Magazine FEBRUARY 2005
I dont want my mother in the delivery room and 8 other sticky situations of pregnancy solved.
You havent seen your college roommate for a few years, and when you finally meet up for dinner she blurts out, Oh my gosh, youre huge!
I believe almost all social faux pas happen because people have no clue that they dont have a clue, says Shawna Schuh, a Portland, Ore., etiquette expert. They dont even realize its a rude comment.
So bag the killer comeback, which may give you a short-lived vengeance buzz but wont do anything for your psyche in the long run. Better to kill the offender with kindness, with a brief but pleasant response like,Thank you for your concern.
The only time a snappy comeback gets the etiquette OK: when its funny (and said with a smile). So when your friend announces that you must be having twins, retort, Well, I hope youre up for some babysitting.
On your way home from work you get mashed into the middle of a crowded subway car. But no matter how pathetic you look trying to keep your balance (or how loudly you moan about your sciatica), no ones offering a seat.
Back in the day, your typical train passenger would have duked it out for the privilege of sacrificing his seat to a mother-to-be. But before you start your oh-the-decline-ofsociety rant, try to see it from the passengers point of view: Maybe theyre too engrossed in the latest Danielle Steel to notice your plight.Maybe they dont realize youre pregnant. Maybe they worry that if you arent, offering a seat is an offense on par with asking an overweight woman when the babys due.
Etiquette Rules Youre Allowed to Break
Always wait your turn in line. If youre dying to use the restroom after a movie,walk to the front of the line, explain your situation, and politely ask if you may go next. Women are generally understanding of pregnant ladies and potty-training toddlers, Smith says.
Hand-pen thank you notes for all your baby shower gifts. A friendly email gets the job done quicker.And if youre effusive enough with your praise about Babys new layette, the recipient wont mind not getting the ink-and-paper variety.
Be a gracious hostess when friends come over. After the baby arrives, you shouldnt have to entertain social callers for hours (unless you want to). Smith advises chatting for 15 minutes, then cheerfully enlisting the visitors help with laundry or dirty dishes.Youll quickly have a cleaner house or an empty one.
If youre truly uncomfortable, however, dont be afraid to speak up. Approach a friendly looking young adult and say, Im pregnant, and Im feeling a little woozy. Would you mind letting me sit down? Virtually anyone would leap to your rescue and it teaches them a lesson they need to learn, says Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave (Quirk, 2003).
Youre stuck in a line at the movie theatre, and the guy beside you is smoking like a chimney. Not only does the smell make you ill, but youre worried about the secondhand smoke affecting your baby.
Trying to control other peoples choices isnt generally good etiquette. But being pregnant means youre occasionally allowed a little leeway to ask for special treatment. If someones smoking near you, do what you can to move yourself out of the area (sans loud, random comments about how awful smoking is). But if youre stuck, try saying something like, I wouldnt ask otherwise, but Im X months pregnant and the smoke makes me really nauseated. I would appreciate it if you could put out your cigarette. Just make sure your tone is nice, reasonable, even apologetic, cautions Tiger. Act as though youre requesting a special favor, and thank the smoker if he puts out the cigarette. And if he doesnt comply with your request, let it go.
Its annoying when your coworkers insist on rubbing your Buddha-like belly. But when a stranger does it in the grocery store, only self-restraint keeps you from going Vesuvius.
Getting your stomach rubbed, patted or otherwise touched is the classic space invasion of pregnancy. When Kinnelon, N.J., mom Jen Singer, author of 14 Hours Til Bedtime (Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2004), was patted down by a friend of her mothers, she decided to fight back. It felt so awkward that I put my hands on his tummy which was not so small either to let him know how I felt, she says. His face turned red, and he never did it again. Not ready to reach out and touch someone? Simply move away and fold your arms decisively across your tummy, or politely explain that it bothers you when people touch you.
You might also do some yoga breathing and mull over the reason youve become such a magnet in the first place.It may feel intrusive, but in reality, youre a walking miracle, says Schuh. A touch is the best way to love someone, and the people touching you are just trying to love you. So tell yourself,Ill take all the love I can get.
Youve already asked your best friend to be your babys godmother when your secondbest friend starts chatting about how she cant wait to take on godmother duties.
Do what any self-respecting woman does blame your husband. He already promised Alexandra she could be godmother, you can exclaim, with near-genuine regret.
To lessen the blow, make sure to add that you would love for Ms. Second Banana to be as involved as possible, that shell get an engraved invitation for the first birthday party and that shes invited to change diapers anytime she wants. Also, since there arent rules against multiple godmothers, you could add another one to the roster if you can forgive your friend the faux pas of hinting about it in the first place.
The second you set foot in your workplace lunch room, one co-worker or other wants to regale you with a horror story about a pregnancy gone awry. Youre considering bolting down your egg salad sandwich inside the janitors closet.
Where do people get the idea that The Episiotomy That Never Healed or The Labor That Never Ended makes for good water-cooler conversation? Whatever the motivation, your friends even well-meaning ones wont police themselves, so its up to you to set limits on what youre willing to hear.
When I was pregnant, everyone had a really disturbing story they just had to tell me, says Smith.So when someone started, Id cut them off and say, Is this a happy story from beginning to end?Well, it has a happy ending, theyd say. Id reply, Unless its happy from beginning to end, I dont want to know. Smith found that most people understood her wish to keep things upbeat. But she recommends that you, like a good diplomat, be ready to fill awkward silences with details of your last Lamaze class or crib-hunting quest.
Your mom volunteers to man the video camera in the delivery room. Problem is, you want neither her nor the video camera anywhere near your contractions.
If youve already told your mother nicely, We really want this to be just us, and she thinks that us means you, your husband and her, move to plan B: excuses, excuses, excuses. An older child is the simplest defense; explain that youre counting on Grandma to babysit little Chloe while youre at the hospital. Or say your hospital has a one-helper policy that precludes anyone but your hubby from being present during the birth.
If Moms still adamant, you might have to go passive-aggressive on her.Dont tell her when youre going to the hospital, says Smith. If she doesnt know youre there, she cant come. Later, if she asks why she wasnt called, offer a good excuse you had other things on your mind once your water broke, for instance. If all else fails and Mom hunts you down, let her in for a 5-minute peek, then enlist your nurses to return her safely to the waiting room.
You announce the happy news to a friend, and the first words out of her mouth are, So was this planned?
On the bright side, at least shes not asking you if you prefer the missionary position. But the annoying reality is that if youre under 25, people will want to know if your pregnancy was an accident; if youre over 35 or having twins, theyll ask if you had fertility treatments. Although your friend may lack tact, youll want to assume that she does have good intentions. (Perhaps its her own experience with an unplanned pregnancy that shes itching to share.) But if youre not comfortable divulging the circumstances surrounding your conception, take the high road and laugh it off advises Tiger.Tiger also recommends taking a page from the politicians books and answering a different question, responding, Were really happy and cant wait to have the baby.
One minute youre perusing the maternity section at Target. The next youre hurling all over the Liz Lange sweaters.
Vomit happens, sometimes in the most inopportune places.You may not be able to keep yourself from losing your lunch in public, but you can at least make the event as tidy as possible.If you think itll happen, your best bet is to be prepared, says Schuh. Use your handbag, a sack or the newspaper to throw up in. If you do throw up on the floor, stay calm and gracious. Briefly apologize to any witnesses, assure them youre not contagious, and find someone to clean up the mess.You might want to keep some wet wipes in your purse, just in case.
Its not always easy to stay polite while youre pregnant, but take heart: the more embarrassing and awkward life is now, the better equipped youll be to handle the even greater humiliations of motherhood. Because even if you manage not to throw up in your friends car, chances are your 2- year-old will. Keeping your cool with a toddler in tow now thats diplomacy.