A few weeks after she’d had her first baby, one of my friends from high school told me how cool it was to be pregnant because people went out of their way to be nice to you and make sure you didn’t strain yourself.
Nearly a decade later, I was pregnant and, by and large, experiencing the same sort of treatment: People offering to carry things for me, holding doors, attentively asking if I needed food or water and offering words of advice.
Looking back, it’s pretty similar to what I, as a little girl, would’ve thought it was like to be a Disney princess. Albeit, when I was younger, I also figured being a Disney princess specifically had more water park accessibility (based on nothing except that Disney princesses and water parks had equally cool factors for me, which really haven’t changed that much in a couple of decades).
But I digress.
The princess treatment more often than not was helpful, and everyone I encountered only had the best intentions. But sometimes those intentions crossed a line when, say, someone tried to provide unsolicited advice about my health or give me “realistic” expectations of pregnancy.
For a lot of people, there’s nothing more exciting than a baby (and for some people it isn’t very exciting, and that’s A-OK).
I was eager to get my little cuddle nugget outside of my body as healthy and safely as possible; and to that end, people offered a lot of anecdotes and tips — the most helpful and reassuring of which were other women’s stories of the births of their babies. No two stories are alike.
What wasn’t reassuring or helpful was a comment made by a woman who, after asking how many weeks along I was, said, “Well, you take care. You never know what might happen. People lose babies all the time.”
I don’t want to mitigate the grief and suffering of miscarriages or other health events that cause an end to pregnancies that women worked to keep. There are no words to describe how scary and sad it is to lose a baby, and someone saying something not entirely nice to me pales in comparison to those feelings and experiences.
The comment I received was — I think, and hope — meant to be realistic and grounding, but it really did little more than just make me more scared when I already knew my pregnancy was high-risk (mostly due to my being 32 years old) and was taking precautions to that end.
I also can’t help but think about the person who told me one morning that the peanut butter and crackers I was eating weren’t healthy for my baby. That person’s concern for what I ate must not have been too strong, because he declined my subsequent request to purchase and prepare all my meals if he was so eager to have a stake in my pregnancy.
Granted, I’m not in any way owed the lovely princess treatment I received here and there, but there’s no woman whose pregnancy should be up for public comment — whether it’s about the appearance of her body, what maybe could happen, or what she’s eating, especially when the comments are based on approximately no knowledge of that woman’s health condition.
The only reasonable time to comment on a woman’s pregnancy — or anyone’s health condition, for that matter — is when you are the health care professional attending to that person or someone in her circle who’s been asked for such input.
In the grand scheme of things, a couple of misguided and not-very-nice comments don’t register very high — if they register at all — on any scale of suffering. But they do serve to add even the tiniest bit of stress on what can be an already stressful situation, especially when those comments are uninvited by the person to whom they’re made.
I suppose in the end what I’m trying to say is something that a princess-less Disney movie already taught us: In certain situations, if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.