I call it postpartum amnesia — the phenomenon whereby a woman endures nine months of intense emotional changes followed by the incredible experience of childbirth, and then gradually forgets the entire ordeal and proceeds to behave to her pregnant friends as if she has no idea what they’re going through. Maybe it’s the sleep deprivation or light-headedness from a diet of wine, coffee and Cheerios, but women who have had children within the past decade seem to forget the Golden Rule as soon as they’re done being pregnant. If you suspect you might have forgotten what it’s like, here’s a refresher on best practices on being friends with pregnant women.
1. Do not show her pre-pregnancy pictures of herself
Social media makes sharing memories so easy these days, but there are times that pregnant women just don’t care to recall. Like that picture from five years ago of her bachelorette weekend at the beach. You may think it’s cute that TimeHop is reminding you of “such a great weekend,” but she just thinks you are trying to remind her that she won’t be having a vacation, that figure or a rum drink in a coconut any time in the foreseeable future. No one in her third trimester of pregnancy wants to see a picture of themselves 30 pounds ago in a bikini. Save these little trips down memory lane for when she can once again button her jeans.
2. Do not rehash your own birth story in great detail
Giving birth is a very unique and monumental experience, and also entirely personal. So while your friend may want to hear the overall gist of your story, she probably doesn’t want an hour-by-hour account of your dilation. Unless you can narrow it down to the concise details that might be relevant to her in any way, don’t make her spend the next half-hour of her life hearing how many laps you walked around the maternity floor. Your job is simply to ask how she’s doing. If you still need to talk about yourself, call your mom. She’s contractually obligated to listen to your entire birth story.
3. Do not tell her to “stock up on sleep now”
Unless she’s been living at the bottom of a well, your friend has a pretty good idea that babies don’t sleep through the night and mothers are tired (see: every other mommy meme on the internet involves coffee). She has been practicing for the coming exhaustion by getting up three times a night to pee, not being able to sleep on her back or stomach for months and having raging indigestion at 2 a.m., so telling her to “stock up on sleep now” is both entirely impossible and extremely annoying (which you would know if you hadn’t completely erased your memory of pregnancy).
4. Do not tell her any story about anything about childbirth that ends badly
Your pregnant friend hasn’t slept comfortably in months and you know she’s got more hormones coursing through her than a junior high locker room, so it’s safe to say she’s probably already pretty freaked out. Therefore, any story that doesn’t end with a mother taking her baby home from the hospital in one of those striped blankets and a tiny hat is completely off-limits. What she doesn’t know can’t keep her up at night, which you may recall is already somewhat of a problem.
5. Do not comment on her growing bump
Remember when you couldn’t fit in your rings, tie your shoes or take a deep breath? You may mean well but “you’re ready to pop” just means “fat and tired-looking” to her. And for the love of all things holy, never ask a pregnant woman if she’s having twins! She owns a mirror; she doesn’t need to see her silhouette on your face. “You look fabulous” is the only thing you need to say… and after the baby’s born, you can come over and help her delete all the pictures of her at her baby shower from her computer, if not from her mind.
6. Do not give your honest opinion of the baby’s name
Naming a child is a very personal, intimate decision for the parents. Suggestions and commentary are almost universally unwanted by new parents, even from well-meaning friends. So if a friend who has, until now, seemed perfectly normal decides to name her child after her favorite fruit and her spirit animal, do not under any circumstances tell her this is ridiculous. Your job is to smile politely and stencil Kumquat Dolphin on a picture frame. Even if she later regrets this name choice, she will never forgive you for not liking the name in the first place, so just act like you love it and try to find a nickname that won’t get the kid beat up on the playground.
Once your friend has given birth and developed her own case of postpartum amnesia, you are welcome to discuss any and all topics related to the realities of childbirth and parenthood. Until such time, just tell her it’s a piece of cake… oh, and bringing her a piece of cake is a good idea too!