When you’re pregnant some people think that, in addition to growing a small human, you’ve also developed Teflon skin. These people assume they can say anything to you – no matter how rude or inappropriate or invasive – and you will smile kindly and bless their asinine remark like a benevolent fertility goddess.
A pregnant friend of mine said a man asked her “how many critters” she had “in there.” I had a woman point at me on the street in Bellagio, Italy, like I was a zoo animal and gasp, “Baby coming out soon!” And almost every pregnant woman has had some blowhard tell her that she looks like she’s “about to pop.”
Thanks. My hormones are out of whack, I’m the size of a small parade float and I’m terrified of that “popping” you just casually referenced. Your sensitivity is touching.
Then there are those godsends, the people who say the exact right thing often at the moment you need it most. There was the tour guide in Zurich who said she didn’t even notice I was pregnant at first because I looked so wonderful, the French man who gave me free samples of nougat from his market stall because they were “good for the baby,” and Italian chef who gave me a heart-shaped wine stopper and said, “You are joining a very important group. You’re a momma now.”
Those godsends are the people I treasure, and theirs are the words I try to remember when I feel fat, uncomfortable and just plain over being pregnant. I especially treasure them when I run into a blowhard.
And sometimes, you get both at once. My husband Nick and I met both a godsend and a blowhard at one dinner table in Istanbul.
I was only about three months pregnant and not showing. We were in Istanbul over Easter and went to a fish restaurant with big family style tables. They sat us with the only other foreigners – a French couple on holiday – and pretty soon we were chatting. They had three sons who were off on their own for dinner, and this was a rare date night for them. I sat next to the wife, and Nick was next to the husband.
When the husband asked if he could smoke at the end of dinner, we told him I was pregnant. Immediately the wife’s face lit up and she started talking about how much she loved being pregnant.
“I felt wonderful when I was pregnant,” she said. It was a magical time and after each child, she couldn’t wait to repeat it again. Sure, she gained weight and it could be uncomfortable, but being pregnant just felt so right to her. I was at the tail end of a trimester characterized by nausea and exhaustion, and pregnancy was starting to feel like a nine month hassle. This woman was the first to tell me how fantastic pregnancy was. It was exactly what I needed, and I ate it up.
Across the table, I could tell her husband was talking Nick’s ear off, but I couldn’t hear anything he said. During our walk back to the hotel, I told Nick what she’d said and how reassuring I’d found her. Nick started laughing.
“Do you know what her husband told me?” he asked. The husband’s monologue went something like this:
Every time she got pregnant, she gained 20 kilos*. Do you understand kilos? Do you know how much that is? Every time, 20 kilos. And then she’d have the baby, and she’d want to have another one right away. Finally, I had to put my foot down. You have to put your foot down, or they will want to have a dozen kids.
We chuckled. There they were, a godsend and a blowhard in the same family.
Thank God I wasn’t sitting next to the husband.
*Twenty kilograms is 44 pounds. Most French doctors tell women to gain 22 to 26 pounds during pregnancy. American doctors recommend gaining 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy.