It begins as soon as you announce your pregnancy: the unsolicited comments from family and friends -- even strangers -- about what you should be eating to which hospital has the best delivery rooms. Here's how to politely say, "mind your own business."
"May I touch your belly?"
Your belly may be big and out there for all to see, but that doesn't make it public property. Thankfully, some people have enough good sense to know that it's never okay to grope someone -- at least not without asking first. If you prefer not to be rubbed like a Buddha, say so. "Being polite doesn't mean letting others treat you in ways that make you uncomfortable," says Leah Ingram, author of The Everything Etiquette Book: A Modern-Day Guide to Good Manners.
Stop it by: Using a bit of humor. Try "Please look, but don't touch." Or turn the tables and say, "You can touch my tummy if I can touch yours."
"My labor was torture!"
Positive birth stories can make you feel more confident and less scared. But terrifying tales only intensify your anxiety and fear. Still, a number of moms feel compelled to share. "Telling their own birth story is their way of bonding. Some women truly believe they're being helpful by trying to prevent you from experiencing something similar," explains Teresa Spillane, PsyD, a psychologist for Isis Maternity Centers, a Boston provider of prenatal, postpartum, and early-childhood education courses.
Stop it by: Interrupting. If you find yourself in the throes of a childbirth tale only a Stephen King fan would appreciate, jump in and say, "Please stop. I'm already anxious about the big day."
"Sure you're not having twins?"
We all know it's impolite to comment on another person's size, yet propriety falls by the wayside when a baby's the reason for the weight gain. That's unfortunate, says Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Chicago, because surging pregnancy hormones may make moms-to-be more emotionally vulnerable to insensitive remarks. "Even though pregnancy weight is temporary, some pregnant women struggle with body-image issues."
Stop it by: Saying nothing. "By giving the commentator a silent, stunned look, she'll know you're offended," says Ingram. Should you feel the need to respond, try: "What would make you say something like that?"
"Haven't you had that baby yet?"
"When are you due?" is usually one of the first things people say after they find out you're pregnant. It seems well-wishers are almost as excited about that magical date as you are. But when your due date has come and gone with no indication that your little one is ever going to make her appearance, responding to incredulous comments about your still very pregnant state can be exhausting and even upsetting.
Stop it by: Mentioning that your baby isn't necessarily late. Estimating due dates is not an exact science, which is why the majority of babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks gestation and only 5 percent arrive on their actual due date. You can sprinkle in a little humor by saying, "I guess he's content where he is" or "I love being pregnant so much I decided to put off delivering for another month."
"Did you have fertility treatments?"
With women in their 40s (and even 50s) giving birth and the number of multiple births on the rise, it's no wonder this question has become more common. Since people normally wouldn't dream of inquiring about your sex life (and asking how one conceived is virtually the same thing), it's likely that the question isn't being asked out of pure nosiness. It may be that your friend is struggling with fertility problems herself or knows someone who is. Regardless, though, how egg and sperm came to meet is truly nobody's business but your own.
Stop it by: Reminding the questioner of appropriate boundaries and saying, "That's really a personal question." No matter what remarks you hear, try to remember that people are genuinely happy and excited for you -- even if their choice of words doesn't always convey it.
Originally published in Parents magazine.