What NOT To Say To The Pregnant Lady You Don’t Know

Henri 017 Yeah, it is magical.  How that baby just swells up the whole midsection of a woman, how that hovering melon just floats there against all concepts of architecture.  Shouldn’t there be some flying buttresses reinforcing that protruding curve?  I know it’s funny.  Heck, I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and just laugh, turning this way and that.  I smile at how my friends and family greet me, first in the eyes and then focusing on my rounded tum in quick succession, giving it a greeting of it’s own (patting, oohing-and-aahing, exclamations of wonder).  That is all fine and good.

But dear stranger who doesn’t even know my name, it is you I address.  Unless you’re a painfully cute elderly person who looks a bit lonely and nostalgic, I don’t really want to have the following repartees with you:

you:  Woah!  You look ready to POP!

me:  HAHA (forced laugh, accompanied by a flat smile)…yeah.

You sir, or madam, have just made me feel like a ticking time bomb.  And a spectacle to be laughed at.  I’m just trying to buy some groceries in peace, okay?

you:  When is your due date?

me:  December 25th.

you:  (wide-eyed and smiling big enough for me to see your fillings)  OOOHHHHHH!   A CHRISTMAS BABY!!!  How SPECIAL!

me:  Mmm-hmm, I’m like a walking nativity scene.  (Because I have these lines I say now.  It’s easier to fall back on their deadpan humor than to think in real time.)

you:  OH-HAHA!  Do you know what you’re having?

me:  (again falling back on previous wit)  No…once we knew the due date we knew we couldn’t peek at our Christmas present.  (Why am I being funny?  It only encourages them!).

you:  (discusses merits of finding out or not finding out and tells me of every infant born in your acquaintance recently)

me:  (simultaneously thinking that I’m done going out in public, having had this exact conversation five times in one grocery store)

I JUST WANT TO BUY SOME GROCERIES AND GET MY HUGE SELF HOME TO MY DEAR COUCH.

So, dear strangers everywhere, here’s my guide to interacting with the heavily pregnant in your local grocery store, church, post office, etc:

1.  Smile a smile of solidarity.  Give a thumbs up sign if you must.

2.  Pick up anything she drops.  Because even if it’s her car keys, she’s weighing whether it’s worth it bending down that low to retrieve it.

3.  Let her into line ahead of you or open the door for her.  Rare is the ardent feminist who would take offense.

4.  Do not initiate any of the above conversations.  She’s probably using all of her mental powers to avoid a blatant waddle or peeing her pants when she sneezes.

5.  Clamp your teeth on your tongue whenever it wants to say anything about the amazing proportions she’s sporting.  She knows.  Oh, she knows.

Most of my friends dread going out in public the last weeks of their pregnancies; they cannot bear one more good-natured exclamation and bit of fawning curiosity.  It’s not that we’re curmudgeons, we’re just trying to make it through the day while a watermelon-sized ball weighs us down.  We look and feel awkward and we run the gauntlet of rubber-necking strangers who feel duty-bound to remind us of that.

So, dear stranger, now thoroughly equipped with the above five rules of engagement with the heavily pregnant, go forth and say no more! 🙂

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If I Wasn’t a God-Fearing Woman…

There would be words said.  Oh yes.  And the world is a better place for the lack of their utterance when they are so nearly provoked.  But here’s a glimpse into what I would like to say.

Stranger:  (Looks at four children and my protruding pregnant belly, then at my husband with a look of horror)  “CUT IT OFF MAN!  GET IT SNIPPED!  HA-HA!”

Me:  “MIND YOUR OWN GENITALIA.  THANKS.”  

Stranger:  “Wow!  It looks like you have your hands full!”  (shakes head in wonderment)

Me:  “Wow!  It looks like you have your pants full!  Didn’t you know jeggings are unflattering on most everybody?”  (shakes head in wonderment)

Stranger:  “Is this a planned pregnancy?”

Me:  “Did you plan that outfit?”

Stranger:  “Wow…four…don’t you know what causes that?”

Me:  “No, because, despite my modern appearance, I am actually a cavewoman.”

Stranger:  “Better you than me.”

Me:  “Obviously.”

Stranger:  “This is the last one, right?”

Me:  “This is the last time you rudely intrude on a stranger’s personal life, right?”

Stranger:  “Are you done now?”

Me:  “Am I a turkey?”

Stranger:  “There’s an operation for that, you know.”

Me:  “There’s a plastic surgeon for that, you know.”  (points to their nose)

Stranger:  (stares at the lot of us)

Me:  (crosses my eyes and sticks my tongue out)

Stranger:  “You have a beautiful family.”

Me:  “You have a beautiful soul.  Thanks for not being a judgmental meanie-pants.  Thanks for acknowledging children’s worth and right to be around.  Are you a hugger, because I sort of want to hug you.”  (awkward silence)

There…I’ve said the words that crawl up my throat and I swallow back down with regularity.  I’m glad I didn’t say them to the precious precocious individuals who offered me unsolicited advice about my family and our way of doing life.  Because people really do deserve the grace of polite smiles and forbearance.  Because I say the wrong things too.  Regularly.

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When You Want To Disappear

It was a sneak preview of our upcoming play, Dancing At Lughnasa, held in front of the student body.  I was Maggie and I was nervous.  I had solo singing parts, I danced an Irish jig, I had lots of lines.  I had polka dot underpants on.  Curse you, polka dots.

It was several weeks after the performance, which had been blessedly uneventful (so I thought….).  Someone nudged me in a laughing, knowing way about how funny it was when my skirt twirled up in my dance during the show and everyone saw my underwear.

Oh.

Ahem….I was not aware….um….what?!

The urge to melt right through the floor, or vanish, just simply disappear, I’ve had that urge many-a-time.

….

It was a small room, steadily warming up to uncomfortable tropical temps.  A free papier mâché class at the local library for Reuben’s age…what could go wrong?  There were ten kids and that many mamas and papas.  The table was quickly mounded with torn newspaper strips; the parents industriously ripping enough to stuff a king-size mattress.  I left Reuben to rip his own (giggle).  Plus, I had a baby on my hip, and wasn’t this thing his project after all?

So the plan of action is to blow up a balloon for the body, wad a ball of paper and tape it into a head shape, attach egg carton eyes, cut out cardboard ears, wire up a trunk (and cover that in paper and tape), and do the same for a tail, then add four paper towel roll legs and cover them with tape.  Reattaching all the parts that kept falling off also.  And weaseling the tape away from the tape-hogging-mompetitors.  And that’s just the base.  Then you drag strips of newspaper through Elmer’s glue and you need 2-3 layers of the stuff all over that poor creature, which alternately sticks to the mountain of paper strips, or falls head-over-heels, being so heavy in the head.

Did I mention that this was for six year-olds.  And that we had two hours?

So, Reuben was doing his thing and the balloon belly exploded.  Just…BAM!  And all the mamas and papas jump and look at us.  Henri bursts out into wailing.  I go in search of a new balloon.  The teacher explains to me how to be careful not to pop the balloon with the wire for the tail.  Did I have the heart to tell her we weren’t even remotely close to making a tail yet?

So we worked (yes, by now I see that Reub’s is woefully behind because his mom isn’t doing it for him, so I come to help) at getting the deflated, mangled, lump of tape and towel tubes unstuck.  We got the new balloon situated and BAM!  Explosion number two.  There was a moment there where I considered scooping Reuben up and fleeing the room, yelling “OKAY….okay….we’re just going to go get ice cream….ICE CREAM! YEAH!  THANKS!”.

I got another balloon.  Reuben was still game to keep on-keepin’ on.  He blew it up again and handed it to me to tie off.  Some diabolical twitch in my fingers happened.  The balloon took off, took off farting lustily across the wide table, over the mountain range of paper, past the recognizably-elephantine shapes, past the startled eyes of the mamas and the papas.  And nearly nailed a man in the head.  Did he pretend not to notice?  Because I needed that balloon back.  That slobbery balloon.  Sir?  Sir….can you….um…there’s a balloon on the floor behind you.  Could you….yes….could you please hand me that slobbery balloon and a side of dignity back?  Thanks.

While the balloon was on its noisy trajectory, I really did consider ducking under the plastic tablecloth and hiding.  I just needed to not see what I just did.  To just let the whole world forget I did that, okay?

Reuben was giggling beside me.  I smiled at him.  I thanked him for having such a good attitude about this whole thing.  I told him I was proud of him.  He took it all in stride.  He really enjoyed putting his hands into the glue and ignoring the fact that we had, oh, twenty minutes to finish.

It was not a marvelous experience, but a memorable one.  It was an opportunity to persevere, it was an opportunity to see my son keep his cool and his humor in the midst of a frustrating debacle.  I’m sure all he’ll remember is the escapee-farty balloon and that he thinks he made an elephant.  I’ll remember my boy, and seeing something real and precious in his personality that I’d never seen before.  It’s the sort of thing which keeps me from hiding under the table, it makes me downright shine.