One thing that is frustratingly unavoidable as a mother or mother-to-be is the constant stream of “advice” on the subject of pregnancy. Other people will happily tell you everything you should — and shouldn’t — be doing, often according to their personal opinion. For so many women, that pressure starts even before you get pregnant and almost always goes well beyond pregnancy and into the motherhood years.
A lot of times these comments come from a kind and well-meaning space, but they don’t always feel that way when you’re on the receiving end. We’re sure many of you mamas (and mamas-to-be) have dealt with questions that are too personal, “are you trying for baby yet?”, heard patronizing remarks “is that really safe during pregnancy?”, received pushy advice “you really should start breastfeeding from day one”, and have had judgments passed your way, “your baby isn’t walking yet?”.
Here’s the thing, we’re already in our own heads (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) questioning, doubting, and critiquing ourselves as we strive to be the best mama to our little ones. With all the pressure we put on ourselves our mental health is already under strain, and the continued barrage of advice and questioning can have a negative impact on our mental health. How you cope and respond to these things can go a long way in protecting your own wellbeing.
Above all, here is what we want you to remember; you, mama, are the ultimate advocate for your children. You know what’s best for them, and you are doing your very best to provide that. You’re doing a great job, and you are the best mother for your baby.
We’ve outlined a few coping strategies for setting boundaries when people choose to comment on or question your preconception, pregnancy, or motherhood choices. Sometimes, it’s close friends and family that can cross a line. Other times it may be coworkers or general acquaintances that say things that don’t sit well with you. Either way, if a comment makes you feel uncomfortable or unfairly judged then it’s not something you should just have to endure.
Below are a few scenarios you might encounter throughout your pregnancy, and we’ve shared tips on how to set boundaries and respond with confidence. Please note that these concepts can be applied to your trying to conceive and motherhood journeys as well.
When they ask questions that are ‘too’ personal…
Pregnancy is a very personal experience, and just because millions of other women do it too, doesn’t mean that everyone has the right to be involved and weigh in on your choices every step of way. Of course, there are the typical questions that will come up: “when are you due?”, “how are you feeling”, or “do you know if it’s a boy or girl?” and if you feel comfortable answering the question, then that’s absolutely fine. It’s your choice on what you want to share.
But some questions may verge on too personal, and if it makes you feel uncomfortable it’s important to respectfully inform the person of that. 9 out of 10 times, these questions come from curiosity and the person caring about you, so it’s best to start by saying “You know, that’s not something I want to discuss right now” and if they keep pressing, you can say “That’s a really personal question and it’s not something I want to share, and I ask that you respect that”.
When they make comments on how you look…
When people find out you’re pregnant, it’s kind of like the unspoken societal rules we all agree to fall by the wayside. Suddenly it’s OK to say “gosh you look exhausted” or “wow look how big you are!” – but in reality, it’s still not cool to say those things.
If these comments do come your way try to take a deep breath and focus on how awesome you are for growing another human before responding. It probably won’t feel great to clap back with a snarky comment, but it will feel good to respond with calm, collected confidence.
We’ll let you think of some responses that suit your personality – but something along the lines of “Yeah, pregnancy is the real deal and frankly, I’m crushing it” just might work. It’s also OK to let people know that those comments aren’t helpful and you’d rather your body not be up for discussion.
Side bar: Don’t you wish there was a class that all non-pregnant people had to take to learn how to talk to a pregnant woman like a normal person? Yeah, us too.
When they ask to touch your bump (or your baby) or do so without asking…
Like all of these situations, this is a very personal preference, and it is entirely up to you to decide what you’re comfortable with. If you don’t mind the tummy touches – then power to you! But if you don’t like it when people reach over to rub your stomach (hello, personal space?) then, power to you, too!
Your body, your bump, and your baby deserve personal space and you have every right to protect that. Again, respond confidently by saying “No thank you, I’d rather you not” when someone asks if they can touch your bump. If they give you a hard time, ask them if they want their stomach to be touched. We’re guessing they’ll pass, too.
When they say you should do this or you shouldn’t do that:
Everyone and their mother is going to have advice for you during pregnancy. Even other mothers (and our own mothers!) may dole out guidance that might not be right for you. This is one that we always like to believe comes from a place of good intentions and not judgment, but it can be tiring to have to defend your actions daily or triple check whether or not what you’re doing is safe because so-and-so told you otherwise.
As long as you consult with your healthcare professional on what’s right for you, follow guidance from credible resources (like Baby2Body!), and listen to your body above all else, you can trust that what you are doing is best for you and best for your baby. When you get that unsolicited advice, you can respond with “Oh thanks, that’s interesting to consider”. Of course, you can always follow up on things that do sound interesting and credible, but try and let the rest roll right off your back.
When they say something to suggest you (or your baby) aren’t reaching milestones…
These ones can be the hardest to manage because it’s so easy to internalize those off-the-cuff remarks that suggest you or your baby aren’t progressing along as normal. Someone may say
“wow your bump is so small” or “your baby really isn’t talking yet?” and that can lead to you spiraling down a worry-well wondering if something is terribly wrong. Here’s the thing, in most cases, it’s not.
Everyone progresses differently and reaches milestones in different times and ways. Your doctor and pediatrician will help you monitor milestones and progress in your fertility, pregnancy and motherhood journeys and help you know when things might need extra attention. When the stray comments come in from bystanders that think they know where you or baby “should” be, you can simply respond with, “We’re all so different in how we progress and that’s a really cool thing. It makes our stories unique.”
We hope this have given you some ideas on how to prioritize and protect your own mental health as a mother, because it’s such an important asset. We’d love to know how you respond to pushy remarks, patronizing advice, and unwelcome comments during preconception, pregnancy and postpartum — so please share in the comments below! Be sure to download the Baby2Body app today for more wellbeing support customized to your stage.