Tuesday, 25 March 2008

What’sa Matter You, Hey? Gotta No Respect?

As a three-time gestatrix, I’ve put up with my fair share of insensitive, annoying and downright stupid remarks related to each of my pregnancies. Like the time when, having recently started work at the Department of Meat Products, I experienced sudden, excruciating belly pains and feared for the life of my 28-week-old foetus. Admitted to hospital overnight (and thankfully having everything turn out fine), I returned to work after a couple of days, only to have my supervisor at the time, who was fully aware of the reason for my absence, jest, “Now you mustn’t expect time off after every report you write!”

My stony silence obviously didn’t clue him in to the insensitivity and inappropriateness of his ‘joke’, as he then retold it on two or three other occasions. It wasn’t meant maliciously; none of the things people have said to me were, and I’ve therefore been led to wonder what is it about a pregnant woman that seems to cloud people’s judgement? Does her extruded belly-button transmit synapse-jamming radio waves? Do peripheral bystanders contract a temporary form of ‘pregnant brain’, like passive smoking?

Whatever the reason, many mothers-to-be are already struggling with physical discomfort, turbulent hormones and fluctuating emotions; if they are anything like me, they’re also hypersensitive, anxious about the baby’s development and wellbeing, and feeling guilty about everything from their diet to the exhaust fumes they couldn’t help inhaling on their way to work: thoughtless comments and irritating questions are among the last things they need, especially from family, friends and colleagues from whom they could justifiably expect more support and understanding.

As a public service, I’ve therefore compiled a countdown of utterances the clueless may consider terribly witty, amusing or interesting, but which should never be said to an unpredictable and volatile woman in reproductive mode.

7) Gee, you’re getting fat!
It’s called being PREGNANT, moron! And it’s only temporary, unlike your permanently flabby brain. (Okay, so no-one’s actually said this to me; I just really detest it when people, especially pregnant women themselves, equate baby, placenta and amniotic fluid with fat.)

6) Should you be eating that?
Let’s see: I’m an educated woman who’s read authoritative baby books and consulted closely with the obstetrician, and above all cares about the wellbeing of my baby. I’ve been eating healthy foods I never normally touch purely for the sake of my child, so if, on rare occasions, I want to indulge in a measly chocolate bar, then yes, I will bloody well eat it and thank you to keep your interfering nose out of my damn business.

5) Smile!
Everyone who’s read this will know how I feel about this brand of thoughtless interference. Yes, if I’m interacting with you in any way, I will smile and generally try to be amiable, but when I’m minding my own business, waddling to the toilet and back for the tenth time that day and feeling horribly uncomfortable and weary, your yelling this over the desk partition as I pass is more like to elicit a murderous scowl than a smile you’ve no right to request.

4) It’s a boy! No, a girl…no wait, a boy…
Predicting the gender of my baby with a dangled wedding ring or from the shape of my belly is a bit of harmless fun, but gets extremely tiresome when the prediction is revised on an almost daily basis along with perceived changes in my shape, as if I’m actually meant to credit such ridiculous lore. One colleague explained to me her own Old Wives’ Tale about predicting the baby’s sex, saying, “I think Karen is having a girl, because she looks so serene and pretty. On the other hand, I think you’re having a boy because…” She stopped short as she came too late to the realisation that calling me a haggard old crone was perhaps not the most polite thing to do. It’s not like anyone wins a prize for guessing correctly – and everyone can call heads or tails and be right some of the time – so just leave it the hell out.

3) Unspeakable tragedies.
I don’t care if it happened to someone you know, or is something you saw on the news or a TV show. How could you possibly think I need to hear what happened to this or that poor baby? Save your horror stories for a cold-hearted freak.

2) Congratulations on getting pregnant! Was it planned?
To me, the only possible subtext of this question is: “Tell me, are you irresponsible, or just stupid?” I’ll have no-one say my precious children are ‘mistakes’ or ‘accidents’. Enjoy your speculation and gossip if you must, just do it out of my earshot.

1) Has the baby come yet?
Yes. Yes it has. I just didn’t tell you because I’m a sociopathic freak. NO, THE BABY HASN’T BLOODY WELL COME! This one screamed up the charts to number one after the due date came and went. It was very popular among family, friends and colleagues alike, some of whom rang every day to play this number one hit. I had started to take the phone off the hook and avoid calling anyone lest my teeth be worn down with all the furious grinding.

I understand that many people never have and never will understand what it’s like to be pregnant, and therefore will never be able truly to empathise. If you must, set up a ranty blog like mine and rail about the irresponsible, moody, humourless cow you know, the one who’s the size of a house and probably going to lactate vinegar. But when the urge strikes to open your gob in my direction, ah SHADDUP YOU FACE!


Lonie Polony said...

I found this post waiting on my hard drive. I'd been working on it the night before my baby came, and it's been languishing ever since.

I feel a lot more mellow now :)

jan said...

Just yesterday three chubby ladies at a gathering where I was said to a gestatrix (love that term): oh, my, you are really looking pregnant. Perhaps more tactful than fat, but equally stupid.

littlesnoring said...

Yep, I have had all of those. Including "My God you are FAT" twice, different pregnancies, different idotic male work colleagues.

I have also had, "When is the baby due?" Answer, "He was born 2 weeks ago."

And, on about 3 different occasions (once from a GP), "Oh, you are having another baby!" Answer, "No, actually I am just fat."

The joy of procreating!

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