My friend Donna is pregnant with her third boy. Random strangers stop her and ask, “So is this one a girl??” When she says no, they look crestfallen: “That’s too bad.”
Really? Three healthy kids sounds pretty darn good.
It’s come to my attention that people say mind-blowingly stupid things to moms and moms-to-be. Normal people. Friendly people. The little tennis players that hit back the stupid thoughts in their heads take a nap when they see a new mom, and suddenly all the out-of-bounds shots come flying out.
I’ve been known to say one (or two…) stupid things. I think we all have. So as a public service, here is a quick list of things not to say to new moms, to jog your memory when the tennis players are napping. Think this is unnecessary? Then keep reading for true conversation stoppers from the streets of the U.S. I went to my mommies, and they had some gems to share. If you’re story isn’t captured, write it in the comments!
Quick Cheat Sheet
AVOID SAYING THESE THINGS TO MOMS & MOMS-TO-BE
- You’ve been eating a lot of doughnuts.
- Where’s your husband, because I don’t want to drive you to the hospital.
- Really, you’re only __ months along? You look like you could pop any day.
- Another (boy/girl)? You can always try again.
- You look really tired/big/uncomfortable.
- This is your third? Are you CRAZY?
- That baby is soooo big!
- I think your baby is hungry. Really? Because I would stop to nurse her here in the Target line, but I’m fumbling with my credit card.
TRY ONE OF THESE INSTEAD
- You are glowing!
- You have __ children? What a blessing!
- You look beautiful/radiant/sensational/well-rested.
- Having kids is hard work: You’re doing a great job!
Seem too sappy? To prove we do need a cheat sheet, here are stories from across the U.S. of random conversation stoppers, collected from my mommies, as told by them [With a few editor’s notes]:
I have one set of twins (infant girls) and two older boys. People are always asking me if I have two sets of twins. And the twins questions never stop! “Soooo…are they natural twins?” No, they are unnatural children. “Are they fraternity twins?” Well, they’re girls, so actually they are sorority twins.
And speaking of twins, from Tuxedo Park, NY…
As I got more pregnant, I started to hear, “Are you sure it’s not twins?” [Editor’s Note: This is code for “You’re as big as a whale.”] And then starting about 7 months I got: “This baby looks ready to come out any time!” Actually, about 2-3 more months to go….
But the best was at Halloween (I was full-term by then) when we went trick-or-treating and my friend was looking for something we lost. She went over to the next car and said: “I am with a 9-months pregnant woman and…” you could see their faces just dropping: They thought they would have to drive me to hospital!
[Note: You will almost never have to drive a random pregnant woman to the hospital. Her first choice is always her partner, followed by a good friend, followed by an ambulance. So no need to pretend you’re suddenly getting cast in a sitcom.]
Speaking of feeling large, from Manhattan…
When we were expecting our first baby, the senior staff (all men) from my office went out to their power lunch and when they got back three of them came over to my desk and asked me to stand up and let them see me. They commented, “He was right, she is really BIG.” Then I realized that clearly this had been part of the luncheon discussion…. [No, strangely this is not a scene from Mad Men.]
On gender, from Baltimore…
We have two girls 19 months apart. I have gotten lots of comments about their gender, such as “Oh, were you trying for a boy?” or “I bet your husband is sad. He’ll want to try again real soon.” I was actually being wheeled from the delivery room to the recovery room and the nurse asked if I was disappointed to have another girl. Actually, we are thrilled to have two kids of the same gender so close together.
From North Carolina…
I hear a lot how my life is incomplete since I don’t have a girl. When we found out we were having another boy some people even told us they were disappointed for us: We were quite thrilled to be having another baby and didn’t care about the gender!
And right now it just baffles me how many times I get asked if the boys are twins (a two-year-old toddler and a “small” 10-month-old baby). I will understand it more when they are older (like 3 and 4), but people have been asking me if they are twins since the baby was 3-months-old and my oldest was 19-months-old!
From Portland, Oregon…
When my daughter was really little, I was at the park and some lady asked me if I was the nanny! I politely told her she was my daughter and the woman proceeded to go on and on about how she saw no resemblance.
Speaking of genetic ambiguity, from New Mexico…
So, I take my son to the Post Office when this older Veteran approaches me. He remarks, “Is that your baby? Why do you have an Anglo baby?” He thought I was Mexican like him.
Again, I’m at the Post Office—my son’s in the baby carrier. The man next to me in line says, “Those things are the greatest invention. We used to carry around this huge stroller with my kids. I mean, those baby carriers are great. You can just put the baby on the roof of the car when you load up your groceries.” [Also they make car seats these days, but putting your child on the roof is evidently an underused option.]
And more from Portland…
I hate the comments about how “brave” I am to have two kids 18 months apart. The look on people’s faces when I tell them it was planned is even more shocking.
Now, everyone comments on how *huge* my son is for his age, despite the fact that he is only 35th percentile for height and like 18th for weight. I don’t think he is a skinny kid, but he isn’t that chubby either. I don’t know what people mean by these comments and I hate that it makes me question if I am doing right by him.
From the streets of Harlem…
When I was pregnant, there used to be all sorts of people in Harlem screaming at me “Ooh, there’s a boy in there!”
But one of my personal favorites comes often from waiters, waitresses, and people at the register (basically anybody getting my business) who say, “That child looks nothing like you!” Yes, I know my child is few shades lighter than me, thanks!
And my favorite one-liner, from Portland…
I was walking to my office in Chinatown when I was pregnant and someone called out, “DAMN! Wish you was my baby mama.”
Eating bon bons in Baltimore…
I hear: “So what do you DO all day?” I get lots of comments about how bored I must be to stay at home with the babies, since all babies do is eat and sleep right? Oh, you yet-to-be-parents! One day, you’ll see!
From Lynchburg, Virginia…
I’m amazed how much people flip out when they realize that they’ve referred to one of my sons as a girl. It would happen all the time when the boys were littler, and I would try my best not to correct people, because invariably strangers turn themselves inside out to apologize. It troubles me that the sex roles are *so* ingrained that people think they can somehow damage my children by making that mistake. Who cares?
With my daughter, of course, it’s people not resisting the urge to reach out and touch her hair. [She has gorgeous red hair.] It mostly doesn’t bother me, but how odd that people think it’s okay. And does that mean that red hair and pregnant bellies are somehow related in stranger-hand-magnetism?
I wear my son in a baby carrier a lot, now and especially when he was littler. When I was nannying, I used to wear both babies so that I could have my hands free for shopping, cooking, whatever. When I went out, someone would inevitably say, “Well, you’ve certainly got your hands full!” Um, no, actually. That’s the point of this exercise. [Note: Granted, having your hands full can be metaphorical, but it’s much better to use one of your cheat sheet lines, like “Wow! You’re doing a great job!]
On learning about birth control in Portland…
When I was about eight weeks pregnant with our first, we were so excited to tell our family. We told my mother-in-law and the first thing she said was, “Was it planned?” I was asked that by a lot of people later, but I think I was so unprepared since it was the first pregnancy. I still have no idea what to say to that: Planned or not is no one’s business.
On the worst-case-scenario from New Jersey…
Why does everyone wait until you are close to delivery to share really scary baby stories? I know each baby is a blessing and that things can go wrong, but I keep getting stories such as, “My friend just had a baby and the cord was wrapped around his neck and now he is deaf and mentally retarded,” or, “My friend’s baby was born at 35 weeks and had 17 surgeries in the first year—isn’t that about where you are right now?” [When you think of a story like this, it’s very important to go to the list and say, “You look amazing!” Tragic stories do happen and should be talked about, but not to full-term pregnant women. They are already emotionally and physically spent. Just tell them they look nice.]
And it’s not just parents who get remarks straight from left field. We badger those who decide not to have kids as well. My friend East Coast Evelyn found this article on snappy comebacks for the currently or intentionally childless, should you need them.
Share your own thoughts or stories in the comments!