Handling Pregnancy at Work (Part 1 of probably a zillion)

I’m a high school teacher, so on any given day, I interact with 125 students and maybe 15 or so colleagues and administrators. This is a lot of opportunities for people to make lots of comments and ask lots of questions about my pregnancy, especially now that I am legit showing.

I don’t love commentary on my body. It’s a major trigger for me as far as food and body image issues, plus it perpetuates rape culture by relegating my body, as a woman, as fodder for conversation, unwanted commentary, and, ugh, uninvited touch. It isn’t quite the same, but I’m also fairly heavily tattooed, so I’ve had a lot of years of strangers who have felt the need or right to comment and touch my tattoos, which is likewise completely uncool. The tone of pregnancy commentary is different though–I get the sense that I’m supposed to welcome and invite this commentary.

In any case, I plan to write many posts about life at the intersection of motherhood and career, and this first one is going to focus on what kinds of comments are and aren’t okay in my book, and responses that have helped me. 

Completely Unappreciated Comments/Questions: 

  1. “Man, I look at you and I just feel nauseous! How are you feeling?” Thanks. For the kind thoughts.
  2. “At least it’s all belly!” Would there be something wrong with me if it wasn’t?
  3. I’m sorry, unpopular opinion, but the usual string of, “Are you gonna find out the gender? What is it? What’s the name? Are you planning to breastfeed? Are you going to come back to work?”  I don’t know, these are personal questions. Especially anything related to my breasts. I usually politely answer the ones I’m more comfortable with, and then say, “We’re still deciding,” or “I’d rather not talk about it,” on things I’d rather not talk about.
  4. Unsolicited Advice. Everybody has it to give. Nobody wants to get it. Just nod your head and cut the conversation short. Jingle your car keys, make a motion towards the door. Say thanks and that you’ll take it under advisement.
  5. Is your husband excited? I get that the intention of this question is sweet–how excited are you guys to start a family! But what if there are issues with that? Conflict? Husband isn’t totally on board? This question assumes a lot about one’s marital dynamics…or, from the wrong person, it feels like a dig for salacious information. I usually say, “This is a very exciting time.” and move on.
  6. Anything remotely related to my body size/how much weight I’m supposed to gain/whether or not I’m on track/why I’m eating so much. Does this even need an explanation?
  7. Touching my belly at all. Nope. Ask first. If I like you, I’ll say yes.

Comments and Questions I’ve Been Okay With: 

  1. “I always want to ask you about your pregnancy, but I also know that’s all anyone is asking you about, so I’m trying not to, but I hope it’s going well!” A colleague said this to me at the copy machine the other day, and the skies opened up, sun shone down, and I felt so overjoyed. Thank you for acknowledging that I’m still a human.
  2. You’re really coming along, girl!”/”You look so great!” Give me all of this. Yas.
  3. “Congratulations! That’s exciting!” Perfect. Simple, sincere, sweet. Leave it at that.

2 thoughts on “Handling Pregnancy at Work (Part 1 of probably a zillion)

  1. This is passive aggressive, for sure, but I just had my first unexpected belly reach this weekend. I’m considering touching people’s bellies who touch mine (without permission), and saying, “it’s really awkward when people inappropriately touch you, don’t you think?” I haven’t figured out a better way yet…

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    1. Ugh good lord. A good friend of mine would do that–she’s really petite and carried big, so she had a big bump right away. She would just put a hand on the person’s belly and look them dead in the eyes and just wait for them to get it. Perfect respons.e

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