Thursday, March 8, 2012
The past several weeks (and throughout my first pregnancy) I've become very aware that a large amount of Americans have no concept of pregnancy etiquette. After traveling to Germany and Italy last year while pregnant with Lucy, I'm quite sure that it is indeed a cultural flaw that runs rampant from Maine to California, neatly sandwiched between Mexico and Canada. I'm going to make some blanket suggestions here: 1 - the Germans, although a smelly people writ large, and with little respect for personal space, for the most part are very pregnancy conscientious. Most of my German comrades gave me a "when baby?" with a smile, nod, alcohol-free beer, and usually a free pretzel. Awesome. I was only 4 months along in Germany, so I was thrilled that people actually thought I was pregnant, not just indulging in too much spaetzel (although that may have happened as well).
Fast forward a few months, in fact, three of them, where I found myself in Italia, enjoying the best pasta, pizza, bread and more than my little growing fetus and I could imagine. The Italians were fantastic - loving, adoring, respectful, encouraging - like growing a human from scratch was quite possibly the most amazing thing that had ever happened in country. Notoriously loud, the Italians proclaimed their excitement for motherhood with fervor. Forget the Colloseum (also known to some as the Coliseum), the Fountain of Trevi, the Pantheon - I was building a life. Mamma Mia takes on a new form of exclamation. And, I thought it was beyond fabulous that every restaurant I went into had a waiter greeting me with "for the mommy... red or white?" That's right folks, you can indeed drink wine during your pregnancy, especially in Italy. The key is moderation - 1 glass per night (supported by my American OB). Before your jaw drops any more at the outlandish claims that it is indeed okay to drink while pregnant, let me again stress: MODERATION. Check our schools - with obesity in children a staggering number - we clearly don't know how to do that. Hence, whereas every other country in the world (and some parts of Virginia) enables and encourages their mothers to drink (because 1 glass/day will in fact do no harm) we ban/judge here because our version of "one glass" becomes a bottle in a glass, or faulty rationale: "I didn't have one Monday or Tuesday so I can have 3 glasses tonight." Wrong-o, wrong girl. But - I digress. The Italians? Incredible. Loved them. Remember Sofia from the Golden Girls? Italian mothers = phenomenal.
Ahhh, but now, for the good ole U.S.of A. Let me start by saying this. I love this country. I'm married to a man who has fought and will continue to do so for it, and although his Navy gig has been known to keep me up at night from time to time (largely when he was in combat in the Middle East while I was growing little, perfect Lucy on my own) I think his job is pretty bad ass. I have a master's in National Security because I think keeping this great nation of ours safe is one of the most important responsibilities for all of our citizens. The Constitution is one of my favorite documents. The National Anthem, my favorite song. I love America and her people. And yet, one of my fundamental issues with the country: we, as a nation, lack not only skills in exercising moderation (and just exercising for that matter), but also in etiquette, particularly pertaining to impending motherhood, i.e. pregnancy. Another quick clarification: I love people. I'm a "hugger." I crave affection. Some (my parents, siblings, husband, pretty much everyone I know) might even say I enjoy attention (I'm blogging... clearly that speaks for itself). I tell you this to give you context: as a pregnant woman, I don't mind the pregnancy questions or comments. I enjoy talking to people about my miracle in the making. While I'd prefer not to hear your story about your episiotmy (CVS checker-outer, I'm talking to YOU), I welcome your compliments and appropriate inquiries about my little bundle of joy. That being said, we as a society have 100% lost sight of what are appropriate inquiries, so in a tribute to Men's Health "Eat This, Not That" I'm going to break down pregnancy etiquette for you, in an aptly titled segment, "Ask This, Not That."(You're welcome). AND... although it should go without saying, only ask these questions if you are 100% sure (not 67%, not 82%, not even 96% -- only one hundred freaking percent sure) that the woman is indeed, with child. Rule of thumb: if you don't know, or can't tell: DO NOT ASK.
Ask This: "When are you due?"
Not That: "Shit girl. Just how many months are you?" (Today, 7Eleven clerk)
Ask This: "Is this your first child?"
Not That: "Are you sure you're not having twins?" (Sorry Grandma, had to throw this in there.)
Ask This: "Do you know your baby's gender?"
Not That: "What are you having?" (like for lunch? Oh, childwise? A baby. I'm having a baby, man behind me in line at Jimmy John's)
Say This: "Pregnancy looks great on you."
Not That: "Sup mama." (McDonald's patron yesterday
Ask This: "How are you feeling?"
Not That: "Have you gained just a ton of weight?" (woman at the zoo. And no, I haven't. I'm up 8 pounds in 26 weeks, thank you very much)
Ask This: "Have you had a healthy pregnancy?"
Not That: "You have not been to the gym, have you?" (sadly, my boss)
Ask This: "How many months along are you?"
Not That: "Are you, how many, uh, you are, ummm pregnant?" (No, man in elevator, I had 87 cheeseburgers for lunch and I'm rubbing my stomach to rearrange the grease.)
And for the love of everything sacred, if your co-worker (it is safe to infer here that I am the said, third-person co-worker of whom we speak in this scenario) shows up to work on Friday having showered, curled her hair, put on make-up (albeit applied in the car, to include eyeliner at the stoplights), is wearing a super cute outfit (that does not attempt to pass off yoga pants as slacks), is sporting shaved legs, complete with a little self tanner and sassy cowboy boots, and is clearly, for the first time in months, MAKING AN EFFORT to not only look presentable, but dare we say, feel attractive; do not, repeat DO NOT, say to her:
"Go on girl! Get down with your fat self!"
For real. Don't say that. There are a plethora of other appropriate things to say, such as "cute boots," "nice hair," "like your style," "looks like ya showered," "you clean up nice" and the list goes on... but never, ever does it include: "get down with your fat self." The next time you see a pregnant woman, give her compliments, not unwanted advice. Tell her how special holding your baby is for the first time, not about your 32 hour labor that ended in emergency C-section long before they had epidurals (woman at Michael's). Give her encouragement, not horror stories about SIDS (Target parking lot patron). Tell her how wonderful having your babies close together is, don't ask her if she's "f**king crazy" (man at hardware store). If she tells you she's not wearing her wedding ring because her hands are swollen, don't say "but they were fat before" (family member I won't specifically call out). No, tell her she looks beautiful, because she already looks in the mirror wondering whose body is in the reflection. Tell her how special those moments alone with her new one are, not about your colicky child who never slept (woman at Nordstroms). Tell her every stage is fleeting, and to enjoy every second, not "get as much sleep now, because you'll never sleep again" (grocery store cart attendant). When she tells you she's not finding out the gender because she believes it's one of life's only true surprises, don't grab her belly and tell her you've "been right for every single pregnant woman you've ever met (close to a hundred) and that you're sure it's a boy" (woman at Costco). Applaud her for balancing a family, a career, a house, dinners every night, laundry, friendships, dishes, a one year old, and hell, even a blog; don't tell her how hard it will be to lose the baby weight with her second child (neighbor). And above all, unless you know her well enough to be invited to her home, do not rub her stomach. (Clerk at gas station, woman at Target, wal-mart, CVS, walgreens, TSA, the list goes on...). She is a person, not a daschund. A mother to be, not a good luck Buddha. Pregnant women are people too. So be nice, dammit.
And with that, goodnight :)