Dealing With Uncomfortable Comments When Pregnant

If someone has said something inappropriate or uncomfortable to you while pregnant... you are not alone.

This is a troupe that so many movies and shows point out. But, it’s real. Sometimes, at the moment, it's not funny at all. It's easy to say "it doesn't matter what other people think." But when comments don't align with where you are with your pregnancy...words can sting.

It can feel conflicting. Do you say something back? Do you pretend you didn’t hear them and move on? Is this an educational opportunity? Do you even have the energy for that responsibility?

When I was pregnant, I happened to have 4 other pregnant coworkers. Two women. And two men whose wives were expecting. This was in an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy clinic. So you can imagine all the comparative, constantly evolving eyes on our bodies. Most patients were sweet, supportive, and polite. But it did feel a little scrutinizing at times. So many people made the joke, “Hmm... Must be something in the water!”

And I mean...what do you say to rhetorical questions like that?

The two comments that got to us the most were:

“You don’t look pregnant.”

That comment validates everything but your experience.

Or, conversely,

“You look like you could pop any day now!” (As if you are a gusher.). This comment can make you feel bulky and exasperated. Especially if you’ve got months of time to go!

There was also SO much commentary.

"Wow-you look huge”

“Cute baby bump”

Or the standard slew of questioning:

"Oh! When are you due?"

"Is it a boy or a girl?"

They are well-intentioned questions. But, at the same time, I don’t ask a lawyer

"What’s your next case? Are you prepared? How much will you make?" Questions like that, especially with daily repetition can feel invasive.

My favorite antecede was from when I was 37 weeks pregnant. I was doing my usual prenatal workout at the YMCA and an elderly man came up to me and said, “Keep working out, sweetie. You’ll lose that tire if you stay with it.” That was a moment where my shock at his comment completely kept me from responding. It was meant to be encouraging... but definitely made me feel judged.

It’s equally embarrassing for people to assume that you’re not pregnant when you are... as it is for the assumption that you are pregnant when you’re not.

Pregnancy is a strange era to navigate

Babies and pregnancy do seem to create an aura of excitement, compassion, and care. It can unify strangers. It was almost like people had an extra level of respect for me and the other pregnant women in the clinic. Our bodies were doing something so much deeper than any athletic achievement.  When people asked how I was doing they really cared and considered the response. So, that was nice.

But, for a modest, shy introvert like myself... having my midsection demonstrated to the whole world sometimes felt as overwhelming as the baby itself.  The lime-light of Expectant Mother did not come naturally to me. Especially when everything felt so new and foreign.

What helped me decompress from the constant observation?

Long walks in the woods. Fresh air, the sounds of the forest, and some “me time” were game-changers. 

Experience is the best teacher. 

If it’s a stranger, I don’t treat them differently. Or make any comments that I wouldn’t normally make to anyone. I definitely park farther away from store entrances now, though. I absolutely always let someone who is pregnant “skip” me in any line I’m in. Simply because you never know their exhaustion level, degree of urgency incontinence, or what they’re balancing

If it’s an acquaintance, I congratulate and offer to support them however that looks like for them.

If it’s a friend or family member I invite them to say as much or little about their pregnancy journey as they wish. I acknowledge that their desire to talk about it might shift. One day they may want to announce it excitedly to the whole world with a megaphone. Another day they may want to be more contemplative and still about it.

Before you experience it, the thought of 9 months of pregnancy seems excruciatingly long (at least it did to me). But, retrospectively, it seems like a blip in time.

I’m a huge advocate of this mantra:

To safeguard your emotions, take extra good care of yourself. 

That may mean something simple like drinking water. 

Or, continuing to work on your degree.

Or, allowing yourself to nap. 

Or, playing Cards Against Humanity with friends to get in some laughter time. 

Typical health‐related priorities and motivators of women during pregnancy and early motherhood are: 

  • The mounting sense of responsibility
  • Conforming to social norms and health guidance
  • Developing and enacting self‐direction

Awkward social interactions. Rude or unexpected comments. Flat-out judgment. These things will likely happen during your pregnancy. Listen to your heart. See what feels right as you experience the expanding sense of responsibility when gauging how to respond.

There will be moments where you want to blend in and not draw any extra attention to yourself. There will also be moments where your sense of developing self-direction might lead you to say something like,

“Sir, I’m pregnant and I’m proud of my body.”

or “My body is a part of me and I’d appreciate people to refrain from commentary about it.”

It can be nice to have certain “scripts’ in your mind for times when saying something does feel right.

You are your own best advocate.

As Michelle Obama says, “Don’t let anyone speak for you, and don’t rely on others to fight for you.”

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