Something about being pregnant seems to make certain people—from strangers to acquaintances to family members—think that they have the right to announce things about your body, ask all manner of prying questions, or both! These comments and questions can be hurtful, and they can also be frustrating, especially if they take you by surprise.
There are a variety of scenarios in which folks feel the need to let you know what they’re thinking. And while most people do not say what’s in their head with malicious intent, that doesn’t mean it feels good to hear. In all cases, the important thing to remember is that it is about them, not about you. If someone asks a rude question or says a thoughtless observation out loud, you owe them absolutely nothing. You’re not responsible for what the asker or commenter feels or thinks if you decide not to engage with their rudeness or if you respond in a way designed to educate them about how their comments have affected you.
It can be awkward, though, if you don’t know what exactly to say to move the conversation along or to give yourself an out. You can always respond with a simple, “None of your business,” but read on for some ideas about how to deal with rude questions, so that the next time they happen, you will be ready.
Turning it around
One of the absolute best responses to in all sorts of rude questions is, “Why do you ask?” or the similar, “What makes you say that?” If you answer a question or rude comment with another question, it could encourage that person to think about their question or comment, and maybe reflect on whether it was a good idea to say it in the first place. If they continue with their line of questioning, feel free to ignore them, tell them you don’t want to talk about it, or remove yourself from the situation.
One of the most common questions pregnant women get is, “Are you sure it’s not twins?” followed closely by “Baby will be here any day now, huh?” when your due date is months or weeks away. What those questions have in common—aside from rudeness, of course—is their extreme presumptiveness. These askers assume that they have the right speak to what’s happening with the pregnant person’s body, when it’s absolutely none of their business. If you don’t want to answer these types of questions with a question or by reminding the asker that the answer is not something they need to know, a one-word response, delivered in a neutral tone with a dose of steady eye contact is a great option. Not answering, perhaps while making steady eye contact for a few seconds, might work even better for you.
Pointing to a higher authority
Another challenging set of things pregnant people hear are comments on their health—especially about food choices they’re making—and requests to know how or why the pregnant person came to be pregnant in the first place. For instance, this suite of questions is entirely too common after pregnancy announcement: “On purpose?” or “Was it planned?” or “Why now?” In these situations, you can use any of the techniques discussed in this post, but you could also point to a higher authority, whether that’s your own knowledge of your body and life or the advice of your care provider. “I decide what’s best for my family/baby/pregnancy,” is one good option, and another is, “My doctor is happy with where I am in my pregnancy/what I’m eating/how I’m doing.”
Final note: responding to rudeness when you’re not pregnant
Perhaps you recently experienced a miscarriage. Or maybe you really wish you were pregnant, but you’re dealing with infertility. In these situations, anyone talking about having babies, making assumptions about your desires around having kids, or asking when you plan to have children can feel like a blow. The best response is the one you feel most comfortable making and probably depends on how well you know the curious person.
If they are a family member or close friend, you might choose to be honest with them and tell them a bit about your experience. If you would prefer not to talk about it, try something like, “I’d prefer to change the subject.” If the asker is someone you know less well, like an acquaintance or even a stranger, you might choose to just ignore the question completely or say something non-committal like, “Hmmmm” or “We’ll see.” Answering questions or comments with the suggested questions above or telling the asker it’s none of their business might also work well. It is a highly personal decision how much you want to share with anyone and talking about your experiences can be really hard.