Friday, November 18, 2011

...don't say anything at all

This being my second go-round on the Pregnancy Carousel of Suck, I am well aware of the fact that my baby bump tends to make other people stupid. 

Oh, it makes me forgetful. Lately I've taken to a sort of Tara Gregson approach to what is commonly called "Pregnancy Brain." Like this:

Husband: "What's that actor's name?"
Me: "Oh, man. Non-Pregnant Meredith knows this off the top of her head. I'm going to have to look it up."


Form at the doctor's office: "Name:"
Me: *pulling out my driver's license*

The other day at the supermarket I meant to grab two containers of orange juice, and the next thing I knew I was standing by our shopping cart, checking to see if I had put one of them in there yet. Turns out I had only grabbed one, but the point is half a second after I would have put an oj into my cart I forgot whether or not I had done so.

While that's not nearly as bad as "How I Met Your Mother" would have us believe when earlier this season Lily gave a stapler and a bottle of wine to some trick-or-treaters, it's still not fun, especially when you usually have a mind like a steel trap. Steel! Trap! WHAT???

But, you know, at least I have the excuse of being pregnant to explain away my forgetfulness. Hormones, building a person from scratch, not being able to get comfortable when I sleep, waking several times a night to pee - none of that is good for the ol' noggin. 

Know who does not have an excuse for being stupid? Other people. Especially other (non-adoptive) mothers. You'd think that, of anyone on the entire planet, other women who have gone through the whole pregnancy rigormorale would be a little more careful about what comes out of their mouths, but they aren't. They're pretty dumb.

First, there were the several women who told me how much better sons are than daughters during my first pregnancy. Around that same time I wore a pink t-shirt one day to work and a cashier at the drugstore commented, "Oh, are you having a girl?" Because I guess failure to create another uterus inside your own bans you from the color pink forever.

Then there was my former building super, who told me over and over how his wife walked for miles every day during her pregnancies and both her labors were, like, minutes long, because as we all know, walking is the one and only key to a quick and painless labor.

A pregnant friend of mine today informed me that she told a co-worker how she now goes to bed at 9pm, to which the co-worker responded with, "You need to get a hobby!" Because if there's one thing pregnant women are, it's bored, especially when you work and already have a 2 1/2-year old.

Today I treated myself to a pre-Holiday haircut and eyebrow shaping because even feminists sometimes like to look like pretty ladies, and the woman waxing my brows - who has four grown sons of her own - said to me, "Wow, you're only about a month away, aren't you?" 

Now, my reply: "Actually, I have another four months to go," would normally embarrass and silence most people. Most people would blush and apologize, but not my brow waxer! She continued, "Wow, you're really big!"

I had no witty retort to that, so I just sort of shrugged and said, "Yeah, I'm carrying really high."

Which I am. I'm carrying so high that the baby may well come out of my rib cage ala John Hurt in "Alien," unlike my last son, whom I carried so low that by the end I had to hold him in with my knees locked together, afraid that a hard sneeze or laugh would send him shooting across the room.

So, I'm carrying high this time, but I still don't think I'm carrying particularly BIG, you know? And it certainly isn't the job of anyone else to comment on my size.

Which...bothered me, at first. As a feminist, I make a conscious effort not to fat-shame myself, which is why I can happily report that I am writing this while eating an entire pack of Twizzlers. But if I'm not feeling fat-shamed for that woman's comment, then why did it bother me so? And the answer came to me a while later: because pregnancy, like so much else concerning women's bodies, is considered public domain. Total strangers feel the need to comment upon mine, like the bartender at the Japanese restaurant my husband and I went to (DON'T WORRY, PREGNANCY POLICE, I DID NOT EAT SUSHI!), who asked me, "You're going to breastfeed, right?" while going through the motions of honking his non-existent breast. 

Because ultimately, strangers commenting on whether I look big or small is really their way of commenting on whether they think my unborn child is healthy or not, on whether I'm taking care of myself - and, more importantly, my fetus - or not. I would like to think that it's heartwarming to see such an outpouring of community concern for the well-being of the unborn next generation, but I doubt these strangers are coming from an "It Takes a Village" place. More likely they are coming from a place of judgment, something almost every mother is familiar with. Mothers are a favorite whipping-girl of our society, starting with the nanosecond our baby bumps become obvious.

For those of you who need a take-away from all of this, here is a list of perfectly nice, acceptable, non-judgey things you can say to a pregnant woman:

"You look beautiful!"

"Here's a bottle of Macallan 18-year old Scotch* for when you pop that kid out!"

"Would you like a free foot massage at the expensive day spa nearby?"

"I hope labor and delivery go according to your birth plan!"

"That child is already so lucky to have you as a mother!"

"May your baby never get colic!"

"You're already doing an awesome job!"

"I've heard that chocolate in the womb helps babies develop higher IQs and love their mothers more!"

"May your child be the first gay Jewish-Cuban President of the United States!"

And, of course, there is what my husband tells me on a nearly daily basis: "You are one sexy pregger pants." He's a smart one, is that guy.

*I did not receive any compensation or requests to endorse Macallan Scotch Whisky for this statement, but if they read this and want to send me a free bottle anyway, for when I pop this kid out, I will not protest.


Lyndsay said...

I don't know. I haven't been pregnant but if I ever am and I end up being particularly big and people comment on it, I imagine responding with an "I know, I can't believe I'm still going to get bigger" or if I've heard their comment from many other people, then it'd be a more exasperated, "I know. I see myself every day, can we move on?" But I don't see it as involving fat or a commenter thinking someone is too big. I don't know what the commenters are actually thinking but we all know people get bigger when they're pregnant. Some people get particularly bigger and it's natural for people to notice unusual things. Meh, just some thoughts.

Meredith L. said...

Lyndsay, you may be right, but it still bothers me that strangers feel entitled to comment on my size. And having a 3-year old I know that this is just the beginning of strangers commenting on me, my parenting, and my children.

But, I do hope that if you ever become pregnant, that you maintain this level of equanimity.