There's something about a baby bump that makes people forget their manners. Although you can't avoid obnoxious people for your entire pregnancy, you can learn how to handle their thoughtless behavior gracefully. Read on for tips from our pros.
Sizing you up
From your mom to the guy at the local deli, everyone seems to have an opinion about your bump. If your belly is large, you may hear, "You look like you're ready to pop!" or "Are you sure you're not having twins?" On the flip side, being told you're carrying small can make you worry that there's a problem with your baby. "It's not a compliment in any way," says Jennifer Belew, of Rye Brook, New York. "I even had a few people ask me if I was sure of my due date." Paula Spencer Scott, a pregnancy-etiquette expert and author of Momfidence, suggests a low-key response such as, "Human reproduction is amazing, isn't it?" Or just laugh it off and take heart that baby bumps come in all shapes and sizes.
The simplest activity can spark unwanted feedback. Karen Winter, D.O., a family-practice doctor in San Rafael, California, was appalled when a stranger in a coffee shop chastised her for ordering a decaf latte while she was expecting. "I told her she was misinformed and that it's fine for pregnant women to have some coffee," says Dr. Winter. (According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, consuming less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day -- roughly one 8-ounce cup of fresh-brewed coffee -- doesn't increase your risk of miscarriage or preterm birth.) There are also those who share their pregnancy horror stories with you, like the coworker who offers a blow-by-blow of her emergency C-section.
People often believe they're being helpful, even if their words cause alarm, says Kathryn L. Bleiberg, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York City. "They want someone else to have the information that they didn't have." If the comment is annoying, such as questioning whether you should have a cup of joe, go with your doctor's recommendation. If it involves a scary story, be polite but direct: "I'd rather not hear about difficult experiences."
Random people are touching your stomach. "I was at a party when I was six months pregnant, and a friend's husband poked me in the belly button and made the noise from the Pillsbury Doughboy ads," says Washington, D.C., mom Kimberly Palmer. When someone pats your belly, the gesture is usually innocent. Scott recommends taking a small step backwards and making a lighthearted joke such as, "Look, but don't touch! You break it, you buy it!"
Suddenly, no topic is off-limits. "I was constantly being asked if I planned to breastfeed," says Brooklyn, New York, mom Alison Donnelly, who writes the blog Formerly Fat Mom. "I wanted to say 'What business is it of yours?' I was honest, though, saying that I probably wouldn't be able to breastfeed because of breast-reduction surgery I had when I was 18, but I was going to try." In a nutshell, never feel obligated to reveal your choices. The opinions that matter? Yours and your partner's.