Monday 19 March 2018

Liz Kearney: 10 things you should never say to a pregnant woman

Don't mention her weight, moods or alcohol, warns Liz Kearney

Lucinda Creighton
Lucinda Creighton
Tom Parlon

Liz Kearney

Tom Parlon caused a stir at the weekend when he suggested that Lucinda Creighton might be ready to quit politics simply because she's having a baby.

We admired Lucinda's restrained response - she said simply that such attitudes were out of touch - but reckon she might just be used to it; pregnancy has a habit of bringing on foot-in-mouth disease in even the most tactful friends and colleagues.

So in the interests of harmony - and as a special service to Tom Parlon - we've compiled a list of the top 10 things you should never, ever say to a pregnant woman.

1 Don't offer any advice about the actual giving birth part, even if you consider yourself an expert because you've done it once or twice. If a woman tells you she's having a C-section, it is probably not because she's too lazy to actually do any pushing, and more likely because she's been told it's medically necessary.

So she does not want to hear that it's harder to bond with a C-section baby, or that she won't be able to drive for aeons, or that she'll have a weird shelf-like skin overhang on her stomach forever.

Similarly, some women are hellbent on a natural birth and are not interested in hearing about the six agonising days you spent in labour, the dodgy stitches botched by the trainee midwife, or the fact that you're now temporarily incontinent.

2 This should be obvious, but do not tell a pregnant woman she is 'huge', even if she can be probably be seen from outer space. But do not tell her she is tiny either, as she will fret that she is about to give birth to a pygmy.

Instead, tell her she's neat. This is reassuring and polite and implies everything is developing at the right pace, and in the right place.

3 Only touch or talk to a pregnant woman's bump if you are already sure that she really, really likes you. I love it when my good friends chat to my bump, particularly when they've had a few drinks and the incoherent ramblings begin. But otherwise, the bump is off limits.

Think of it this way: if you're a close friend or family member, you can pat it and say hi. If you're an acquaintance, you can be on nodding terms with it and ask after its well-being in a detached fashion. If you're a sworn enemy or a total stranger, step away from the bump. Do not even look at the bump. Seriously. This is non-negotiable.

4 Avoid the whole topic of mood swings. Asking a newly pregnant woman if she'll be even moodier than usual may result in your being physically assaulted. We can't help it, it's the hormones.

Instead, say something nice like: you'll be a wonderful parent, even if you know for a fact that the mum-to-be is a chaotic, disorganised madwoman who has yet to prove herself capable of taking care of herself, let alone a small, mewling infant.

5 Just because a woman is expecting does not mean she is interested in your children. This is particularly useful advice for the parents of toddlers, who seem to view newly pregnant people as an unusually receptive audience for sorry tales of teething and tantrums.

Really, we don't care how unsavoury your own offspring are. That's your problem. We are confident that our own children will sleep peacefully, never cry, sail seamlessly through toddler-hood and then grow up into well-adjusted children and teenagers. And no one is going to tell us any differently, thanks all the same.

6 No woman is too newly pregnant to be offered a seat by a man on a bus, but there is a correct way to go about it. Don't say: 'You're clearly about to pop, so you'd better sit down', because you run the risk of offending a not-even-slightly pregnant person who has scoffed one too many Dairy Milks.

Simply offer up your seat with a gallant flourish of the hand, and a polite: 'Please, be my guest.' If she's pregnant and knackered, she may just start crying with gratitude. If she's not pregnant, you'll just look like a gentleman. And who knows? You might even get her number.

7 Don't ask if she has given up alcohol. It is none of your business. Pregnant women are well capable of assessing the risks associated with an occasional glass of wine and will have decided for themselves what they want to do about it, without feeling the need to justify their decision. And do offer her a small glass of wine at a party, instead of just whipping out the flat diet 7Up.

If you really want to curry favour, how about preparing a special alcohol-free cocktail? She will love you forever.

8 Never use the phrase 'in your condition'. It makes pregnancy sound like some kind of incurable 18th century disease and makes us wonder if we look ill.

9 Try and avoid prompting unnecessary food panic. I once voiced my surprise when a pregnant friend ordered a rare steak - unlike me, she had not come across a vague direction to avoid undercooked meat - and when I saw her shocked face, I had to explain that I had no idea whether rare steak was safe or not, and that it probably was, and that I was only being overly cautious. But I could see I'd ruined her dinner, and I hated myself for it.

10 Don't ask a pregnant colleague if she's just about to go on maternity leave. You think you're being solicitous and nice, but we think you're telling us we'd be better off lying at home on the sofa eating biscuits rather than waddling inelegantly around the office and screwing up important projects with our muddled baby brains.

It's a particularly bad idea to suggest we must be finishing up any day now when we've got another six months to go.

Irish Independent

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