When I got pregnant, I had very little experience being around pregnant people. As the eldest daughter of an eldest daughter, I’m the first in my family in this generation to have a baby, and none of my closest friends are married or have children yet. For someone who is an anxious wreck and hates doing new things, I’ve been pretty successful at always being the “first”—I was the first person in my immediate family to go to college and I even ended up with a graduate degree to really set a high bar for anyone to follow. And then I went and got pregnant with twins, which is a freak of nature—only 3% of live births are twins, and that stat includes pregnancies that resulted from fertility treatments, which increase your chance of multiples. So good luck to anyone who wants to one-up me! (Just kidding, it’s the Leo energy talking.)
The reason I preface this with my own story is that, even though some of what’s to follow is just common sense, I didn’t actually know any of it before I became the pregnant person in question. If I hadn’t been the first, I probably wouldn’t have known how to act, and I’m sure I would have made a lot of these missteps. I have made some of these missteps with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances. So, partially for my own sake in the future and partially out of frustration over the past eight months of my own pregnancy, I have compiled a sort of Ten Commandments of respecting a pregnant person’s boundaries.
- Don’t touch them without asking. Actually, don’t even ask to touch them. Probably just respect their personal space.
- Don’t say things like “as long as the baby’s healthy” or “all that matters is a healthy baby.” This is ableist, stigmatizing, and shitty. Not every pregnant person is carrying a healthy baby, and that doesn’t invalidate their pregnancy. Don’t place a value judgment on a parent, or a person that hasn’t even been born yet.
- Don’t comment on their size or appearance. I mean, if you really want to you can give a compliment like “you’re glowing!” but please keep it vague and positive. You never know what complications or conditions a person might have that prevents them from lining up with an arbitrary idea of what “7 months pregnant” is supposed to look like. A personal example—people are constantly telling me that I look tiny for having twins, or that I look “better” than other women who are carrying twins (this is rude as hell and an extremely shitty thing to say about my homies in the struggle). Meanwhile, I’m living in a private hell struggling with my work/life balance and poor appetite, worried that my lack of weight gain will adversely affect my babies.
- Don’t pester them about when their OB appointments are or how they went. This is none of your business, no matter how close a relative you are. Only their labor support person or people need this information. You are not entitled to someone else’s private medical information. Your pregnant loved one will share what they want to share.
- Don’t suggest baby names unless asked. And DON’T pressure them to share the baby’s name if they’ve expressed that they’re keeping it private until the birth. This, again, is none of your business. You don’t get to have input. The pregnant person made a human life with their damn body and they can name their kid whatever they want, with or without your approval.
- Don’t come near them if you’re sick or unvaccinated. I don’t care if it’s the sniffles or “probably just allergies.” Pregnant people are immunocompromised and even minor illnesses can be dangerous for them or for baby. They also can’t take most over-the-counter medication, so if they do get sick, they’ll suffer more with symptoms. On this note: DO NOT COME NEAR THE BABY IF YOU’RE SICK OR UNVACCINATED. After my babies are born, my husband will be at our door with a clipboard checking your COVID vaccine card, making sure you’ve had your flu shot and TDAP, and providing masks and sanitizer. Babies don’t have immune systems and can’t get their vaccines right away. And whatever you do, even if you are healthy and sanitized—do NOT kiss the baby until after they get their 2-month shots and you’ve cleared it with the parents first.
- Don’t question their parenting decisions. If you had a baby five, ten, or fifty years ago, the pediatric guidelines have changed. There’s new research every day, and the pregnant person in your life knows what they’re doing. Just because you put your baby in a crib with bumpers and they turned out fine doesn’t mean we have to do the same. Survivor bias is a real thing, and we’re not going to put our babies at risk of suffocation or SIDS just to make you feel better about your decisions.
- For the love of God, don’t get weird about the baby’s gender. Don’t buy onesies that say things like “Stud” or “Ladies Man.” It is extremely gross to sexualize babies in this way. If you buy clothes with words on them, keep it as neutral as possible, like “Little Cutie.” All babies are little cuties. You can buy pink outfits with unicorns for girls and blue outfits with dinosaurs for boys (I get it, I’ve been in a Target recently), but don’t go over the top, and DON’T question a parent for dressing their child in something you don’t deem gender-appropriate. Like, a green sweater is a green sweater, regardless of what rack it was on in the store.
- You don’t get to have an opinion about their birth. If they decide to schedule a c-section, or get an epidural, it is none of your business. And if the pregnant person in your life is open enough to share their birth story or birth plan, do NOT tell them what you would have done in their shoes or what you plan to do when you give birth (if you’re also pregnant, then maybe you can do the latter, if you can say it without sounding judgmental of the other person’s choices). Sometimes the way we give birth isn’t even our choice. You don’t know someone else’s medical history. For instance, I’m in good health and a great candidate for a twin vaginal delivery, but things can change on a dime and I could end up with a scheduled or emergency c-section. And if that’s my birth story, I will have ZERO regrets, as long as the outcome is two babies.
- This one’s petty, but don’t buy them things that aren’t on the registry. Chances are, they did a lot of research and picked specific things for both their utility and their aesthetic, and getting them stuff they didn’t ask for and likely don’t need is a burden that fills their (probably) limited space with tons of baby crap they won’t know what to do with. And even if you do buy off the registry, include a gift receipt. Yes, you did the right thing, but someone who didn’t follow the rules might have given them a duplicate they can’t return.