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Ask any new mom about her biggest postpartum challenge and she might say, losing the baby weight. I know that better than anyone — although I gained a reasonable 35 pounds while pregnant with my now six-month-old baby, losing that weight has been surprisingly tough. Which is why I took offense when someone recently asked me, “When are you due?”
A few weeks ago, I was meeting with a carseat safety technician at my local police department. The female technician greeted me by asking, “When are you due?” I immediately recoiled and exclaimed, “I’m not pregnant. You, however, are very rude.” The rest of the appointment was curt and I fumed on the drive home.
Yes, the question was unquestionably a blow to my ego, but the issue cuts deeper. In our society, creating and raising a human being has somehow become a community event for which people — usually strangers— have become comfortable asking the most personal of questions. From pregnancy (natural or assisted?) to childbirth (epidural or med-free?) to parenting (attachment or free range?) there’s no shortage of inquiries from people and armies of mom bloggers eager to weigh in.
“Being a mother opens women up to other people’s projections,” Los Angeles based psychotherapist Bethany Marshall, PhD., tells Yahoo Parenting. “The sight of a pregnant woman can evoke memories of one’s mother or how one parented her own child and in turn create a false sense of comfort or familiarity.”
Usually pregnancy-related questions are well-intentioned and rooted in curiosity (let’s face it, pregnancy is fascinating). And within the confines of a close relationship, these questions are perfectly reasonable. But whether or not one is expecting, the “When you are due?” question is problematic. That’s especially true for women who still carry weight from stillborn births, suffer from eating disorders, hope their first-trimester baby bumps don’t show, or those who simply struggle with their weight. Asking “When are you due?” can feel invasive to downright upsetting.
The question also puts unfair pressure on the recipient, who may not want to share such personal information, but hesitates to offend the asker. Blame mommy guilt, which can rear its head, even during pregnancy. “Mothers and moms-to-be are often viewed through a saintly ‘Mother Earth’ lens,” says Marshall. “There’s this image of the ‘good mom’ who meets everyone’s needs and doesn’t say no to outside demands.”
A good rule of thumb might be: Unless you’re sitting in an OBGYN’s office (and you also happen to be a doctor), don’t ask a women when she is due. The same idea applies to any comments — positive or negative — about a woman’s appearance. This morning, while ordering my usual cup of coffee, a barista looked me up and down and wrinkled her nose. “You’re getting thinner by the day!” she exclaimed. I walked away feeling as though I should be flattered but really, I just felt self-conscious.
So the next time you’re itching to ask a woman when she’s due, remember that if she — who may or may not be pregnant — wants to share, she will. Until then, your silence is golden.