#432: I’m pregnant, I hate small talk, UGH: A Compendium
Hey, I’m up here. My eyes and brains are not located in the belly. Helloooooo?
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:
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,
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.