The other day I read an article entitled, 'Things Never to Say to a Pregnant Woman.' I laughed heartily through the reading of it. Many of the things have been said to me including, 'Was it planned?' Or 'You look ready to pop!' Or 'Are you sure there aren't twins in there?' Or 'Have you picked a name yet?' Or 'You shouldn't be eating/drinking that.' Or 'I never had morning sickness.' And last, 'I was sick the whole way through.'
Some of these irritated me, some of them I have snappy comments to volley back ('Have you picked a name yet?' 'Girls gotta keep some secrets.' Maybe not that snappy, but it works.), others I have never bothered to get up the emotional energy to take offense.
I guess when I read it I thought, 'Wow, ya'll are in trouble no matter what you say, aren't ya?'
I even read one comment on the article where someone was offended by being asked, 'How are you feeling?' Really?
'How are you feeling?' makes you angry?
Something that has been a hard adjustment coming back into American culture is the verbal culture of 'offense.' I could sit with a group of Kenyan women and talk about the differences between our skin and hair with no offense being taken on either side, I would get publicly flogged for that here. In coming home I had to remember to walk on eggshells once again.
Many of the comments listed above are completely inoffensive to one person but highly offensive to another. For every comment I get about 'twins' I have friends who were told they didn't even look pregnant at seven months. (One looked at me and said, 'If I had that belly I would be casting it.') How is the speaker supposed to know how the listener will take it?
We live in a nation where most of us don't have to worry about where our next meal is coming from, or whether or not our house will get bombed tonight. Our government is benevolent and most of us are safe. This leaves some emotional energy left over. We run around wielding the phrase, 'that offends me' like a broken bottle in a bar room brawl. We all pour burning oil on each others heads when we expect every sentence that comes out of each others mouth to be inoffensive. Especially when the only way to rate the offensiveness of our words is to be a mind reader.
To the listener: take a breath. Let it go. Focus your anger on something more productive, like world hunger or the crusty burnt food on your stovetop.
To the speaker: Ask yourself, 'How would I feel if this was said to me?' Or, 'How well do I know this person?' If someone is bold enough to tell you that they were angered by what you said practice these phrases, 'I'm sorry.' Or, 'I didn't mean it that way.' Or, 'I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.' If you did mean to hurt their feelings, shame on you.
Here are phrases that are generally welcomed by all pregnant women:
“Here sit down.”
“Why don't you take my seat.”
“Here go ahead of me.” (Especially kind in the line to the bathroom.)
“Would you like something to eat?”
“Would you like something to drink?”
“How are you feeling?” (Sorry, that lady above is out of line, this is a nice thing to say.)
And last but surely not least,
“Would you like some chocolate?”
Or you could say something odd like, 'Thank you for having the patience and willingness to further the human race.' Because if women stopped getting pregnant we would actually cease to exist. So if you don't mind me and my apparently enviable belly, you're welcome.