Dealing with pregnancy advice from strangers

When expecting a baby, advice from experienced mothers such as your own mum, sister or grandmother can offer comfort and tips you will find useful. But when strangers offer their two cents and even go as far as patting your baby bump, it would serve you well to smile and nod or just walk away. Sometime mothers really don't mind, but for those who do, here's how to handle unwelcome advice.

Pregnancy advice When dealing with pregnancy advice from strangers, feel free to smile, nod and walk away

Some of my most precious memories are those of my granny and I talking about pregnancy, childbirth and raising children. During those times, we were grandmother-granddaughter, fellow mothers and best friends all wrapped up in one nice, neat package.

Once word gets out that you are expecting, you may as well resign yourself to the fact that you will be receiving all sorts of free advice--whether you want it or not. The advice will come from family members, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and complete strangers. Some of this advice is valuable and definitely worth listening to, while some isn’t worth the oxygen used to speak them. Your quest--to figure out the difference.

Consider the source

The advice you receive will range from general ‘pregnant stuff’ to TMI (too much information). Some will be given off-handedly in casual conversation while some will be given out of genuine concern. And then there’s the ‘been there done that’ attitude that makes you want to run and hide when you see it coming.

Usually the advice you get from your mom, grandma, sister or close friends will be heart-felt and sincere. Some of it may be a bit old-fashioned, but hey--not everything new is new and improved. The point is that having the encouragement, support, wisdom and camaraderie of these women is something to be treasured and appreciated.

Co-workers and even perfect strangers (the bank teller, store clerks, the lady in line behind you at the pharmacy etc) usually mean well, but these people wouldn’t be so bold as to give you advice about your hairstyle or wardrobe, so what is it that makes pregnancy a public matter? I just don’t get it. The comments and advice coming from these people is completely random and without merit. They don’t know you and they don’t know the circumstances of your pregnancy.

How to respond

Some women are more social than others--their personalities are naturally more outgoing rather than reserved. If this is you, you’ll likely be that way during your pregnancy, too. You may enjoy comparing notes with the other women in the waiting room of your OB/GYN. Or you may think it sweet and considerate when older women warn you to not lift, carry or reach. And if you’re really a social butterfly and completely immersed in the wonder of your pregnancy and want to share it with the world, you may not even mind when total strangers pat your baby belly! But for every pregnant woman like that, there is at least one who wants no part of these intrusions.

Depending on which describes you, you may want to consider one or more of the following responses when people take it upon themselves to tell you how it should be.

  • Smile and nod. A smile and a nod is affirmation that you hear what they are saying (even if you’re really not listening) and will avoid conflict.
  • Respond with any of the following:
  • My husband and I have decided _____________ will work better for us.
  • My doctor has advised me to ___________________ and I think we’d both agree that doctor knows best.
  • Really? I’ve been told that’s the worst possible thing I could do.
  • Thanks, I might try that.
  • Change the subject immediately. “Did you catch the latest episode of ____________?” Or… “I just left the new yogurt shop. Have you been there?”
  • Don’t share your pregnancy stories or concerns with anyone other than those closest to you. I know this doesn’t matter to some people. Some people consider it their right and your privilege to hear what they have to say. In cases such as this, the smile and nod or simply smiling and walking away is justified.

So, when are you due?

In addition to all that advice, you’ll likely be asked your due date and the sex of your baby by more than half the people you come in contact with. To this I say, share the joy!

A baby is an exciting event and brings a smile to the face of even the crankiest old woman on the bus. Pregnancy and babies are a universal connection between women--these things make us all the same and completely unique at the same time. It’s a natural reaction for a woman to ask these questions. It’s a subconscious way of saying ‘welcome to the club’.

Do I know you?

Questions from strangers are fine. Advice from strangers can be annoying but is manageable. But people putting their hands on your tummy when they haven’t been invited to do so is completely out of line. This is in no way acceptable and you do not have to tolerate it. When this happens (and you’ll be very lucky if it doesn’t) you should:

  • Say ‘excuse me, but I don’t appreciate your invasion of my privacy.’
  • Remove their hand, give them ‘the look’ and walk away.

Enjoy your pregnancy

Being pregnant is a joyous and exciting time in your life. Yes, it may come with nausea and other complications, but the end result should always be the focal point-a happy, healthy baby to love for the rest of your life.