A pregnant woman will not shatter into a million tiny pieces if you ask about a baby’s gender, name or comment on her bump. She is carrying a child and she is tougher than she looks. Still, there is a cocktail of hormones and aches and stigmas at play, which means that before you praise her kankles, you may want to stop and think for a minute. Here are 10 things you can say… if you take the right approach.
1. Is it a boy or a girl?
Go ahead and ask! There is nothing wrong with this question. Yes, a pregnant person will hear it about 10 times a day, every day for the vast majority of their pregnancy, but — you know what? — it comes with the territory. Most reasonable pregnant women won’t mind.
2. Have you got a name?
Some people choose to keep their name a secret; others are happy to tell anyone who’ll listen. The only way you’ll find out which category your friend fits into is by asking. It’s easy enough for a pregnant woman to say the name hasn’t been settled on yet if she wants to keep it hidden.
However — and this is important — if you are the one who asked (meaning your pregnant friend did not volunteer the information or specifically ask for your opinion), do not slander or in any way criticise the name. Do not say, “Astrid? What kind of a name is that? Is she going to be born 80 years old with a hang tooth?” The appropriate response is, “Cute name.” Always. It does not matter whether you like the name or not. If you asked, you reply in the positive and keep your opinions to yourself.
3. Are you having twins?
You may think it is endearing to ask your friend if she’s having twins, because you think she looks great with her big bump. You’re probably right. A great many pregnant women won’t care if you point out that their bump is huge — they do, after all, see it in the mirror every day. There are some, however, who will feel a little self-conscious. This is where you read social cues and respond accordingly. If your friend is laughing about how big she is, feel free to quip that she looks like she has a human — or possibly five — growing inside her… just add that she looks great. If you get a sensitive vibe, however, stay well away from the topic of size.
4. Your bump is tiny!
In this crazy society of ours, telling someone how small they are is often the highest of praises. This is not strictly true for pregnant people. When you tell your friend she looks slender, she might hear, “What is wrong with your baby? Are you giving birth to an ant? Seriously, did you get intimate with an arthropod?” A better adjective to use is “perfect,” “round” or “sweet.” In other words: “Wow, you look great! What a perfect bump!”
5. Why are/aren’t you finding out the gender?
When you put it like that, it comes off a little bit judgemental. The good news is that most pregnant women won’t really care. They would have weighed up the pros and cons of both sides and are probably confident in their decision. It’s still not fantastic to be judged, though, so watch your tone or you may end up on the wrong side of a pregnancy meltdown. If you don’t sound critical, however, most pregnant women won’t mind explaining the reasoning behind their approach.
6. You’re hoping for a boy/girl, right?
This is usually followed by a sweeping, generalised statement like, “Every woman wants a daughter,” “It’s nice to have a boy first… so he can look after his sisters,” or “That way you’ll have one of each.” None of this is cool. While many women will have a preference for their own reasons and won’t actually mind being quizzed about it, making assumptions can easily throw it into sexist — or at least unpleasant — territory. A better way to get the answers you seek is to take a less direct approach by saying something like, “Other than your incredible lashes, are you secretly hoping the baby inherits anything else from you? Like, say, a vagina? Or do you not care either way?”
7. It’s totally going to be a boy/girl!
Both you and your friend know that you are not a fortune teller (unless you are, in which case, never mind) and cannot foresee the future. Even radiologists and OBGYNs struggle to predict the gender with 100 per cent certainty. Using old wives’ tales or ancient charts is great for a laugh and most pregnant women will appreciate the fun of it, so go ahead and throw your guess in there. A word of warning: Do not insist that you know the gender beyond all doubt, even if your friend carries in the front or high or low. You do not.
8. Can I touch your belly?
Kudos to you for asking! Many people don’t. There are pregnant women who don’t like having their bellies touched and there are those who have no problem with it. The only way you’ll know which camp your friend belongs to is by asking. Although, be aware that it might get awkward if your friend tells you to keep your hands off. With enough warning, however, most pregnant women will be happy to share their baby’s kicks or tumbles.
9. Have you got any weird cravings?
This is kind of a fun question to ask. The big disappointment for everyone involved is actually that there are rarely any super-crazy cravings to report. So expect for your friend to tell you that she’s eating more mashed potatoes or that the other day she really wanted some watermelon. But you never know, maybe you’ll finally discover the enigma who wants pickles with ice cream.
10. Was it planned?
Just stop for a moment: You’re actually asking about the intimate details of an intimate night. Further, this is a loaded question, which could imply that perhaps your friend shouldn’t be a mother. Plus, there’s always the chance that the pregnancy wasn’t planned, which means your question just crossed a whole new boundary. If you still have a burning desire to know, then ask. Your friend will probably take it well, answer and move on. Then again, things could get awkward. Your call.