Since when is a Baby Bump Community Property? Managing Expectations for Family and Friends
There are many things you might have anticipated experiencing during your pregnancy. Nausea? Check. Having to pee a lot? Check. Feeling a strong desire to nap every afternoon? Check. Your clothes not fitting sooner than you anticipated? Check. But what you might not have anticipated is the intrusiveness of others. It never ceases to amaze me; my patients report the most unbelievable things. The mother in law who informed my patient and her husband that she would in fact be present in the delivery room. The opposing lawyer in court who literally put his hand on my lawyer patient’s belly, and proclaimed that the baby was a boy. During a trial. The total stranger in the grocery store who told one of my patients that she was gaining far too much weight. The relative who heard the proposed baby names and told my patient that they were all horrible.
For whatever reason, many people have the idea that as soon as a woman gets pregnant, everything about her body and baby is open to their input. Not true. Your body belongs to you, and your baby is the creation of you and your partner. Period. But how do you communicate that fact without seeming rude? The first thing to do is to make sure that you and your partner are able to communicate effectively. Maybe set up a few minutes at the end of each day to check in with each other about the pregnancy. So for example, that would be a good time for your partner to tell you that his mom wants veto rights on the name, or for you to tell him that you do want your sister to be there for the delivery. I recommend what we call paired listening. Each of you gets a few minutes to talk while the other simply listens. No interruptions, no tv, no horrified expressions. Just listening. And after each of you has been heard by the other, then you have a conversation.
In terms of how to respond to other people, I am a big believer in what I call snappy comeback lines. You can memorize a few for the comments which really bug you if you are the kind of person who doesn’t think of good responses to insensitive comments until three days later. Think of three responses, depending on the person making the comment and the mood you are in at the moment.
Here are some examples:
Insensitive person: “Wow, you are as big as a house. Are you sure it isn’t twins?”
- Polite response: “We are so thrilled that I am having a nice big healthy baby”
- Educate: “Actually, I am exactly the size my doctor wants me to be for this stage of my pregnancy.”
- Zing: “Are you calling me fat? Gee, thanks. I thought all I had to deal with were vaginal hemorrhoids and a lagging libido, but no, I guess I now have to worry that my weight doesn’t meet with your approval”
Insensitive person: “You are pretty old to be having a first baby. You do IVF?”
- Polite response: “I feel so lucky to be experiencing a healthy pregnancy”
- Educate: “We were actually a bit worried about getting pregnant due to my age and it did take somewhat longer than we had hoped, but we seemed to have found that one good egg!”
- Zing: “Well, we heard that if you do it in three different positions on alternate days, age doesn’t impact fertility. What position did you use to conceive?”
You get the idea. The goal is to protect yourself in any way which feels comfortable. And being creative and thoughtful, while simultaneously being self-protective in how you respond to the comments of others, can help make you feel more in control.
Alice D. Domar, Ph.D is the author of the new book “Finding Calm for the Expectant Mom” (Tarcher, August 30, 2016). She is an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive biology, part-time, Harvard Medical School, the director of integrative care at Boston IVF, and the executive director of the Domar Centers for Mind/Body Health. For more information, please go to www.dralicedomar.com