October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
Last week I wrote about questions you need to stop asking. Questions like “are you pregnant?” “when are you going to have another?” and the like. Those questions apply to every single woman you will ever speak to. I’m dead serious. They are often unintentionally hurtful.
Today, I want to write specifically about questions I received when I was pregnant that were also entirely inappropriate. They were rude or awkward, especially coming from people I didn’t know well or know at all.
Here are five questions you need to stop asking the pregnant women that you know or meet. To reiterate what I wrote in my previous post, you never know what someone’s journey with pregnancy has been. And it’s never your right to know. So, please, stop asking.
Do you want a boy or a girl?
I want a healthy child. That’s all most parents want.
Sure, there are exciting bits about boys and girls. I love the idea of hair bows and frilly dresses. I also love the idea of cardigans and bow-ties. (And yes, most of my excitement that is gender-related is super specific to gendered clothing.)
But most of us, especially those who have been trying for a long time, or who have had miscarriages or stillbirths, all we want is a living child. By asking us which gender we are hoping for, you’re creating a box that doesn’t need to be there and potentially setting up a story that could negatively impact a child one day by them learning that when asked that question their parents said the other gender.
So please, just don’t ask.
What is your baby’s name?
I was asked this by a coffee shop cashier on Maui when I was 20-weeks pregnant. Are you kidding me? My child isn’t even born yet. I don’t even know my baby’s gender. I don’t know you. Why would I tell you their name? And that’s if I’ve even already decided on one.
And if you’re friends or family and you want to know what names parents are considering for their kids, don’t ask. It’s not your right to know. If the parents decide to tell you their child’s name before the child is born, that’s great. But it’s their choice to do so and if they want to tell you they will bring it up into the conversation.
Naming a child is incredibly personal. Name choices change and evolve during a pregnancy. When a child is born, parents may throw all their previous choices away and go with something else that feels more right. Some parents aren’t even able to agree on a name until after the baby arrives.
You want to know a baby’s name? Wait until the child is born and the parents introduce you.
You’re so big! / You’re so small!
Not really a question, but I had to slide it in here. Take a moment and think about what you’ve just done. You’ve commented on the size of a woman’s body. Not ideal. Especially when she’s likely already pretty self-conscious. A woman’s body changes a ton during pregnancy. Breasts, hips, belly, and for some of us, pretty much every other part balloons or swells. Not to mention, acne and hair growth and hot flashes. Physically, pregnancy is a crazy wild ride.
I’ve had friends who were told by random ladies in the grocery store that they were too small or too big for their baby’s gestational age. The only person who has the right to comment on that is their healthcare provider who specializes in maternal and fetal health. That’s it.
Every woman carries her baby differently. Every pregnancy is different. Some women carry high, some carry low, some carry right in their hips and don’t “show” for ages. Others pop almost immediately. Based on body-type and how their babies are positioned, two women with the exact same due date can look months apart in their pregnancies. And that’s totally okay.
So please, stop commenting on a pregnant woman’s body. If you absolutely must comment, stick with telling her she looks beautiful.
Why are you worrying? You’re in the safe zone of your pregnancy.
I thought I was in the safe zone. I’d passed the point of my previous loss. I’d passed that 13-week/first trimester milestone where the risk of miscarriage drops dramatically. I’d even passed the 20-week halfway point. But as any mother who has experienced pregnancy loss knows, there is no safe zone. I used to think there was. But now I know better. Until that baby is breathing in your arms, you don’t know if you’re going to get to meet them. And even then, you might not even get to keep them.
So please, don’t say this. Offer support. Offer prayers or kind words or a hug. But know that the worrying doesn’t go away. there is no safe zone in pregnancy.
Is this your first?
This question could be a whole blog post in itself. And it will be at some point. But for now, can I just say that this is probably one of the most painful questions I was asked when I was pregnant with my son.
Acquaintances, coworkers, random strangers all ask this question when they come across a pregnant person. And it’s really hard to answer. Because he wasn’t my first pregnancy. But he was, I thought, going to be my first living child.
And next time, when I’m pregnant again, how do I answer that question? “Is this your first?” “Well… it’s my third pregnancy, but hopefully my first living child?” That’s awkward. And a really weird, personal thing to discuss with a stranger in the canned food aisle.
So I ask you, when you ask a pregnant person this question, why are you asking it? Why is it important for you to know this information about the stranger buying Cheerios next to you? And while you’re thinking about that remind yourself, you never know what someone’s journey with pregnancy has been. So please, don’t ask this question.
Mamas, what strange questions were you asked during your pregnancies?