So, someone you know or just met is having a baby or just had a baby. Here on some tips to keep them from possibly harming you from saying or doing the exact wrong thing.
My editor (The Pastor) has insisted I put up some disclaimers to avoid hurt feelings- yours and mine.
**Disclaimer #1- I am not pregnant. Don’t ask someone if they are pregnant. If they want to tell you, that is their news to share. Never ask a woman if she is pregnant. Seriously. I have two shirts I can no longer wear in public because some punk asked when I was due while wearing them. I don’t have enough clothing options to keep this up. That is an old ultrasound pic. If you clicked over here expecting some big news, sorry to disappoint you. ZERO ANNOUNCEMENTS are going on over here. None. Kind of like the time I posted a picture of my dishwasher with little flour handprints on it and everyone thought it was an ultrasound picture because I added the caption “proof of little life around here” and I meant, proof a toddler and preschooler were being punks in the kitchen with some flour, but so many people same multiple fetuses in that picture. This is like that photo. Not an announcement. **
**Disclaimer #2- Do not ask us if we are having more kids. We’re kind of still working on the adding of the sixth kid. I don’t want to think about it right now, and I don’t have to. And really, you don’t want details. You don’t need them. There are words like amenorrhea in there, so just don’t ask. It gets too personal really quickly.**
**Disclaimer #3- Some of these things have personally happened to me. Most are things I have picked up from being around lots and lots of growing families and hearing their issues. Take no personal offense. I would have told you if you personally offended me or annoyed me. You’d know. If you don’t know, it is because you didn’t.**
**Disclaimer #4- I probably left some things out. I have only had six kids, there may be some more tips people need to know that I haven’t come across yet. You can add your own tips in the comments. Just keep your language clean so the editor doesn’t delete them.**
Now, tips when someone you know is pregnant!
Tip #1- Their pregnancy and anything pregnancy or baby related is theirs to share. DO NOT share a pregnancy on Facebook unless it is your own. Seriously. Can I tell you how many people I got to tell I was expecting my first baby? Um. One. Seriously. I got to tell my husband. Things just exploded from there. While your enthusiasm is a welcome thing, let new parents share their own news.
Same for when the baby is born. If you look at their Facebook page and they haven’t posted about the new baby yet, don’t post it. Let them post it when they are ready. Same for e-mails. Definitely DO NOT send e-mails to everyone about the birth of a baby unless you have express permission from the new parents.
If you share news that isn’t yours, pretty soon people realize this and you’ll be the last to be told anything, much like the four year old they know cannot keep their mouth shut. They’ll just avoid telling you. Do you really want to be at the end of the list?
Tip #2- The only response to “We’re having a baby!” is congratulations or some form of that. Either muster up some good will, or say nothing. “Are you done now?” “Are you the Duggars?” “But it is too soon!” “But you’re not done with college.” “Will this be your last?” “But you already have a baby!” “Oh my God, I would kill myself.” (Yeah, that really happened. The Pastor almost got that cashier fired.) None of those are appropriate. Either be happy for them or remove yourself from the situation. No one needs negativity during this time. Newly expectant parents have enough on their mind- they just need support. Period.
Tip #3- No name bashing. I don’t care if they name their kid after Hefty trash bags- either say something nice or keep it to yourself. I don’t care if you think the kid should be little Frank. They don’t care either. All you get when you are negative about their name choice is no heads up on the name next time. Seriously. They just won’t tell you in the future.
Here on some response you can use: “How do you spell that? I want to make sure we embroider it correctly.” “That is a cool name, where did you come up with it.” “That is a nice name, does it have a special meaning.” “I like that name.” “That name will certainly stand out on his college application!” “Are you 100% set? I have a set of bibs to monogram immediately!” “[Repeat name]. That has such a nice ring to it.” “Woohoo! I am [name]’s Auntie!” “Unusual. But I like it.”
If you can’t find something nice to say, tell someone else about it. Really. Do not under any circumstance tell either parent. Tell your neighbor, cashier at the store, online support group, anyone BUT the parents to be.
Tip #4- Never comment on a pregnant woman’s size. Just don’t do it. She’ll be told by one bystander she is huge, immediately causing her to freak out about gestational diabetes. The next person will tell her she is small, causing her to stress over intrauterine growth restriction.
Tell her she looks cute. Tell her she is glowing. Tell her pregnancy suites her. Tell her you miss your own baby belly. Tell her she is radiant. Tell her she is a beautiful picture of motherhood. Tell her how awesome her bump is.
Tip #5- On a related note, once the baby is born, make no comments about the baby’s size! She’ll freak out that she isn’t making enough milk or that the baby will be obese for life or he’ll be labeled as failure to thrive. New moms have enough worry. Don’t add to it.
“He’s healthy!” “I forgot how tiny newborns are!” “Look at all those sweet rolls!” “He is growing really well!” “She is beautiful!” All of these are appropriate. Just avoid implying the baby is too big or too small, even if you are just “observing”. She’ll freak out. It is what Mom’s do.
Tip #6- New Parents will not tell you this, but what they really need is money. Really. I know you want to buy something baby, and that is cool and awesome. But think of all the ridiculous expenses pregnancies and new babies bring. You want to buy 15 hair bows, but they really need breast pads and lanolin, which make an awkward gift. They really need money for the poise pads, hemorrhoid cream, and take out food post birth. But they can’t tell you that. They can’t tell you they don’t need another bath set for the baby, they really need to pay their insurance deductible. They really don’t need five sets of tiny nail clippers and 20 pacis the baby will refuse to take because they decide that one obscure paci you found in that one random shop one time is the only one for them. They need a pregnancy support pillow, V2 support belt, and prenatal massage to make those last days more comfortable.
It doesn’t really help to ask what they need. No one wants to name a high dollar item when you’re looking to spend ten bucks. No one wants to tell you something ridiculously specific. So, they usually just say “nothing”. Or they point you to the registry they know you’ll ignore. Because telling people what you need it hard.
Tip #7- Don’t offer your advice. I know you think you’re just the most awesome at everything, but they’ll be making their own way. It isn’t personal. You know you didn’t do everything exactly like your mom, aunt, second cousin, neighbor, or stranger at the store either. If they don’t ask you about teething remedies, don’t give them. I don’t go around sharing advice on how to deal with head wounds unsolicited. Don’t go and give your baby advice unsolicited.
Tip #8- Avoid asking about their reproductive future. This couple is just wrapping their heads around THIS kid and you’re already asking about the future ones that they haven’t even thought of yet. It really isn’t your business, so just don’t ask them. I know you’re dying to know when little Hefty will be getting a sister, but don’t ask. DO NOT ASK. It’s awkward and weird and they’re already overwhelmed and now Uncle Bobby is asking about their sex life. Don’t ask. Not your business. Again. Not your business. People usually only want to talk about such things with their spouses or BFFs. That’s about the end of the list. So, I know you’re curious, but don’t ask.
Tip #9- Don’t assume anything. If the mom to be has not said she is breastfeeding, don’t assume she is. If she hasn’t mentioned an epidural, don’t assume she’s getting one. You can safely assume that if she hasn’t brought it up with you she doesn’t want to talk to you about it.
Tip #10- Don’t ask personal medical questions. If the expectant couple has something to share, they will share it. Don’t ask about dilation (some of us don’t have that checked ever *gasp*). Don’t ask about the results from the trisomy screening. Don’t ask how much weight they’ve gained, what their blood pressure is, if they’ve had bloody show, if they’re leaking colostrum- if they don’t tell you, they likely don’t want you to know. It is sometimes hard to remember that in pregnancy, all these things are still personal medical questions. We don’t go asking people about their thyroid levels or menopausal status, so let’s keep it down with the pregnant medical stuff, too.
Tip #11- I know I said “Don’t assume anything” but, assume you are NOT invited to the delivery room unless you are asked to be there. Don’t ask to be included. It just makes it awkward for everyone. Some people may not mind, but there are very few who feel comfortable telling family or friends to get out. (I happen to be one who will absolutely tell my family and friends when I need them out of my space, but I appear to be abnormal in that way.) It is weird and presumptive to ask to be there. They get that you are excited. I’m excited that you’re excited. But let them decide when and how they want you present.
The same is true for ultrasounds and doctor/midwife visits. They may want to share that with you. If they do, they’ll invite you. Don’t ask to tag along. It puts them in a really awkward spot. And really, do you want to be there if you aren’t really welcome? Let them ask you. Or not.
Tip #12- Don’t take it personally. When the new parents want some time alone with their infant, it isn’t about you, it is about them. When they don’t want you visiting immediately after birth, it isn’t about you, it is about them. When they don’t want to let you hold the baby immediately, it isn’t about you, it is about them. Their name choice isn’t about you. Their diaper choice isn’t about you. Let it go and just go with their flow. Everyone will be happier.
Tip #13- Don’t forget Dad. This is a big time in his life, too. He’s part of this. A big part. Don’t assume he is ignorant. Don’t assume this is all about mom and baby. Don’t assume he is stress free. Many Dads find that they are extremely stressed during pregnancy. They have their own brand of worries. Will their partner be okay? Will they be able to provide for their family? Will the baby have their unfortunate ears? Will the family finances be okay? How on earth are they going to pay for that crib? And the mattress isn’t included?! Dads worry, too. And they dream in their own way. And they are just as stressed and sleep deprived as Moms. So keep them in mind, too. And definitely don’t try to elbow them out or imply you can be better support. Dads are invaluable.
Tip #14- Holding the baby isn’t helping. There are a million things that need to be done. Super shame on you if your solution is to hold the baby while the woman who just pushed that cute little bundle of joy out takes care of the household chores. Laundry still needs to be done. Groceries still need to be purchased. Bathrooms need scrubbing (and remember she’s been super pregnant so that has probably gone undone for a long time). Dinner needs to be on the table at some point. The grubby 4 year old could use some outside time. Don’t ask “What can I do?” You know what you can do. Just roll in and do it.
At the same time, don’t be offended if they just don’t need the help you want to give. You may want to take the kids to the park, but that just stresses the new parents out thinking about swapping car seats around, so they say no. Or you want to bring them dinner, but they have such strict dietary guidelines, they really can’t explain to you what would be okay to bring. Accept it. You offered. They are grateful you offered. If you can help in some other way, cool. If not, that is okay too. Some people may not want you touching their bloody laundry or grocery shopping for them. It is okay. Again, not personal.
Tip #15- Don’t ask if this baby was planned. Really, what you’re asking is really awkward. Did they have sex knowing she was fertile? You really want a discussion about fertile cervical mucous or basal body temp testing? Do you really want to hear about her cycles and how regular or irregular they are? Along the same lines, avoid asking if the baby was conceived “naturally”. Babies are conceived, just go with it. Don’t ask about fertility treatments or drugs or herbs or anything of that sort. The fact is, if you were close enough to ask about such things, then you are close enough that you wouldn’t need to ask because they would tell you.
Tip #16- Don’t ask about birth plans. This is such a charged topic and such an emotional one for so many women. If they had a c-section before, you can’t assume they’ll have another or assume they’ll have a VBAC. They may be wrapping their head around their options and they really don’t need more pressure from you. If they want to talk to you about the pros and cons of home birth, they will. But unless they bring it up, assume they’ve got things covered.
Tip #17- Don’t ask how they are paying for things unless you are willing to pick up the tab. Not everyone has insurance. It happens. Not everyone has the same priorities as you. Don’t imply they are irresponsible because they don’t have a college saving account already set up. Don’t imply they aren’t responsible because they don’t have the means to pay their insurance deductible the minute the stick showed two lines. Home births are often completely out of pocket with or without insurance, don’t judge them because they can’t just easily throw down whatever that might cost (usually around $3000-$5000, if you’re curious). Unless you are wanting to help financially, don’t ask. Even if you are wanting to help, just ask how much or give without asking. Imagine if someone came into your house and judged every single thing you spent money on this month. Not helpful. Big life changes don’t need financial judgement or commentary. Be helpful or be quiet.
Tip #18- Don’t harass them for information they don’t want to give. If they don’t want to tell the name until birth, they can do that. If they don’t want to find out the gender before birth, they can do that. If they want to find out and just not tell you, they can do that. Harassing them to tell you only makes them want to tell you less. Let them do this their way.
Tip #19- Don’t share horror stories. Seriously. A pregnant woman or her spouse do not need to hear about your Uncle’s third cousin’s fourth degree tear that required extensive corrective surgery. They don’t need to know about your friend’s mother-in-law’s baby who was born with eight toes. They don’t need to hear about your neighbor who had a surprise twin at birth in the 60s. They don’t need to hear about that woman who had a 15 lb. baby. Really, they have enough stress and worry without the horror stories. Even if it seems mild, like you had ridiculously bad hemorrhoids with your third kid that still haven’t gone away 30 years later- they don’t need to know. Keep things positive. Keep encouraging. Don’t be the black cloud and the rain.
Tip #20- Don’t hijack their happiness. This isn’t a competition. You don’t have to share how exciting your pregnancy was to share the joy of their pregnancy. You don’t have to brag extensively about your all natural dolphin assisted lotus birth. Their birth is theirs. Their pregnancy is about them. You don’t have to one-up everything or use every moment as an opportunity to tell them how awesome your experience was. I don’t respond to people’s pregnancy announcements with, “Congrats! I’ve had six pregnancies myself and they were awesome and I am an awesome pregnant woman.” I don’t tell people how old I am on their birthday. I don’t show people my shoes when they have on new ones. Let their pregnancy and birth and new baby experience be theirs. The sun can shine in two places at once.
(I’m not talking about having actual conversations with people. I am talking about those people who seriously turn everything into something about them. You know a one-upper when you have to deal with them, am I right?)
Tip #21- Do not ask “How are you feeling?” every single time you talk to them. Really, it gets old. And most people don’t even want a real answer. They don’t want to know about the varicose veins, unending nausea, pressure on your bladder, horrible hip pain, constipation you cannot even fathom is possible. They want to appear caring, and I think it is awesome that they care. But “How are you feeling?” is such a loaded question when you are pregnant. And it is downright annoying when you ask in *that* tone. (You know the one. That patronizing sing-songy one.) Unless you really want to know how a pregnant woman feels, don’t ask.
Instead of asking how they are feeling, greet them as you would if they were not expecting. Tell her you’ve been praying for her (if you have). If you must ask something pregnancy related, ask about whatever milestone just passed or ask about whatever they have mentioned to you in the past. Or say, “You look radiant.” Always tell a pregnant woman she looks radiant. Or give her a cookie. You can never go wrong with either of those. “How are you feeling?” is acceptable once in a while, if it is a legitimate question. Just don’t let that be all you ever say. And don’t use *that* tone. But be prepared! Pregnancy isn’t always pretty.
Tip #22- Newborns look like newborns. Do not tell a woman who just had a baby that her precious little bundle looks exactly like your Uncle Irving. You know that baby looks like every other baby born. They look like newborns. Squishy-faced, discolored, newborns. She doesn’t want to hear the baby looks like her father-in-law. She doesn’t want to hear the baby looks like cousin Larry’s new baby. The baby looks like a baby. You don’t have to immediately start playing the “who’s genes are stronger” game. Really. No need. Especially DO NOT tell them the baby looks nothing like them, mother or father. Never tell a parent that, newborn or not.
Tip #23- Do not tell a pregnant woman that her baby will be too big to come out. In addition to not telling her that her belly is huge, never tell her the baby IN her belly is huge. That baby has to come out. And she’s already wrapping her head around that seemingly impossible process. Don’t imply the child is massive. Who would that help? (When I was in labor with Pippin, my L&D nurse told me numerous times that my baby was huge. It was very, very unhelpful. I told her many times he was not huge. She just kept on. It didn’t help. And she was wrong. So, a jerk and a wrong jerk. Even if she had been right, she’d still be a jerk.) Don’t be a jerk.
Also don’t imply the baby is too small. Unless you are her chosen medical professional qualified to make such an assessment, you’ll just cause stress. Babies come in a variety of sizes.
Tip #24- Don’t be pushy with your own agenda. Don’t buy them bottles when you know she is going to breastfeed because you are just sure she’ll need them. Don’t buy paper diapers when they told you they are going to use cloth. Don’t buy all pink when they express that they’d prefer things to be gender neutral. These first things may not seem like a big deal, but these are the first of their parenting decisions. Earn some brownies points by showing them that you respect them as parents and you will abide by their decisions. People tend to want to be around people that encourage them and don’t make them feel small and stupid. Don’t discourage them from these decisions either. If she says she wants a natural birth, don’t tell her she can’t because you couldn’t. If she wants to breastfeed, don’t insist she’ll need to pump so you can feed the baby. These things aren’t about you. Offer your support and encouragement.
Tip #25- Don’t buy yourself baby gifts. This isn’t for strangers, usually just close family. But don’t buy yourself a car seat for the baby for your car unless you have talked to the mother or father to be and they have expressed that you NEED to do so. Do you know how ridiculous it is when Grandma has an entire nursery and Mom and Dad and trying to scrape together enough cash to pop up a pack and play in their room? I cannot tell you how many grandparents have fully outfitted nurseries only to find they didn’t need half the stuff because the parents thought they were a little off their rocker setting up an entire nursery. Unless you have talked to the parents about it, and not in an informing way, but the parents have indicated this would be welcome, don’t set up a full nursery. Sure, a pack and play and high chair at Grandma’s are usually welcome. But don’t take it too far. Don’t buy toys just for your house or other gifts with strings. If it stays at your house, it isn’t a gift for them, it is a gift for you. It is just weird. And it is a big red flag to most new parents. Really, they get that you are excited, and they are super excited to have your support. But know your role. Grandparent is a wonderful title and a wonderful role in a little one’s life. It doesn’t look like the parent’s role. It is different and wonderful in its own way. Foster that wonderful role you have to play and don’t try to steal the parent’s role.
Tip #26- Celebrate! If this is kid number one or kid number 9, CELEBRATE! A new life has entered the world. Celebrate. All babies deserve to have someone celebrating their arrival. ALL OF THEM. (I won’t rant here about pro-life people who are anti-large family or mean to unwed mothers or any of those things. I could, but I’ll refrain. Just be nice. BE NICE.)