Ever since I announced that I am pregnant, people keep telling me to sit down and relax, making me feel bad for wanting to do everyday normal tasks. I get it, you see a pregnant woman and you want to help her feel more comfortable, less physically taxed considering the bodily toll of pregnancy because that is just good karma and decent behavior. I mean, who wants to be that asshole who doesn’t offer the pregnant lady their seat, right?
The Emily Post style offerings to make an expecting mother more comfortable are great and much appreciated, but sometimes the most well-intentioned loved ones can take things a bit too far and begin making mom feel, well, like an invalid. For example, constantly pointing out what is safe for her or questioning a pregnant woman on her ability to decide how much she wants to stand, walk, lift, eat, whatever, can border on intrusive.
So here is the thing: As the pregnant woman, may I kindly and respectfully ask that you please give me the benefit of doubt in that I am pretty sure I have a solid understanding on which physical tasks I can handle and which I cannot? It’s not like I am going to waddle my 32-week pregnant self over to a set of 100-pound weights, tell you to hold my beer, then try to deadlift those fuckers.
Nope. I’m more likely to try simply standing during a work meeting because my sciatica is killing me from sitting in an office chair for the last three hours, and holy toledo, I just want to stretch my legs. Or I’m going to waddle up the staircase at home while carrying a basket of folded laundry that weighs, what, maaaybe 10ish pounds?
Sometimes, I might even get my freak on and pull on my stretch pants that have seen better days (seriously, the crotch and thigh seams are looking a bit worn) and pop in a prenatal workout DVD and start trying to work up a sweat in my living room, where even my kids give me a hard time: “Mom! Don’t shake your belly like that! The baby might get dizzy and throw up in there!”
The truth of the matter is, moving my expecting body around and even exercising — gasp! — is healthy and good both for me and the baby. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Regular exercise can help you cope with the physical changes of pregnancy and build stamina for the challenges ahead. If you haven’t been exercising regularly, use pregnancy as your motivation to begin.”
What would make me — and I imagine lots of other pregnant women — more comfortable would be if people, well-intentioned or not, would regard me as more of an expert on my own body. And if they are truly worried about my behaviors (because, whoa, standing during a meeting is super risky), then just ask me about it in a kind and private way, you know?
Having the ability to do four reps of 15 squats is what will help me birth this child. Making sure I walk around to get my blood flowing and keep me feeling healthy is what will help keep my stress levels low. And being given the grace and respect to make my own healthy choices without being questioned or criticized by anyone other than my OB-GYN or my husband is what will make me feel less likely to want to punch the next person who tells me to sit down. Pregnancy is hard enough on women, folks. Let’s try to remember that when you see a growing, swelling, glowing expecting mom, it is not an invitation to impart your brand of advice on what you think is healthy.