There’s always the same progression of questions.
Early on, you aren’t showing much yet, and people aren’t really sure that you’re pregnant. They aren’t going to ask. How embarrassing if they are wrong. But if you happen to let them know somehow that you are, in fact, carrying life inside you, then the response generally goes as follows: “Congratulations! How far along are you?”
Then you are getting big, and it’s now obvious that you are pregnant, so there’s no prerequisite to the first question. Inevitably, the follow-up seems always to be: “Is it a boy or a girl?”
You answer that it’s a girl, because why not? What else would you say? But you know what’s coming next.
“What are you naming her?”
That’s where it gets hard. That’s where you have to make a split-second decision on how much of your personal life you want to share with this person. Because if you’re honest and open – like you usually are – if you say that you don’t know what her name will be yet, then the next question is probably going to be something along the lines of “Oh, are you waiting until after the birth?” Then, if you continue in this strain of honesty and openness, you will end up saying “No, her parents are going to pick a name before she is born, but they are still thinking about it since they only found out last week that she is a girl and only the week before that that she is their daughter, Ms. Cashier-at-the-grocery-store.”
And the questioner will then clam up and look away awkwardly and try to figure out what is the polite and appropriate thing to say to get them out of this conversation.
Have you ever considered that not every pregnancy is a happy one? It’s not just the unplanned or unwanted ones. It’s not just the mother’s that are too young or the father’s that left. There are so many varied reasons why a woman may not be thrilled about her pregnancy or may not want to chat about it to every friend, coworker, acquaintance, and complete stranger.
There’s privacy for starters. How come the state of pregnancy suddenly makes your life, health, and children a Google search bar for anyone and everyone to request information? Granted, I’m sure there are a great many women who absolutely love to chat about their diet choices and nursery colors and baby shower to whoever asks about it, but there are going to be those who aren’t really into public information sharing.
Then there’s those difficult situations that just make questions awkward and hard to answer. This was my experience. I’m naturally an open person, so I didn’t really mind the typical questions… until it became a puzzle trying to figure out how much of my life story I should share with each person. I don’t like to lie, nor am I fond of the saying “None of your business,” no matter how politely put. But there comes a time when you realize that honestly answering this person’s question about my baby’s name, gender, due date, or future would mean sharing the whole damn story about my choice to utilize adoption. Did I want to talk about that right at that instant? Did I want this person to know that much about me? Did I even have time to go into that much detail?
Sometimes, it’s far worse than just awkward. Consider a woman who has already experienced multiple miscarriages. She may be hesitant, nervous, or downright scared to talk about her current pregnancy. Though she is probably rejoicing to be having another chance at birth, she’s also terrified of it ending tragically again. Consider the mother who is still unsure about whether she wants to go through with this pregnancy or whether she will raise her child if she does. Consider the parents who have already learned that their child has a genetic or chromosomal disease – a disease that ensures they will not live to their first birthday even if they make it to term. How well-placed is your hearty “Congratulations!” or your barrage of questions then?
Through my entire pregnancy, there was only one woman who, instead of immediately offering her joyous interest, asked me this question: “And is this a happy occasion?” I was so taken aback and so grateful that she started out that way. She was broaching the possibility that I was not thrilled with my pregnancy, and letting me guide her to what her next question should be or if there should even be a next question. I could have answered with an ecstatic affirmative and let her know that I was open to chatting about it, or I could have said simply, “Well, it’s been difficult.”
My point here is not that you should never ask a woman about her pregnancy. Like I said before, tons of women absolutely love to talk about it. I’m just asking this: Before you jump in with your congrats, consider the possibility that this woman may be scared. She may be upset. She may be traumatized, hurting, or extremely sad. Just as every pregnancy is different, so is every pregnant woman coming from a different place, situation, and experience. Consider the possibility that they may not want to speak about their pregnancy.