What is it about pregnancy that elicits public affection towards your bump and unsolicited advice from strangers? Here’s how you can navigate this attention with diplomacy. By Xanet Scheepers
People are fascinated by pregnancy and new babies, which often leads them to make comments and share opinions that can add substantially to a new mom’s anxiety levels.
“There are various ways to deal with these comments. It will depend on your personality, how well you know the commentator, and how you feel on the day,” says independent midwife and lactation consultant Christine Klynhans.
She suggests keeping the following in mind when friends, colleagues or strangers have anything to say about your pregnancy:
- It’s your body and your baby, and you don’t have any responsibility to endure unwanted opinions – you can simply brush them off. In many ways, this is the easiest solution and a good skill to learn when you become a parent.
- You can be assertive and set a boundary for someone failing to treat you with respect. Be honest and let the person know your feelings are being hurt or they’re making you anxious. This is the way to go if the perpetrator is someone you deal with on a regular basis.
- Defuse the situation by turning it into a joke.
- Blame it on your doctor. Few people will openly speak out against advice given to a woman by a healthcare professional.
We asked moms to share their awkward pregnancy encounters and asked Christine to give advice on how to best handle these situations unique to moms-to-be.
“I’m always faced with questions about whether what I’m eating is good for my baby – whether it’s a small packet of popcorn with a side of carrots, a healthy salad, a cheese-and-tomato tramezzini or a steak.” – Jane Viviers, 20 weeks pregnant
Christine’s advice: “The responsibility of having a healthy lifestyle during pregnancy causes anxiety and guilt for many women. Throw in food cravings, nausea and food aversions and diet becomes a major stressor. The last thing you need is comments from those around you. You can simply say, “I discussed my diet with my doctor, and she’s happy with what I’m eating”.
“It’s really uncomfortable moments when people ask me how far along I am and then respond in shock: ‘Wow, you’re really big for 20 weeks. Are you sure there’s only one baby in there? I only showed much later in my pregnancy’.” – Imka Webb, 30 weeks pregnant
Christine’s advice: “Commenting on someone’s body is rude and warrants an assertive reply. Answer with something along the lines of, ‘That’s not a very kind thing to say. There are so many changes in my body and I’m feeling quite vulnerable’.”
“I get constant questions regarding pregnancy clichés like cravings, morning sickness, and heartburn. If you don’t have them, people think you’re lying or putting on a show. People think you have to crave weird combinations or there’s something wrong with you. Also, I cringe every time someone ask me if my twins, Jacques (boy) and Hannah (girl) are identical. – Heleen Theron, mom of twins
Christine’s advice: “These types of comments can usually be managed with some humour. Answers like: ‘Food cravings are part of my everyday life, perhaps I’m just not noticing it!’ or ‘Pregnancy must be my superpower – I feel great!’ usually do the trick.
Regarding the ‘identical’, yet different gender, twins – most people will realise their error as they’re asking it. Those who don’t probably don’t understand the concept, so simply say ‘No, they’re not’.”
“My first pregnancy has been an amazing journey so far. The only thing that gets to me is when people feel they can comment on my choice of birth (C-section). I feel that it’s my body and my choice.” – Inge Swanepoel, 29 weeks pregnant
Christine’s advice: “There is no ‘correct’ birth choice for any mother. What matters is you have options and these are honoured and respected. Ultimately, it’s your body and your baby. I believe in simply blocking all negative input from others about birth. Just say, ‘Luckily, I get to choose what option is going to work best for me and my baby.’ Or, ‘I’m actually trying to keep an open mind and a positive outlook about my birth. Please don’t tell me anything that’s negative and scary. Perhaps we could get together afterwards and share experiences’.”
“The thing that annoyed me the most during my pregnancy was hearing everyone’s advice – especially because it was my second pregnancy. I wasn’t a new mom and did actually know how to care for my new baby. I didn’t say anything, because I didn’t want to offend anyone or seem ungrateful.” – Tanya Serrao, mom to Keanu (4) and Milanay (6 months)
Christine’s advice: “This type of advice is mostly offered with good intentions. You should take it in that spirit and simply choose to ignore it and do your own thing. Simply say, ‘Thank you very much, it’s amazing how different methods work for different people. I’ve found this method works quite well for me right now, but will definitely remember what you said and give it a try if needed’.”
Xanet is an award-winning journalist and Living and Loving’s digital editor. She has won numerous awards for her health and wellness articles and was a finalist for the Discovery Journalist of the Year in 2009 and again in 2011 for the Discovery Best Health Consumer Reporting and Feature Writing category. She is responsible for our online presence across social media channels and makes sure our moms have fresh and interesting articles to read every day. Learn more about Xanet Scheepers.