Pregnancy and Birth Etiquette in the Internet Age

Originally posted on MotherWise

Using social media to share our experiences with pregnancy and birth is a beautiful thing; through sharing our journeys, we build communities of informed mothers who feel empowered and supported.  Yet with the information age comes a peculiar sense of urgency and entitlement towards this instantaneous form of communication.  It seems that, as with pregnancy announcement etiquette, some people may need a refresher regarding how to tactfully and respectfully respond to pregnancy and birth, especially online.  The issues listed here are said with good intent– no one is deliberately trying to annoy pregnant, birthing, and postpartum mothers, but still, many mothers have spoken out about feeling pressured or bothered by such questions and comments, so here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t pester the mother with questions like “Is the baby here yet?!?!” or “OMG you’re still pregnant?!?!”  Due dates are guess dates, not eviction dates.  In a society that regularly and dangerously induces mothers for being “overdue,” even while current evidence shows it’s best to let labor start naturally, the last thing a mother needs is a throng of Facebook friends pressuring her and pointing out how “overdue” she is.  Moms who are on the recieving end of this incessant question should send their friends to haveyouhadthatbabyyet.com
  • Avoid saying things like, “OMG you’re soooooo huge!  Are you having triplets or something?!”unless you know the mother is the type of person to find such comments delightful.  There is an odd notion that a woman’s body suddenly becomes public fodder when she gets pregnant.  Random people feel they are allowed to reach out and touch a pregnant woman’s stomach, and some may feel comfortable making comments about her size.  A general rule is: if you wouldn’t stroke the abdomen of a non-pregnant woman, don’t do it to a pregnant woman.  If you wouldn’t tell a non-pregnant woman how incredibly gigantically enormous she is, don’t say it to a pregnant woman.  Some women have no problem with such comments, but it’s better to err on the side of sensitivity.
  • Don’t demand attention from a laboring or birthing mother.  It is exciting to know that a friend is in labor, but bugging her for updates and info isn’t supporting her, it’s supporting your desire to know details.  Consider saying something like, “I am thinking of you and your family.  You will be meeting your baby soon!” instead of leaving a comment like, “Update?!?!”  I made the mistake of alerting a few friends at the beginning of my labor, which went on to last 40 hours.  During that time, I got so many urgent phone calls that I had to shut my phone off, and when I eventually turned it back on, I had several messages wondering, “Where are you?!?  It’s been hours!”  Yes, I know it’s been hours.  I was having a baby :)
  • Birth doesn’t always go according to plan.  If you know a mother planned for a natural hospital birth or a homebirth and ended up with something different, don’t press her for details.  Some mothers may be trying to accept and embrace their unintended birth experience, so expressing sorrow and pity might not be the right way to support her.  Conversely, some mothers may be devastated due to a traumatic birth experience, so something like, “At least you have a healthy baby!” is the last thing they want to hear.

Have you experienced any of these comments before?  What would you add to the etiquette list?

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