by Jennifer Ryan
After going through pregnancy and comparing notes with other moms, I came to the conclusion that people really have no idea how to interact with pregnant women in the workplace or in general public.
I thought developing a list of pregnancy rules might be beneficial to humanity. Yes, I speak for all pregnant women everywhere. We had a meeting.
1. Please don’t give me your plague. I don’t know why people feel the need to come to work sick. You’re not going to get a gold star. You’re not going to leverage your perfect attendance record for a promotion and a ten percent raise. No one really gives a shit. However if you do come to work sick anyway, please stay as far away from me as possible. I can’t take any medications. Tylenol, Advil, even Pepto Bismol are off limits. After you leave work, you can return home and slip into a medicine-induced coma that only Nyquil can provide. My only recourse is to snort nasal spray like a cocaine addict fresh outta’ rehab. Don’t come within fifty feet of me, or I will put hands on you. If you’re not afraid of me, you should be. Between the weight gain and hormones, I could bench press a small car.
2. Don’t ask me if I’m going to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a personal choice, and my decision regarding it is really none of your business. We live in a digital age, and I can guarantee I’ve researched the topic thoroughly. I know the benefits and the drawbacks. In the end, I will do what’s best for me and my child. Also, I’m not sure I know you well enough to discuss my breasts. More importantly, I’m not sure I WANT to know you well enough to discuss my breasts. Maybe you’re thinking, “Ghee what’s the big deal? We’re not talking about your breasts in a sexual way.” True. My breasts have moved into a utilitarian realm. However, we are still talking about MY breasts. Now, you are thinking about my breasts. I know you’re thinking about my breasts, and I know that I’m uncomfortable. If you’re still wondering whether we should have the discussion because you perceive us as friendly, here’s a good litmus test. If you’re a man (particularly in the workplace), the answer to that question is NO. You are never allowed to ask if I will or do breastfeed. Sorry. If you’re a woman, then what’s the nature of our friendship? If we go to lunch together at least once a week or if you’re that mother from whom I solicit regular pregnancy advice, then you can probably ask. Otherwise, don’t ask.
3. Don’t touch my stomach. For crying out loud, ask first. My stomach isn’t suddenly community property because there’s a baby in it. Just ask before you touch it. I’ll probably say that you can, but I reserve the right to say NO. Also, please be mindful of where you’re putting your hands. Otherwise, we have an awkward conversation ahead. I try to maintain eye contact, while I pretend your hands aren’t too far south. We move into sexual assault territory pretty quickly.
4. Don’t ask me if I’m going to have an epidural. Are you a mother who gave natural childbirth the good ole’ college try? If so, good for you. Seriously. I’m in awe of you. After I deliver, I’ll throw you a parade. However, I don’t want to hear how a natural delivery is best for my child. Every woman’s labor experience is different. People are unique, like little snowflakes. Maybe your delivery was two kids building a snowman on a serene, wintry day. Maybe my delivery will be a horrible, piercing, unrelenting, unforgiving blizzard complete with icy car accidents and roving blackouts. We don’t know. I may opt for drugs. I may demand drugs. The odds that I choose to have a second child may increase exponentially in relationship to my decision to use drugs. Again, it’s none of your business.
Are you a man whose wife had your child or children naturally? You have no opinion here whatsoever. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I don’t care if your wife gave birth in a meadow surrounded by deer. I don’t care if you dabbed the beads of perspiration from her forehead, while she bit a leather strap. I don’t care if you put your testicles into a vice as a show of solidarity and support. I don’t care if you spotted an outline of the baby Jesus in a cumulus cloud, just as your beautiful child entered the world. I don’t care. You have never experienced labor pain, and you never will. You have no opinion. If you still feel the need to say something persuasive about this topic, then I’ll make you the following deal. I’ll call you when I go into labor. You arrive at the hospital with a cantaloupe. I shove the cantaloupe into your ass. Then, we’ll both push without drugs together. Sound fair? In case you’re wondering…No. The cantaloupe will NOT be lubricated.
5. Don’t tell me your labor horror stories. I get it. Labor is a scary thing. I’ve located plenty of websites that reinforce my deepest fears on the subject. I’ve seen countless videos of women begging for death’s sweet release. I don’t need to hear about your labor that lasted three days. I don’t need you to tell me that your epidural didn’t take, so you could feel every single rip of your lady parts. I don’t need to hear that your child was born with eight arms, a shark’s head, and is now a headliner at Sea World. Thanks for understanding!
6. Don’t examine everything I consume with the voracity of a private detective hunting down an unfaithful spouse. Forget South Beach. Forget Atkins. You will never see a more restricted diet than the diet of a pregnant woman. No caffeine. No nitrates. No alcohol. No medicine. A pregnant woman should keep her weight gain to between twenty-five and thirty-five pounds. Right. Get serious. Until recently, pregnant women were supposed to avoid soft cheeses, like blue cheese and feta. I scoured the internet before finding a wonderful article by the FDA repealing the ban on soft cheeses. I was positively ELATED to learn that, as long as the cheese was pasteurized, I could consume to my heart’s content. I digress. Some women follow the ban list to the letter. Such a committed mother probably imagines that her tombstone will one day read:
“Here lies Betty. She didn’t eat Velveeta, and her children got into Harvard. They are eternally grateful.”
Most women start strong but eventually slip once or twice…or more. For the love of all that is good and holy, cut a pregnant woman a break. She’s already trying to cram sixty-four ounces of water a day into an already crammed bladder. She doesn’t need you to stick a finger in her face because you caught her eating a hot dog. She doesn’t need to worry you’re snapping a photo of her <gasp> drinking the ONE glass of wine she’s allowed herself to drink during her pregnancy.
When I was pregnant, a very sweet co-worker of mine told me a story that still horrifies me. My co-worker was in line at a popular coffee chain. A pregnant woman was ordering a cup of coffee. The woman directly behind the pregnant woman said to her, “Why don’t you just light up a cigarette with that?” I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not the city paid her for this service. Was she hired to drive around town and publicly shame pregnant women for their food choices? I really could think of better ways she could spend her day. For example, we have a serious stray animal problem. Perhaps she could run over a basket of kittens or toss a bag of puppies from a nearby bridge. I hear the cost of health care is escalating. Maybe she could lure unsuspecting blind people to the top of a tall building and push them off the roof. The possibilities for a woman with such skills and lack of empathy truly are endless. (Note: What I’ve just written was the epitome of sarcasm. Please don’t send any hate mail. I don’t really think stray animals or blind people need to be eliminated from the world.)
I repeat. Cut a pregnant woman A BREAK.
7. Don’t tell me how huge I am. This is a big one, pun intended. I’m not really sure why a woman becomes pregnant, and all sense of social decency suddenly flies out the window. You wouldn’t dream of pointing to an obese woman and exclaiming, “My GOD, you’re ENORMOUS!” Why can’t you show the same restraint with me? Shouting, “There she blows,” while you mock hunt for a harpoon behind your desk is never ok. Look. I know I’m huge. You know I’m huge. I don’t need you asking me every other day whether I’m having multiples. I already look longingly at the belts I have hanging in my closet. I’ve already noticed that I have no waist. I already know my ass needs its own zip code. In fact, I’ve already submitted the appropriate paperwork to the post office to have a zip code created for my ass. I don’t need you to remind me that I’m getting larger on a daily basis.
Now, is there anything you CAN do for or around a pregnant woman? I’m glad you asked. Just assume you no longer live in a post-feminism world. I really do feel bad for some men, when they are clearly trying to decide whether or not to treat a woman with any sort of real courtesy.
Do I open the door for her?
Do I not open the door for her?
Is she going to yell at me?
Is she going to kick me in the balls?
A pregnant woman would LOVE for you to open the door for her, lift that heavy box, or reach for that object on the top shelf. And, non-pregnant women? Guess what! This goes for you too. My swollen belly trumps your vagina. I can’t run for that elevator. At best, I can waddle quickly. Letting the elevator door slam shut in my face does, indeed, make you a bitch.
Well, I think that covers everything. Feel free to post this simple list of rules in your nearest break room or post office. It might just save a life!