To whom it may concern…

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Recently in a pregnancy group I am in online I saw this letter posted.  I read it, and laughed to myself.  I personally have not really experienced much of this, but the girls I talk to have plenty of stories.  They tell these stories, and are obviously very hurt by what was said or done.  Then, at the end of every story, they all ask the same question, “What should I do?”  That seems like it should have the obvious answer “tell them they hurt you.”  Why is it not that easy?

It seems to me that as soon as a woman becomes pregnant many people don’t view her as her own person any more.  People take liberties with pregnant women that they would never take with any one else.  Try this, walk to up an obviously not pregnant woman and grab her belly, she will slap you.  However if you do the same to a pregnant woman she will sigh, obviously annoyed, and just walk away.  Why?  Well, the same reason when you comment on their weight to both of these same women.  The pregnant woman is already used to being regarded as public property, the non pregnant woman… not so much.

So why doesn’t the pregnant woman just simply say ‘hey don’t do that’?  Well, if she doesn’t know you she might.  She might even slap you just as fast as the other woman.  If you are someone she knows though, she won’t want to do that.  She wants you to be a part of her baby’s life and so won’t alienate you.  Unfortunately people take this as an opportunity to take advantage.  Personally I am glad to be one of those pregnant women whose family, both on my side and my husband’s, have more sense than that.  I have not been told to do this, don’t do that, what are you thinking, bla bla bla.  My husband and I both come from pretty forward thinking backgrounds.  It really makes me feel bad seeing women that I care about going through these kinds of shenanigans.

So, when this letter was posted, and all these girls laughed, i laughed along.  I have heard a story for pretty much every point here.  I did not, however, laugh at the comments some of the girls made following this post.  A few people reposted it on their Facebook pages as a note, but only a few.  More than a few said they wanted to but they were afraid it would offend somebody.  What?!  Here, read the letter…

Dear Non-Pregnant Person,

I hope you find these guidelines helpful in your interactions with pregnant women, as failing to follow them may result in serious physical harm. If you are thinking, surely she doesn’t mean me — then you should probably read this twice.

1. The appropriate response to a couple telling you they are having a baby is ‘Congratulations!’ with enthusiasm. Any other response makes you a jerk.

2. Through the wonders of science, we now know that babies are made ONLY by the mother and father — not grandparents. Unless the baby is in your uterus or you are the man that helped put it there, you may not ever use the phrase ‘my baby’.

3. On the same note, unless you made the baby as defined in 2, the pregnancy, birth, and raising of the child are not about you. You do not have input. No one wants to hear your opinion unless they ask for it…

4. The body of a pregnant woman should be treated the same as any other body. You would not randomly touch someone’s stomach if they were not pregnant, nor would you inquire into the condition of their uterus, cervix, or how they plan to use their breasts. Pregnancy does not remove all traces of privacy from a woman.

5. Likewise, no woman wants to hear comments on her weight…ever. A pregnant woman does not find it flattering that you think she is about is pop, must be having twins, looks swollen or has gained weight in her face. Telling her she looks too small only makes her worry that she is somehow starving her baby. Making such comments invite her to critique your physical appearance and you may not act offended. The only acceptable comment on appearance is ‘You look fabulous!’.

6. By the time we are 20-30 years old, most of us have picked up on the fact that the summer is hot. We are hot every summer when we are not pregnant. We don’t need you to point out that we will be miserably hot before the baby comes. Nor do we need to know how badly you will feel for us because we will be pregnant during the summer and how glad you are that YOU will not be pregnant this coming summer.

7. There is a reason that tickets to Labor & Delivery are not yet sold on Ticketmaster. Childbirth is actually not a public event. It may sound crazy, but some women really do not relish the idea of their mother, MIL, or a host of other family members seeing their bare butt and genitals. Also, some people simply feel like the birth of their child is a private and emotional moment to be shared only by the parents. You weren’t invited to be there when the baby was created, you probably won’t be invited to be there when it comes out either.

8. Like everything else in life, unless you receive an invitation, you are NOT invited. This includes doctor appointments, ultrasounds, labor, delivery, the hospital, and the parent’s home. You do not decide if you will be there for the birth or if you will move in with the new parents to ‘help out’. If your assistance is desired, rest assured that you will be asked for it.

9. If you are asked to help after the birth, this means you should clean up the house, help with cooking meals, and generally stay out of the way. Holding the baby more than the parents, interfering with breastfeeding and sleeping schedules, and making a woman who is still leaking fluid from multiple locations lift a finger in housework is not helping.

10. The only people entitled to time with the baby are the parents. Whether they choose to have you at the hospital for the birth or ask for you to wait three weeks to visit, appreciate that you are being given the privilege of seeing their child. Complaining or showing disappointment only encourages the parents to include you less.

Sincerely,

All the Pregnant Women in the World

Yea, ok, so it’s kind of blunt and to the point.  If you really read it though, whoever wrote this is merely asking for the basic level of respect you would expect between two people.  Don’t touch me without invitation, don’t insult me, don’t tell me what to do or how to live, and don’t interfere with my day to day activities in a way that would be detrimental to me and my family.  I am not stupid, I am an adult, and I don’t want you hanging out in my bedroom.  Seems reasonable enough, so why are people worried about this letter being offensive?

The wording does edge on offensive, I will give it that.  While the line about Ticketmaster was cute, it is quite, well, snarky.  I appreciated that, but I can see how some people might not.  I think the main reason the pregnant women I am friend with think this would offend their friends and families is because of the level of entitlement people feel toward mother and baby.  I don’t know where this entitlement comes from, but it really shouldn’t be there.  These new parents, whether it be their first or fiftieth child, are excited and full of joy.  There are some things you may simply not want to share, such as the first day you bring your baby home from the hospital.  Just be respectful of the new parents.  Especially be considerate of the feelings of the pregnant woman.  When you see a letter like this, take it for what it is.  This is not an attempt to cut you off, this is a desperate plea to be treated with respect.

People are very quit to write a pregnant woman’s feelings off.  Oh, she is just hormonal right?  Wrong.  She isn’t just hormonal, you just told her she was fat!  If we all stop taking these ridiculous liberties with pregnant woman, maybe when someone has real, good, worthwhile advice to give they won’t have to feel like they aren’t allowed to approach an expectant mother and give her a few uplifting words and a little good advice.  This Mom over at Maternique had a few good words she would have liked to share, but was unable.

I admit, I thought people who offered all that advice were being know-it-alls. That is, until I found myself wanting to tell this woman she didn’t need even half that stuff she was buying.

I wanted to tell her that her favorite moments with baby would include none of the things on the list she was consulting. I wanted to tell her that what mattered more than who comes to the baby shower is who shows up for you after the baby actually arrives.

I wanted to tell her that this experience would, indeed, turn her world upside down, but she would love the view from there. I wanted to tell her this would be harder than she thought, but she was stronger than she could imagine.

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