"Just don't name it Ethel."
Announcing a pregnancy is not, contrary to popular belief, the same thing as asking for a crowd-sourced baby name. Do you have strong feelings about certain trends in natal nomenclature? Do you have a boy and a girl name all picked out for your imaginary children? That's nice. But you're not allowed to hoard names, or ask people to avoid the ones you don't like. You are encouraged, however, to wait until a name is shared, even if it's been weeks since the kid was born, and then, on hearing the news, smile and say, "How perfect!"
We'll concede that this story is an inspiring reminder of how powerful women's bodies can be, and how un-delicate pregnancy often is. But mamas-to-be also need to hear inspiring stories about really fun movies to watch, and really yummy snacks to consume, while curled up on their sides and doing nearly nothing except awaiting their babies. It's an activity that, once their babies are born, will feel as impossible as running a marathon.
"You're not really so upset that you lost your earring. It's just your hormones talking."
"Twins! Natural or fertility treatments?"
Listen: Some babies are surprises, some babies are hard-won, and unless you're the father or the physician, you probably don't get to know the whys or the hows.
"You know there's caffeine in decaf, right?"
Most expectant mothers know full well every brain-dissolving detail about what they should and shouldn't consume during pregnancy. Assume that by the time you're encountering her, the educated adult mother-to-be has already received 9,000 pregnancy-related email newsletters, spoken to her doctor and made her own decisions about coffee, wine, sushi, sunny-side-up eggs, cured meats and soft cheeses—the only thing she could really learn from a comment like this is how judgmental people can be.
"I still can't wear my skinny jeans, and my baby is in kindergarten."
A newly pregnant woman is likely excited, and a little mystified, by her new body. Before there's even a belly, there are spidey-sense-abilities-to-smell everything, the Pantene-commercial-like hair and all manner of other curious changes. It's like puberty, only weirder. So while your postpartum friends want to commiserate about stretch marks and varicose veins and the fawn-soft paunch your kids like to squeeze to relieve stress, your pregnant friend wants to hear this and only this: "What a cute belly!" (After she is unmistakably showing, of course.)
"When are you moving?"
Remember the documentary Babies
? Remember the Mongolian baby, who hangs out with livestock
in a one-room hut in the middle of endless fields? When Cousin Helen looks around your one-bedroom apartment/starter-home bungalow and asks, innocently, when you're planning to move, show her this clip of the yurt the Mongolian family lives in. She'll get it. Or maybe she'll give you a rooster for a baby shower present. Either way, it's a win.
"My aunt died in childbirth."
Also unwelcome are any anecdotes, no matter how dramatic and amusing, about rare first-trimester diseases, notable mutations, the show I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant
, and that article you just read about how, if expectant mothers listen to the wrong music, their babies will have ADD.
"Breastfed babies turn out smarter."
Just the word "breastfeeding," can magically stir up a powerful mélange of fear, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy in any woman of childbearing age. Whatever the health benefits, many women don't wind up having a choice in the matter (think low milk supply, an improper latch, the need to go back to work, the list goes on and on). And before the baby is born, even the most plan-happy lady can't know what's going to happen.
"Huh? So anyway, about that presentation..."
This is likely one of the most exciting announcements of a person's life. Evince at least as much enthusiasm as you would if someone brought cupcakes to work.
Next: 10 insanely nice things you can say to any mother