1. Do not say “Wow, you must have twins in there!” or “Did you swallow a basketball?” or “I don’t see any evidence!” In fact, do not comment on size, period. (Ever. Gestational status notwithstanding.) Some of us aren’t comfortable with how big we’ve gotten, and others aren’t comfortable with how small we are. “You look lovely!” will do just fine, thanks.
2. Do not, unsolicited, regale a first-time mom with stories of an episiotomy that left you permanently incontinent, or how you know someone whose epidural didn’t work so labor was more like writhing-silently-in-pain, make-your-best-Edvard-Munch-face twilight sleep from 1950s horror-flick lore. (If she wants to pursue anecdotal gore — and many of us do and will — let
me her initiate that indelicate conversation.)
3. Refrain from telling her you think everything pregnancy- or childbirth-related is gross (even though it most certainly is). After your mom gained a gajillion pounds and sprouted stretch marks like a Holocene estuary, you arrived in a magical cocktail of bodily fluids, just FYI. The gross circle of gross life.
4. Do not touch the bump unbidden. If you want to feel the baby move, ask first. She will be delighted to place your hand exactly where you can best sense budding life — though fetuses aren’t really into command performances — or she’ll say “That makes me a little uncomfortable, sorry.” Either way, she will be so grateful you had the courtesy to ask, and you’ll feel like a gem for having done so.
5. Do not complain about how your partner’s pregnancy left you celibate. Some pregnant mothers supposedly go full-on Wilt Chamberlain; sorry you didn’t make it to the championships. But that’s beside the point — we don’t want to know about your sex life; we just feel bad for your partner that you’re whining about it publicly. Think of this as pregnancy’s little “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. (Unless we ask. Then by all means, please tell!)
6. Do not say, “So great you are having [your baby daddy’s] baby.” She is not pregnant with a dude’s baby; she is pregnant with their baby, or maybe she’s just pregnant with her own baby. I disagree with Mila Kunis about the “We’re pregnant” thing — I’m happy to share mine with my husband — but I’m not a vessel for his progeny. This little person is ours.
7. Do not follow up “Congratulations!” with “You’ll never sleep again!” Got that, Mr. Quentin Q. Qualifier? Let the exciting news go unchecked… For now.
8. Speaking of, leave the gender-value judgments to Congress. “Girls are such a handful,” or “Boys are kind of disgusting, and they fidget with their penises constantly,” are things we will be happy to discover on our own. Most of us are happy with whatever genitalia we reap, and we can’t really control which one that is.
9. Do not tell other people, unless you’re absolutely sure the parents-to-be are fully out of the closet (which you will know if you ask them), but especially if they have said something along the lines of, “We are only telling a few close friends and family for now.” They may be worried about miscarriage, but with modern medicine’s borderline-TMI abilities, prenatal testing can last well into the second trimester, and a fetus isn’t viable until about six months. If the mom and dad find out something has gone tragically wrong, a flourishing grapevine will make a painful, private decision that much more difficult. On a lighter note, they want to be able to share good news themselves.
9.5. Unless they have explicitly given you permission to post to social media, do not Facebook/Instagram/tweet/tumbl/myspace/Friendster/reddit/CERN their news, even if you think they are out of the closet offline. **GARBAGE TRUCK-IN-REVERSE NOISE** if you hear about their good news via a third party and feel the urge to post “Sally Jane Jenkins told Second Cousin Mark who told Steve the Acupuncturist who told me about the baby! Congratulations!” on a Facebook wall, or any other public place that is otherwise devoid of prenatal references. DO NOT DO THAT.
On the do side of things, it’s much simpler…
1. Hey, sweet Aunt and Uncle Now-Well-Informed, do share and enjoy your friend’s happiness! Celebrate, congratulate, be merry, and get excited to hold that delicate little nugget when he or she arrives! We can’t wait to have a huuuuuuge martini with you very soon.
This article was originally published on December 1, 2014.