I'm 18 Weeks Pregnant -- Here Are Some Guidelines On How to Talk To a Woman With a Fetus In Her Uterus

“Is the baby healthy? Everything OK?” a COMPLETE STRANGER said to me once.
Publish date:
August 15, 2014
pregnancy, baby bump, how not to be a dick, pregnant

I’m only 18 weeks pregnant. That’s close to being halfway through a full pregnancy (eek!) but it’s only been about a month after we starting telling people the news. I have a visible bump now and, as quite a few people have noted, “There’s really a baby in there!” (I want to correct them and say “It’s a fetus” … but I don’t.)

My husband and I are happy, excited, nervous, anxious, scared, and at times, a little apathetic about the whole thing. (Yes, sometimes the fact we are having a baby in 5 months gets kind of gets a “meh” response from us.)

Luckily, everything has been pretty normal so far. No major upsets, nothing to be especially concerned about, and for that, we are apprehensively grateful.

There’s a lot going on inside during pregnancy. I am a really extroverted person for the most part and not shy about sharing most personal things about myself. I’m honest “to a fault” as people sometimes like to say (whatever that means) and I really am pretty open about what’s going on with me and the 18-week-old fetus that’s really in there.

But even I, the queen of TMI, who openly tells people who didn’t ask that when you’re pregnant you suddenly start drooling all the time and can’t poop, get kind of uncomfortable with some of the things people -- some of whom I really don’t know very well at all -- feel at liberty to say to me.

I anticipated that becoming pregnant would make my body open for public opinion. I knew I would become a waddling suggestion box. I would live life in the comments section with people who don’t know anything about me leaving their unsolicited feedback all over me. It’s up to me to listen or not listen, take it in or let it go, personalize it or brush it off. And, for the most part, I am letting it go.

I don’t think anyone is trying to be rude. I mean, you have to be pretty full of some kind of nasty to try to be rude to a pregnant lady. My thought is that many people are just uncomfortable or unsure of what to say. Or they are trying to be helpful but they don’t realize they have no idea what they’re talking about. Or, they really just are rude. I don’t know.

But because everyone and their aunt Sue’s adopted goat wants to weigh in on everything I’m doing, I feel at liberty to let everyone know there are little improvements to language that can made, which might help those of us growing fetuses in our uteruses feel more comfortable.

Don’t Comment On a Pregnant Person's Size: Big bump, little bump, everyone is different. Bodies are different and babies are different and there is no one way to look at 18 weeks or 36 weeks. It’s hard enough having very little control over my size. Saying “you’re so big!” or asking “Are you sure it’s not twins?” might seem like you’re relating … but it kind of makes me want to cry.

Don’t Tell A Pregnant Person What To Eat Or Drink: You may have a family tradition that’s based on an old wives tale and not medically supported in the least. If the pregnant person isn’t in your family, there’s really no reason to pass it down. Telling a pregnant woman to “drink a lot of milk” or “eat pork” or whatever other thing you may have heard in a movie once isn’t helping. Most likely, said pregnant lady has a doctor and she chose that doctor for a reason. She’s also is probably reading a billion books and is doing what’s best so just leave her alone. If she asks you for advice on what to eat or drink, give it to her, but only if you actually know what you’re talking about. Otherwise, just advise her to find and listen to her doctor.

Don’t Ask About The Health Of The Baby: “Is the baby healthy? Everything OK?” a COMPLETE STRANGER said to me once. I just nodded, because, um, I guess? So far? Unless you are a very close friend or family member, it’s actually none of your business. That is a really intense, personal question. And what if the answer is “no”? What is she supposed to say? Just avoid questions like this and keep it to the general stuff like “Are you finding out if it's a boy or girl” or “How do you feel?”

GET UP: Just give a pregnant lady your seat. I know you have a huge pair of balls that need to take up half the subway bench, but I’m growing a human. So, move.

Don’t Give Unsolicited Advice: This one is really tough. I am a big unsolicited advice giver myself! But, a pregnant woman, expecting to be a new mom, will most likely ask you for advice if she wants it. And when she does, lean towards “I did this and it worked” or “I didn’t like this stroller because” or “I believe this, if you want to hear more about it, let me know.” Non-judgemental and should-avoiding advice is especially important because you're just so vulnerable and unsure, especially with your first baby. Saying “Don’t work too hard” to a random pregnant person is not helpful. It’s New York. Everyone is working too hard.

If You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About, Don’t Talk About It: Don’t know how much a woman is supposed to gain during pregnancy? Don’t tell her how much she should gain. Don’t know anything about contractions? Don’t tell her when she’s supposed to go to the hospital. Basically, don’t give advice unless asked (times a billion) if you actually have no clue what you’re talking about.

Offer Support: If your friend, co-worker, neighbor, or family member seems anxious about something or is worried, let them know, “I can be there if you need me.” Saying things like “Do whatever works best for you” and “I will help you if you ask!” are so comforting. Things like “You’ll figure it out,” while well-intentioned, are not super comforting.

Keep Your Hands To Yourself! Everyone wants to touch a baby belly. I do not know why. I hate being touched in general, but found that I actually don’t mind when people want to touch the bump. However, it would be nice if they asked first. If you feel weird asking, “Do you mind if I touch your belly?” then maybe you should feel weird touching it in the first place.

Don’t Offer Your Old Baby Furniture: You can’t take an old crib or an old anything unless it’s clothes. Every single book tells you that. Things are constantly updating, furniture gets recalled, nothing is safe ever. Offer hand-me-down clothes or blankets … things we can actually accept. And don’t be offended when someone doesn’t want your drop-side crib from 2006.

Don’t Say Something About Her Pregnancy Just To Say Something About Her Pregnancy: “Does your baby want tangerines?” and “Do you have a pregnancy fitness class to go to later?” are strange and bizarre questions I’ve been asked. The answer to both of them were “no.” You don’t have to come up with random things to ask someone relating to her pregnancy. If you don’t have a genuine questions or comment (“You look great!” or “How are you feeling?” are nice ones) you can just talk to her about the normal things you would normally say to her.

Again, many of these situations, I do not think anyone was TRYING to be a jerk, but their actions did kind of make me uncomfortable or put me in a weird position. I’m already in a weird position! Just like anything, I mostly choose to just let it roll off -- so not in my nature! -- because I just have too many other things to worry about.

But if you’re confused or unsure about how to speak to someone who has a fetus in her uterus, maybe this could help. Also, I am dying to hear from any of you out there -- what are some of the craziest things that were said to you when you were pregnant or that you overheard being said to a pregnant lady? Or maybe you said something once and later thought “Wow, that was a weird thing to say.” You can share that, too.