Expecting a new life is a life-changing, exciting and at times exhausting experience, but often times friends, family and even random strangers can say (or do) things that may not be very pleasing to hear for a pregnant woman. Undoubtedly, most people have the best of intentions – but it’s important to remember that pregnant women tend to feel more sensitive and protective than they might usually, blame all the hormonal reactions going through inside their growing and changing body so it’s polite to remain courteous to that fact. To support any mums-to-be around you with a few tips below on what NOT to say or do around a pregnant woman – certainly every woman is different, but these are just my two bits!
Please don’t tell her the worst is yet to come
Morning sickness in the 1st trimester is cruel (despite the name, it can occur at any time during the day), but what makes it worse is having family members, close friends or even strangers tell me that the worst is yet to come. It’s about as helpful as telling someone suffering from Chicken Pox that ”many people die in Chicken pox, do you know?”, yes, that happened to me once, said by someone I’m connected by blood. Horror! Since I have had a breezy 1st trimester compared to what I hear from pregnant women around me, once we announced our pregnancy immediately after the 1st trimester was over, I have had Beautographer’s sister-in-law who was then just a few months ahead of me in her pregnancy and have had a terrible time dealing with nausea and vomiting in her 1st trimester, reminded that ”wait, things are going to get worse!” Hmmm…no two women are similar by nature, their body shapes are different, so if they are different health-wise, then why would their pregnancy symptoms be similar, right? Instead, it’s so much kinder to remind someone that nothing lasts forever and that whatever symptoms they are dealing with aren’t permanent – and that they’re all worth it in the end when you have your baby in your arms.
Please save your birthing horror story
As soon as we announced that we are expecting, I was immediately told by Beautographer’s grandmother that one of her family friend’s daughter had serious birthing complications, and I was presented with a lengthy horror story about her experience with umbilical cord getting stuck to baby’s neck which resulted in a still birth…all these over an international phone call. My sister told me she was diagnosed with Gestational diabetes during her 2nd pregnancy, she had to go for Caesarean section, and because we both share our blood group B(-), she assumed it may be the same in my case too, hence, warned me beforehand. Charming! Thank you for that! While sharing experiences after a woman has given birth may be something many people choose to do because they can empathise with one another, doing this when someone is still expecting can only add to fear, anxiety and most importantly its spreading negative vibes. There is no reason for anyone to die before they are actually dead, right! It may be tempting to share, but it can be terrifying for a mummy-to-be to have so many horror stories swirling around in their head.
Please don’t advise until you are asked on what is and isn’t safe to eat or do or wear
Each woman has a slightly different list of things they completely ward off while pregnant. If you happen to see someone eating something or planning to do something you would never do, like eating raw eggs or fish, applying henna on your hand, travelling for leisure/babymoon, or wearing heels (yes, I have received tons of messages from close family and friends telling me not to wear heels anymore) – kindly resist the temptation to say what ”they SHOULD or SHOULD NOT”, I can speak for myself here, no, I’m not a teenager or a girl in my early 20s who got pregnant accidentally as a result of unprotected sex, I have carefully thought and planned to have this baby at this age and stage of my life, so anything I’ll do wrong now may harm my unborn child and will have an impact on my own health. Nobody walks in 5 inches heels all day long. The nature of a part of my job that is fashion blogging demands that I wear different types of shoes including heels. After the photoshoot is over, I wear my comfortable flats to walk up and down the stairs in the London underground stations during daily commute. When I applied henna for a Diwali Look shoot back in October, the Indian beautician in the beauty salon I go to get my upper lips threaded raised her eyebrows and commented ”we don’t do it during pregnancy”. Good for you! Nobody knows what is best for an expectant mother more than herself, yes, that includes the father of the child too. There is no need for every random relatives to become your health advisor suddenly as if they care about your baby more than you do who is going through all the pain, physical transformations and emotional upheaval. It’s so much kinder just to be supportive and trust that each pregnant lady will make informed, personal choices, rather than questioning her every move.
Please ask before touching the bump
Hold on, just don’t touch it at all! Many women are happy to let friends and family members touch their bumps, but it’s polite to ask because not everyone is comfortable with having people touch their body (and I’m one of those). Imagine yourself going around touching random people’s thighs or boobs or bottoms?! Always ask first, or simply resist this temptation of caressing a pregnant woman’s bump unless you are the father of the child. If a mum-to-be wants you to feel her baby’s kicks or hiccups and is happy to let you touch her bump, they will usually ask you if you would like to experience it.
Please don’t nosy into a couple’s business and ask if the pregnancy was planned
This one is pure common sense because it’s so nosy and intrusive, but it’s amusing to have learnt that how many people think it is ok to ask if your pregnancy was planned or a sheer accident. Since we have been married for 10+ years now, some nosy relatives and a few random people we meet (makeup artists, neighbours etc.) probably (no one ever dared to say it on our face though but you could sense it) had assumed that we have some fertility issues since we don’t have any children yet. I can understand that people often rationalise other people’s life’s choices and circumstances with their own, since some of them are going through emotional and turbulent hoops to finally have a baby – from multiple IVF rounds and miscarriages to rollercoaster adoption and surrogate processes – they tend to generalise and put all childless couples in one bracket. Most people can’t fathom that a couple can be childfree by choice like we were until the middle of this year. It might be easy to forget that pregnancy is not a community endeavour and some things are private. So when we didn’t want to have a child in all these years of our married life considering our career goals, life’s priorities and lifestyles, we didn’t feel the need to go all out there and justify the reason for the world. May be that made people to speculate further! Funnily enough, when we announced our pregnancy, a section of ”those nosy people” actually expressed what a relief it is for them as they were hoping and wishing it for us secretly and they are now ‘thankful to their God’. Really!? Do they not have better things to do in their own life?!
Please don’t assume that I have stopped or will stop working because a baby is on board
For a financially independent, strong and career-oriented woman, this is the epitome of loaded questions and don’t get upset if they answer defensively, regardless of how you intended the question. People always ask women who work if they will go back to their full-time jobs after the baby is born, and when. This comes from both men and women. People never ask this question to a man having a child. It’s a personal choice and a matter of privilege whether you choose to become a stay at home mom, or whether you choose to carry on working. You are pregnant, not ill that you will have to stop working or living a normal life. Most working women here in the UK continue to go to work until the very last week of their due date and they come back after the maternity leave is over. If an expectant woman readily shares the information with you, then try to understand that her decision is her own and all you can do is support that or keep mum. For me, being self-employed has huge benefits but also drawbacks – there will be no official maternity leave, and probably no more than a few days off social media. But at the same time, I’m lucky enough to work from home in most days and often my schedule is flexible. Beautographer too is blessed with a high-profile corporate job that allows him to have flexible working hours and maintain a fine work-life balance. There is no set rulebook on being working parents, and no doubt we will figure it out ourselves, step by step.
Please don’t comment on body shapes and size of the bump – or ask if she’s having twins
Towards the end of a pregnancy, many women have people, telling them that ‘it could be twins’ and asking ‘are you sure there’s only one in there?’. This is so insensitive and can be hurtful to someone who is already feeling heavy and uncomfortable at that stage of their pregnancy. If someone’s bump looks a little bit bigger like mine (compared to the pregnant ladies in my yoga class), they may be self-conscious anyway, so it’s best to just tell them that they have a beautiful bump! The same goes for telling someone they look really small. It depends on your body structure anyway. If you have a petite body structure, you carry small, if you are tall with wide frame and not very skinny in the first place, naturally your bump looks bigger than someone who is short and size 0. Everyone carries weight differently and every woman carries their baby differently too.
Hope you have found it thoughtful to read, why not share it with your friends now? Or if you also know of any expectant couples, or even yourself? Leave your comments below if there any questions or comments that drove you nuts when you were pregnant? I would love to know what are your own pregnancy etiquette rules.1