What not to say

For Rebirth Nurse’s second “blog carnival”, the theme is “What not to say to a pregnant or laboring woman.” I’ll probably have a few postpartum comments, as well. [If you want to be included, you can email her the link to your post at knitting-fool AT hotmail DOT com.]

  • “Are you having twins?” [Isn’t that so lovely of people to imply that you’ve gained “too much” weight?]
  • “I can tell you’re having a boy/girl because you’re carrying high/low.” [Um, seriously — the baby’s sex has nothing to do with how high or low I’m carrying. And while you say I’m carrying high so I’m having a girl, the last Nosy Nelly told me I was carrying low so I’m having a girl. Guess what?? You’re both wrong! I’m having a boy!]
  • “Are you still pregnant??” [Usually said to a woman beginning around 38 weeks until she gives birth. Proper retort: “No, I had the baby two weeks ago, and I’m already 9 months pregnant again!” or “Yeah, I had the baby yesterday — didn’t you hear? I just like being fat. Oh, and those kicks you see in my belly right now — just gas!”]
  • “Don’t [fill in the blank] because it will make the baby [insert some negative outcome here].” [And your evidence for that is…?]
  • This baby will never come out vaginally.” [Pinky’s response was perfect: “Don’t you wish it was socially acceptable to hit Doctors with an electric cattle prod? I do. Then when they say something unhelpful you could condition them not to.”]
  • “Trust me — you will want the epidural.” [So glad you can foretell the future. Next time, conjure me up a winning lottery ticket, hmm?]
  • “If you think her story is bad, let me tell you about the time I had my baby…” [No, actually, I don’t really want to hear any more negative birth stories, thank you very much. The last thing I want to think of when I’m in labor is your bad birth!]
  • “Don’t you know what causes that?” [Usually said to a woman after she announces her third or higher pregnancy. My friend (mother of 6) had the perfect retort: “Yes, and I rather enjoy it — don’t you??”]
  • “This is your first baby — you’ll definitely tear. All first-time moms tear.” [This was actually said by one of my SILs to another SIL. Just for the record, the second SIL did not tear, though she had a 9-lb 8-oz baby as her first.]
  • “This is your 5th baby, you’ll definitely hemorrhage.” [Said by Dr. Pierce to Catherine Skol, which is part of the reason she is suing him. Also, “Shut up and push,” among other priceless gems.]
  • Any other “robotic obstetrics” maxims handed down as gospel truth just because a woman looks like something [tall, short, big, little, etc.] or fits a risk category, implying that “risk” equals “definitely will happen,” rather than merely an increased likelihood of happening. Sort of like doctors blaming obese women for the rise in C-sections, although as Jill at The Unnecesarean says, “cesareans do not occur spontaneously. An obstetrician performs them.”]
  • “When are you due?” [Said to a woman who is not pregnant. Rude at any time, but particularly obnoxious when the woman has an obvious newborn in a car-seat at her feet. Yeah, not every woman gets her size 0 pre-pregnancy body back in 2 weeks, like the Hollywood elite who have personal trainers and chefs to make sure they starve themselves into submission. I call it “the Auschwitz look.”]
  • “How much longer is this going to take, anyway?” [Actually said by my husband to me about an hour and a half into labor. During a contraction. Through clenched teeth I told him that — just like the Bradley teacher said (thinking, “you idiot — don’t you remember anything?!?”) — labor can often take 24 hours for a first-time mom. In my case, it was just 9 hours, so, so much for that rule!]
  • “You know, you don’t get a medal for not having drugs!”
  • “You wouldn’t get a root canal without pain medication — why would you want to give birth without drugs??”
  • “Natural labor is like natural dentistry.”
  • Anything else that does not fit the rule handed down by my mom:

    If you can’t say something nice… don’t say anything at all!


7 Responses

  1. what a great list! It’s a very good topic. Language creates everything. I often think about the Spanish way of saying that a woman is going into labour–“Maria is coming to the light today.” What a different world we would live in if us Anglos spoke that way.

  2. Isn’t this list the truth – it is unbelievable what people think is acceptable to say to pregnant women. Well it would be unbelievable but I’ve heard it, and heard of it, too many times, so sadly, I do believe it! I had people shouting some of these comments (esp about gender) to me from the opposite end of the grocery aisle.

  3. While looking at the monitor someone spouts, “I can see your contraction coming on.”

    “Don’t push” as baby is crowning….puhleeze people!

  4. Postpartum:

    “I should have given you an episiotomy” after a sunburst tear on the labia.

    “Oh, I know honey, the labia didn’t heal well, but think of it as a trophy from your birth.” Said by a doctor upon examination after I expressed frustration that the my labia now and forever has a hole in in that was NOT sewn together properly after my sunburst tear.

    “Oh, why is all this blood coming out?” exclaimed by the doctor after one of my births…right after he pulled my placenta out. It apparently was a blood clot or piece of placenta he left behind.

  5. Thanks for the link!

    This is a great list. I have a friend who was a magnet for all weird old world advice. I have to find the list that she sent me while pregnant of the off-the-wall stuff that she heard, like “You shouldn’t wear that necklace! It will make your baby’s cord wrap around its neck!”

    The trickier ones are the more scientific sounding myths that pregnant women are told during pregnancy. It’s very difficult to sort out myth from possible truth, especially when it comes from an authoritative source.

    • Oh, yeah — that reminds me — the first time I was pregnant, I was still a waitress, and a female coworker told me not to lift my hands above my head (like, to carry the trays… in other words, to do my job) because it would make the cord wrap around the baby’s neck. Sigh…

  6. “You wouldn’t get a root canal without pain medication — why would you want to give birth without drugs??”

    Here is my response to this!

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