I've had my fair share of awkward encounters during my three pregnancies, from strangers telling me I'm huge to friends saying they "absolutely hate" the names my husband and I picked out for our babies. Heck, I even had a waitress chide me for ordering a cup of tea because the caffeine could cause me to miscarry. I always want to grab these people, shake some sense into them, and tell them to quit being so rude.
But of course, I don't, and that's good, according to etiquette expert Peggy Post, co-director of the Emily Post Institute, in Burlington, Vermont. "Never handle rude behavior by being rude yourself," she says. "It just makes the situation worse." To help you navigate uncomfortable situations, we've asked experts for their advice.
You're thrilled that you're pregnant, but you feel guilty because your friend has been trying, unsuccessfully, to conceive. She even seems cold toward you ever since you announced your news. What should you do?
You'll only hurt the friendship more by ignoring the elephant in the room. Instead, "take your friend aside, be empathetic, and say something like, 'I'm so sorry, I know this must be difficult for you,' or 'I know you've been trying to get pregnant and I'm sorry it hasn't happened yet,' " says Keith Eddleman, M.D., coauthor of Pregnancy for Dummies. "Your friend is justifiably frustrated, and it'll help if you acknowledge her feelings." Try to be sensitive and patient, and, whenever possible, avoid discussing your pregnancy in front of her.
If, despite your best efforts, your friend is always sulking and taking her bad mood out on you, speak up. She may just think she's venting about her problems and not realize that it's coming across as a personal attack. You may even need to take a break from the friendship if the situation doesn't improve. After all, you're allowed to be happy about your pregnancy and you want to surround yourself with people who share that joy.
When you announced your first two pregnancies, you got congratulations and hugs. Now that you're having baby number three, people just tell you you're crazy.
With four children ages 4 and under, Jill Graziano, of Washington, D.C., is used to the rude comments. "A day doesn't go by that I don't hear, 'Better you than me,' " she says.
"If someone says you're crazy for having more than two children, say something like, 'I am, I'm crazy about kids,' " says Post. "Then change the subject." Whatever the situation, don't feel as if you have to explain yourself. Simply saying, "This is the right number for us," or "We're thrilled to have another," are good ways to put the topic to rest.
Every time you announce you're expecting twins, people want to know if you had IVF. Is it rude to tell them to MYOB?
In a word, no. "Remember, whether or not you used fertility treatments is your personal health information," says Dr. Eddleman. "You should have no qualms about saying you aren't comfortable discussing the subject." If you don't want to be so blunt, try one of these vague answers: "It's funny, people always just assume we did IVF because we're having twins," "This is God's will, what can I tell you?" or "You know, more than 25 percent of twins occur naturally."
Your final option: Tell the truth. "These days, it is so common for couples to undergo fertility treatments that there really isn't a stigma attached to it," says Shieva Ghofrany, M.D., an ob-gyn in Stamford, Connecticut.
Your mother-in-law asks if she can be in the delivery room during your baby's birth. You don't want her there. Help!
You may escape this one unscathed by first checking with your hospital. Some have a limit of just one person (usually the husband) in the delivery room at a time. If your hospital's rules are more lax, let your mother-in-law know how you feel. Explain that you consider the birth a private moment between you and your husband, and that the fewer people in the room, the calmer the experience will be for you. Perhaps you can offer her some sort of consolation prize, like suggesting she be the first loved one (after you and your husband, of course) to hold the baby.
For that Mommy Dearest who insists on witnessing the birth, your final option is to make the medical staff do the dirty work. "We regularly see relatives or friends who overstep their bounds and infringe on a pregnant patient's turf," says Dr. Ghofrany. "If it makes your life easier, pull a doctor or a nurse aside and ask her to clear the room." She can convincingly come up with a little white lie about your elevated blood pressure, for example, to get everyone out of your face.
Originally published in the November 2008 issue of Parents magazine.