That is, besides the presence of new life in the world, in the form of a baby who sort of resembles a person you know. That part’s a given. But, as a person whose friends haven’t even started getting married yet, let alone spawning, I get confused around other people’s kids, even a little nervous! I would like it not to be this way, though. It’s just unfamiliar territory. For guidance on what I assume to be a thorny social issue for a lot of people, I lobbed a bunch of questions at my colleagues Mike Conklin and Kristin Iversen. As of publication date, both have managed to keep their children both alive and well-adjusted, all while maintaining normal adult social lives. Meaning, I trust their judgement on this. If I ever earnestly used the phrase “teachable moment,” well, I would use it here.
So whoa, you’re having a baby! First things first. Touching your stomach is never ok, right? Do you need me to yell at anybody who tries? People are monsters. Also, are there any questions I should absolutely never ask you about this whole thing?
Kristin: Oh my god, I better not be having another baby. What have you heard? Who have you been talking to? It’s all lies. But, when I was having a baby, no, it was NOT ok to have anyone touch my stomach. I hated that. Just because something sticks out a little, doesn’t mean it’s your right to go crazy touching it. Gross. But so, about asking any questions that pop into your mind. I think most pregnant women LOVE talking about their experiences. Maybe they even love talking about it a little too much? It’s like war stories. Most women are really into talking about their battle scars. And even showing them off. Which is not something I’d ever do, but I know other people who would. So be careful what you ask, because you might get a more revealing answer then you’re ready for.
Mike: When my wife was pregnant, one of the things we found ourselves talking about constantly was the degree to which pregnant women seem to make people feel justified in ignoring social norms when interacting with other people’s bodies. Stomach-touching is the most obvious example. I would say if you’re, like, committed, lifelong best friends or blood relatives, you can go ahead and ask permission, but anything shy of that, just leave it alone.
There’s another thing, too, where people feel like they’re allowed to talk about your body in ways they never, ever would if you weren’t pregnant. Women who have had children previously are probably more guilty of this than anyone, so it’s not totally relevant to your question, but it’s never a good idea to talk about how much the pregnant woman is or is not “showing” based on how far along she is in her pregnancy. “Oh, you’re only 5 months” is obviously shitty because you’re straight-up calling her fat, but even “Oh wow, you don’t look like you’re 5 months!,” which I know you mean as a compliment, is ill-advised because you run the risk of making her nervous that something’s wrong.
As I understand it, growing a person inside you is stressful, so you’re always better off saying as little as possible. “How do you feel? You look great!” is a safe bet.