When pregnant, in addition to the discomfort, hormonal flux, cravings, and everything else that comes with the physical aspect of being pregnant, one also has to deal with the way society interacts with pregnant individuals. Most of it, while potentially well meant, is more harmful, stressful, or simply annoying, adding to the physical stresses of pregnancy. Here’s a quick guide for those in doubt:
- When is it appropriate to ask if someone is pregnant? Never. Even if you are 100% certain they are, don’t ask. If they want you to know, they’ll let you know. If it is someone you’ve just met, don’t ask… don’t intimate… just leave it be. If it’s a long-time friend who looks pregnant, a gentle steering of the conversation may lead to you being informed.
- When can I touch the tummy? If they put your hand on their stomach. When I was pregnant my body became the property of society; everywhere I went people would pet my stomach as soon as they found out. As someone who values their personal space and dislikes casual touching, this was very disturbing. If you really want to, it’s OK to ask, but if they say no, don’t.
- A word on advice: I get it. Everyone has their own ideas about pregnancy and parenting. It also happens that pregnancy is taken as a sign that someone really wants/needs advice. I can’t even begin to count the number of people who walked up to me and just blurted out their parenting tips as though they were doing me a favor. Honestly, I don’t need to know your theories on what my parenting strategy should be when my child is ten. Right now I’m just trying to make it through this. Leave me alone. (This also applies for parents in general.)
- Pregnant women aren’t made of glass: Some people tend to treat the pregnant as though they might break at any moment. This can be very annoying, especially when said individual is very self-sufficient. It’s similar to the way many disabled find themselves the target of well meaning but overbearing friends and family members who insist on doing everything for them.
- Offer help when it’s needed: It may seem like a contradiction of the above point, but I have been 8 months pregnant at a hardware store pulling 2x12s off a shelf two feet above my head. Not one person offered help. Quite a few walked by, including a few who worked there. For every time someone has been overbearing with their help, I’ve also had people completely ignore an obvious need for help. Also, I did say offer. If they accept, you can feel great about yourself for the rest of the day.
Pregnancy can be wonderful and miserable at the same time. If society can learn how to handle it better, it might make it easier on the pregnant, which is always good for the baby.
Just because someone is pregnant they don’t lose their bodily autonomy. Be kind. Be respectful.