said “Is your boyfriend…okay with it?”

      Which is another one that falls under “they are trying to be nice but they are bad at it.” and hard to respond to.

    • AB said:

      Up The Spout just made me snort coffee on my iPad.

  59. Probably unhelpful, but in the early stages of my pregnancy – before twenty weeks – I had some stock answers. I came up with them quickly because I blew up like a goddamn balloon and started getting asked at the end if I was having twins. I work in a highly professional environment so most of the weirdness was rare in the workplace. Outside, not so much.

    How I dealt with touching: I turned and touched their faces and said breathily ‘Ooooh…feels like…SKIN.’ This creeped people out and they left me alone.

    Do you know what you’re having? I always responded back with ‘A giraffe – they can run an hour after birth.’

    What gender baby do you want? Male friend had the best answer ever – ‘We’re having three so we can have one of each.’

    You shouldn’t have coffee/wine/soft drink! Counter: “I’m on codeine eight times a day to keep me mobile, I don’t care.” (Truth, PGP sucks) Alternate counter: “I quit so I could continue my meth habit.”

    You aren’t going to name it something…WEIRD right? Kids always resent it. Counter: My RL name is ‘Ceredwyn’, and I love it, please explain?

    Post twenty weeks people stopped asking questions because I was on cruches, then a walker, then a wheelchair because of foot surgery and then PGP. At least, they stopped asking me. They still didn’t give me seats on a train when I asked, but one day some elderly woman got up for me and then laid into everyone else around me, which was awesome – my foot was in a cast too, so I must have looked extra pathetic.

    Thing I found the hardest to deal with: I had an excruciatingly bad labour and birth, and the doctor said three things later which for some reason I can never forget, even if I don’t agree with the home birth one: ‘Yours is a one in thirty thousand, we never see them this bad.’ ‘You’re the reason home birthing must be banned.’ and ‘I can’t tell what I’m looking at, we need a better surgeon.’ (That last one? I was grateful for. He went and arranged for the best surgeon in the district to arrive – he knew when he couldn’t deal. That is SO GOOD in a professional).

    So I had THAT background and then people who were pregnant asked me for advice. No one wants to hear that. And it’s not useful advice, since it’s rare. But then when I say ‘It’s not relevant, it was bad’, people are scared by what I eventually admit to. And when I see people who are pregnant I feel frightened/nervous/upset because for me it was awwwwful and the memories come back.

    I am the person who goes green and flees the room. I know that’s freaky, but it’s better than my nervous smiling and inability to Converse The Right Way. It’s not that I’m treating you like an alien, Pregnant Person, it’s that I’m still stuck in Sigourney Weaver’s ship somewhere (may you never visit!). And I don’t go to mother’s groups because, well, pregnant people often there.

    • How I dealt with touching: I turned and touched their faces and said breathily ‘Ooooh…feels like…SKIN.’ This creeped people out and they left me alone.

      I love this SO HARD.

      Do you know what you’re having? I always responded back with ‘A giraffe – they can run an hour after birth.’

      If I were going to give birth, I’d have a kangaroo. They’re crazy tiny – like the size of a prune or something. And the mother kangaroo ignores the baby after giving birth: it has to blindly climb up her body and find the pouch on its own, and if it doesn’t make it, tough shit. So, pretty low-maintenance.

      But I guess someone who wants kids wouldn’t make “I can let it fall out on the ground and just walk away” a super high priority, so yeah…the giraffe thing probably makes more sense.

      • I dunno, it’s a long way down for a giraffe…I reckon you could do that too!

        Marsupials are awesome. ‘Primitive’ is in the eye of the beholder.

        • Emmers said:

          I really, really, really wish I was a marsupial. Giving birth to a baby with a fully-formed head is not my idea of a good time. :-P

    • My family’s traditional response to “Is it a girl or a boy?” has always been “Probably.”

  60. Ruth said:

    Most of the child-bearing related stupidity I got was after the babies arrived. Like the many many people who won’t believe my older two aren’t twins (seriously – an 18 month labour would be something I’d Remember). And after my daughter arrived on our living room sofa after 35 minutes of labour, every one cooing over my partner and how hard it must of been for him. Yep. Catching the premature baby, that was the tricky bit. Nearly sprained my eyeballs rolling them.
    My ex had such a tiny bump with her second that no one knew she was pregnant. She was constantly asked, really accusingly, whose baby it was.

    • ona555 said:

      “She was constantly asked, really accusingly, whose baby it was.”
      Oh my god, that reminded me. I was young with my first, 19-20, and it wasn’t just once that I was asked if I knew who the father was. Also once asked by a customer at work what high school I attended with a horriffied look on customer’s face. What is wrong with people?

      • sometimeswhy said:

        I was young when you consider when people where I live now tend to have kids but right within the expected rage where I was living at the time* AND I’m aging well.** People are often shocked, SHOCKED that I have an adult child. Somehow I am still stunned when someone says, “Oh! So you were a child bride!” or “You must’ve just been a baby yourself!” or “So [whisper, knowing eyes] unplanned?” I have some responses in my arsenal now from avoidant to scathing to teachable moment but I’m still a little off-put when it happens.

        * Ah, geosocial differences, love ‘em. When I had mine, I had lots of friends who were also having babies. I now have a kid in college and… I have lots of friends having babies. It’s fascinating.
        ** If I do say so myself.

        • ona555 said:

          There were ten years between my first and second* and like you I get the shock and awe treatment when people find out that the tall young man next to me is my kid, not my.. what else would he be? Little brother? I am 42, people. It’s not that bizarre to have an adult child, mkay? They do tend to grow up after all.

          Then again I have friend who had their first babies at my current age, so maybe it is bizarre?

          *When pg with my second, people would give me the side eye when they asked if it was my first and I said no. 14 months later, same treatment with baby #3. I seriously do not think I look or act less than my age, so I can only guess why. I’m guessing that most people actually did think I was a lot younger and I got to be on the glorious receiving end of anti-young/teen mother sentiments. I was repeatedly mistaken for my eldest’s big sis when he was in elementary by the parents of his classmates (and it was not complimentary), but still, just guessing that’s what it was.

  61. Kai said:

    “well intentioned bozos”?

    …Yikes.

    • Jeni Vidi Vici said:

      Yikes why? I don’t get it.

      • Kai said:

        Part of me understands she’s venting… but it does make me wince reading it. It might be my stuffy British upbringing, but it makes me uncomfortable.

        You don’t want to be labeled as the office grump but you call your coworkers names?

        • Rosemary said:

          What makes you think she calls anyone names to their faces or behind their backs amongst other coworkers? The only context in which you’ve seen her use “bozo” is in an anonymous letter to an Internet stranger.

          • Kai said:

            I guess she’s being honest then.

        • SevenSummers said:

          LW here – “bozos” was not in reference to most of my coworkers, who are great and who I assume will be nothing but sweet and respectful of me, but two specific guys on my team, who are very friendly and sweet but also a little clueless. I’ve seen them paw at the other office pregnant gal (who is much further along), get on their knees to talk directly to her stomach, etc., and based on their sense of humour/sense of privilege in other situations, I’m anticipating some awkward encounters. I’m happy to take on the good tidings of most people, but these two will be the most vocal and the most overbearing. They’ll do so out of love, and without realising how super-creepy they’re being.

  62. Quinrue said:

    I am pregnant again (I have a wonderful 3-year-old daughter from last time) and it is with twins this time so I get even more comments! Now that we have found it they are a girl and boy, I am getting so many comments about how my husband must be so thrilled we are having a boy and I agree that is so old. My husband was actually kind of excited by the idea of having three girls, but having two girls and a boy is also great for him, so not actually he really doesn’t care!

    I absolutely hate the “Was it planned?” question, so rude. I get the additional questions with twins if they are “natural” as opposed to conceived with fertility treatments. Also so rude! I didn’t get this question too much since we waited ~7 years to have kids, but I usually either respond sarcastically (We have no idea how this happened!) or in a way that calls out how rude and personal their question is (Yes, how is your sex life BTW!)

    I am also loving all the comments people make when they find out I am having twins. Here are a few:
    “Oh, well now you can be done (having kids) at least.” (We actually only planned on two kids, now we are having three!)
    “Well, two kids for one pregnancy/labor, that’s a good deal!” (Um, I guess except I like being pregnant and labor was fine for me. Two infants at once is kind of overwhelming though!)
    “Are they identical or fraternal?” (I don’t mind this unless I just told them they are girl & boy which means they can’t be identical)

    For belly touching, I only have had someone touch once without asking for both pregnancies (so far) and I gave her the look, she quickly withdrew her hand and apologized and I said that I don’t usually mind if someone wants to touch my belly (I really don’t) but that I want to be asked first. I think I put off a pretty good stay-away vibe though and I’m tall so I intimidate most people. Saying your belly is sensitive/itchy/etc. is great if you don’t want to just come out and say you don’t want to be touched, but that latter is totally fine too!

    As for good questions, I don’t mind “When are you due?” or “How far along are you?” either, it’s fairly neutral as long as not followed up with “But you are so big/small/lopsided/whatever!” as they oh-so-expertly explain to you. As for “How are you?”, if meant genuinely I respond politely but honestly, but if said with that tone, I will give lots of info they probably didn’t want. I tend to over-information rude people so they end up feeling more uncomfortable and don’t ask again!

    Also, whenever a close friend or relative gets pregnant, I always offer them someone to talk and vent to as much or as little as they want about pregnancy/baby/etc. stuff and advice only if they ask for it. Sometimes you really want to talk about pregnancy and start driving your close friends nuts, sometimes you want to talk about anything but and usually you don’t want much advice except on that one thing that has been bugging you but you are afraid to ask since it will open you up to tons of other advice. So I think that is the nicest thing you can do for someone who is pregnant is offer to be there how they need you, just like you would for a friend about anything yeah?

    • Emmers said:

      Ugh, our family is endlessly speculating whether the baby was conceived on a family vacation or not. SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP AAAAAAAHHHHHH

      I love them, but goddamn.

  63. AB said:

    I was lucky to have a coworker who’d tell off annoying pele on my behalf while I stood there and nearly wet myself laughing (she’s very feisty and doesn’t usually get the chance to let rip, so I much enjoy it. Also, she asked permission first). One day though, I was genuinely fed up- I popped out very early and was told a million times I ‘must be having twins’ or ‘might have my dates wrong’ and even ‘oh, you’re going to have a hard time of it with a baby that big!’. One of my most hated customers started with ‘oh my, you’re awfully big’ and I just shot back ‘actually I had my scan yesterday. I am a perfectly normal size for my dates, not a centimeter bigger than average. And if I wasn’t I don’t see why that gives you the right to point it out.’ she was a very snotty lady who was very unused to being taken to task, the look on her face was priceless!

    Pulling the – actually, just been to the doctor and he said the thing you just said is WRONG – line was all I really needed.

    I never had the belly grabbing issue but friends told me that’s my personality. Apparently, even people I don’t know well would be scared they’d lose a hand if they tried to touch without asking!

  64. AB said:

    Never forget the look on someone’s face when she asked if my coworker was preggers (she was about 7 months along, huge and had just referred to it twice in conversation) and I responded, ‘no she just had a big lunch’. Lovely lady, I hadn’t meant to be mean, I just didn’t expect her to actually believe me! She was mortified and kept trying to apologies. I kept trying to explain I was joking but she wouldn’t listen. Meanwhile coworker had to leave she was laughing so hard

  65. Pamela said:

    Typing with my baby on my lap. Mostly to say, this is all sterling advice.

    By six months I was ready to punch anyone who asked me the standard questions. I started getting them from EVERYONE, the bagger at the grocery store, the barista, the bank teller, etc.

    One thing that really bothered me was complete strangers making comments about how I shouldn’t be out and about in their place of employment since I was clearly about to drop a baby at any moment. The guy at the hardware store, the lady at the fabric store, a strange man in the parking lot of barnes and noble. I’m 6 months pregnant, I’m not going into labor right now and being constantly told I should be staying at home is seriously uncool.

  66. FoeChristina said:

    I HATED, HATED being pregnant. Worst 18 months of my life. Was totally worth it to have the little girls but whenever someone says that pregnancy is, or was, the best time in their life I either want to stab them in the eye or cry for the sadness that is their life. (Not totally fair, I know.) However I found that for the question “How are you feeling?” the answer “Bitchy” worked wonders. And the thing is that everyone’s pregnancy is different so you can TOTALLY be snarky-ier than you usually are and no one will think twice.

  67. conecctidy said:

    ‘talk to a pregnant lady about anything other than pregnancy or birth and you’re awesome’…excluding trampolines or that crazy warehouse rave or your cruise to mexico or an aerobic sexcapade with a cute stranger.

    • commanderlogic said:

      Why WOULDN’T I want to hear about trampolines or raves or cruises or aerobic sexcapades? That all sounds fun and awesome. Now if the tone of discussion was “You poor poor creature who can do none of these things!” then that’s a problem, because that’s condescending and not entirely accurate – I flew halfway across the world at 6-7 months pregnant, and while strangers aren’t my personal thing, aerobic sexcapades are totally allowed and encouraged right up to birth. But if it’s “OMG I did this thing! It was great!” then I’m into it as a conversation.

  68. I just want to state for the record how much I love how people here are using the phrase “pregnant people” to describe, y’know, people who are pregnant. Because not all pregnant people are women! And also women are people!

    For the Awkward Army, all of the <3

  69. Aunt Vixen said:

    Friends of mine were so weary of all of this from people they didn’t know, when they were expecting their daughter. People would ask him if they knew what she was having and he would beam and say, with all the cheer and most of the pride he could muster, “A human being!” She found that didn’t get people to leave her alone, as they’d get that it was a joke and laugh along and then return to but-seriously; I recommended that when people asked her what she was having, she cock her head and knit her brow and say “… A *baby*.”

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