Sometimes you just need to treasure the ponders of your heart...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What You SHOULD Say to a Pregnant Woman

Pregnancy is beautiful, yes?

It's also universal.  No one can say they haven't encountered it in some way ( were born.  End of discussion).  There's just something about this beautiful universality, though, that misleads people into thinking that it is a public event and the pregnant woman is a side-show attraction where all thoughts, opinions, and words of "wisdom" are allowed and even desired.

Unfortunately, most of what they say falls into the category of "what you should NEVER say to a pregnant woman," you know, at the risk of dying a very painful death in the blazing glare of her hormone-spiked eyes.

I have heard my fair share of words that should never have been spoken in my presence, let alone directed at my super-sensitive ears.  I have smiled sweetly and died a bit inside, hot flashing with embarrassment and rage for the next fifteen minutes and every time the memory pops up.

Something must be done to stop this.

However, rather than perpetuate the negativity, here are some things you absolutely SHOULD say to a pregnant woman.  After all, perhaps people just don't know what words are helpful so they end up reverting to words they know are wrong as they're unable to think of anything else.

On behalf of pregnant women everywhere, I'm here to help.

Next time you encounter a pregnant woman, whether she is showing or just telling, refer to this list and save yourself some shame and protect her pregnant heart.

Things you absolutely should say to a pregnant woman:


 "You are so beautiful!"

Tell her she's beautiful.  Absolutely.  Don't tell her she's beautiful "for a pregnant woman" -- that twists into a backhanded compliment before it hits her ears.  Tell her she's gorgeous, glowing, radiant, sparkling even.  "Adorable" and "cute" work, too, but they don't speak quite as directly to her feminine heart as "beautiful" does.  It's her essence you need to address, not her baby bump (making "You look great!" fall short, too).  She needs to hear that her thoughts about feeling huge, bloated, ugly, awkward, and hippo-like are not confirmed in your eyes.  Sure, she might be a little on the big side, but what she needs to hear is her beauty is not diminished one speck, mostly because it hasn't been!  Conversely, don't tell her she's tiny, either -- that plays into her fears that she isn't gaining enough to support her baby while simultaneously discrediting (in a bad way!) her feeling bigger than ever.  Don't be her distorted mirror (reject the urge to tell her she's so big or about to pop!) -- and don't be a shallow flatterer, either.  Be honest and tell her she's beautiful.

"I'm available if you ever need a sounding board."

Tell her you're willing to listen.  Oh boy, does she need someone to just listen.  With a plethora of unsought and unwanted advice pouring in from all sectors (yup, even the 60+ year old man at work who thinks the tales of his wife's labor and delivery choices are just what she wants to hear!), her ears are getting full and she's ready to explode on the next well-meaning advice-giver -- but she'll probably hold it in anyway.  This especially goes for other moms.  She needs your advice, you bet she does, but she wants to ask for the specific advice needed in that moment, not the waterfall of everything and anything that drowns out the real nuggets.  Tell her that you know she must be overwhelmed with all the voices and all the decisions and all the things that go into baby making/raising and that you are available to listen and give any advice/opinions about anything she might want to ask --- and then leave it at that.  Let her come to you.  You just made yourself an open, non-threatening avenue to seek help without the worry of being overwhelmed.  She'll seek it.  I promise. 

"I'm bringing you dinner.  What do you want?"

Most people think to bring dinner over after the baby is born, but truthfully, a pregnant couple needs a cooking break just as much.  With changing cravings, killer heartburn, and general exhaustion, it can be hard to plan meals in advance, leading to the daily trauma of deciding what to get for dinner.  Making a human is no small task; making dinner is -- but it feels bigger than ever.  So tell her you're bringing dinner by.  Don't ask if you can: tell her you're doing it.  She'll be relieved that she doesn't have to politely decline because it's uncomfortable to receive help (while desperately wanting to say yes), and if she truly has other plans, she'll let you know and offer up another night (probably tomorrow!) that she doesn't have dinner plans yet.  Bonus: her husband will be also be super grateful!!

"I have every confidence that you can do this."

She might deny it. She might roll her eyes.  She probably won't know how to respond.  BUT she will start to believe you a little bit.  In the deluge of "How are you feeling? Are you excited??  Are you scared???", hearing that you have confidence that she has what it takes to carry a baby, deliver a baby, and then care for a baby (did I mention that it's a BABY???) is reassuring, if not empowering.  Asking her about specific emotions causes her to hyper-focus on those emotions and feels restrictive, as if they are the only emotions she's allowed to/could possibly feel.  The general question, "How are you feeling?" is a super loaded question and how much time do you really have/how much do you truly care??  Go ahead and assume that she's excited, scared, and feeling, well, pregnant.  And then tell her that you have every confidence that she can do this -- that she can carry a baby, deliver a baby, and raise a baby.  If needed, cite some examples of her strength, level-headedness, wisdom, or general ability to meet challenges.  Follow up with a solid, "You're already doing a great job."  Again, it may generate more eye rolls, but she'll cling to the sound of your voice saying those words the next time she is feeling discouraged.  Slowly, her insecurities and fears about, well, ALL of it will start to chip away.

"Let's go -- we're getting ice cream!"

No, really.  It's like the best thing you can say.  And then, while getting the ice cream, tell her she needs an extra scoop or two just because she does (NOT because she's "eating for two").  And when I say "needs," I truly, sincerely mean it.

                                           *        *       *        *       *        *      

The list for what to say is shorter than the list of what not to say (like these and these -- though I actually like to hear #35!), but fewer words are so much sweeter than all the noise that people seem to make during this time.  When in doubt, a simple, heartfelt "Congratulations!!" goes a long way.  It's easy to respond to.  Besides, celebrating is much more encouraging than commiserating. 

The mind of a pregnant woman goes nonstop and people's words have everything to do with how well she processes the relentless thoughts, worries, concerns, and even joys.  I am blessed with a husband who instinctively knows exactly what to say to ease my mind and hormone-heightened emotions-- and cursed challenged with a job that interacts with a ton of people who say the wrong thing every day.  It certainly IS a challenge.

Maybe I should send this post around as a memo....?

If I have learned anything during this pregnancy, it's that the #1 item to have in your pregnancy-survival toolkit is a sense of humor.  So, help the prego ladies out and don't dampen their attempts at staying sane with careless words, inane questions, horror stories, or unsought advice.  Encourage her!  And if all else fails, make her laugh (but not at herself, her pregnancy, or pregnancy in general...about something totally unrelated!).  Her stress-levels will be grateful for the release.

On another note, want to see some craziness??

Jan. 30, 2014 - 5 Weeks
Aug. 20, 2014 - 34.5 Weeks

I figured one poor bathroom/mirror selfie shot deserved another. ;)  It will be interesting to see what 40+ weeks looks like!

Now, who's taking me for ice cream????

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