“You’re huge!” I exclaimed admiringly, gesturing towards her burgeoning belly with widened eyes and a gaping grin to match. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and she had just approached me and another work friend as we’d been casually catching up.
Before our pregnant coworker had a chance to react, the other friend, who was old enough to be my mother, shook her head so that her spiky, silver hair glinted in the light and she quickly interjected, “Oh, but it’s all baby. It’s all baby, honey.”
I couldn’t help but deduce I’d said something wrong.
Perhaps it’s obvious to anyone reading this that calling a pregnant woman “huge” is itself a “huge” no-no it, but at the time, I couldn’t have been more sincere with my compliment.
That’s right—I said “compliment.” Being big and pregnant was something beautiful and desirable to me—something I had longed to be for months, but wasn’t. And I was beginning to wonder if I would ever be.
Ever mindful of my manners, I cringed within myself and, staring at my shoes, made a mental note to never comment on a pregnant woman’s “hugeness” again.
Fast-forward two years. This time, I’m the pregnant one—a month from giving birth to my first child, and still, people keep telling me, “You’re not big at all!” Some say it accusingly—so much so that I feel tempted to apologize. In the famous words of Josh Baskin in Big, “I wanna be big,” but that, I am not. And people keep seeing fit to point it out.
When you’re pregnant, there are plenty of things people do and say that might rub you the wrong way. Sometimes, the rubbing happens quite literally. (Why else would they make maternity shirts that say, “Hands Off the Bump!”?)
Most of the time, I believe people mean well, like when I made the “huge” comment, or when a loved-one recently gazed at my midsection and squealed, “Ohhh, you’re blossoming!”
But good intentions can’t always keep us from cringing. One pregnancy-related term that I have had to swallow with a strained smile is the word “nesting.”
Oh, I am so not a fan. It’s like, “C’mon, people. I’m a human—not a bird. If you wanna see a big bird, go watch Sesame Street.” Something about being told you’re “nesting” can just feel so belittling, even if it isn’t said in a belittling tone. It’s like, “No, folks, it’s called getting stuff done while there’s still time to do it.” It’s called “trying to be smart about things,” “being prepared”—don’t you think?
That’s not to say I don’t think the “nesting”/”being smart”/”being prepared” instinct isn’t a real thing. Ohhh, it’s real. Before having my first child, my mind kept flashing back to a rather ominous-sounding Bible verse that read, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3, NIV).
Umm…I love you, Bible, but thanks a lot for completely freaking out every mom-to-be who reads this part of you.
“…And they will not escape.” Sheesh!
Seriously, though, when you’re pregnant, ironic though it is, the fast-approaching day of your baby’s birth can be simultaneously seen as a deadline—a temporary cutoff point for all sorts of tasks and to-do list items. You realize that your efficiency in performing regular duties like cleaning and organizing and stocking household supplies may be put on-hold for a while, and so you go into overdrive trying to compensate for the time you expect to lose.
And it can make you feel a little like a psycho with tunnel vision (not to be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome—a completely separate pregnancy symptom)—maybe even like a bird brain.
But not a bird.
While I was recently having this conversation with a group of my friends from childhood, one of them innocently pointed out, “Birds aren’t the only kind of animal that make nests, though.”
The first thing that popped out of my mouth?
“Yeah. Rats do, too.”
…I guess it could be worse.
Just for kicks and giggles, here’s a link to the article, “Here’s What NOT to Say to a Pregnant or New Mom.” If you’ve said at least a few of these things—don’t worry! I think most of us have!
Also, am I the only one who can’t figure out whether the cover of this DVD is supposed to be funny or serious? (I’m thinking we’re supposed to take it seriously, but I just can’t!)