Over the past two years, my wife and I have been blessed with two fruitful pregnancies. Consequently, we've also experienced a number of things as parents and parents-to-be that have proved to be anything from mildly obnoxious to inexcusably offensive. It seems like there's something about pregnant women and small children that flip on some type of idiot switch inside the brains of many people. In an effort to assuage the anger and frustration that comes from these confrontations (and to warn any friends who are expecting children or for whom pregnancy is on the horizon), here is a list of the types of situations that my wife and I have encountered either during her pregnancies or afterwards with our children.
Everything that I am about to say pertains ONLY to strangers and to people with whom we have only a passing association (co-workers, acquaintances, basically anyone that we wouldn't consider friends). If you're a friend or a family member, even if you've done something below, it doesn't apply to you because what makes the situations annoying is the fact that these people DON'T know us; for friends and family, it's all good because there's no confusion with regards to your respective intentions.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS FOR STRANGERS INTERACTING WITH PREGNANT WOMEN, INFANTS, AND SMALL CHILDREN
I. THOU SHALT NOT ASKETH THE NAME OF THE UNBORN CHILD
The naming of a child is usually a very personal, cherished thing. Many times, prospective parents elect to honor someone in the family either with a first or middle name; others, the child's name has some other intrinsic meaning that is of the utmost importance to one or both parents. With that said, there is a vulnerability attached to the revelation of the name. When a complete stranger or vague acquaintance asks the parent if they've picked out a name, they're simultaneously putting that person on the spot. What they don't realize is that, by asking, they're opening up the parent to potential judgment. Now, with friends and family, there really isn't any judgment because they will ultimately have some involvement in the child's life. For a perfect stranger, co-worker, or acquaintance, that level of involvement is greatly diminished.
I'm sure most people are either being polite or curious in asking and, to some, the issue here might be a bit cloudy. The problem, though, is that not everyone will say "Oh, that's a lovely name" or something else that's equally innocuous. Sometimes, they will pass judgment and make a comment directly about the name or, the one that kills me, they will say "I don't like that name." Oh, really? Well go fuck yourself! It ain't your kid and no one gives a shit whether or not you approve.
I understand the irony here though that something said by someone who ultimately does not matter in terms of your child's life shouldn't have so powerful an impact on you but I would counter with this: how would you feel if you're on the train, wearing a favorite article of clothing, and a complete stranger comes up to you and says, "That shirt/blouse/jacket/pair of whatever is ugly." I would imagine that it would sting most people since not everyone has climbed to the top of Maslow's pyramid.
Ultimately, if the parents want you to know the name of the baby, they'll volunteer the information. If you're asking just to be polite, you're actually not achieving your goal. And if you're just nosy or overly curious? Mind your own business.
II. THOU SHALT NOT PROGNOSTICATE THE GENDER OF THE UNBORN CHILD
For some ungodly reason, many people seem inclined to speculate as to the sex of the baby whilst it is still in utero. Most rationalize their positions with old wives' tales or other bits of superstition but some simply do it based on a hunch (thanks for being wrong both times, Dr. H!). Ultimately, the problem here is that you're unintentionally either stoking the fire of the parents' desire for a particular outcome or you're dampening their excitement by positing the opposite. You're also putting the mother in an awkward position because she then has to respond to whatever ill-conceived logic you're employing with your guess. Believe me, if you think she's having a boy/girl because she's carrying high/low, she's heard the opposite position an equal number of times. If you have the audacity to say something like, "You're having a girl. Girls drain your beauty." then you're oblivious to your inconsideration and you should be shot.
III. THOU SHALT NOT ASKETH THE PARENTS WHICH SEX THEY DESIRE
Another one of those "just being polite" or "asking this because I feel like I'm supposed to" questions is what sex the parents are hoping for. The trend these days seems to be to skirt the issue by saying something like, "We don't care--we just want a healthy baby!" or some other trite bullshit. I will admit readily that my wife and I both said such things in response during her first pregnancy, mostly because we didn't want to jinx the outcome. Superstition aside, it's none of your goddamn business what a given parent wants and they shouldn't have to proffer a response that makes them uncomfortable. I'm guessing that a lot of parents feel uncomfortable given the number of responses similar to the one I mentioned earlier that I overhear. Who wants to say that they want a boy when they wind up having a daughter, or vice versa?
IV. THOU SHALT NOT COMMENTETH UPON THE MOTHER'S WEIGHT GAIN
I wish I was making this shit up but I'm not: people actually did this to Heather. I can't even fathom the complete and utter lack of decorum that some people have or what type of fucked up logic would lead them to pass judgment/commentary on a woman with a life growing inside of her. The fact that they don't see anything wrong with saying something like, "Wow. You're getting big!" boggles my mind. The fact that someone had the gall to say to Heather, "I'm glad you told me you were pregnant. I thought you were just having a hard time getting rid of the baby weight from your other pregnancy." infuriates me.
And just as a side note, straight up: there's never a situation in which it's okay to comment on someone's weight gain. I don't even like when people say, "Wow! You've lost weight!" because the implication there is "Boy! You were fat!". Many people dealt with being made fun of for their weight when they were in school (myself included) and so it leaves me scratching my head that these same people think nothing of making the same comments as adults that were made about them when they were kids. I hate it when it's people I'm not close to who say shit but it pisses me off even more when it's a friend or a close friend. You don't know what that person had going on in their lives that led to their weight gain/loss, so making a crack or passing judgment on it without that knowledge just makes you look like an asshole and, for me, it's a surefire way to end whatever conversation we were having and making me want to punch you in the face. To say shit like that to a pregnant woman, though? Repugnant.
V. THOU SHALT NOT TOUCH THE BABY BUMP WITHOUT ASKING
This one might be number five numerically speaking but it's probably the most important one overall. I don't get what it is about a pregnant woman's belly that makes complete strangers lose their fucking minds but it seems to. First of all, (speaking from the expectant mother's perspective), I don't fucking know you so how dare you touch me. Second of all, I have the most delicate thing in the world (for a human) growing inside of me, and you're going to lay your fucking hands on me? It's bad enough when strangers ask if they can touch the belly but to just out and out do it? It's grounds for getting your face dented, friend.
What gets me the most about this though is the lack of consideration and thought given for the reciprocal situation. How would you feel if I just rubbed your stomach without asking you? If you don't know my wife then keep your goddamn hands to yourself.
VI. THOU SHALT NOT COMMENT ON OR MAKE JOKES ABOUT THE DISTANCE TO THE HOSPITAL
This one probably pertains only to us and few others but it was still something that made me want to choke people out. I cannot tell you how many people asked us where we lived and what hospital we were delivering at/where the hospital was, only to follow with an IMMEDIATE asinine comment. Here's a sample of what we heard over and over and over and over and over and over again:
"Oh boy! That's faaaaaaaaaaar!"
"You'll never make it."
"Wow! Good luck making it to the hospital!"
"That baby's going to be born in the car!"
"That baby's going to be born on the bridge!"
"That baby's going to be born on the Belt Parkway!"
"We're taking a pool about which exit the baby will be born at."
"You're crazy. You couldn't find a closer hospital?"
Not that it warrants any explanation on my part but we chose to use the hospital in Long Island because of how comfortable we were with the doctors and the facilities. The fact that we moved when Heather was seven months pregnant to a place that put us even further way was something that we had no control over; we found the perfect house for us and we did what we had to do. All of those comments did nothing positive for us and served only to add more stress to an already full plate, especially since they were in reference to something that, again, we had no control over. Heather wanted HER doctor to deliver the baby and not to have to start fresh with a completely new set of doctors in an unfamiliar place and a hospital that we didn't have an intimate knowledge of.
VII. THOU SHALT NOT COMMENT ON THE GIRTH OF THE CHILD
We never really had this much with Timmy but people seem to love to comment on how chubby (or fat, as some people seem wont to say) a baby is. Among other things, such a comment tells you right away that this person doesn't have children and, more than likely, has had little interaction with them. Babies (especially boys) grow like Christmas trees: they get thick and then suddenly shoot up and slim down before repeating the process. It's one thing to talk about how cute the kid looks as a result of their rotundity but it's something completely different to pass judgment on his or her appearance. Plus, how chubby a baby is (for the most part--we're not talking Honey Boo Boo here) is NOT an indicator of how healthy the kid is. Some infants can't put on weight while others look like Augustus Gloop. Saying that a baby is fat or chubby makes you look like an inconsiderate asshole, which is fine because that's probably precisely what you are!
VIII. THOU SHALT NOT LAYETH A HAND UPON MY CHILD
I've had to use some insane restraint on my part as a result of this. You're a friend or a family member? Play with my kid all you want. You're a complete stranger at the supermarket or at Target/Wal*Mart/etc.? Keep your fucking hands to yourself. Again, I don't know what it is about small children that makes a complete stranger think that it's okay to lay a hand on them! First of all, when you reach down and either touch a small child's hands or tousle their hair, you're completely destroying their right to personal space. You wouldn't like it if I just reached out and did the same thing to you or to your kid, so just what in the hell makes you think that it's permissible for you to touch my child? In fact, let's say that YOU had a kid with you (which has happened a few times). You're telling me that you'd be completely cool with me reaching out and stroking your thirteen year old daughter's hair? "Oh, that's different." You're damn right it is! That girl would have the ability to say no and to defend herself from an unwanted encounter. A two year old? Not so much.
It also doesn't matter how old the person is. In fact, for some strange reason, older, elderly folks seem to be the most inclined to touch small children. I'm sure that it has something to do with their reminiscing of or appreciation for youth but it sure as hell doesn't make it any more acceptable. People seem to think that just because these people are older that they're harmless--that something about their white haired appearance automatically renders them sweet and gentle.
IX. THOU SHALT NOT OFFERETH MY CHILD ANYTHING WITHOUT ASKING ME FIRST
Some people must have miswired neural pathways. What would lead them to give something to a child that they do not know--especially something edible--is beyond my ability to comprehend. Aside from the fact that it's rude (you're usurping the power role of the parent), it's just fucking stupid! You ask the kid's parent if you just absolutely cannot control your urge or, better yet, you mind your own fucking business and keep your creepy candy to yourself.
Besides--everybody knows that you put razorblades in your apples on Halloween!
X. THOU SHALT NOT SPECULATE AS TO WHICH PARENT THE CHILD RESEMBLES MORE
This is another thing that people just seem compelled to do when they see a newborn. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Oh he's his mother's/father's son!" along with all of the various facial features "Oh he has his mother's/father's nose/eyes/ears/lips." Gee, how about this? Maybe the baby looks like himself or herself! Who gives a shit which parent he or she looks more like? I don't know what it is that drives people to make such dopey ass comments but I can tell you that they have no idea of how annoying it is and how obnoxious it is to be alienated. Being told to your face, "Sorry dad--but he looks NOTHING like you" (that actually happened. Twice.) does absolutely nothing for your self-esteem. Plus, what the hell are you supposed to say in response? "Thanks?" Having such comments flung at you repeatedly makes you feel diminished and just out and out embarrassed after awhile.