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What Possesses Some People?

Why do people say such mean things to pregnant women?

- That looks so painful!

- Are you having twins?

- You look like you swallowed a 5-year old!

- How can you walk?

- Isn't your doctor worried about how BIG you are?

- Aren't you scared?

- How can you get so big?

- Why do they LET you get so huge?

- Why haven't you been induced yet?

- You're having a cesarean, right?

- I wouldn't let something that big come out of me.

- Oh my god.

What is in people's hearts that makes them say such cruel things to women about to give birth? We who have been visiting the late-pregnancy mamas have been thinking about this and wondering why people are so flabbergasted at the really typically normal-sized women we are seeing in our care. It kind of dawned on us that three major things might be to blame.

1. Women in our society aren't getting to 40 weeks anymore! They are being induced at 38-40 weeks so any woman over 40 weeks is considered a serious anomaly and a stranger in a forbidden land.

2. Any woman who goes over 40 weeks would most certainly not be out in public because she would be so rare she would be ridiculed to the ends of the earth.

3. Plus, if only the 1% of the population is homebirth clients and they are making it to 40 weeks, that severely cuts into the amount of women who would even make it to being seen in public at 40 weeks at all.

What is wrong with this?

Is 40.3 weeks the new 42.6 weeks? Are babies going to be cut out now if they aren't born by 40.3 weeks? Is 38 weeks going to be Induction Day? Will it be so weird for women to ask to go to 40 weeks that doctors will have them sign AMA forms? Will going to 42 weeks be unheard of except in midwifery circles? Will doctors whisper about "those midwives" and how they/we "make women suffer waiting to have their babies for WEEK after needless WEEK when they could easily bring the baby forth in health and ease"?

Even some of my (holistic healthcare) practitioners, who should know better, say things like, "oh, my GOD, she hasn't had that baby YET?!?" and I have to bite my tongue and not shout, "QUIT SAYING IT LIKE THAT! How do you think she feels when she hears that?!" I gently explain that babies can't read calendars, they have their own time schedules, their own seasons, their own methods, their own paths... and we obey them, not they us. The adults look at us sideways curiously, wondering where we came from and I tell them, "not from medical school."

If I wanted to schedule birth, I'd have been a doctor. I am on-call for birth. Therefore, I am a midwife. I am with woman. For women. For her. With her. When she needs me. Even if it is late. Even if I am tired. Surely, she is more tired than I.

And I honor that.

Reader Comments (21)

Your blog is inspiring and articulate and I'm going to follow it further as I've just signed up to do midwifery for the next three years. I admire your view on birthing.

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKnittingByZen

Yes, exactly. I had so many people comment on my enormous size (I was so not that big). I had a CNM who frowned as she ran the doppler over my belly "this is really going to be a big baby". As though she diapproved of it and was already worried that I couldn't get it out. And of course she was the one who attended me...and stood there with her arms folded, the same frown on her face, while I was trying to labor on Pitocin. Thanks for nothing, lady. He was a little big..just under 10 lbs...but I still get mad when people say "thank god you had a c/section!"

but then I used to think that way too...which is how I got there. Sigh.

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee

Bless you, just bless you for pointing that out. I'm 30(ish) wks now and have people ask me all the time if I'm having twins, if I'm scared of this HUGE ginormous belly (or rather if I'm scared of this huge, ginormous baby coming out?), how big "they" are going to "let" me get... it gets very tiresome and it is NOT conducive to gestating in peace. Perhaps that's another reason we don't see so many women in public after ~40wks, they're so tired of people's ignorant comments that they decide to stay home in peace!

People also love to tell obviously pregnant strangers (or relative strangers) about their own horror stories... the 5 day labor, their daughter's c-section (and subsequent infection, hospital stay, etc.), their neighbor's abruption...

There should be a required etiquette book that one must read before any interaction with a pregnant woman is permitted!

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

what an amazing attitude! it's sad that that would be rare to hear. what a novel idea, allowing women to complete their pregnancies! i planned a homebirth for my first and went 10 days over. i actually really loved the third trimester and felt very comfortable with myself and my pregnancy. i gained very little weight and am very tall so people were usually surprised that i was so far along...but when people would ask and i was anything over 38 weeks or so, i'd be asked about induction, had i planned for it, when did i plan to go for it, etc. crazy! i'd smile placidly and say, oh no, i'm having my baby at home, and he'll come when he's good and ready. and he did! that didn't stop people from calling several times a day beginning one week before my due date to ask if i was in labor yet and what if i just never went into labor, when would i start considering an induction? people treat pregnant women like THEY are the infants. no wonder so many women are so nerve-racked! and with all the hassle people give late-term women, no wonder it's so easy to talk them into induction! you can only hear, "you look so uncomfortable, doesn't it hurt, haven't you had that baby yet, you look so big, i bet you can't wait to get that baby out," so many times before you are inclined to agree! we should be stopping pregnant women at all gestations in the street to tell them how beautiful and luscious.

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterChandelle'

you said it, as always, profoundly and simply and right on.
i was thinking about this today, why I love being a doula and am so drawn to the work...because we do our life's work only when we're called to do so...not "scheduled" like in 8am meetings, but by the beckon call of sweet babies and mamas. I love being unscheduled and anxious. Wonderful.

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterleigh

Thanks for writing this, and so beautifully. I wish I saw it about 6 weeks ago, when I was in the process of going to 41 weeks, 1 day with my first (homebirth, of course). Intellectually I knew it was normal, but I let societal pressure get to my head. Indeed, I made a conscious decision to stop leaving the house and answering the phone a few days before my boy was born!

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Amen to that...At 30 weeks I visited my primary care guy for a simple piece of paper I needed only to be told, "Oh, it's going to be a BIG baby!" Bullsh*t, I'm 5'1" with a short torso...my babies have nowhere to go but out...I could have a 5 pound baby and look huge...God I hate that.
And last time the pressure was huge for me to get an induction, which I refused (my first baby) but I got massive pressure from my CNMs and their wretched back up OB and was given a forced pelvic exam and coerced NST where they made me drink tons of orange juice (which makes me want to hurl) to entice the baby to "dance for them" and then proceeded to leave my painfully full of OJ induced pee self stuck attached to monitors alone for 30 minutes...
Ahhh, when they finally came back was when they then did an ultrasound (in retrospect, I should have peed on them) and warned me that "the baby is too big, there's lots of fluid and that means your baby is too big, you should be induced in a few days at the latest" I was 40 weeks that day. I proceeded to ignore them and not go into my appointments or return their calls to schedule my induction...and happily went into labor on my own at 41 1/2 weeks....grrrr...GRRRR I say.
At least my husband lovingly refers to me as a "pregasaurus" which I for some reason find quite endearing.
I spent way too much time today reading some mainstream message board where women were so grateful for their c-sections because of strange things like, "my cervix isn't big enough to have babies" WHAT? That's new even to me...ok, end rant. I think my point was that I agree. =)

September 25, 2006 | Unregistered CommentercreepyUCmama

Loved your photos- how beautiful!

September 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaborpayne

I love being huge with child. And I get huge for my tiny size. I'm 5'3" and with my first I weighed 104 pounds and had a 24" waist. My waist was 42" when I gave birth to my first son. Almost 9 pounds. Flat on my back. With an epidural. After 15 minutes of pushing.

So, when the CNMedwife asked me if I was "watching my carbs" with my last pregnancy to "avoid a big baby" I told her, "Heck no, I gave birth to a 9 pound baby, flat on my back, with an epidural in 15 minutes flat. You could drive a train through there. I'm not afraid of a big baby."

However, the emotionally upsetting comment came from a man at my church who asked if I'd like a "wheelbarrow to carry that in"? I never wore that dress again.

It seems that before women are really showing, everyone just speculates an whispers that they're getting fat. The minute it becomes obvious that they're pregnant, people start asking if it's twins.

I think this time, when I get that question, and I WILL get that question, I'm going to smile serenely and say, "I don't know, it might be! Wouldn't that be cool?" Hehe.

September 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterOne Hot Mama

I didn't realize how lucky I was (being a 1st-time mom) that my clinic/hospital-based CNM practice had no intention of inducing me until I reached 42 weeks or the baby/placenta showed some signs of distress. I had a midwife appointment at 40 weeks (on my due date!) and showed no signs of imminent labor. I was told to make appointments for the next 2 weeks and to keep them posted if anything changed.

In retrospect, I feel blessed that they were patient, rather than following a more aggressive model. My 7 lbs 13 oz. son was born 2 days later, no induction necessary. This time around I'm measuring 4 weeks ahead so I hope they are similarly patient!

September 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlecia

Odd. I wasn't that big, even at the very end. I was hiking (on a very easy trail) at 40.5 weeks, and I don't think anyone else on the trail noticed I was pregnant. Though it was a first pregnancy, the baby was just under 7 pounds at birth, I'm tall, I have large breasts, and I was wearing a loose thick sweater.

My mother said she didn't get very big with her first, only with the later pregnancies.

Could the fact that so few women look that big be that so few have 3-4 children any more? Or that the mammas with older kids can't get out of the house at the end of the pregnancy?

September 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

As a mama who went 10 days late before taking castor oil (will *NEVER* do that AGAIN -castor oil, that is) thank you for this. Part of me doesn't want you to hold your tongue the next time your doctor friend syas something like that. Part of me wants you to let her have it. But, that's why you are gentle and kind and I am a bit snarky. ;0)

People can be quite insensitive to pregnant women in general. My favorite was from a crusty old woman at my church around 37 weeks, "How much bigger are you going to *get*?" Lovely!

Midwives like you are what keeps me on my way to becoming a midwife. The compassion, the thoughtfulness, the empathy, the true-ness of your care and respect for women and their bodies to do what they are going to do, naturally. <3

September 26, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRebekah

wonderful post. Can I quote your last paragraph (with credit!) please?

thanks as always,

September 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterM

With my second baby they had me go for another ultrasound because my belly had the same measurement several weeks in a row(near the end). Just to make sure the baby was stil growing The Ultrasound tech told me that the baby was actually measureing 2 weeks ahead of the due date(and I was pretty sure of the date of conception)and was already at 7 pounds. So then they were telling me the baby would be huge. So I was getting worried. My 7 pound 4 oz boy was born a day before his due date-not at all huge! Most people thought I was carrying a girl also, because I was carrying "too high." Birth is so manipulated anymore that no one has any idea what it's supposed to look like!

September 27, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersajmom

I was huge and far before the end I couldn't even drive a car because I couldn't fit behind the wheel-- everyone asked if I was carrying twins- but I know I have big babies so didn't worry-- I cannot think of a place I went that someone didn't talk to me-- I just considered it to be like a cheesey-opening line sort of like the ones people use to try and pick you up at a bar-- they are dying to be part of a community and want to talk-- as long as the things that they said afterward were in good spirits I didn't mind-- when that kido was born he was 12 lbs and the people at the store weighed him on the meat scales- all of them were amazed--and I am sure that the whole community knew about my big baby finally being born... I guess it is all in the way it is said.
take care

September 27, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Even my clients who HAVE been expecting twins were irked by the comments on their size and assumption they were carrying twins--or triplets!--as one commenter said.


I think you may be on to something about women just not going out in public when they get to 40 weeks! I barely left the house after 38 weeks, because I got SO SICK of people saying "You haven't had that baby yet?!!"

My baby girl didn't come until 11 days past my due date - women in my family are just slow cookers, totally normal, we all go two weeks over, but the general public doesn't see it as normal. Maybe I'll be more confident with my next one to show my enormous belly in public!!

I did tell certain people that I wasn't too worried about baby's size, because if my grandma could have a 10.5 pounder breech vaginally, I could probably handle a head-down nine-pounder just fine...

September 28, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterK.

My husband just read this and told me that those comments come largely from other women. That women in our culture have such horrible experiences that it is what they expect and predict for others. And some part of them is bitter, even when they seem to think their experience was normal. My own experience with these comments has been that they come from other women, not from men. Men seem to be largely attracted and appreciative of my size and shape. Even coworkers who would ordinarily be appropriately polite tend to fall into two groups: men who make appreciative and admiring comments about my appearance and ripeness, and women who comment that I'm 'huge' 'ready to pop' 'must be uncomfortable' 'must be ready to have that baby' etc.

September 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

My only explanation...

Think back to when you first had sex..

My first time was I was 18 living at an art center, which just happened to have included in a show some really beautiful water color and pencil drawing of full on genital views. Most were of women and did not show the face although some did. But there were a few pictures of men. This wasn't porn. It was classical drawing, fine art. I was fairly sure what I was seeing was anatomically correct. But if the drawing were right...

How on earth was 6, 7, 8! inch thing going to fit in there?

Personally I've never had that reaction to pregnancy, but I immagine some men and women do.

The other thing is sometimes pregnancy looks painful. And I think some of the comments are back handed empathy 'Ouch that looks painful.'

December 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

I hear ya.

I had my 2nd baby at 44 1/2 weeks. Imagine though, how THRILLED (I'm not kidding, I loved telling people "how far along" I was) I was after 41 weeks... 42... 43... 44... And oh yes, I went out, and people would ask, my friends would shake their heads in disbelief, etc.

Anti-climatically I had a roughly 10 pound baby ("UC") with no complications and quite matter-of-factly... And believe you me, the entire TENTH MONTH I was doing research on "post dates" and finding out the signs of risk... The day he was born, I was unsuprised to find him in perfect health, pink and well-shaped (not fat, not overlong or skinny, no bowed legs, plenty of vernix, and a nice healthy placenta)... He just needed to cook longer.

I snicker when women tell me they were TWO DAYS OVERDUE and say how LONG it dragged out. Try going four and a half weeks "overdue" in today's world...

I don't even think if I *HAD* had prenatal care with a midwife, I would have been "allowed" to go that far under her care... from all the ones I talked to, they basically said past 42 weeks I would be dropped from care or advised to induce. NOPE, my instinct screamed, IT'S NOT TIME.

Anyways. I had to share... I like your blog, sometimes Lol... I used to say I wanted to be a midwife, but I'm a lone birther and can't really see myself helping a woman in labor, since I have no idea what it feels like to desire that kind of comfort or support...

But I give you props, because you bridge a gap. Women that want supported homebirths, or midwife assisted hospital births, should be able to have them. UCs should be a choice, not a product of necessity, poverty, or simply lack of other options. So, thank you. :)

March 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJessi

I'll never really understand why so many women are offended by the comments on how big their pregnant bellies are. I love it when my baby's in such a position that I look massive and I get asked things like "is it twins?" - I'm proud of my MASSIVE belly, myself. I get offended more when people DON'T acknowledge my pregnancy, I suppose I'm in the minority there...

February 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTenielle

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