For some reason, people think it’s OK to go up to complete strangers who look pregnant and ask them all sorts of questions: Is it a boy or a girl? How far along are you? Is this your first? Can I touch your belly? (You’ve got to be kidding with that last one.)
Pregnancy can be exciting and special, but sometimes it’s scary, unwanted, and just really personal. And then there are times when a woman who looks like she’s showing isn’t pregnant. This recently happened to Elizabeth Yuko, a bioethicist and writer. She wrote about her experience in The New York Times:
I was standing up on the [bus], holding on to a pole and texting a friend. A white middle-aged man wearing pleated khakis and a blue oxford-cloth shirt sitting nearby turned to me and said loudly, “Please, ma’am, take my seat.”
I shook my head, indicating that I was getting off soon.
He persisted: “Please, ma’am, you really shouldn’t be standing up. Every bump this bus goes over can jostle and hurt your unborn baby.”
I was not, nor have I ever been, pregnant. I was just a well-fed woman in her 30s on her evening commute wearing an empire-waist dress. (Admittedly, that particular style of dress, which cascades down from the fitted bust and helps to disguise protruding stomachs, is a favorite of maternity clothing designers. But that is beside the point.)
This stranger felt as if he were responsible for the well-being of my nonexistent fetus and took it upon himself to scold me in front of the rest of the bus, providing unsolicited and inaccurate advice.
Yuko knows that this concern for seemingly pregnant women comes from a good place, but her cringeworthy story should be enough for all of us to think twice before saying anything to strangers who might be expecting:
It is absolutely possible to show concern for a pregnant person while still being respectful and not insulting. By all means, make accommodations for anyone—including pregnant people, the elderly or someone on crutches—who may look as if they could use a break.
But if someone declines the offer to take your seat on the bus, move on and let it go. Follow-up comments are unnecessary. It’s possible that a person who appears to be pregnant may have an unwelcome medical condition that she doesn’t wish to discuss.
Check out the rest of Yuko’s story by clicking below.