Yes. This is a huge belly.  | Photo by Freddy Brewster

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A friend of mine was visiting from the Bay Area a couple of weeks ago, eager to see me at least one last time before I have a child, inevitably changing the nature of such visits. I am currently eight and a half months pregnant with my first baby.

Embracing the glorious weather Humboldt has been experiencing, we decided to take a day trip to College Cove. While exposing my very pregnant-looking body in my bikini, several people said congratulations others asked me questions about when I’m due. One man even cracked a stupid joke. I won’t repeat it.

My friend, having never been pregnant and also not from friendly Humboldt, was appalled. She couldn’t believe that strangers felt it appropriate to comment on my body. 

“Do people say that kind of stuff to you all the time?” she asked, with a tinge of disgust in her voice.

“Yup,” I replied. “All the time.”

It’s true. Since I have been visibly pregnant, I have been the subject of countless comments, awkward questions, unsolicited advice and even the occasional belly touch.

Talking to other pregnant friends, I’ve learned that they too are often the subject of unwanted attention. We vent about these experiences together, questioning what brings on this seeming lack of self-control for people when they see us.

I know that people have the best intentions, it just seems that they simply don’t know how to talk to us. There are a lot of misconceptions about pregnancy and I suspect many people’s knowledge comes mostly from the movies.

Also remember that this miracle of growing life tends to make us preggos feel sensitive, vulnerable, tired, drained and generally less tolerant of other people’s bullshit.

That is why I think it’s time to help you all out a little, share some of my experiences and tell you some things you should never say to a pregnant person.

You’re huge! Or other similar comments about my protruding abdomen

This one happens a lot and comes in many different forms. Sometimes people say, “Look at that big pregnant belly!” or, “You look like you’re about to pop!”

A co-worker recently asked, “Is there just one baby in there?!!” When I told her yes, she then asked, “Are you sure? Could it be twins? Have you been tested for that?!”

Okay. Clearly this person knows very little about having a baby, since she didn’t understand that, in this modern age, I would have long known by now if I were having twins. She also thought that you get “tested” for twins, like it’s an STD. So, we will forgive her for that. (I realize, by the way, that this person will likely read this and die of humiliation. And for that, I deeply apologize. RIP.)

Still, people need to understand that most pregnant women, especially when they are so close to the end of this hell, are not thrilled to hear comments on their size. Yes, my belly is huge. I am well aware. I’ve been carrying the fucker around for almost nine months! Believe it or not, I’m also a little self-conscious about it sometimes. Bringing further attention to it or saying anything that makes me feel abnormally large is not appreciated.

Can I touch your belly? Or, even worse, touching it without asking

For some, the amazement brought on by seeing my gargantuan belly is often immediately followed by an overwhelming urge to touch it. What’s truly bemusing is how this just seems like a reflex, like people really can’t help themselves. They see the belly and the hand just shoots out to cup it, like they’re stopping it from falling or something.

I was actually warned about this by friends and have been pleasantly surprised that it doesn’t happen as often as I was expecting. I think people are generally much more aware these days that it is not okay to touch someone without consent (thank you, #MeToo movement.) What happens much more often is that people stop themselves, their hands poised in the belly-grabbing position, and then ask if it’s okay to touch it.

A pregnant body is a work of art, not to be touched. | Venus of Willendorf from Wikimedia Commons

I appreciate this. But it puts me in a very awkward position: Though I want to reward their self control by allowing them to touch my belly, I also don’t want a person I hardly know touching my belly, for multiple reasons that I probably do not need to explain.

Your takeaway from this should be: It is better to ask if you can touch the belly than to just go for it. But unless you are very close to the person, you probably shouldn’t even ask. I know it is hard to hear. I promise someday, when it’s appropriate, you’ll get to touch a pregnant belly and experience whatever it is you’re dying to experience.

What are you craving? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?

I have no idea where the “pickles and ice cream” cliché originated. But I believe there is a special place in hell for whoever was the first person to say it. No pregnant person I have ever known has eaten or craved pickles and ice cream together. At least in my experience, pregnancy cravings are less frequent and far less bizarre than people have been led to believe.

Admittedly, I’ve had the occasional craving for something very specific. Mostly this was in my first trimester when I had bad morning sickness and most food was unappealing. Sometimes only one thing would sound appetizing to me and I would have to get it immediately before the feeling passed. It wasn’t fun. It was annoying. And whenever I would say that I wanted a corn dog or some grapes everyone would get all excited and shout “Ooooh! Pregnancy cravings!”

Seriously, what is so fucking fascinating about pregnant women stuffing their faces with edible oddities?

At a dinner the other night a friend’s boyfriend asked me, in front of a group of intently listening people, what was the biggest thing I’ve eaten since I’ve been pregnant. I was baffled. The biggest thing? Did he want me to rehash a tale of a time I ate an entire pizza? I have done that, both pregnant and not. But who hasn’t? C’mon, man. I don’t really feel like sharing my food shame stories for your entertainment.

Anything about how horrifying labor is going to be

When people learn that I’m pregnant they often, for some reason, want to share labor horror stories. They’ll talk about how their sister had to have a c-section, or how someone they know had to be rushed into the hospital for some emergency, or just remind me of how generally painful it is going to be.

“You could die,” one elderly woman told me while we were discussing my pregnancy. What the actual fuck?! Why would anyone ever say that? I should have reminded the old broad that she could die any day now, too.

I know that labor is going to be painful. I know that there could be complications. I do not need to be constantly reminded of this. Nor do any other pregnant people.

Pushing a “natural birth”

I think the attitude that a drug-free birth is “necessary” is particularly prevalent in Humboldt, where some folks turn up their noses at the idea of western medicine.

But it is not your place to tell me that I have to withstand the pain of labor without drugs, especially if you just finished telling me how horribly painful labor is going to be! Hey, I think a natural birth would be swell, if I’m up for it. But if I am in excruciating pain and I feel like I need drugs, you better believe I’m going to take those damn drugs!

This does not make me a monster.

And if you are a cisgender man tempted to tell a pregnant woman not to take drugs — one of the people who said it to me was — just don’t. I can’t even believe I have to tell you this. You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about. You’ve never been pregnant. You’ve never even had a period. Just don’t. Bad idea.

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I could go on. People say all sorts of other annoying crap to me. Hippie ladies can’t wait to talk about what my child’s personality is going to be like because she’s going to be a Libra. It gets pretty old when people say I’m doing everything “for two!” I’m sick of being asked over and over when I’m due, what the sex is, what names I’ve thought of.

Again, I understand that people have the best intentions. I’m not trying to shame anyone here. (Okay. Maybe a little.) I just hope that you can all learn from my words. Next time you see a pregnant person, maybe just ask how she’s doing or if she needs anything. Try to remember that there are other aspects to her other than her being with child.

Or maybe just leave her the fuck alone. That’s always an option.

And with that, I’m off on maternity leave! I’ll be back in a few months and possibly in a less bitchy mood. Be good, Humboldt.