PSA: Pregnancy Etiquette 101

I guess maybe it’s because it’s been more than three years since I’ve been pregnant, or the number of pregnant women I suddenly know (because of Twitter), but in “conversation” yesterday, I was reminded of the shocking behavior of other people toward pregnant women.

And I thought, “Something needs to be done.”

So here are a few things that if you should try very, very hard not to do to or say to a pregnant woman.

I know it can be hard. As one of my tweeps put it yesterday, “People see a baby belly and lose all mouth and hand control.”

1. I, myself, cannot stop the question “How do you feel?” from popping out of my mouth. Now, I don’t ask strangers that (I don’t ask pregnant strangers anything; I am an anomaly. I am a very private, quiet, introverted person who feels uncomfortable talking with strangers about my own pregnancies and/or labors, so I just don’t go there with people I don’t know.) I’ve asked my SILs this question; and my pregnant coworkers; and pregnant friends. I ask because I genuinely care, and they can tell me as much or as little as they want. But don’t ask if you don’t want to know, and don’t ask just so you can talk about your own pregnancies.

2. Never, ever, unless you are 100% certain that a woman is pregnant, ask someone how far along she is. This can go very badly for you. She may have just delivered two weeks ago. She may have delivered two years ago. She may simply have an unfortunate shape and have never delivered babies, or a cyst the size of a watermelon in there. Don’t ask!

3. Even when you are 100% sure that a woman is pregnant, you still should not comment on her size and/or shape. Believe it or not, “You hardly look pregnant!” is just as rude as “Wow! You’re huge! Only six months along?” This pregnancy being the exception, I didn’t show conclusively until I was seven-eight months along. And hearing, “You’re so tiny” made me worry about my babies. You don’t comment on non-pregnant people’s shape and size to their face, do ya?

Also, unless it’s hugely complimentary, don’t tell a pregnant woman how she appears. An acceptable comment would be, “Your skin looks fabulous.” Unacceptable: “Your skin looks so much better when you’re pregnant.” Don’t tell me how horrible I look —  and this pregnancy, I do look horrible. I look tired because I’m facking exhausted; my skin is breaking out like a teenager’s the week before prom; and, yes, I already have a belly. (Actually, I’m kind of proud of this last feature. I’m sure I will feel differently by month seven when I feel like I’m carrying a bowling ball between my legs.) I know you mean to be sympathetic, but it just makes me feel worse.

4. Never, ever, and I mean EVER, touch a pregnant woman’s belly without asking and receiving her express permission. This one completely boggles me. I don’t know why I was never assaulted this way (and make no mistake, it’s an assault, no matter how innocent or well-meaning you may be) — maybe because I am no earth-mother-looking pregnant chick; I look like a telephone pole with a basketball duct-taped to it. And I’m 5-foot-10-inches tall in bare feet. In any case, hands off. You do not touch other people’s bodies without permission. Period.

5. Don’t share your horror stories. First of all, if you share an unsolicited labor story with me, you are going to hear the horror story to end all pregnancy/labor horror stories. Second, you’re scaring people. Pregnancy can be a wonderful, magical time in a young woman’s life. She doesn’t need to hear about your emergency C-section after 72 hours of hard labor, and how your epidural wore off in hour 48. Now that being said, we all sit around and swap these stories with others we know, others who have been in the trenches with us. But if you don’t know a woman, and you don’t know if this is her first or her sixth pregnancy, don’t regale her with your tale of woe. As I often say, “It ain’t called picnic; it’s called labor.” Most of us knocked-up ladies understand what we’ve gotten ourselves into, and we all have different ways and means of dealing with what we gotta go through to get that baby in our arms.

6. This may be a personal one: Don’t ask me what I’m naming my baby. Dan and I decided when we started having babies that the first person to know the baby’s name would be the baby. We would whisper it in his/her ear. I don’t feel comfortable telling you what I am naming him/her before he/she gets here. Yes, I am superstitious about this, and yes, I have damn good reason to be.

7. Holy cats, don’t ask about things that only the woman’s midwife and/or doctor need to know. One of the women yesterday said a guy asked her (at the end of her last pregnancy) how far she was dilated! That’s just wrong.

8. Don’t say, “Trying for a boy/girl this time?” Especially in that jocular insider’s understanding tone. This may be another one that rubs me especially wrong. I had a boy. And I have two girls. I just want a healthy baby. We speculated a little bit when my brother’s wife got pregnant for a fourth time if she was “trying” for a girl (she had three boys), but I knew, like me, she just wanted a healthy baby. (She had another boy, by the way.) It doesn’t matter, and, frankly, it’s none of your business.

9. This is an after-pregnancy peeve: Don’t comment upon and/or ask about the number of children a couple has. It’s none of your business if the parents of an only child are going to have another one, and it’s none of your business if a couple decides to have eight kids — hey, maybe they own a farm or want to start their own sports team. Commenting that little Bobby would probably love a little brother or sister — especially repeatedly — is rude; you don’t know if that decision was a heartbreaking one, or not, but it sure is a personal one.

10. If, in the course of your inquiries or conversations, you do discover that a mother has suffered a loss (miscarriage, infant death, still baby), say: “I’m so sorry” and move on. Do not elaborate. A statement like, “That must have been devastating” is painfully obvious; a statement like, “Everything happens for a reason” borders on outright offensive. Say, “I’m so sorry.” That’s all. Oh, and say it for goodness sake; don’t ignore the fact that you are talking to someone who has lost a child. In the course of a conversation with a coworker who just had a little girl, she mentioned that she had had three miscarriages between her sons. And I just said, “Oh, I’m so sorry” and we continued our conversation. That was that.

What do we think, moms and moms-to-be? Did I miss anything?

Edited to add: YES: 11. Don’t ask about the conception. “Was it an accident?” “Were you trying?” In the case of multiples: “Were you using fertility drugs?” Woah, people. This is the same as asking, “Were you and your spouse/partner copulating? Were you using birth control?” None o’ yer business. people. (I tend to look at people with an eyebrow raised and say, “Well, we weren’t exactly NOT trying.”)

12. Don’t comment if/when a woman goes past her due date. SHE KNOWS.

Next week: Infant/baby Etiquette 101. Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Year Seven: Perspective

Yesterday, I got home to realize that Dan had run a half-full dishwasher, while still leaving some dirty dishes in the sink.

Kate pooped in her pants again. I yelled. Again.

Between the two of them, the girls ate half of my salad greens at dinner. Kate had to be bribed to eat two noodles, while Flora cleaned her plate.

Kate spilled her sister’s orange juice all over the floor. Flora sprayed Febreeze in her hair.

This weekend, Dan spent a lot of time with us, his “girls”.

This weekend, Flora was brilliant. And whiny.

This weekend, Kate made me so mad I cried. This weekend, Kate made me laugh so hard I cried.

If Gabriel had lived, he would be 7 years old. I would have stories to tell about him.

As it stands, he doesn’t have much of a story. He lived, he died, he was born.

Last night, we had brownies for dessert — what my older daughter insists on calling brownie lasagna because she thinks brownies are round and come three to a bag. I’ve mentioned I’m not much of a baker, yes? The girls got baths, and a night-time show, and a book. We squabbled at bed time over what light to leave on. Flora insists she will have nightmares.

Grief this year is less like grief qua grief, and more like anxiety and worry. Grief this year is the realization that missing a person, a child, doesn’t mean that other things don’t happen — the crying and laughing and cuddling and frustration. Other babies, and fatigue, nausea, and worry (again).

Grief this year is looking around and realizing that it’s just part of my life, our life. Missing Gabriel is just part of the adventure we are on. For better or worse.

In the meantime:

Third Degree

I have been seeing a lot of my MIL lately, and that’s saying something because they do live right next door. I have no issues with such an arrangement, especially as Bella and Tadone are very helpful when it comes to kid-related wrangling.

I was talking to Bella one evening at dinner (hosted by her) regarding arrangements for my ultrasound. As the appointment was at 7:45 in the morning, she offered to take the girls overnight and drive them to daycare the next day.

And she had quite a few questions for me.

Since I have announced this latest pregnancy, I have faced a lot of concern from my parents and from my in-laws.

And it’s okay, and not completely unexpected. It certainly didn’t help that I haven’t been feeling that hot, and I totally look like it.

Bella’s line of questioning was a little unexpected although not altogether unwarranted.

She wanted to know why, when I was pregnant with Gabriel, doctors didn’t find the problems that led to us losing him.

After all, her reasoning went, in my latter pregnancies, ultrasound did detect issues of low amniotic fluid and other possible placental issues that led to steps to protect the baby. (Not to mention Kate’s CCAM. Ah, good times.)

What I explained to her was that there was no reason for further ultrasounds with Gabriel (after our 20-week Level II u/s, which is standard in most pregnancies) because to anyone’s knowledge, Gabriel was just fine.

There were no growth issues, his heartbeat was fine, movement was fine. I was fine. There was no reason to suspect for any reason that he would die.

However, it is precisely because he did die that I did get more monitoring in my subsequent pregnancies. Kinda a catch-22 if you see it, only backwards. Kate started getting ultrasounds every 2-3 weeks once they found the CCAM; with Flora, I started weekly non-stress tests and bi-weekly ultrasounds at 31 weeks.

I know Bella’s intentions were good, and that her curiosity came from a place of genuine concern. At the time, the questions were pretty intense, though, as they are (obviously) still on my mind a couple of weeks later.

Since getting pregnant this time around… to say I have tried NOT to think about Gabriel would be misleading. If I’m pregnant, I’m thinking of Gabriel; it was true with Flora and Kate, and it’s true this time around. I guess it’s most accurate to say I’ve tried not to dwell on Gabriel. I don’t exactly have the luxury of assuming that all is going to be just fabulous and go smoothly with my pregnancy. Even Flora and Kate proved that, just not to the devastating affect that Gabriel did.

But there’s also no sense in dwelling on what can go wrong. I knew that we would have to get in-depth with my midwives and doctors regarding a plan for this pregnancy, and I should probably think about what I’m going to do if I’m placed on modified bed rest this time around.

But all this stuff, right now at least, is not exactly top-of-mind. It’s floating around out there, and I know I will have to address it.

I guess I was a little shaken by Bella’s questions because I hadn’t taken those steps yet, made the plans, had the conversations. And because I don’t want to dwell. (Yeah, this is me, not dwelling.)

As well, it’s that time of year, again, that span of time that Gabriel is most on our minds.

I just try to be quiet and be faithful. There’s not much else to do. I’m in good hands, and I don’t just mean with medical personnel.

Rage Against the Whinge

(To steal even MORE blatantly from Her Bad Mother.)

I was going to write a post about how Flora’s whinging makes me postal right after I bitched about Kate’s potty regression.

But Her Bad Mother did it for me.

Now, Catherine and I have very different reactions to the whinge, the whine, the drillbit in the middle of the skull that is a young child’s high-pitched demands: Catherine, who is mild-mannered and doesn’t like to show her anger, feels bad for being angry at her child for whining. Which is pretty understandable — let’s face it: kids whinge; as one commenter put it: it’s in the operating manual. Why be angry about something one can do nothing about? I, on the other hand, don’t feel bad for being angry, but I do try to temper it and not yell. (I’m pretty sure I cannot be described as ‘mild-mannered’.)

Mileage varies.

The trick I usually try is asking Flora (or either of the girls, really, although Flora is the bigger offender) to say it in a normal voice. It usually works. It’s when I have to ask three (four, five, TEN) times in a row that I start to lose it.

Another commenter offered the trick of not understanding Whinese. I’m totally using that one. (Probably soon.)

I probably don’t need to add (yet here I go!) that pregnancy hormones and fatigue make this whole enterprise even more challenging than usual. Oh, how I have barked at my children in the past month-six weeks.

I will admit that my patience is far more tried by Kate’s potty issues than with whining (for now), but the other thing I am telling myself in that regard is that some of these behaviors (whinging, potty regression) could be, may be, attention-seeking behavior. And blowing my stack simply reinforces the behavior because ANGRY attention is still attention.

Last night, I blew up at the very end of the night before bath time. To the point that both girls burst simultaneously into tears (and I was only really yelling at Flora; mother of the year, right here).

I called them both to me, and we all hugged on the couch. And I explained my anger, explained why I had yelled.

“Do you know why I yelled?” I asked Flora. She cried a little more instead of answering.

“I yelled because you told me no, again,” I said. The saying “no” to me is another big trigger point. “We had a deal. You got your show before your bath; you just had two or three snacks while you were watching, and now it’s time to do what I asked you. I said yes to you; now you have to say yes to me.”

I think she got it, I do. While on one hand I don’t think our children need to be sheltered from emotions, I do think we have, as parents, a duty to explain emotions, especially the ones that scare our children. When I cry in frustration or sadness, I have to tell them about my frustration or sadness. When I yell, I have to explain my reasons.

And, of course, we adults should not be ruled by our emotional impulses, the way kids are. Instead of just blowing up, we can say, “I am starting to get angry at the way you are acting.” Then we and our children can reframe our next move. Sometimes, it’s walking out of the room; sometimes it’s asking a child to go to her room; sometimes it’s even introducing a moment of levity (for example, whinging back at my kids makes them giggle like crazy). It’s teaching ourselves and our children to take a deep breath before plowing on.

What makes you crazy as a parent? As a person? What do you do about it? Are you dismayed by your responses or encouraged?

Regression

Kate is having accidents.

And I don’t just mean of the bruise-her-up variety. Although, seriously, the way that child runs face first into things, it’s a wonder CYS hasn’t come a-calling.

She is peeing in her pants. She is pooping in her pants at daycare.

I haven’t the faintest idea what to do.

And my short fuse and fatigue are not lending themselves to cool-headed reactions to my daughter standing in the kitchen and peeing in her shorts right in front of me, ten minutes after I asked her if she needed to go to the potty.

As you can probably imagine.

Dan seems to be dealing with the issue much, much better than I. On Sunday, after Kate peed in the kitchen (hey, at least it was on linoleum), I walked out of the room crying (I’m so level-headed this pregnancy!), and Dan calmly took Kate upstairs, got her cleaned up, talked to her about peeing her pants, told her she would not be able to get a fish (our prize for good behavior in general, lately), and had her apologize to me. In the meantime, I mopped up the kitchen floor. Inwardly seething.

This all started a few weeks back. When she complained about her bum itching and her poop hurting we put her back on Miralax. That seemed to help — at least she wasn’t resisting the urge to poop anymore.

I don’t know the circumstances regarding her accidents at daycare, if she’s refusing or declining to use the potty (as she is at home); if she’s just so occupied with playing she is ignoring her need to go; if there’s a fundamental step between learning to go on the potty and actually stopping what you are doing to USE the potty that Kate’s just not grasping yet.

Ideas? Advice? Whether for Kate or for me (to keep my cool). All is welcome.

Edited to add: She has the ladies at daycare flummoxed too. She was doing so well! She’s going to get sent back down to the minors (i.e. the Baby Room) to see if that will motivate her to success again.

I suspect: change in routine — my schedule has been all over the place lately; attention-seeking behavior (duh); the fact that she is put out by my continuing fatigue and other pregnancy-related difficulties that make me a more absent momma. But I still don’t know what to do.

Week 12

Today I had an ultrasound and some early testing done.

In short, everything looks good — looks very good. We got to hear the heartbeat (136 beats per minute) and see Le Bud in all his/her teeny glory.

In long (why isn’t that a thing?), the appointment took a long time. We were about 20 minutes late, which didn’t help — construction is rerouting traffic so that a stretch of road that usually takes 10 minutes at rush hour now takes 30. Not cool.

Anyhoo, they were not stressed about it at all. We saw a genetic counselor, had an ultrasound (that took a really, really long time), saw a perinatologist (Dr. D), and I had some blood drawn.

Most of this stuff has to due with my, ahem, “advanced maternal age” and if any of you choose to use such a phrase on me, in person, you better be out of arms’ reach because I will slug you. Just so you know.

The ultrasound test (an NT scan) took so bloody long because Le Bud declined to be a convenient position, and it took five or six go-rounds to get the measurement needed. I mean, I had to empty my bladder “a little” (which was almost painful), then empty it all the way, then get up and walk around, and cough, and get up and walk around some more.

But Le Bud finally cooperated (I guess), and the tech got what she needed.

Then we had a long chat with Dr. D, who’s a very nice guy, and made a plan for monitoring this pregnancy. We talked about low-dose aspirin (aka baby aspirin) to help with blood flow between me and the baby; it’s something I’ll talk more about with my midwives as well. There also seem to be some concerns about my weight, which is on the skinny side, but when I told him I gained 40 pounds with each of my pregnancies (no lie), he seemed relieved.

On that note, about two weeks ago, I developed a sudden aversion to peanuts and peanut butter, and any product containing either of those things. This is of concern to me because, as a vegetarian, I have depended on such things to up my calorie count during pregnancy. Maybe the aversion will lift as I move into the second trimester. But it’s definitely weird.

What other high-calorie (vegetarian) foods should I stock up on in case peanuts and/or peanut butter continue to gross me out? And, no, my aversion has not been replaced with cravings for cheeseburgers or bacon.

Let the second trimester begin! (And let the nausea subside!)