Thursday, December 21, 2006

Miss Manners

I've heard stories about all the ridiculous comments that pregnant women hear from strangers, friends, coworkers, family members, even their mailmen. I am lucky enough to live in a place where I can't understand what people are saying to me, besides "When will you get the baby?" and "Is he a girl or a boy?" And it's another benefit of being of Advanced Maternal Age (including feeling like an octegenarian if I ever venture onto the message boards) that most of my friends and family members have either been through their own pregnancies recently or they have been coached by their wives/daughters/friends/sisters on acceptable subjects when speaking with the mom-to-be.

However, I've heard stories. I've even been privy to a few of these uncomfortable moments in person. Some people (Jeff, I know you're reading this) are so uncomfortable about the potential for saying the wrong thing that they just don't say anything at all, even when they know they should at least say congratulations or acknowledge the situation. So here's some advice. The following comments are almost always safe, as long as you've had irrefutable confirmation that she is pregnant in the first place:

-"Congratulations! When is the baby due?" And then under no circumstances should you act surprised at the answer. You should say, "Wow, how exciting." Do not say, "Wow, you've got a long way to go," as though she's not well aware of the fact. Or "Wow, I would have guessed you're ready to pop any day," in fact, the whole idea of "popping" has always given me the creeps. Or "Wow, you look so tiny." That last one might seem like a compliment but it infers that you think pregnant ladies are generally huge. Really, any reference to size or weight should be avoided. Even if you've heard the pregnant person talking about it before, or if your niece couldn't shut up about her pregnancy weight last Thanksgiving.

-"You'll be a great parent." I never get tired of hearing this one. Apparently regular ego boosts are necessary for my well-being.

-"What an exciting time you have ahead of you." This helps counteract all of the exhausted parents of young children who tell expectant parents to "Sleep now, you'll never get to sleep late again" and "The first six (weeks/months/years) are terrible but it gets better eventually, until they become teenagers." The pregnant person has already started down the path of no return; describing impending doom isn't helpful. This one is especially nice if you're a parent yourself. Think up some happy story about having kids and tell the pregnant person about it. I call these tales to mind when I sit around doubting the wisdom of getting pregnant.

-A special piece of advice for the boys: The only circumstances under which the words "mucous plug" should come out of your mouth are those in which your significant other is the pregnant one, and the two of you are alone in the privacy of your own home. Or, alternatively, in a medical setting. But it's best if you just stay out of group conversations regarding the girly bits and/or more unseemly physical aspects of pregnancy, even if someone seemingly invites you to participate. Because the girls will just laugh at you later, giggling about how you tried to act like you know what "effaced" means.

After you've talked about The Baby for a few moments, don't feel bad about going right back to whatever kinds of conversations you've always had with the pregnant person. Just because she's With Child, it doesn't mean her other interests have totally disappeared; in fact, she might be tired of talking about it. I am always grateful to friends who ask how things are going with the baby, and then move along to important topics like pinpointing when Britney turned the tide of public goodwill. (By the way, I think it's genius that K-Fed seems to be headed toward a career in professional wrestling, it's the perfect spot for him.)


B. said...

Unfortunately the free advice is just starting. Soon well meaning strangers will trip over themselves to tell you you're keeping him too warm... or too cold. That you shouldn't, under any circumstances, use a pacifier... or you should always use one.

To let him cry it out at night or you'll spoil him... or that you'll damage his fragile little psyche by letting him cry for too long. And just pray everyone steers clear of the whole circumcision issue, especially here where it's generally frowned upon.

Wait, I'm not helping am I? lol

Maria said...

My doctor gave me the best advice-- Do not listen to to anyone!

Of course, my advice-- do what you think is right. :-)

Schokolade Madchen said...

I laughed out loud when I read your post...Your honesty is super! And thank you, thank you, thank you for the Thanksgiving clip from the movie, FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF. On our very first date, I asked my fiance, who is German, if he had heard of a song called "Danke Schon" but pronouncing it like Danke SHANE. I told him the song was in a funny American movie and he laughed at me, corrected my pronunciation, and continued to think it was a joke - an American song mispronouncing it's German title couldn't exist. It was a joke between the two of us for our entire relationship until I read your post a while back. I made him watch the entire clip. You proved him wrong! DANKE SHANE!

Blythe said...

I'm glad to be of service. A life without Ferris is a life not well-lived.