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There’s something about being pregnant, or having small children, that causes people to think it’s perfectly acceptable to ask inappropriate questions. Here are the worst three I’ve been asked around my time-

Wow, you’re so big, is it twins?

In both my pregnancies I got asked this a lot, and it was always very unwelcome. Now when I look back, I probably overreacted a bit but I was so fed up, especially with my first pregnancy. I was overdue, it was summer, I was miserable and incredibly cranky. I got really annoyed with an elderly gentleman for this comment in the supermarket. But seriously, don’t comment on people’s size ever – even when they are pregnant, especially so. If you say we look big, we worry that the baby is too big, and giving birth is scary even without contemplating a giant monster baby exiting your lady hole. If you say we look small that’s also a worry- we will worry the baby isn’t growing properly. So the best way to comment on a pregnant person’s size is simply – don’t.
When I got home and ranted to my husband about it, he said, “he didn’t mean it as a bad thing – you are big. You’re nine months pregnant, you’re supposed to be. It’s not like he’s saying you’re fat.” But it was my body he was commenting on, I already felt huge (I really was), and I didn’t need a stranger to remind me how broad I was. And of course, it wasn’t twins. Despite my massive girth, I was pretty confident there was just the one in there.

Do they not do dummies anymore?

We were on a plane to Tenerife for my husband’s 30th birthday with baby Francis, who was nearly six months old. The take-off was surprisingly fine. I’d researched how to avoid ear- popping, had packed a new book and toys, and was still breastfeeding so he had an unlimited food supply at hand. But four and a half hours is a long time for an infant, and by the end of the flight, I was pacing up and down the aisle with him. It was hot, and the plane air was so dry. Baby Francis hadn’t even napped, so was very cranky. So whilst I was pacing up and down with a crying baby, a passenger asked me “do they not do dummies anymore then?” I just laughed politely and kind of shrugged, but it was quite rude and incredibly unhelpful. Dummies are a lifesaver for many parents, and how I wish I’d one on that plane, but we’d made the choice to not give Frank a dummy after he was about three months old, because he had started spitting it out at night and waking us up anyway. And once it had outgrown it’s usefulness at night, we wanted to get rid before he became too attached. For parents who don’t use one at all – fair play, because you can’t deny that they aren’t great for teeth or speech, as a multitude of studies back up.

A different passenger then boldly asserted that Spanish children don’t cry, and although I haven’t done any research on this I’m pretty sure that’s nonsense. And telling a clearly stressed parent about this random (false) claim on the meekness of Spanish babies isn’t going to quiet their baby. Alas – he didn’t seem to notice we’d entered Spanish air space and simmer himself down accordingly. Thank goodness for the lovely lady behind us who fashioned a rattle out of the empty wine bottle and some peanuts; he played with that garbage toy for about 45 minutes, say about 40 minutes longer than the new toy I’d bought him. Be like the wine lady, always.

Are you going to try for a girl?

I’ve had this one a few times- it’s a disastrous question to ask any parent. It’s only acceptable to ask parents if they plan to have more children if you know them really well- well enough to know that they are not going through any fertility issues. If not – keep your lips zipped. Imagine asking a Mum, if she plans to have more children and she’s just had a miscarriage. Or imagine asking a Dad, if he wants another kid but he knows they can’t have more children. It’s a deeply personal question, and one that can cause real pain. And it also puts the recipient in an awkward spot where they have to decide in a moment whether to lie and say something non-committal, or open up to a stranger and say “yes we desperately want another child but we are having trouble conceiving.” If you aren’t sure of someone’s situation – don’t ask them. As we have two boys, we get asked a lot if we plan to “try for a girl” and it pisses me off. It implies that we were disappointed not to get one of each (which we weren’t). It implies that a third healthy boy would be a further disappointment (it wouldn’t). It’s not okay to assume that the choice to have more children would ever be motivated by the sex of the child, or that the baby would be any less loved because we ‘already have’ boys.

I’d love to hear the inappropriate questions you’ve been asked and how you dealt with them. Let me know in the comments!

GREG RAKOZY JOSH BEAN

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