Home > Communication, Humor, Parenting > The Pregnancy Police

The Pregnancy Police

Pregnancy is weird.

I know, I know, it’s a glorious and beautifully wondrous thing. My body can sustain life! I am an essential part of bringing new life into this world!

sparkle mommy magic

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really excited about that new life. I can’t emphasize that enough, knowing now that the joys of motherhood are far greater than anything I could have imagined four years ago.

It’s the pregnancy part that’s kinda sketchy. For a gal who grew up on horror and sci fi, the closest likeness I can draw to pregnancy is alien invasion a la Alien and its sequels. There’s a reason my halfway-through-this-pregnancy pic took the form it did.

say what belly

What makes me feel okay with all this weirdness is looking at my beautiful four-year-old son and knowing that nine months of pregnancy is fleeting compared to the wonder that follows in its wake. I can get through this ordeal of semi-alien gestation, holding the knowledge of that imminent wonder close to my heart, which—thanks to pregnancy reorganizing my body organs—seems to have squished itself somewhere up around my jaw.

As if the alien invadiness aspect of pregnancy weren’t troubling enough, there’s something else that makes pregnancy as hugely awkward as is walking with a bowling ball stuck in one’s belly:

THE PREGNANCY POLICE!

Once you are pregnant, it’s as if people suddenly see you as community property. No longer are you Matilda, mature handler of her own affairs and multiple enormous business accounts! Nay, now you are Matilda, suspicious, suspect likely mishandler of the (almost certainly) adorable little one occupying your innards.

The pregnancy police are always undercover. They can’t be avoided, for there’s no way to tell when one of their force is in your presence until they’ve spoken. Once they’ve spoken, you will know them by their words:

  • “Omigod! Those shoes! You don’t want to fall and hurt the baby!
    Stifled hormonal reply
    What I’d really like to do is use toss these “deadly” 3 cm heels in the general direction of your face.
  • “Is that really what you want to be eating right now? My grandma’s third cousin’s fourth husband said eating that could result in a low birthweight baby.”
    Stifled hormonal replyCome to think of it, I do get my best advice from distant acquaintances of strangers, thanks so much!
  • “Is that alcohol? Please tell me you would not even look in the direction of alcohol with that precious baby in your belly!”
    Stifled hormonal replyNot that it’s any of your business, but it’s tea, you jackwad. But why am I saying it, since you’re about to taste it for yourself?! 

drink splash

This is but a small sampling of the wide array of unsolicited commentary received from the pregnancy police. If you listen carefully while in the vicinity of a pregnant woman, you will discover for yourself the creativity and constant scrutiny utilized by this police force as it attempts to ensure the pregnant woman behaves at all times in ways pleasing to its frequently confused and not entirely consistent collective.

If you, like me, are actually a pregnant woman right now, you will smile at these expressions of concern most the time, understanding that members of the pregnancy police force mean well. They’re concerned that the baby has the best of all things in her journey to the outside world. They’re so concerned, in fact, that it doesn’t occur to them they’re implicitly questioning the liberty, autonomy or presumptive capability of the mothers they’re policing. I mean, for the most part, even though she did end up playing host to a semi-foreign life form, the pregnant woman made it to pregnancy by having at least enough sense to avoid getting eaten by raptors, swallowed by trolls or imprisoned for participating in black market My Little Pony sales.

pony swap

Her own sense? She’s got some confidence in that, having made it this far with the tools she’s gathered throughout her life. The pregnancy polices’ collective sense? How could she have confidence in that, given that no member has clear, consistent reputable credentials nor, typically, has shown an ounce of measurable sense? Sadly, such considerations are irrelevant, for this force is as outspoken as it is untrained.

So pregnant women, already tired and trying to make the most of bodies that don’t feel or move quite the same as they have for many years preceding, are forced to either be called “rude” after earnestly speaking their minds to the pregnancy police, or otherwise make small talk with would-be protectors who feel noble in their baby-protecting efforts without actually having protected anything.

So far, I’ve done a pretty good job being patient with members of the pregnancy police, even though I’ve wanted to hide away from them in my house because, no, I don’t want to discuss with them pregnancy, or babies, or baby showers, or what I am or am not doing right by any stranger’s standards. The only folks I want to be having those discussions with are my closet friends, aka “those who know I have at least as much sense as a gnat and will say actually useful and sensible things, unless they are joking.”

But I’ve gotta be straight with you. Knowing its beautiful end result, I can handle playing host to another life form. I can kinda, mostly, maybe handle the constant exhaustion. I can take the weight gain, and the medical practitioners whose entire training seems to be based on assessing whether or not that gain is optimal, and berating pregnant women for too much or too little weight gain.

weight watchers

I’m just not sure I can handle the pregnancy police anymore. So, lovely strangers, let me break it down for you. If you happen across a pregnant woman and wonder, “Should I share my thoughts on optimal prenatal strategies with her?” The answer is no, with a side of, “And here is my drink, which I am—in the vein of your sharing—kindly offering up to all of your face!”

Don’t, I repeat, don’t try to sell a pregnant woman on the idea you know her body, her pregnancy or her baby better than she does. ‘Cause that is going to be one hard sell, and one that might just get you a boot to the head.

Much better than policing is real kindness. Real kindness is worked by asking things like, “Can I hold the door for you?” or “Do you need a hand with that?” Even a smile can be magic in the right moment of tired despair.

That’s my drive-thru order, then: eighteen thousand smiles with extra eye crinkles, hold the policing. If you could help me with that, you might make the weirdness that is pregnancy a little less exhausting.

And, believe me, that is the kind of thing that gets you a free drink in your gullet instead of on your toupee!

drink share___

Note:
This really isn’t directed at any one person or comment, but a response to the aggregate. What seems like innocuous commentary at a very narrow angle looks and feels a lot different to the person who gets to experience the very uncomfortable wide angle. In some ways, this is like a sequel to my “Don’t be Bob” post. Good intentions are wonderful, but they don’t always lead to good results!

zack bb3

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  1. January 8, 2014 at 4:55 am

    I remember my first alien invasion! Sometimes I would watch my belly moving and wait for his head/fist/foot to punch right through! 😉

    • January 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm

      Yesterday was the first day I felt a distinct body part instead of a mass of wiggles! I was equal parts awed and weirded out. 😀

  2. January 8, 2014 at 5:32 am

    I haven’t had too many “suggestions” on what I should or should not be doing. Except in that first trimester, when everyone had a cure for morning sickness. At first, I was thankful for anything that might help until one lady kept giving me mints and swore that mints and lemonade would work. I don’t like lemonade, and brushing my teeth every morning with minty toothpaste made me gag, so…yeah…that didn’t work for me.

    • January 8, 2014 at 6:43 pm

      I love lemonade, but it doesn’t sit well with me anymore. Even sans pregnancy, it’s a recipe for reflux! Mint is like that for me as well, if not quite as bad.

      All the things that settled my stomach this time around were things I won’t even eat usually, on account of their being more foodlike substance than food!

  3. January 8, 2014 at 5:52 am

    i remember high school students just walking up freely and placing their hands on my belly. “Isn’t that an invasion of personal space,” I first thought. Then it occurred to me, they were just naturally curious and for whatever reason they felt welcome to do so. I like to think all those hands transmitted a lot of love to this miracle in the making.

    • January 8, 2014 at 6:54 pm

      While this post didn’t even touch on touching, as it were, I have much stronger feelings about that.

      Unwanted touch is unwanted touch. Whether the recipient is pregnant, not pregnant, male, female, short, tall, thin, fat, it’s all the same. Unless the recipient of that touch is dying or in serious danger, it doesn’t matter if the toucher feels they have a valid reason for touching. Period.

      If any individual pregnant woman specifically invites or agrees to be touched, that’s a totally different story. It’s welcome touch then, and not an imposition of one desire’s without reference to an impacted other’s. My youngest sister, for example, wanted people to rub her belly, the exact opposite of me.

      I am all for my close friends and loved ones reaching for a touch. I have welcomed them into my life because they have shown respect for me as I have tried to with them. They are part of the goodness that will make the little one’s life magic, and I welcome them connecting to that life before they’re able to touch its bearer’s skin.

      But strangers? Acquaintances? No. We’re back to unwelcome touch, which does not become welcome because some kind of justification can be found by it.

      Luckily for those who passed me by in my first pregnancy, I emitted some kind of do-not-touch vibe. The only time someone touched my belly, it was a tiny, stooped old lady whose face lit up in a way that I could not help but cherish. I excused that touch, but it doesn’t mean that the touch itself was right. It just means that, in light of those very, very particular circumstances, it was not worth fighting. Not so for just about any other stranger over the age of, oh, six!

    • January 8, 2014 at 7:08 pm

      I should add, I love your heart and graciousness. My general reflections on this phenomenon are in response to elements of your comment, but not to you! ♥

  4. January 8, 2014 at 6:03 am

    My wife’s favorite (read unfavorite) was the unwarrented touching. People would come up and just feel her belly, out of nowhere. Then after a good belly rub would ask, “Can I feel the baby kicking?”

    Congratulations on your impending spawn. 🙂

    • January 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm

      I’ve only experienced it once between my 1.66 pregnancies, and in that one case it was excusable . . . but I shudder to think what I’d do if someone tried this with me otherwise! I’m no fan of unwanted touch, no matter what form it takes!

      Thank you. 😀

  5. January 8, 2014 at 6:07 am

    I think I told you my wonderful daughter-in-law is pregnant with my second grandson (yes they peeked). Chase is due around the 20th of March and we are rooting for her to go the distance though she is considered a high-risk pregnancy. She is also tall and slender in her normal world so started to show very early, now? Well she is clearly very pregnant. Whenever she and I are together people (pregnancy police) offer lots and lots of unsolicited advice, she is I think not nearly as patient as you. I adore her!

    The best story though is when she went shopping with me over Christmas for my new Daybed and libations, one of which was for her and I (Ginger Beer). We both love the extra pop of Ginger, it settles her stomach and it simply tastes fabulous. It is also alchol free. There is only one place to purchase our favorite kind, World Market and we buy it by the case. As we stood in the very long line we were discussing whether to buy an extra case and the lady behind us lit into the both of us for purchasing beer with the intent of drinking it (pregnant DIL) didn’t we know the harm we would be doing? My DIL lit right back, since my 5 year old grandson was with us she kept her mouth clean but she was having no parts of strangers. At the end of it, my grandson told her not to be mad, patted her tummy and informed all around that was his brother and smiled sweetly.

    Love them both. Love you too, you are far more patient. Aliens? I suspect you and my wonderful DIL would have a great deal in common.

    • January 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm

      Ooooooh, man, but I would have had a tough time in that ginger beer scenario! I love your grandson’s steps to defuse the situation. So sweet. ♥

      (I like to imagine I’ll get to meet them someday. Whether or not it happens, it’s sweet to imagine!)

      I’ve been pretty patient so far, but I can feel my patience slipping away along with my balance. It’s kinda like those images I used in “My favorite future doctor.” Except it’s the converse, where I started out with high patience and have found my patience levels slipping with each comment received. This post was my warning call. I hope it’s heeded, so no one finds out what happens when the patience level hits zero! 🙂

  6. katy
    January 8, 2014 at 6:32 am

    OH MY GODS I’m dying laughing. So been there and had the same reactions. You are wonderful. That alien inside you is so lucky! hang in there mama, and quit drinking so much already, will ya? xoxoxoxoxo

    • January 12, 2014 at 6:51 am

      LOL! I remembered reading your comment on my phone and laughing out loud, but I couldn’t remember why. Now I remember as I just did it again! Into the third trimester and so looking forward to meeting this little one. ♥

  7. jenbrunett
    January 8, 2014 at 7:07 am

    I’ve had two aliens in the belly (at different times) and fo shizzle I’ve gotten the comments, grrr argh grrrrrrrr… I love your approach way better than mine!

    • January 12, 2014 at 6:57 am

      Since I wrote this (a few days before posting it), I’ve been paying more attention to all the ways people find to not-so-subtly say others are doing it wrong. Yesterday I read this post about a dad getting accosted for playing with his kids . . . by women who felt that was a woman’s job. OY!

  8. January 8, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Lost my train of thought because you look too darn cute in that pic! Back to the issue at hand . . . The only thing I ever wanted to be asked during my pregnancy was, “How are you feeling?” And, for the person on the other end to genuinely mean it. No judgements, no advice.

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:04 am

      That is exactly it! A conversation starter, a question, not an implied command. I love it when people do ask that, but it’s so uncommon I’m almost too startled to think what to say.

  9. January 8, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I am not a mother, and have never been pregnant. However something I have watched time and time again which appalls me is ‘strangers feeling that they can pat a pregnant woman’s belly’!!!
    Where does that come from? Does it happen over there? How do you handle it? And would you be within your rights for threatening to slap an assault charge on them?

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:08 am

      It does happen over here! For me, it’s unwanted touch, and unwanted touch does not magically become wanted because the toucher feels entitled to it. It hasn’t historically been a crime, but a woman in Pennsylvania recently pressed charges. Some people feel that’s going overboard, but I don’t see why. Unwanted touch is unwanted touch, period. It shouldn’t have to be regulated. It should be understood. But since it isn’t, it looks like regulation is the way it has to be addressed.

  10. January 8, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    When I was pregnant with my little monkey (he’s now 5) I thankfully didn’t have strangers wanting to pat my bump but they were very keen to comment that I didn’t have far to go, and “not long now love” – however this was when I was only 6 months pregnant – they should have seen me when I was full term! It’s not nice and I’ve never understood why strangers insist on giving their horror stories, or invading space. Take care – and remember when baby does come – you can run into these people “accidentally” with the pram!

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:12 am

      What is with the horror stories, really?! I heard so, so many unsolicited horror stories, but then Anthony got one piece of “advice” that trumped them all . . . and was right. A new dad told Anthony that he would be tired, and he would be overwhelmed, but that he would hold that baby in his arms–the one who he could only imagine while I was still pregnant–and it would all be not only OK, but wonderful. So that’s what I try to pass along. Everything can seem terrible and terrifying boiled down the wrong way, but once that little person is actually here? It’s all down to loving and figuring out what to do, with little room left over for worrying about abstract things (or useless advice) yet to come.

      The “not long now love” comment makes me laugh. I haven’t heard much of that save from Anthony, to whom I’ve had to lovingly reply, “Remember, it’s the last trimester where the baby gains all the weight!”

  11. January 8, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    I hated those horror delivery stories that people spewed. You are so cute pregnant!

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:17 am

      Thank you!

      I now encounter women who ask about labor. I say that–in my limited experience–it’s hard, but finite, and small by comparison to the good that comes in meeting that little one. I’m hopeful that this time I won’t have a day-long back labor, but, you know . . . even if I do, it’s not so much pain for all that gain.

  12. January 8, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    Oh yes!! Preggo police (and infant police….toddler police…) are def NOT serving and protecting like they think they are. They’re insulting and annoying.

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:21 am

      I wonder what drives the urge to proffer the commentary they do? If it yielded good results, then perhaps, but it doesn’t. So perplexing.

  13. January 8, 2014 at 7:15 pm

    Somehow there needs to be boundaries set. People need to be told when their comments are appropriate and when they are not.

    But of course it doesn’t stop once the baby is born. (Although I missed that part — I adopted)

    When Jacob was about 5 months old, he had a cold. I still needed to go to the grocery store. It was pouring rain. So, I parked close to the store, locked the car door, and walked the length of 4 cars to the store, got a cart, and returned to the car to put my son into the cart. In that nano-second, I was accosted by a woman, warm and dry in her car, that I had offered a child-snatcher an opportunity (when I was never more than 15 feet away) to child-nap my child. As you can see, 22 years later, I am still annoyed at that woman.

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:29 am

      UGH. “Because you reach a different conclusion than I, you are wrong!” No, it means different people weighed risks and merits differently. Why can’t this be more widely understood?!

      • January 12, 2014 at 9:06 am

        People have just become more critical, and more vocal in their criticisms. And more annoying!

  14. January 11, 2014 at 10:36 am

    OMG your line about the black market My Little Pony sales, had me literally laughing out loud. We have that in our house on a daily basis. When I was pregnant with my third, my favorite was people asking me (in line at the grocery store), “oh you will have your hands full. Do you KNOW how the babies get in there??” I was not a pleasant pregnant woman, so I would always turn to face them, look them in the eyes, and respond, “No, I have NO idea. Please tell me exactly how they get in there.” Then wait for a reply.

    • January 12, 2014 at 7:37 am

      LOL! I love it when people actually make commentary like that, about the receiver of noxious statements being rude for responding. Once they put something out there, what do they expect? A medal? An award? Every time I post, I do so knowing that I have no control over what people take away from my words, or how they’ll respond. I wish more people understood that they have to accept a range of responses to their statements, not just the ideal one they envisioned in the half-second before speaking.

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