Maybe it was the empire waist dress I was wearing. Or maybe it was the way I was standing. Or perhaps she just thought I was fat.
Whatever the reason, I was certainly caught off guard when a woman approached me and asked how far along I was.
My son was born five weeks earlier, and up until that moment, I thought I was looking pretty good. I was only eight pounds heavier than I was pre-pregnancy, and back in my regular clothes.
To put that in prospective, I’m 5-foot-8, and I typically wear a size six.
Like every stereotypical new mom, I was on my way home from a Target run. I’d decided to stop into my husband and I’s favorite smoothie shop, to bring him home a little surprise.
After placing my order, I’d made my way to the corner, to wait for my number to be called — and that’s when it happened. Engrossed in my phone, at first, I didn’t realize her question “How far along are you?” was directed at me.
Then I glanced up and saw her looking at me expectantly. Flustered and mortified, I felt my face turn red.
“Actually, I had my baby a month ago,” I said.
She apologized a couple times, and I politely accepted, but the damage was done. Thankfully, my order was finished shortly thereafter, and I bolted out the door.
A mile or so down the road, the tears came hot and fast. Postpartum hormones, combined with an already fragile body image, made that comment sting down to my core.
The thing that woman didn’t know — nor could any other stranger commenting on my body — is I’m really sensitive about my weight. I don’t have an eating disorder or suffer from body dysmorphia, but I’m also not someone who can take a weight-related remark and just shrug it off.
Like many women, I was thrilled to get pregnant, but nervous about the inevitable weight gain. I was already accustomed to exercising most days of the week, so — with my doctor’s permission — I kept this up until two days before I went into labor.
I know I’m not the only woman who is sensitive about her weight — baby-related or not. In fact, I’m quite sure most women don’t feel great about being called pregnant when they’re not.
The only way to 100% way to avoid mistaking a non-pregnant woman for one actually with child is by not saying anything at all.
For example, I got a haircut at eight months pregnant, and I was all baby. The stylist had cut my hair once before, but didn’t remember me, so in his mind, we’d just met.
Instead of jumping in and asking about the baby, he graciously waited for me to address the elephant in the room. When I did, he said he’d assumed so, but had once made the very faux paus I’m writing about. Consequently, he vowed to never ask a woman if she’s pregnant again.
When you ask a woman about her pregnancy, I don’t doubt that your intentions are good. The thing is, this can be a very touchy subject — especially if she’s not pregnant at all.
I’ve never heard a woman complain that too few strangers asked about her pregnancy. Unsolicited advice, stories of your own children’s births, and personal questions really aren’t topics of conversation anyone wishes to cover with a stranger.
However, if you simply must say something, take a second to read the situation. For example, if an otherwise skinny little lady looks like she just swallowed a beach ball, and is waddling around Target carrying a box of diapers, feel confident congratulations are in order.
On the other hand, if a woman who appears to be a few months pregnant is walking her dog down the street, this is what’s called a gray area. There’s not enough clues to tell you she is indeed with child, so zip it.