What is it about a pregnant woman that causes people to breach the normal boundaries of social interaction? Do the maternal qualities projected by her burgeoning belly make her seem extraordinarily approachable? Do folks think if she was friendly enough to let someone knock her up, she’s friendly enough to accept their bad manners?
When a friend recently announced her pregnancy on Facebook, I was reminded of the way people lose their heads around expectant mothers. At first the comments were just, “Congratulations!” and “I’m so happy for you!” But then the UPA (Unsolicited Parenting Advice) started rolling in. People told her what kind of diapers to buy and how to start planning for the child’s college fund when she was probably just wondering what she could eat for lunch that wouldn’t bring on a bout of
morning all-day sickness. Then I recalled my own days gestating human life and the crazy stuff friends, family and even strangers said to me. It turns out you can breakdown the types of people you encounter when pregnant into nine general categories:
1. The Haggard Parent – These people have very young children at home and haven’t had a solid eight hours of sleep in three years. They say stuff like, “Oh, congratulations,” with a forced smile. Then follow up with horrifying cautionary tales. “Not to discourage you or anything, but your life is basically over. You’ll never sleep or eat a hot meal or go to the bathroom by yourself again. And forget going on vacation, because they’ll use up all your money. Even if you have money, they’ll steal your soul, and all you’ll want to do is lock yourself in the bathroom and curl up in a fetal position in the bathtub. Did I ever tell you about the time we took Maddie to the mall, and she had a diaper blowout that ruined a $400 pair of boots at Macy’s? Yeah, so good luck with that!”
2. The My-Children-are-the-Center-of-the-Universe Parent – They also have young children at home, but unlike The Haggard Parent whose sippy cup is always half empty, they cope with the realities of parenting by living in total denial. “I’m so happy for you! Children are such a joy!! Mine are just the light of my life. The center of my universe. There’s nothing as wonderful as staying up all night and rocking a sweet cuddly baby. Just knowing that someone relies on you 24/7 to sustain their life is so rewarding!!! I was so sad when Johnny went to kindergarten, and I had to stop breastfeeding him. It’s such a bonding experience. You just don’t know! Oh, cherish this, because it goes so fast. Enjoy EVERY minute!!!!”
3. The Childphobe – These people don’t have kids, don’t want kids and don’t like kids. They’ll say, ”Congratulations,” then you’ll never hear from them again, because they’re afraid you’ll bring your baby to their house, and he’ll spit up on their white couch.
4. The Childless Dog Owners – “Oh, how exciting! I know what it’s like to have a kid. I mean, we have three dogs, but it’s like we have three babies. We have to walk them every day, remember to put food in their dishes, and we can only lock them up in a cage for eight hours at a time. Being a parent is hard work, but it’s so rewarding when they put their little face in yours and lick you on the nose.”
5. The Know-it-All Parent – “Congratulations! It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. We have three kids, and they turned out terrific. Susie is going to Harvard next year. Billy is captain of the football team, and Todd just raised $3,000 for the homeless shelter. You do what we did, and your kids will turn out perfect too. It’s all about giving them choices. We started from day one. We asked, ‘Do you want the pacifier or do you want to suck your thumb?’ We let the baby choose. You can’t start a power struggle between you and your infant. If you make them feel like they’re in control, they won’t rebel when they’re teenagers. We should have coffee sometime. I’ll tell you exactly how to parent your children. ”
6.The Earthy Parent – This person is mostly concerned with what you will or will not feed your child. “Oh, happy day! Are you going to breastfeed? I hope so. You know, breast is best. And when you start them on solid foods you want to go organic only. No high fructose corn syrup or sugar. Sugar is killing us! Ugh! You know, you should really watch what you eat too if you nurse, which of course I know you will, because you’re a responsible human being. When I was nursing, I only ate kale and water. Are you cloth diapering? You have to cloth diaper. It saves you so much money, and who wants to fill landfills with nasty diapers? Did you know it takes 400 years for a single disposable diaper to biodegrade? I mean, is that really the legacy we want to leave our children? A hole full of poop wrapped in BPA?”
7. The Handsy Acquaintance with No Boundaries – They walk up without saying a word and start rubbing your belly. “Oh, congratulations! I’m sorry. I just can’t help myself. When are you due? Oh, you’re so cute. Just like you swallowed a watermelon. Babies are so precious.” Bending down so they’re nose to nose with your belly button, “Hi baby! Hi baby! I bet your mommy can’t wait to meet you. Oh, she’s kicking! Is she kicking? I think she’s kicking!”
8. People-Who-Have-Enough-Restraint-to-Keep-it-Together-Around-Pregnant-Women – “Congratulations! I’m so happy for you! You’ll be a great mom, but when you need a night off call me. I’m happy to babysit.” Thank God for the good friends and normal family members in your life.
9. Medical Professionals – These are the only people who should be touching your belly and offering you advice.