Pregnancy is a particularly delicate time for a woman. Her body is changing, hormones are fluctuating, and many fears about her baby’s well-being are swirling.
When I was pregnant last year, I found myself on the receiving end of comments that invalidated my experience, attempted to predict something unpredictable about my pregnancy or birth experience, and infringed upon my autonomy to write my own pregnancy and motherhood story.
While not mal-intentioned, these comments were frustrating, anxiety-producing, and entirely unnecessary. A pregnant woman’s mind is already overrun with present and future worries. Instead of fear-based comments, what she really needs is encouragement and hopeful remarks during an extremely tender time.
While we’re all human and don’t always say the “right” thing, here are 7 comments to avoid saying to your pregnant friend.
Your baby will be born late.
While some data suggests that first babies will be born late, there’s also a higher-than-average chance that a first baby will be born early. And when you really look at the data, many factors, including the accuracy of the predicted due date, confound these averages and muddy the waters about the likelihood of when a first baby will be born.
Even still, let’s say that the data did conclusively show that first babies will be late, this comment isn’t helpful to a pregnant woman. While one can argue that the comment is intended to mentally prepare a mother for this possibility, insisting that a woman’s baby will be born late, or even merely suggesting it, is psychologically harmful.
If you’ve ever been pregnant, you can likely relate to the discomfort of nearing full-term of your pregnancy. Between the aches and pains, frequent bathroom visits, decreased range of motion and mobility, and uncomfortable, disrupted sleep, women unanimously agree that by the end of their pregnancy, they are just ready for it to be over.
So to hear, “Your baby will be late,” is frustrating and disheartening. Aside from the fact that babies come when they want and no one, not even one’s own OB, can predict with 100% certainty when a baby will arrive, the focus on the timing is unnecessary.
As it turned out, my son was born “on time” at 39 weeks, which was actually more unlikely than early or late. Go figure!
What to say to a pregnant woman instead: “How can I support you during your final weeks of pregnancy? I know the waiting game can be so tough!”
The first couple weeks of motherhood are hell.
I received this nugget of “advice” just a couple of months before giving birth to my son, from a friend of a friend, no less.
Given that I was over-the-moon excited to meet my son, the suggestion that I should anticipate that the initial moments and days after his arrival would be “hell” felt like a slap across the face.
It goes without saying that birthing a child is taxing, at best, and traumatic, at worst. Then figuring out nursing, sleepless nights, and much more…it’s a lot! So I get where the comment is coming from.
However, the power of mindset is huge. Does anyone actually want to anticipate the arrival of their child with the outlook that they’ll find themselves in hell once their darling newborn is placed in their arms? I’d love to meet the person who says yes.
Sometimes when we are in the thick of a difficult time it’s hard to see the upside or the light at the end of the tunnel. But it’s so important for all of us to be mindful of how our comments might land and how projecting our own “stuff” onto someone else might be the farthest thing from helpful for them.
What you can say instead: “Those initial days can feel blurry and exhausting. Would it be okay for me to stop by with a meal or even to help around the house so you can sleep?”
Enjoy every moment; it goes by so fast.
Wow, that’s a lot of pressure. Not one of us can enjoy every moment of our lives even without children, but somehow we expect motherhood to be different?
Much of motherhood isn’t glamorous. On the contrary, it can be boring, draining, and monotonous. So when you’re told to “enjoy every minute,” it invalidates the reality that difficult moments are inherent to motherhood.
Sure, the subtext is valuable— ‘The days are long, but the years are short. So don’t get so caught up in the hard parts of motherhood that you miss the beautiful ones.’
But that doesn’t mean we need to send the message that mothers should singularly feel joyful, eager, and positive about every aspect of parenthood, let alone every minute of the day. That’s just not what the lived experiences of mothers all around the world look like.
What you can say instead: “Tomorrow will be just as beautiful.”
I recently saw an Instagram post (can’t remember where!) which suggested replacing “Don’t blink” (a similar phrase to “Enjoy every moment”) with “Tomorrow will be just as beautiful.”
While the two sentiments aim to impart a similar message — that beautiful moments are there and ought to be noticed and appreciated— the latter is likely to land better as it’s implicitly acknowledging that sometimes the hard moments are all that we can see some days, but tomorrow is a fresh opportunity to see the beauty that motherhood has to offer.
You’re going to feel like [insert specific emotion]
Mind-reading for the win! Not…
Most of us can think of a time when someone told us what we must have been thinking or what we meant by a certain comment we made. Except, they were wrong; we weren’t actually thinking that at all.
It can feel invalidating of our own experiences when someone tells us what we will or will not, what we should or should not, be feeling. We are entitled to feel how we do, and it’s not anyone’s place to impute their feelings about a situation onto us.
Telling a pregnant woman (or any person, for that matter) how she will feel about an aspect of her pregnancy, birth experience, or motherhood journey is denying the reality that we all experience life in unique ways, see the world through our personal lens, and react differently even in similar situations.
What to say instead: “Motherhood brings up all sorts of feelings. I’m here if you ever want to share — the good, bad, or anything in between!”
Here’s a piece of advice…
Some of you might read this and think, “I’d love advice!” And that’s true of most of us. At times, we do want advice, and when we do, we’ll typically ask for it, from the person we want it from.
But what I’m talking about is unsolicited advice.
Sometimes, when a person shares, they just want to be heard, validated, and supported in their feelings. They aren’t looking for a solution or advice. So when advice is given unsolicited, it can feel overwhelming, presumptuous, and even condescending.
What you can say instead: “I have some thoughts on that. Is it okay to share? Would that feel helpful?”
Don’t worry; it’ll all be fine.
A universally invalidating statement, and one that’s especially difficult to hear while pregnant.
There’s a lot that must go “right” during pregnancy and childbirth to protect both mother and baby. With so many appointments, labs, and scans, fear and anxiety inevitably creep in.
We, as mothers, so badly want our baby to grow in the ways he or she should and for our health to be sustained throughout the pregnancy and childbirth. So hearing that we shouldn’t worry about these very real fears is extraordinarily invalidating.
What you can say instead: “I get that you’re worried. It makes sense. I’m here for you.”
No two motherhoods experiences are alike. While there are certainly common threads and shared emotions, it’s never helpful to assume that you can predict what another woman will feel or that her experience will mirror your own.
Instead, do your best to offer encouragement. Hope is life-giving while fear is depleting and isolating. Let’s strive to lift up our pregnant friends, affirm their autonomy and intuition to mother in their own way, and offer our support as they learn, in their own time, what mothering looks like for them.
About the author
Darcie Brown is a writer and licensed therapist based in San Diego, CA. In 2022, she became a mother to a boy named Oliver. Darcie writes about motherhood and mental health issues as well as supports her clients in working through life transitions like motherhood, relationship issues, anxiety, depression, and more. To learn more about Darcie, read more of her work, and explore the possibility of working with her, visit her website at www.darciemft.com.