Inappropriate Questions

On Sunday night, my older kids and I were glued to E! Network's red carpet interviews of Oscar nominees. The Academy Awards Show itself is too long, too late, and often too boring for us to watch. But the pre-Oscar interviews were fun -- mostly.


Jessica Alba was pregnant in purple -- by Marchesa, who seems to have quite a thing for roses. (Mario Anzuoni - Reuters)

Until Ryan Seacrest, wonder boy host of American Top 40 and American Idol, interviewed future mama Jessica Alba. The 26-year-old actress looked like a poster girl for gorgeous, elegant pregnancy in a wine-colored Marchesa strapless gown.

Then Seacrest ruined the moment by staring at her decolletage and asking, to my disbelief, whether she was going to breastfeed her baby.

Alba was equally put off. "That's a very personal question, Ryan," she demurred. Seacrest continued to stare her down. "Actually," she finally conceded. "I plan to breastfeed. It's best for the baby."

What about our culture has licensed strangers -- on national television and in elevators, subway cars, office buildings and elsewhere -- to ask pregnant women whether we will breastfeed? Does pregnancy mean that respect for one's privacy gets tossed aside?

Other winning questions I've been asked, or have witnessed others ask: Will you have a natural birth? How long is your maternity leave? Will you be staying home after the baby is born? Did you do in vitro? How much weight have you gained?

I could go on and on. Jessica Alba's first reaction, or Carolyn Hax's famous, "Wow" both are responses I've found effective -- when I have the guts to use them. What has worked for you? Why does pregnancy elicit such personal questions from the audience? Do moms bear the brunt of these impolitic questions, or do dads get put on the spot, too? Do you find people at work are more respectful of personal pregnancy decisions, or less so, than family, friends and acquaintances? What's the most embarrassing question you've been asked?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  February 27, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
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I don't embarrass or anger easily, and I'm comfortable with any decisions I've made, so the questions aren't too horrible for me. You can not answer or answer questions without being angry or appalled. Really. "Will you go back to work/put your kid in daycare/get an epidural?" "Yes." "That's horrible." "Not really." Change subject/walk away. Do I ask these questions? Nope. I will offer to be there to answer any questions they may have if I have any experience.

Posted by: atb2 | February 27, 2008 7:46 AM

Ryan Seacrest is an idiot. And the answer was none of his business. But a tiny part of me is still glad it was said, because I think it encourages women who are pregnant to give more consideration breastfeeding. Our cultural worship of celebrities can be used for the good.

However, if he'd asked me on live television in front of millions of viewers, I might have slapped him. At least I'd really have wanted to.

I don't get easily embarrassed, so I'm not sure this applies to me. I have been known to say things like "God, that's just none of your business at all, is it?" However, it sometimes amuses me when male attorneys at work whose wives have just given birth talk about vaginal deliveries and stuff like that. I think my father would have dropped dead before saying that to a woman he worked with!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 27, 2008 7:49 AM

I'm not sure that people asking all these questions about a woman's pregnancy is so much about lack of respect for her privacy as it is wanting to share in it in some way. I mean, it's like many conversations people have where they're trying to find common ground or just something to talk about. A pregnancy just tends to be a really obvious conversation piece. And some of your questions don't seem that rude to me. "How long is your maternity leave? Will you be staying home after the baby is born?" don't seem that bad to me. But "Did you do in vitro? How much weight have you gained?" do seem pretty rude.

Posted by: rockvillemom | February 27, 2008 7:52 AM

OHMIGOD. This topic is going to be so therapeutic for me because as someone who's now (VERY visably) 8 months pregnant, I have heard every stupid comment known to man and womankind.

I have been asked (no kidding) if our baby was planned, if I plan to breastfeed (unless it's their breast getting 'munched on,' I don't believe it's their business), whether I drink coffee, whether I should be 'eating that,' if we're sure there's only baby in there (uh, yeah, we are -- medical science really is amazing nowadays), and so on.

It truly does blow my mind. I don't know what it is about pregnancy that makes people seem to think it's okay to comment on my body and my choices. It's not okay in everyday life, so why the change?

I would REALLY like to see someone say half the crap they've said to me to, let's say, an overweight woman ("Should you be eating that?") and see how long they live.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 27, 2008 7:55 AM

My husband did get a rude comment, from a (distant) family member. The guy asked if my husband was looking for a better paying job so his wife didn't "have to" work, since I really should be staying home with our kid. My husband just walked away, but if I had been there at the time you better believe more would have been said. My husband is a teacher and loves his job, and everyone knows nobody goes into teaching for the money.

Posted by: RiverCityVA | February 27, 2008 7:58 AM

The dumbest reproduction question I've ever been asked:

"Are you going to try for a son next time? Every man wants a son to carry on the family name!"

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 27, 2008 8:00 AM

Perhaps as part II of my post, I've handle my answers as such:

-- Non-invasive questions are generally nicely answered, depending on my mood. Obviously, if someone asks about the nursery, I'll go into more detail than they probably really wanted to hear.

-- Rude questions are answered by something along the lines of, "That's kind of personal, isn't it?" to just flat out telling them to 'go to h-ll.' Again, it depends on the person and my mood.

And, yes, I would back-handed Ryan for asking me that question. Good, close friends of mine could as me that ('course, they'd already know my thoughts on that anyhow) but not some random stranger I have no regard for.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 27, 2008 8:01 AM

The rude questions Frieda received were around her age and number of children.

"You are 39 and having number 4?!" Aren't you too old and don't you have enough children already??!

Being a polite and genteel Southern Lady, Frieda merely weakly smiled and walked away.

Posted by: Fred | February 27, 2008 8:07 AM

No kids yet but I have joked that I need a button that says "please don't touch my stomach" as well as a snappy remark to cut off birthing stories, which I don't want to hear (at least I think so now). One thought -- is pregnancy just training ground for dealing with all of the polarizing points of view about what comes next? Breast or bottle, attachment parenting, discipline strategies, etc. Opinions are everywhere but it seems like if involves children it's 10 times worse.

I also liked that Alba was asked her due date which she deflected. She may make her money being in the public eye but she still should get a private moment when she delivers.

Posted by: tntkate | February 27, 2008 8:09 AM

I'm with Corvette1975.
And, that Ryan Seacrest is an idiot.

Of course, in my personal experience, a lot of those questions have been asked of me (and by me) between close friends during our pregnancies and after our births. However, we never stooped to the competitive "how much weight did YOU gain/haven't you lost all of the weight yet?" inanity.

Posted by: harerin | February 27, 2008 8:10 AM

In addition to the inappropriate comments - "You're pregnant again already?" "Haven't you had that thing yet?" - I am repulsed by the fact that perfect strangers feel it's acceptable to touch my pregnant belly. What is wrong with people that they believe that they need not respect a pregnant woman's boundaries?

Posted by: mdodds0408 | February 27, 2008 8:12 AM

I feel your pain, chitty. Our first child is a boy, so people have said things like, "Oh, your husband must be so excited!" I've responded with, "Uh, yeah, and so am I."

What I don't like about those statements is the unspoken statement it makes; namely, that my husband would be disappointed in a girl. I almost feel like if our baby was a girl, I'd have the same folks saying, "Oooohhhh, how's your husband taking the news?"

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 27, 2008 8:17 AM

I used to answer with smart aleck replies:

"Do you want a boy or a girl?"

"Yes!"

"What are you going to do with the baby? (meaning daycare)"

"Oh I guess I'll put it in the closet during the day"

I figured these people didn't really care about the answer anyway, they just didn't have anything else to say... plus it wasn't any of their business. It did tend to get them off the topic at least, so they didn't look like an idiot.

Posted by: catherine3 | February 27, 2008 8:17 AM

mdodds0408, I don't know why people are like that. It drives me crazy, too. I am not afraid of swatting, or turning away, and asking for my personal space/boundaries to be respected!

One woman was so confused by this - I don't know, do these people think that my "little miracle" is theirs too? - but I asked her if I could feel her (non-pregnant) belly at the same time. She got the message.

Posted by: harerin | February 27, 2008 8:19 AM

DW said that the worst question she ever got was from her female boss when she was pregnant with #4 at the age of 37 - "How could you possibly have four children in this day and age? Don't you know how stupid that is?"

Yes, that's an exact quote; and yes, that was about when DW was starting to really hate her job.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 27, 2008 8:24 AM

The weight gain question is so bizarre. Unless you're competing, what does it matter? Or is it coming from women who have never been pregnant and really want to know what a 25/60lb pregnancy looks like? It's perfectly acceptable to say "you look fabulous," but don't make comments about whales or twins. I'm with corvette on that issue. If it's not appropriate to say to a fat person, don't say it to a pregnant person. Ditto with touching. Do you pat the bellies of fat women? How about skinny women?

Posted by: atb2 | February 27, 2008 8:24 AM

Maybe it's me, I don't know if it's that my life is pretty much an open book or maybe I was just so excited to be pregnant that I didn't notice people asking me what could have been insulting questions, but I just can't imagine getting mad the way some of you are reporting. I also never, ever was the recipient of comments about men wanting boys or having to make it up to him (WHAT?) if it was a girl. Are y'all living in Japan in the 1950s or something?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 27, 2008 8:26 AM

I forgot to add... maybe all of these unwanted belly-touchers are also the same people who ask/demand/"tsk" the behavior of our kids in public.

Posted by: harerin | February 27, 2008 8:26 AM

When I was pregnant with our second daughter, people would ask my husband if he was disappointed.

A few coworkers kiddingly referred to me as 'wide load' (its a very un PC kind of place)

I guess I was inadvertently rude to coworker. A shy guy kindly asked me how I was feeling as I was waddling down the hall. I replied that I felt as though my uterus was going to fall out. He turned all sorts of shades of purple and couldn't utter a coherent word. TMI, I guess.

Posted by: marielley | February 27, 2008 8:27 AM

WorkingMomX, the only comment about boys/girls I got was from my mother. My brother has two daughters and Mom desperately wanted at least one grandson. She wasn't rude about it (IMNSHO) and she would have understood if we'd also only had daughters, but she did make it pretty clear that she wanted a grandson!

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 27, 2008 8:29 AM

LOL, ArmyBrat. In my book, mothers get an exception when it comes to prying, personal questions. And frankly, being one of many girls and no boys growing up, I can relate to your mother's wish . . . .

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 27, 2008 8:33 AM

Maybe I just give off a scary vibe (I am a roller-derby gal) but no one tried to touch me. I did let one girl I work with, because she said she had never felt a baby kick. I called her over when it was happening, but that so doesn't count. No one commented on the gender, either. Just judgmental SAHM v. working mom comments. I'm still a bit sensitive on the issue. I mostly handle it by telling them once they pay my bills, they can have an opinion on how we run our household.

Posted by: RiverCityVA | February 27, 2008 8:36 AM

harerin

"I forgot to add... maybe all of these unwanted belly-touchers are also the same people who ask/demand/"tsk" the behavior of our kids in public."

They are also the same people who "stare" at body areas when people have operations (breast cancer, tubal ligation, vasectomy, hysterectomy, etc.).

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 27, 2008 8:42 AM

Corvette -- Loved your posts. Feel your pain.

Two weeks after baby #1 a male relative asked if I was fitting into my jeans yet. Wanted to kill him. Even though I was. (And that NEVER happened again -- with baby 2 and 3 I gained weight AFTER the babies were born. Those jeans are long gone).

I am one of those women who absolutely hated for people to rub my belly. It made me intensely uncomfortable and I had a hard time telling people no.

I once had a pregnant woman grill me about "breastfeeding Nazis" (her words) while I was awkwardly breastfeeding my first baby at a fourth of july party. a man came up to me afterwards and told me how sorry he was she had done that. seems for every weird, mean person there is at least one nice one.

Pregnancy is public and private at the same time. It is hard for people to know how much attention is welcome. Better to err on the side of caution. Take notes, Ryan!

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 8:46 AM

I learned about asking questions of pregnant women when I was younger and foolisher.

Our young administrative assistant was pregnant with her first. She wore long sweaters to work, despite the fact that it was pretty warm in the office.

So, being naive, I asked her once "Why do you wear sweaters in here? Does the pregnancy make you cold?" None of my business, I admit, but I didn't know any better. But I was unprepared for her answer.

She said she wore the long sweaters because her pants no longer fit and she didn't have the money to buy maternity pants. And she whipped the sweater up to reveal that her pants were unbuttoned and unzipped, and held together with two safety pins. The long sweaters were the only things she had that were long enough to cover up that fashion faux-pas.

Talk about TMI! That's the last time I asked any kind of a question like that of a pregnant woman.

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 27, 2008 8:47 AM

We have 5 girls. My husband hears a lot of "Wait until they are teenagers, hahaha". The most personal, inappropriate comment came from an old man at the grocery store when I was very pregnant with my last one. He walked right up to me and said "Haven't you figured out how it happens yet?" My blank stare did nothing but prompt to him to continue and say "You know, they make things to prevent that from happening so many times". If my kids hadn't been standing there I might have punched him in the face...

Posted by: michelewilson | February 27, 2008 8:48 AM

On Topic - Jessica Alba looked as stunning that evening as she has ever looked. And, I've always been a fan. Proud Mama was absolutely outraged by the question as well.

Way, Way Off Topic:

Friday (Feb 29.) is the last day to enroll your little ones for a VPEP college fund at www.virginia529.com. Since VPEP is (arguably) the best and among the heaviest subscribed of the 529s it has an open enrollment period like a health plan would. Just thought I would stop by and give you guys the reminder since I just got off my backside to do it last night.

Posted by: ProudPapa15 | February 27, 2008 8:49 AM

Good friends suffered years of infertility. Finally got pregnant with twins. After the ultrasound that showed the babies were girls, one of the husband's co-workers remarked "Oh, bummer, I'm so sorry for you."

I am also guilty. A friend with two kids got pregnant. I had no idea she wanted more kids. She told me they were twins. In my shock I blurted out, "Gosh, I'm sorry!" It was AWFUL. The worst part was that I was totally sincere. I think she has forgiven me but it was a pretty lame-o thing to say.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 8:49 AM

When I was pregnant with #3, having had two girls already, a lot of people said, "So I guess you're trying for that boy, huh?" I guess they considered that the only legitimate reason for having a third. We have a friend who, when pregnant with their third, already having a boy and a girl, kept getting the astonishment that they needed to have another child when they already had one of each.

Posted by: rockvillemom | February 27, 2008 8:49 AM

I am under 5 feet tall and I had twins. Yes, I got some of the most unintelligent, horrible, rude comments you can possibly imagine. And everyone who found out it was twins? They all - virtually to a person - asked if they were "natural or fertility treatment." EXCUSE ME? I must admit, I looked virtually all of these people in the eye and said "Well, what we did is my husband and I had sex. Lots of sex."

Ordinarily, that shut them up and at least got them to think about the fact that they were literally asking a stranger, or fellow parishioner at church, about the biomechanics of how they got pregnant.

We won't go into the other questions I got, or how I resonded. But my usual goal was to make certain that the person asking turned 8 shades of purple. Hopefully, that would at least deter them from asking the next poor beach ball the same ignorant question. I sometimes think that it is especially bad because I'm so small: people are accustomed to having no regard for the feelings of children, and I'm the approximate size of a 12 year old. But pregnancy made it 1000 times worse.

Posted by: badmommy | February 27, 2008 8:53 AM

Army Brat - the gasket was successfully installed! not difficult but time consuming. Thanks so much for your tip about not taking the whole thing off at once and the link. I truly appreciate it and am indordinately proud of my accomplishment! Have a great day.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 27, 2008 9:00 AM

Here's my take...after a decade of motherhood I've come to the conclusion that all those inappropriate questions during pregnancy are just preparation for ones you will be asked for the rest of your life from family members, co-workers, bosses, teachers, other parents and even your own kids.

Two recent examples from my own life are a) my daughter asking me what color my hair really is - I guess she hasn't yet received the sisterhood memo that says you never ask a woman about her hair color and b) another parent asking my husband "don't you want to support the school?" because he declined her invitation to purchase some wrapping paper.

I like to think I'm learning to see the humor in what I previously considered unwelcome questions.

Posted by: cm9887 | February 27, 2008 9:00 AM

The celebrity world seems to be a bit different as to what's appropriate and what's not. Seacrest's question would of course be outlandishly rude among ordinary people, but Alba has already given numerous interviews about her pregnancy, including the topic of breastfeeding.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 27, 2008 9:03 AM

Not that she's obliged to answer Seacrest, of course. I just meant that the question wasn't coming completely out of nowhere.

Posted by: tomtildrum | February 27, 2008 9:05 AM

I'm not generally easy to offend, and I'm very aware that I'm hypersensitive right now...but I'm only 15 weeks, and so far I've heard:

-Was it planned? (and 15 variations of that)
WHO THINKS IT'S OK TO ASK THIS?
-What are you going to do about work?
-Your boobs are so big!
-Are you going to find out the gender? (Which is fine, except that it was followed by a lecture on how finding out was dumb because it's one of life's few real surprises)
-Have you picked names? (Which again was fine, except that it was followed by a lecture against naming a boy "the third" anything)

These are all things I've heard just in the past 3 weeks, because we just started telling people (at 12 weeks)...

And already people have started touching my barely-popped belly...

Posted by: a1231 | February 27, 2008 9:16 AM

Gee, I go away for a couple of days and miss a conversation on gaskets? Wow! You guys could have waited for me to come back!

Posted by: Fred | February 27, 2008 9:18 AM

a1231 - our rule was that we didn't tell anyone the name until after the baby was born, people are less willing to criticize the name choics after they are on a birth certificate. This is not foolproof but does cut down on the unsolicited input on naming. Good luck.

Enjoy the pregnancy - while I don't want more kids, I loved being pregnant. It is, in my experience, a truly wonderous experience (not witout its difficulties) but still I find it super groovy that we get to make people!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 27, 2008 9:20 AM

Moxie - woohoo, you go girl! You sound like DW after she successfully rewired a lamp she inherited from her grandmother and got it working again. There's nothing like the sense of accomplishment you get from doing something you weren't sure you could do.

BTW, I have actually made that mistake of removing the entire old gasket. And just like that web page warns, the tub can shift and then it's a nightmare getting everything lined back up right. Glad somebody else could learn from my mistakes.

Fred, you snooze you lose! Hope you and Frieda enjoyed the vacation, and hope she's continuing to do well.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 27, 2008 9:26 AM

I am also guilty. A friend with two kids got pregnant. I had no idea she wanted more kids. She told me they were twins. In my shock I blurted out, "Gosh, I'm sorry!" It was AWFUL. The worst part was that I was totally sincere. I think she has forgiven me but it was a pretty lame-o thing to say.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 08:49 AM

I truly don't understand why you would say that to her. Your explanation of why you said it was just as "lame-o" as the actual statement. Why were you "sincerely" sorry? Was she homeless and widowed? I don't get it.

Posted by: cheerio | February 27, 2008 9:32 AM

i'm on my third pregnancy, and concluded long ago that the norms of polite social behavior clearly do not apply where pregnant women are concerned. my midwife warned me about it early in my first pregnancy, and she was right. i'll never forget the woman who told me "you are MUCH too big and fat! you look like you've been eating nothing but chocolate ganache!" the craziest part is how inconsistent people are--some think you look big as a house, others think you're dangerously small. and why do so many parents feel compelled to frighten the newbie to death? if i had a nickel for every "sleep while you can!" or harrowing labor story, the college fund would be all set.

i've tried to use these experiences to become a little more compassionate. i am by nature a judgmental person, and nearly every single thing that i have ever judged another mother for, i have found myself doing as well. it would be one thing if seacrest's question had been in the genuine interest of promoting breastfeeding instead of a gratuitious crack about her endowment. but even so, i have found myself thinking badly about women who don't nurse, despite the extreme difficulties i had in the beginning that very nearly put an end to my efforts. none of us knows why anyone else makes the choices they make, but we often think we know better. i can only hope that the idiotic comments i've gotten from other people will help insure that i never step on anybody else's toes that way.

Posted by: vikkiengle | February 27, 2008 9:37 AM

As long as people react as you did, breastfeeding will continue to bear the unfair stigma of something too embarassingly private to be discussed--or done--publicly. It is a perfectly natural act and should be no more remarkable in a conversation about babies than a discussion of diaper brands.

Posted by: cubemail | February 27, 2008 9:41 AM

vikkiengle

"i am by nature a judgmental person, and nearly every single thing that i have ever judged another mother for, i have found myself doing as well."

Judgmental people tend to have been harshly judged or excessively shamed as children. You may want to spare your children this burden in life.

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 27, 2008 9:44 AM

True, cubemail, but he wan't asking her because he was genuinely interested in her nursing status (he couldn't care less, I'm sure). He was asking her because she's very well endowed and he was being a jerk.

Posted by: cheerio | February 27, 2008 9:46 AM

I know that I've occasionally asked these kinds of questions of expectant mothers, not to be judgmental, but out of curiosity, in terms of thinking ahead for my own experience someday. I hope I haven't come off the wrong way... though I agree that Ryan Seacrest was WAY out of line asking that kind of question on TV.

Posted by: angelomer683 | February 27, 2008 9:48 AM

I had a baby seven months ago. The questions didn't get to me but the "comments" did. I carried all the weight in my belly and I was large. Everyone I encountered, it seemed, needed to let me know I was large. By the end of my pregnancy I was having almost nightly tantrums at home about these idiots who couldn't keep their comments to themselves. "You'll NEVER make it to July," they'd say. The Wal-Mart greeter. Everyone at work. Waitresses. Insert random person here.

I made it to July, thank you very much, and my baby was born ON HIS DUE DATE. I had a ball throwing that in everyone's face.

If you can't tell, I am still mad about it all.

Posted by: meanderson | February 27, 2008 9:58 AM

I am also trying to use my experiences for good. I have a close friend who recently became pregnant after a long battle with infertility, so I do my best to give her my input without it being unsolicited adivce.

Basically, one of the 'types' of people I've come to not like is the "it happened to me so I'm SURE it will happen to you" variety, so I do my best to preface pretty much everything I share with my buddy with, "Well, for me..." And ONLY when she asks.

Otherwise, I just try to be a good ear for when she's feeling overwhelmed with stuff or just hormonal in general. Because, hey, I've been there.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 27, 2008 10:00 AM

Let me throw this out there too, on behalf of everyone who has ever asked a stupid question or said a stupid thing:

People are FASCINATED by pregnant women. On the whole, people are interested, and curious, and protective, and excited - and that's wonderful. It means, though, that sometimes people will say things that are dumb, because it's how they themselves feel (no reflection on the actual pregnant woman) or because they just don't know (they haven't been through it).

Sometimes, though, it's option B: they're just jerks. I try to differentiate, and I reserve the "Wow" response for people in Category B.

Posted by: a1231 | February 27, 2008 10:02 AM

"We have 5 girls. My husband hears a lot of "Wait until they are teenagers, hahaha"."

Ah, for all of you who have sweet little babies, just wait till they are teenagers. (esp. the girls!)

For those of you who have teenagers, it does get better, at some point, when they pass 21, or maybe 25 or you lose your sanity! I am trying hard to remember...

Posted by: Fred | February 27, 2008 10:06 AM

moxiemom - definitely, we're doing that with the girl's name, but I (silly me) thought that telling people that we'd name a boy "III" after his father, a "Jr," would be inarguable... Clearly I was wrong!

Posted by: a1231 | February 27, 2008 10:09 AM

I didn't get a lot of rude questions while I was pregnant - just a lot of people amazed at how I kept going (working on a project in the university wood shop until a week before the due date, sitting an exam a week after my second C-section, basically functioning like a normal human being) and I didn't have any touchers - apart from my siblings, who asked to feel when my daughter was kicking.

The harrowing everyone-has-an-opinion stuff didn't start until afterwards. It was fairly amusing, though, because each age group had their own firm idea of how things should be done (40- to 50-somethings surprised at my breastfeeding,
60-year-olds worrying about cold feet (in July), 30-somethings concerned I was dressing her too warmly (in April), you have to lay her on her stomach to sleep, you have to lay her on her back to sleep ...
If you hear all of it, it cancels to so much white noise and you can just go about your business.

And no, my husband never got this stuff from strangers - they were too much in awe of Wonder Dad actually spending time with his kids - he could do no wrong. He is an excellent father and husband, but it amused and annoyed me that he was cut so much slack by the peanut gallery.

And since my first birth, a lot of shyness about body functions has gone out the door. The conversation topics my sisters and I used to find incredibly inappropriate when my mom and her friends would discuss them are now the ones with which Mom and I send my younger sisters fleeing. It is great to share our experiences, and one day they will catch up, too.

Posted by: enkafiles | February 27, 2008 10:14 AM

My oldest was 10 when I was pregnant with my second. I was asked constantly if I was going to breastfeed. If I charged a nickel everytime I was asked...cha-ching! All the questions like I was a newbie in motherhood wore on me especially when it was from DH's family. I had to whip out my daughters picture to my MIL to remind her I already had a child so I was actually capable of making my own decicions since it wasn't 'new'.

What I truly disliked was getting my belly touched. I became very good at the karate Kid "wax on, wax off" arm movements. At worst, I rubbed someone back, much to their surprise. :-D


Posted by: mamipicante | February 27, 2008 10:19 AM

When I was pregnant, I explained to some coworkers that people are always asking pregnant women things that are too peronal, off color, somewhat rude, or just none of their business. I told them that the only thing you shoud ever say to a pregnant woman is "You look great!". It got to the point where every time I saw them (4-5 times a day) they would say it to me....in the hallways, in the elevators, at Starbucks, etc. It was fun!

Posted by: devidol | February 27, 2008 10:20 AM

"My brother has two daughters and Mom desperately wanted at least one grandson. She wasn't rude about it (IMNSHO) and she would have understood if we'd also only had daughters, but she did make it pretty clear that she wanted a grandson!"

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 27, 2008 08:29 AM

We had the reverse. Two spinster (sic) aunts who were thrilled when we had our first son and named him after their brother. But after a second son, and then a third, they sounded disgusted that we could not provide them with a girl to name after their mother. Well, too bad! If you want babies of a certain gender, get married and have them yourselves. Don't hassle us. All we care about is a healthy baby whom we can take home with us.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 27, 2008 10:22 AM


Off-topic, but inspired by the discussion about names: for kicks, I went through the registration database for the youth sports program I help run, to see what girls' names are popular (or were a few years ago). These are girls ages 6-18.

Out of 650 girls, the single most common name is "Emily", followed by "Rachel". If you took all the flavors of Katelyn/Kaitlyn/Kaitlin/ Caitlyn/Catlyn/etc. that would be the most common name.

Interesting to me - a few years ago we had 37 Taylors out of about 600 girls. This year we only have 5.

North-central states are in. We have five Dakotas and 3 Montanas.

Only one Courtney, two Brittanys (one of which is Britney).

Seven Madisons. Three Gwyneths. Two Maeves.

And one Mary. 650 girls, one Mary. No Susans, or Sues, or Suzannes.

I point that out because I've talked to a number of people who say that they want to give their child a "unique" name. But often all those "unique" names are overlapping and just following the crowd.

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 27, 2008 10:25 AM


MattInAberdeen |

"My brother has two daughters and Mom desperately wanted at least one grandson. She wasn't rude about it (IMNSHO) and she would have understood if we'd also only had daughters, but she did make it pretty clear that she wanted a grandson!"

Posted by: ArmyBrat | February 27, 2008 08:29 AM

We had the reverse. Two spinster (sic) aunts who were thrilled when we had our first son and named him after their brother. But after a second son, and then a third, they sounded disgusted that we could not provide them with a girl to name after their mother. Well, too bad! If you want babies of a certain gender, get married and have them yourselves. Don't hassle us. All we care about is a healthy baby whom we can take home with us."

I see a wedding!!
Let's get these kids together at the next "Jews for Jesus" mixer.!

Posted by: chittybangbang | February 27, 2008 10:26 AM

on-topic fabulous cartoon:
http://xkcd.com/387/

there is something so truly wondrous and miraculous about pregnancy. i'm awestruck pretty much every day, and I'm only 13 weeks!

my MIL ALREADY touched my belly for the first time!!! i've joked about investing in barbed wire, but I might seriously have to get some.

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 27, 2008 10:30 AM

newslinks- I'm so excited for you! Now that I've gone and reproduced, it's so exciting for me to see other people going through it for the first time. I know it's not really your first time, but it kinda is. Enjoy it! If you get the message across to your MIL that you really don't want to be groped, you might want to throw her a bone some time when the baby is kicking. I'd never touch a pregnant belly without asking, and I don't even think I'd ask, but I love when I'm offered to feel a kick!

Posted by: atb2 | February 27, 2008 10:41 AM

Well, I've never been pregnant and I doubt I ever will be, so I can't really relate to this specific topic. However, we do plan to adopt and I can already hear the questions now...Was it infertility? How can you love someone who's not your own blood (well, the same way you love your spouse, who presumably is not a blood-relative)? Was he/she abandoned? What's their background?

Posted by: irishgator1 | February 27, 2008 10:54 AM

I'm 8 months pregnant- only 5 weeks to go!

I hate the "how much weight have you gained" question. I just don't understand how that is an okay question to ask. And combined with the "you are huge" and "you look like you're going to pop" comments, it really doesn't make me feel very good.

I don't mind the other questions, though, about staying at home/working, maternity leave, breastfeeding, etc. At least from my experience, people are generally just curious to find out how we plan on raising our child. And they are going to find out anyhow once we have her, so I don't mind talking about it ahead of time.

Posted by: carifly | February 27, 2008 10:57 AM

I think our best rude comment came from my husband's boss after our second daughter was born. We gave her a unique name (it's not in the top 1000 on the Social Security list and we've never met anyone else with this name). So when he told his boss, her response was, "Are you really going to name her that?"

Posted by: rockvillemom | February 27, 2008 10:58 AM

irishgator1- That's so funny, because now that I've had a baby, I'm all the more convinced that I would love any baby I raise the same, regardless of whether or not he/she was genetically mine. Who are these people who would ask that?

As far as the "background" question, I assume you mean race. I have a Filipino friend whose white husband gets not particularly kind stares when he's out with their child, who looks 100% Filipino. It's made him very picky about where they choose to live in the future. Given that they live in DC, they are going to have a hard time finding a place that's more tolerant of multi-racial couples and their children or adopted children of different races. But then, both she and my best friend, who's Chinese, still experience racism. So, you'll definitely experience some nastiness, especially if you adopt a baby of a different race.

Posted by: atb2 | February 27, 2008 11:07 AM

The question was rude, but at the same time, don't the celebrities to a certain degree give up the right to not be asked dumb questions when they parade down a red carpet through a sea of reporters flanked by their publicists? The reality is that Ms. Alba could have avoided all questions by staying home and watching tv. But then again, that would probably affect her salary when the next script rolls around.

Posted by: justanotherguy | February 27, 2008 11:09 AM

best answers to rude questions:

1. How much weight have you gained?
ONE THOUSAND POUNDS.

2. Where did you get her/him? (said to parents who appear to be a different race than their kids)
FROM MY UTERUS!!!

Hey, the world's joyless enough. Why not have some fun with the jerks out there? :D

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 27, 2008 11:13 AM

My sister had twins. She was very put off by the number of people who asked if they were "natural". I told her to tell them: "No, they are silicon-based."

Posted by: girouxpi | February 27, 2008 11:13 AM

to atb2:
thanks! we're super-excited. In a very strange way, losing one makes you much more aware of the wonder of it all and the sheer fragility of life. So to have one make it, just seems so miraculous!

when we went for the 12 week ultrasound, the baby did all sorts of flips and turns and waved at us. That's just pure magic!

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 27, 2008 11:16 AM

Congratulations Newslinks! Can I touch your belly? Talk to your baby? Pretty please?

Posted by: DandyLion | February 27, 2008 11:23 AM

This is kind of funny because I was in the elevator today and someone said to me, "it looks like your gaining weight." I replied I was pregnant. But my goodness, could you imagine if I wasn't pregnant. I have never had anyone try to touch my belly when I was pregnant. As far as the breast feeding thing does, I don't think you can have it both ways. You can't say it is so private that you won't discuss it but then feel admant to breast feed in public. Especially uncovered. Personally, I wouldn't feel offended by that question. I would just say yes and move on. Oh on the name thing, we have always choosen names very quickly and just told people the babies name. I have never heard much criticism but I wouldn't have cared if they didn't like the name either. Baby names are very personal and it doesn't matter if anyone outside of mom, dad, and baby like the names.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 27, 2008 11:32 AM

As long as people react as you did, breastfeeding will continue to bear the unfair stigma of something too embarassingly private to be discussed--or done--publicly. It is a perfectly natural act and should be no more remarkable in a conversation about babies than a discussion of diaper brands.

Posted by: cubemail | February 27, 2008 09:41 AM

cubemail, sex is a perfectly natural act, too, but I don't ask friends or strangers which positions they prefer. The choice to breast-feed or not to breast-feed has more in common with the choice to use one form of birth control or another, or none, and is entirely personal, unlike the choice of diaper brands -- unless you think that stating one is bottlefeeding is the equivalent of expressing a preference for Pampers, and I doubt that you believe it's that trivial a choice.


"I also never, ever was the recipient of comments about men wanting boys or having to make it up to him (WHAT?) if it was a girl. Are y'all living in Japan in the 1950s or something?

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 27, 2008 08:26 AM

I lived and worked in DC in the '90s when I received comments about the gender of my unborn child. "Are you going to find out if it's a boy? If not, will you try again? Your husband will be disappointed. Won't he?" and on and on, from a variety of strangers and acquaintances. To suggest that an experience is inauthentic or must reflect living in the backwoods simply because it is not your experience seems a bit condescending and out of character for you.

Posted by: mn.188 | February 27, 2008 11:32 AM

I'm 7.5 months pregnant. As everyone has observed, pregnancy really brings out the stupid in others. To my great surprise, no strangers have tried to touch my belly. I was slightly disappointed, because I had planned a really good response: I would scream and fall to the ground. I bet they'd never do it again. On further consideration, however, that seems a bit much -- I like touching the person back better. (Also getting up after falling to the ground now would be an ordeal.)

Nor has anyone said anything really offensive to me (there's still time, though). I'm a lawyer, and so far, only one person (a gentleman of fairly advanced years who is opposing counsel in one of my cases) asked if I "would go back to work afterwards, or if I planned to quit to take care of the baby." Not horrible, but also not really his business. What is funny is what happened next: I replied (nicely) that since my husband is an academic, my quitting would necessitate a radical lifestyle change in which we were not interested (in particular, we'd have to move). With evident surprise, he said, "Oh, you're the breadwinner?!?" I said that my husband certainly was responsible for a meaningful portion of the bread, but yes, most of the bread was won by me.

The worst I've heard was suffered by a friend who tested positive as a carrier for several very serious genetic diseases. As she was waiting to hear whether her husband also was a carrier, someone actually told her, "Whatever you do, don't be stressed about it. It's really bad for the baby." So here she is, feeling scared and guilty for possibly having passed along some terrible genetic legacy, and she is advised that caring about it could harm her unborn child. She was too upset even to reply; I like to think that I would have said,"Know what else is really bad for the baby? A**holes. So please step back."

Posted by: kakib | February 27, 2008 11:36 AM

you guys have really funny comebacks. almost makes me want to get pg again just to use them...

i am terrified of twins, which is why i blurted out that awful thing to my friend. my comment was all about me, and my fears, not my feelings about her. and that's the heart of my mistake. if you are going to say something to someone about babies, make sure it is a gift for them, to help them feel great, not a twisted statement about yourself. live and learn. i will never, ever say that again!

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 11:37 AM

Hi atb2-

When I'm mean background, I sort of mean race, but I also mean that people will ask if we or our child knows what happened to their birth parents, etc. I get that people are curious, but honestly, that's not their business, just as I don't expect them to go around telling their secrets to people. Fortunately, I can anticipate all these questions b/c I myself am adopted and have experienced this first hand.

Your comment about your Asian friend's white husband getting dirty looks with their child is interesting. Who does this? Other Asians? My husband is white, and I wonder if the same thing will happen to him with our Asian child.

Posted by: irishgator1 | February 27, 2008 11:41 AM

Q: Was it planned?

A: By whom?

Posted by: slimyoung | February 27, 2008 11:50 AM

newslinks - how wonderful! enjoy, enjoy, enjoy. one thing I wasn't prepared for was missing my babies inside of me after they were born. there is such a neat intimacy with your unborn child. Its just you and the baby and your whole secret groove you have going on. what I wouldn't give to feel that kicking in my belly again!! Quick, someone remind me of the misery of my preemies, acid reflux and projectile poop before I have another!

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 27, 2008 11:52 AM

In the same vein as the weight gain comments/questions I was horrified by the guess the girth baby shower game (something with cutting pieces of ribbon?!?). I talked my co-hostess OUT of it because I knew the mother to be was sensitive about weight gain based on a conversation we had and the shower was a couples shower. The flip side is that I have heard of people doing belly casts. (What you do with them I have NO frickin' clue).

Posted by: tntkate | February 27, 2008 11:52 AM

I agree that privacy pretty much goes out the window when you're pregnant. But, like someone else said, my experience was mostly just that people were fascinated, excited, etc. So for the most part I didn't mind answering questions. I was in law school and a LOT of my peers who were just a bit younger had a LOT of questions about just about every aspect of pregnancy and child birth and nursing. I think I only had a few people who fell into the "just being jerks" category and they were easy to ignore.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 27, 2008 12:11 PM

"As long as people react as you did, breastfeeding will continue to bear the unfair stigma of something too embarassingly private to be discussed--or done--publicly."

I don't think that's a fair assessment of the question. I feel quite strongly that we need to get over the stigmas and embarrasment about breastfeeding in public. BUT, I don't believe that it anyone's business to judge another woman's choice about feeding by bottle or breast. Seacrest's question struck me as an inappropriate attempt to put her choices at issue, and that's nobody's business.

Posted by: LizaBean | February 27, 2008 12:15 PM

Congratulations newslink. Sending you and the baby warm wishes. I loved going to my sonograms. It was like meeting your child for the first time.

Posted by: foamgnome | February 27, 2008 12:27 PM

I've heard all the inappropriate questions about breastfeeding, natural birth, etc. and they only really bother me if it prompts a discussion about how my choice is "wrong." If they ask, I answer, and we move on it doesn't bother me at all.

But I'm now 8-1/2 months pregnant and the thing that really bothers me is any comment about weight or size. Just because I'm pregnant doesn't mean I'm comfortable with discussions about my body. I'm still just as sensitive as I am when I'm not pregnant -- maybe more because my body seems like it's going out of control.

I should add that because of a medical condition related to pregnancy, I don't get very big and I have a hard time gaining weight. So people don't make the "wow, you're huge" comments (well, except my mom which is a whole other topic). But I still don't understand why it's OK to talk about my weight or size.

The only appropriate comment to make to a pregnant woman about her appearance is "Wow, you look great!" If you can't say that, then don't say anything at all.

Posted by: sandiego_mama | February 27, 2008 12:28 PM

irishgator1- I don't know the race of the people who stare at him. I'm guessing white. It's just kind of sad that it's really made him recognize that his wife's race can be a hardship, and he's upset that his beautiful baby girl might experience racism. I think most white people with white kids and a white spouse (me included) think they understand racism, but this is very real for him. It's been an awakening he didn't see coming.

Posted by: atb2 | February 27, 2008 12:31 PM

re: weight. I must be in the minority, but I found being pregnant very liberating. I let go of all of my body issues, and was pleased just to "be" and let my body do what it needed to do. I knew I didn't look like a supermodel but I wasn't trying to be one. I was making a baby which was pretty cool to me and much cooler than being a size 4. Did i look big? Of course I did, I had a whole 'nother person in there! It was one of the few times in my life where I was perfectly pleased with my body and awed by the power of the whole thing. Whoever invented the maternity thong should be run out of town in my opinion.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 27, 2008 12:38 PM

moxiemom - I entirely agree! It's liberating. I was perpetually trying to lose that last 5-10 pounds, but now that I'm pregnant - I LOVE my curves, I LOVE every new thing my body does, because no matter what I look like, it's how I'm supposed to look right now.

I don't mind (and don't think I will mind) the "You're so big!" comments - because it's nothing more than a statement of the obvious from people who are interested/fascinated by it. Fine with me.

Posted by: a1231 | February 27, 2008 12:52 PM

I think context of who is asking the questions/making comments can make a difference in terms of whether such questions are offensive. I was not offended at all by close friends (none of whom had ever been pregnant) asking about weight gain, etc., but for a coworker to ask the same thing, forget it. I also didn't mind being asked what my work plans were after the baby, because I was comfortable with my plans. I did not like being touched but fortunately almost nobody did. I think Seacrest was way out of line to ask something that personal on national TV while ogling the merch.

My least-favorite comments:
-"Are you sure there's only one in there?"
-"I bet you have a nine-pounder in there" (I was 5 months pregnant)
-"I really wouldn't eat that--my friend ate that and she had a miscarriage!" (soft cheese I knew was pasteurized)
-Any analysis of how I was carrying that supposedly predicts gender.
"Can you try to hold it in until after the presentation?"

It's funny to hear that that some dads get positive comments on being in public with kids. DH is great with our kids, but while out with them, he's gotten some doozy comments from nasty busybody older ladies. "SOMEONE doesn't know how to put a hat on their baby" (in July). "Where's the mommy?" (kid having meltdown at rest stop). "Who would bring a baby out in this cold?" (freak 60-degree day in January). ARGH.

Posted by: chescokate | February 27, 2008 1:06 PM

I would guess at least some of those questions (and I mean questions, not snarky comments) are from people who sincerely are looking for information. I would NEVER EVER ask questions of anyone I didn't know well, but I pepper my good friends with questions all the time, because I hope very much to be pregnant too one day and so I am very curious about the experience and their thought processes about decisions like going back to work, breast-feeding. Also while I would love to feel when a baby kicks because I am fascinated by the miracle of life within life, I would never presume to touch someone's belly without asking. As other posters have pointed out--would you do that to someone who's NOT pregnant?

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | February 27, 2008 1:11 PM

"What's their background?"

Posted by: irishgator1 | February 27, 2008 10:54 AM

"As far as the "background" question, I assume you mean race. "

Posted by: atb2 | February 27, 2008 11:07 AM

Ha. When our oldest was about a year and a half old, his pediatrician decided to go back into the Army. The replacement pediatrician he recommended examined our son for the first time, worried that he wasn't walking yet, suspected some genetic disease, and asked us, "Do you know anything about the baby's background?" So, it's not always race that they mean.

Posted by: MattInAberdeen | February 27, 2008 1:16 PM

"I would guess at least some of those questions (and I mean questions, not snarky comments) are from people who sincerely are looking for information."

But Teaspoon, come on. Ryan Seacrest does not actually care whether Jessica Alba is going to breastfeed or not. He is just looking for dirt...and I think a lot of people who ask pregnancy-related questions are a) clueless or b) using pregnancy as license to ask uncomfortable personal questions. I don't pretend to understand why -- I'm more like you, and would never ask personal questions about breastfeeding, weight gain, etc.

One question I do ask -- that I think I will stop asking -- is "where are you giving birth?" I mean it in an innocuous way, but it is personal, especially if the person is having a homebirth or knows in advance the birth will be high risk. So that falls in the clueless category. But some people are drawn to asking uncomfortable questions -- and pregnancy gives them an excuse to do so.

When men start getting asked "So, are you going to get a vasectomy?" maybe we'll all wake up to why you should leave some issues private.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 1:59 PM

What an entertaining discussion--incredible how similar the experiences of pregnant women are, vis-a-vis those who want to "interview" them, anyway.

I have two lovely children (now both in their 40's) who happen to be female. The weirdest question I was ever asked came after my second daughter was born. One of my aunts asked me, "Are you going to try again?" For some reason, my wit kicked in and I said, "Why? Have I failed?" Other relatives who witnessed this exchange enjoyed my aunt's discomfort, as she was somewhat "famous" for her rude inquiries.

Thanks for writing this piece and for letting fellow mothers and mothers-to-be
vent!

Posted by: wwIIbaby | February 27, 2008 2:02 PM

I love this topic! When I was pg with #1, I was asked everything under the sun - including was I going to spank the baby. (What, right away??) I'm a small person too, and I started having to wear maternity clothes at 3 months, so the comments came early and didn't stop.

Like other commentors, I found that TMI usually shuts up even those who a "Wow" just goes right over their heads. The more invasive the question, the more personal the answer. I had to tell my boss about perineal massage before he finally would shut up about how I was so huge I was going to need a C-section or else the baby would tear me apart. It works if you can keep from blushing as you smart off.

Posted by: jaxom | February 27, 2008 2:08 PM

see, i've always been a slightly out-of-control-smartt-a**, so I find all this hysterical.

Q: Are you going to spank the baby?
A: Well, not at first. I wanna wait til the kid really deserves it!

the worst thing anyone's ever said to me was my first morning back at work after 3 days of being off after my miscarriage. My coworker asked me, "You aren't pregnant, are you?" It was all I could do not to punch her in the face and run.

(of course she didn't know, but this falls into the category of questions you NEVER EVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES ask people, because you never know their circumstances.)

Posted by: newslinks1 | February 27, 2008 2:19 PM

But Leslie, I think it's pretty obvious to everyone that Ryan Seacrest wasn't sincerely asking for information. I am just speaking for those of us who think pregnant women are amazing and a wonderful source of information about something that (I presume) you can't really understand without experiencing it, and even then bearing in mind how everyone's experiences vary so much.

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | February 27, 2008 2:26 PM

And to reiterate, I am talking about asking my close friends for information --clearly that's not a concern for the folks out there asking stupid questions about whether you'll "try again" (excellent response BTW).

Posted by: teaspoon2007 | February 27, 2008 2:30 PM

What I've found interesting is most of the inappropriate or annoying comments I've received are from mothers -- people who I assumed (silly me, I know) would know better.

On the other hand, those folks who have been my 'sane sounding board' or who have had the most insightful questions were single men with no kids. Go figure.

Posted by: Corvette1975 | February 27, 2008 2:32 PM

People who asked first got permission to touch my belly and feel the baby kicking, or more often hiccupping with the second one. People who touched without asking got their hands slapped. Loudly.

Mostly, no rude questions. One really funny comment was a friend who assumed that DH would go back to work with our second, "because Sue will want to stay home this time." Nope! Our arrangement was perfect for us, and still is.

Posted by: sue | February 27, 2008 2:33 PM

Yes, I agree -- you are right, some people just find pregnancy joyful, wonderful and fascinating. Thankfully those people are pretty clear about their intentions!

Re: spanking. My husband-to-be once asked me what I thought about spanking. I told him it didn't really turn me on but I would try it if he wanted to. He turned bright red and then burst out laughing...because he had been thinking about kids, not fetishes.

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 2:34 PM

My #1 was 9 lbs, and people would always ask me if I had her vaginally, and then just stare in horror when I said yes. I'm a small person, so maybe that's why? It was actually kind of amusing. People would also ask me if I got pregnant on purpose (they were aghast that I got pregnant "so young"- I was 28 and married!). I also had someone at home depot ask me where I adopted my daughter from- even though she looks just like me.

I am now expecting twins, and people are asking me what kind of fertility treatment we used (none). I really want to say, "we had really hooooot sex." And one friend is constantly telling me how having twins will ruin my life because I will never leave the house again, never sleep again, etc, etc. Hmm- guess I should send one of them back? Needless to say, I don't really talk to her much anymore.

The worst was the u/s tech who discovered the twins, though. Turns out she was a twin herself, and went on and on about how much she hated being a twin, how having twin siblings had ruined her older sister's life, how miserable they all were, blah, blah, blah. Uh, thanks for sharing!

Posted by: floof | February 27, 2008 3:00 PM

Oh, and I have a number of friends with boy/girl twins who are constantly asked if they are identical. Sometimes I think people just ask whatever question pops into their head without really thinking about it at all.

Posted by: floof | February 27, 2008 3:03 PM

I'm 5 months pregnant, and, because I'm not married and on the young-ish side, I get a lot of questions that I mostly find amusing, but are sometimes irritating, depending mostly on my mood. The first thing that most people said after I told them was, no kidding, "how did that happen?!" This one cracks me up, especially when it comes from my single male friends, who all get the same horrified look on their faces that screams "but I thought unplanned pregnancy was just an urban legend!" My standard answer has been "the old-fashioned way." The other most common question I get is "what are you going to do?" That one I usually answer with a blank stare and "well...I'm going to have a baby..."

Posted by: Eluwileth | February 27, 2008 3:04 PM

I could have cared less about the questions I was asked about my pregnancy, how was I going to do things once the baby was born, etc. I was just too over the top because it was my turn to have this experience after 10 years of wishing.

However, I will admit to having a little fun along the way. The garage porter saw me in the elevator one day and I could tell he was wondering if I was pregnant or not. He finally asked me. I just met his stare for few awkward moments until he really thought that maybe he shouldn't have asked. Then I broke out into a laugh and fessed up, but I did say to him, you should probably be really careful when you ask that question - I might not have been pregnant!!! He agreed!!!

As far as names go, my husband gave that away too soon to his mother who absolutely hated our choices (which of course carved them in stone for me). After we found out the sex of the baby it was much easier for her to get used to because we then referred to the baby by his name. BTW, I thought it was a unique name when I decided on it 20 years ago, but now......oh well.

MIL finally made peace with it when someone came into her office and gushed over how STRONG the name sounded. Now she loves it. GO FIGURE MIL's!!!

I can't wait for the next one and even though I really want a girl, I would also love a boy because my next boy name choice will surely throw her for a loop and I'll have a great time with that one!!!

As far as the questions I ask someone I don't know, who is pregnant -- if I run into someone in a baby aisle shopping etc, I'll ask when she's due. That seems to open the door for more conversation about babies in general. I do love helping first-time mommies trying to create their gift registries. I will generally impart positive statements on products that I've used that I really loved and will usually tell them not to be stingy on their list because they will be able to return any item that they end up not needing or whatever for other items that they didn't get that they really need. Or I'll let them know if a product was truly horrible in my own experience.

Sorry so long - but I like to talk about babies, pregnancy, etc.

Posted by: tecatesdream | February 27, 2008 3:10 PM

Mine isn't a question, but a statement. I love when people ask me how far a long I am (6 months), and then tell me that they can hardly even tell I'm pregnant. Excuse me, but I hope people can tell that my waist has increased by almost 6 inches and that I have put on 15lbs. Otherwise...well...nevermind.

Posted by: audtee | February 27, 2008 3:18 PM

"GO FIGURE MIL's!!!"

You should remember that you'll very likely be one yourself some day, and then your DIL or SIL will talk like this about you, too.

It's okay; just accept that it's going to happen.

For the record, I get along very well with my in-laws, and my wife gets along well with my side of the family. But I remember a family dinner one time while we were engaged when my mother was really revved up, roaring and ranting about her MIL. I told her "you're going to be HER MIL in three months!" Did that ever make her stop and think. :-)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 27, 2008 3:34 PM

Just wanted to point out that Ellen asked Christina Aguilera the same thing on TV, of course it was after the birth. But I bet her show gets higher ratings then the Oscars...

Posted by: DLC1220 | February 27, 2008 3:55 PM

i think there's something different about a woman asking about breastfeeding.

Posted by: moxiemom1 | February 27, 2008 4:00 PM

Two stupid questions:
"Well, your first one was a girl. I really hope you have a boy. Then your inlaws can finally have a grandson".

I fail to understand how having a boy should matter a whit to me if it makes some one else's family "complete."

"What? Two girls? Aren't you going to try for another so that you can have a boy?"

No.

"Why not?"

My response "What the heck am I going to do with a boy? I have all of these girl clothes. Won't he look silly wearing a pink onsie?"

Hmm...that seems to make them pretty speechless.

Posted by: changingfaces | February 27, 2008 4:05 PM

A comment that really amused me came from an older "Southern Gentleman" with whom I had occasional contact in a former job. I mentioned my then-fiance (now hubby of almost 10 years), and the "Southern Gentleman" asked if I was going to continue working after the wedding. I was 24, and really amazed that ANYONE would think a young woman would stop working just b/c she was now married!

A friend shared another rude comment that she experienced when pregnant with her first. It was summertime, and her fingers had swelled so she could no longer wear rings (including her wedding band). A random woman in an elevator made a comment about "You unwed mothers..." My friend was so shocked she couldn't even attempt a response.

Posted by: nvamom | February 27, 2008 4:08 PM

"Well, your first one was a girl. I really hope you have a boy. Then your inlaws can finally have a grandson".

I fail to understand how having a boy should matter a whit to me if it makes some one else's family "complete."
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Remember this in the future when your daughters tell you that they frankly don't care how you feel about how many children they have, what gender or what names are assigned. They also don't care what you think about their spouse or lack thereof. If you're okay with that, then your response is perfectly fine.

(Sorry if I seem snippy, but I've seen so many "I don't care about my in-laws/parents" comments today that I really don't think that a lot of you understand what it's going to be like when YOU'RE the in-law/parent in question.)

Posted by: m2j5c2 | February 27, 2008 4:15 PM

Oh, and despite my grand plans of rubbing strangers' stomachs when they touched my belly, or -- my favorite -- my plan to carry a bike horn with me and honk it (think on the metro) in this situation, I never had this happen during either pregnancy. I didn't mind when a couple of friends asked to touch my belly, especially since we were the first of our friends to have a baby.

But then, I only had one experience where a stranger tried to touch either of my babies (after they were born), either.

I suppose I just give out "don't touch me/us" vibes.

Posted by: nvamom | February 27, 2008 4:15 PM

Preggers rock!

Posted by: DandyLion | February 27, 2008 4:37 PM

As do you, DandyLion.

Love all these stories. Wish very badly I could have been born one of those people able to ignore others' obnoxiousness.

Agreed on names -- don't tell people until after the baby is born. Then they all become polite again and tell you they love the name and its perfect for the child.

Christina Aguilera/Ellen DeGeneres clip. I don't want to make any assumptions or comments until I see it. Does anyone have it?

Posted by: leslie4 | February 27, 2008 4:41 PM

God bless Leslie Steiner. Without "On Balance" I would have no place to go to read the most vapid, meaningless commentary on earth. Ryan Seacrest pisses you off? So very pitch-perfect for such a moronic blog. On Balance just makes my day-Keep it coming!

Posted by: LouisTheRogue | February 27, 2008 5:13 PM

Basically the question was rude.
But, let me ask : isn't this question a natural consequence of "anywhere, anytime" ? If the act is supposed to be that public, then the question about it is, too.

Posted by: observer31 | February 27, 2008 6:18 PM

The most embarrassing comment was when, at a business buffet breakfast, a woman told me I must eat more because I am eating for two now, and then patted my stomach. She was horrified to find that instead of the softness of a 'baby bump' she found the ungiving plastic of a brace I was forced to wear after breaking my back in 3 places. Unfortunately, instead of accepting her error kindly when I smiled and explained, she turned her back and did not speak to or acknowledge me for the rest of the week. Her excuse...I had tried to "fool everyone." No, ma'am, I wasn't fooling anyone, those who didn't know were polite enough to keep quiet (the vast majority) or ask about my health in a roundabout manner such as "How are you doing?" rather than assume it is okay to imappropriately touch another human.

Posted by: anrean | February 27, 2008 7:18 PM

The most embarrassing comment was when, at a business buffet breakfast, a woman told me I must eat more because I am eating for two now, and then patted my stomach. She was horrified to find that instead of the softness of a 'baby bump' she found the ungiving plastic of a brace I was forced to wear after breaking my back in 3 places. Unfortunately, instead of accepting her error kindly when I smiled and explained, she turned her back and did not speak to or acknowledge me for the rest of the week. Her excuse...I had tried to "fool everyone." No, ma'am, I wasn't fooling anyone, those who didn't know were polite enough to keep quiet (the vast majority) or ask about my health in a roundabout manner such as "How are you doing?" rather than assume it is okay to imappropriately touch another human.

Posted by: anrean | February 27, 2008 7:20 PM

Where to begin???? When I told my agency director (I was already 5 months along) that I was pregnant at 38 and would be taking a relatively long leave, he said "You? Pregnant?" and I answered "Hey, the Bible says Sarah was over 90!"

When someone I had never seen before asked at our nephew's brit when I would be having a baby, I smiled and put my arm around my wonderful mother-in-law, and said "This is my mother-in-law who hasn't even asked that question in 10 years. Where do you come off asking?"

And finally, whenever I went anywhere without my child for the first few years, I was asked, "Where's the baby?" as if we were conjoined twins. I developed a routine where I would fake panic, frisk myself and say, "Oh no! The baby! I forgot the baby!"

Posted by: perrbenita | February 27, 2008 10:07 PM

I am now days away from giving birth and have been asked every unbelievable question posted here by my coworkers. But I think the most offensive to me was being asked whether the pregnancy was planned. I am a 31-year-old attorney who has been married for nine years! Why would anyone think to ask that? It is irrelevant either way. The second most awkward is being asked whether I will breastfeed by male coworkers. Seriously.

Posted by: nichole.henderson | February 28, 2008 1:14 PM

I am 12 weeks pregnant with my second... my son turned 1 last week. Quite a few people, on finding out, ask if it was planned or make comments about how it's too soon. My answer has become "well DH is pretty good in the sack" or "there was nothing on TV and the baby was napping."

I gained about 40 pounds with the first pregnancy which garnered all kinds of "You are huge" comments. People have already said to me "I hope you don't gain all that weight again."

Since I'm 37 I also get the comments about "aren't you afraid of birth defects" (especially annoying since the baby has a 50% chance of inheriting a rare genetic condition - a rather benign one, but still) or "have them now before you can't" - uuummmm, menopause is a few years off.

Finally, since the first is a boy, everyone assumes we are hoping for a girl. What we are hoping for is a healthy baby.

Oh - and the most rude comment I got when pregnant with the first... I was about to climb onto the MARC train when the woman next to me pretty much shoved me out of the way to get on first and, looking at me, said "Just because you are pregnant doesn't mean everyone has to cater to you." I wished her a happy and blessed day.

Posted by: zimmertammy | February 28, 2008 2:51 PM

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