Pregnancy Magazine FEBRUARY 2005

I don’t want my mother in the delivery room” and 8 other sticky situations of pregnancy solved.

You haven’t seen your college roommate for a few years, and when you finally meet up for dinner she blurts out, “Oh my gosh, you’re huge!”

“I believe almost all social faux pas happen because people have no clue that they don’t have a clue,” says Shawna Schuh, a Portland, Ore., etiquette expert. “They don’t even realize it’s a rude comment.”

So bag the killer comeback, which may give you a short-lived vengeance buzz but won’t do anything for your psyche in the long run. Better to kill the offender with kindness, with a brief but pleasant response like,“Thank you for your concern.”

The only time a snappy comeback gets the etiquette OK: when it’s funny (and said with a smile). So when your friend announces that you must be having twins, retort, “Well, I hope you’re up for some babysitting.”

On your way home from work you get mashed into the middle of a crowded subway car. But no matter how pathetic you look trying to keep your balance (or how loudly you moan about your sciatica), no one’s offering a seat.

Back in the day, your typical train passenger would have duked it out for the privilege of sacrificing his seat to a mother-to-be. But before you start your “oh-the-decline-ofsociety” rant, try to see it from the passengers’ point of view: Maybe they’re too engrossed in the latest Danielle Steel to notice your plight.Maybe they don’t realize you’re pregnant. Maybe they worry that if you aren’t, offering a seat is an offense on par with asking an overweight woman when the baby’s due.
Etiquette Rules You’re Allowed to Break

Always wait your turn in line. If you’re dying to use the restroom after a movie,walk to the front of the line, explain your situation, and politely ask if you may go next. “Women are generally understanding of pregnant ladies and potty-training toddlers,” Smith says.

Hand-pen thank you notes for all your baby shower gifts. A friendly email gets the job done quicker.And if you’re effusive enough with your praise about Baby’s new layette, the recipient won’t mind not getting the ink-and-paper variety.

Be a gracious hostess when friends come over. After the baby arrives, you shouldn’t have to entertain social callers for hours (unless you want to). Smith advises chatting for 15 minutes, then cheerfully enlisting the visitor’s help with laundry or dirty dishes.You’ll quickly have a cleaner house or an empty one.
If you’re truly uncomfortable, however, don’t be afraid to speak up. Approach a friendly looking young adult and say, “I’m pregnant, and I’m feeling a little woozy. Would you mind letting me sit down?” Virtually anyone would leap to your rescue and “it teaches them a lesson they need to learn,” says Caroline Tiger, author of How to Behave (Quirk, 2003).”

You’re stuck in a line at the movie theatre, and the guy beside you is smoking like a chimney. Not only does the smell make you ill, but you’re worried about the secondhand smoke affecting your baby.

Trying to control other people’s choices isn’t generally good etiquette. But being pregnant means you’re occasionally allowed a little leeway to ask for special treatment. If someone’s smoking near you, do what you can to move yourself out of the area (sans loud, random comments about how awful smoking is). But if you’re stuck, try saying something like, “I wouldn’t ask otherwise, but I’m X months pregnant and the smoke makes me really nauseated. I would appreciate it if you could put out your cigarette.” Just make sure your tone is nice, reasonable, even apologetic, cautions Tiger. Act as though you’re requesting a special favor, and thank the smoker if he puts out the cigarette. And if he doesn’t comply with your request, let it go.”

It’s annoying when your coworkers insist on rubbing your Buddha-like belly. But when a stranger does it in the grocery store, only self-restraint keeps you from going Vesuvius.

Getting your stomach rubbed, patted or otherwise touched is the classic space invasion of pregnancy. When Kinnelon, N.J., mom Jen Singer, author of 14 Hours ’Til Bedtime (Wyatt-MacKenzie, 2004), was patted down by a friend of her mother’s, she decided to fight back. “It felt so awkward that I put my hands on his tummy – which was not so small either – to let him know how I felt,” she says. “His face turned red, and he never did it again.” Not ready to reach out and touch someone? Simply move away and fold your arms decisively across your tummy, or politely explain that it bothers you when people touch you.

You might also do some yoga breathing and mull over the reason you’ve become such a magnet in the first place.“It may feel intrusive, but in reality, you’re a walking miracle,” says Schuh. “A touch is the best way to love someone, and the people touching you are just trying to love you. So tell yourself,‘I’ll take all the love I can get.’”

You’ve already asked your best friend to be your baby’s godmother when your secondbest friend starts chatting about how she can’t wait to take on godmother duties.

Do what any self-respecting woman does – blame your husband. “He already promised Alexandra she could be godmother,” you can exclaim, with near-genuine regret.

To lessen the blow, make sure to add that you would love for Ms. Second Banana to be as involved as possible, that she’ll get an engraved invitation for the first birthday party and that she’s invited to change diapers anytime she wants. Also, since there aren’t rules against multiple godmothers, you could add another one to the roster – if you can forgive your friend the faux pas of hinting about it in the first place.”

The second you set foot in your workplace lunch room, one co-worker or other wants to regale you with a horror story about a pregnancy gone awry. You’re considering bolting down your egg salad sandwich inside the janitor’s closet.

Where do people get the idea that “The Episiotomy That Never Healed” or “The Labor That Never Ended” makes for good water-cooler conversation? Whatever the motivation, your friends – even well-meaning ones – won’t police themselves, so it’s up to you to set limits on what you’re willing to hear.

“When I was pregnant, everyone had a really disturbing story they just had to tell me,” says Smith.“So when someone started, I’d cut them off and say, ‘Is this a happy story from beginning to end?’‘Well, it has a happy ending,’ they’d say. I’d reply, ‘Unless it’s happy from beginning to end, I don’t want to know.’” Smith found that most people understood her wish to keep things upbeat. But she recommends that you, like a good diplomat, be ready to fill awkward silences with details of your last Lamaze class or crib-hunting quest.

Your mom volunteers to man the video camera in the delivery room. Problem is, you want neither her nor the video camera anywhere near your contractions.

If you’ve already told your mother nicely, “We really want this to be just us,” and she thinks that “us” means you, your husband and her, move to plan B: excuses, excuses, excuses. An older child is the simplest defense; explain that you’re counting on Grandma to babysit little Chloe while you’re at the hospital. Or say your hospital has a one-helper policy that precludes anyone but your hubby from being present during the birth.

If Mom’s still adamant, you might have to go passive-aggressive on her.“Don’t tell her when you’re going to the hospital,” says Smith. “If she doesn’t know you’re there, she can’t come.” Later, if she asks why she wasn’t called, offer a good excuse – you had other things on your mind once your water broke, for instance. If all else fails and Mom hunts you down, let her in for a 5-minute peek, then enlist your nurses to return her safely to the waiting room.

You announce the happy news to a friend, and the first words out of her mouth are, “So was this planned?”

On the bright side, at least she’s not asking you if you prefer the missionary position. But the annoying reality is that if you’re under 25, people will want to know if your pregnancy was an accident; if you’re over 35 or having twins, they’ll ask if you had fertility treatments. Although your friend may lack tact, you’ll want to assume that she does have good intentions. (Perhaps it’s her own experience with an unplanned pregnancy that she’s itching to share.) But if you’re not comfortable divulging the circumstances surrounding your conception, “take the high road and laugh it off advises Tiger.Tiger also recommends taking a page from the politician’s books and answering a different question, responding, “We’re really happy and can’t wait to have the baby.”

One minute you’re perusing the maternity section at Target. The next you’re hurling all over the Liz Lange sweaters.

Vomit happens, sometimes in the most inopportune places.You may not be able to keep yourself from losing your lunch in public, but you can at least make the event as tidy as possible.“If you think it’ll happen, your best bet is to be prepared,” says Schuh. Use your handbag, a sack or the newspaper to throw up in. If you do throw up on the floor, stay calm and gracious. Briefly apologize to any witnesses, assure them you’re not contagious, and find someone to clean up the mess.You might want to keep some wet wipes in your purse, just in case.

It’s not always easy to stay polite while you’re pregnant, but take heart: the more embarrassing and awkward life is now, the better equipped you’ll be to handle the even greater humiliations of motherhood. Because even if you manage not to throw up in your friend’s car, chances are your 2- year-old will. Keeping your cool with a toddler in tow – now that’s diplomacy.