“Are you having that?” –Neighbor, apparently looking for confirmation I was pregnant

“At least we know the baby’s growing” –Sweet older church lady, without an opening sentence, pointing at my stomach.

“It’s good that your first is a girl, because she can be like a little mother to the younger ones. If you had a boy first, he’d probably just hit them or something” –Other sweet older church lady

“When we were trying to get pregnant…..” Followed by the complete story of the conception of their first child –Sweet older church man

 

Oh people.

The thing is, all of these people really are sweet and well meaning. I love my church, and I love that it’s intergenerational–really how often do you get perspective from multiple generations in one place? There’s even this couple in their 90’s that I quietly consider my life role models, because if I get to be that active, caring, and committed at that point in life, I’ll think I’m doing it right. It’s also awesome and progressive, and calls me to be a better person before God, working for justice and peace (quick shout out to the United Church of Christ!). But because it is intergenerational community, it’s also like having hundreds of grandparents with all of the joys and burdens that come along with that. Several like to call me “the little mother” which is a title that makes me breathe deeply and remember that they are good and kind souls.

Apparently 22 weeks for me is the point that folks feel very comfortable commenting on my pregnancy. Even the lady at the fish counter at the grocery store was extolling the health virtues of the fish I was buying “for baby.” Which struck me as funny, as clearly I’m already buying it.

My experience of being pregnant in community has been that people’s first reactions or stories have a lot more to do with them than you. You are the blank page where they get to reflect upon their own feelings and experiences of pregnancy and parenting. And so the group of women on staff immediately started reminiscing about their own pregnancies. Many of the older men I’ve encountered have started reflecting on what parenting has meant for them in the big picture–seeing a person grow, witnessing their lives. Some people have jumped straight to logistics that would have helped them. One engineer I know was commenting on the mechanics of a human body–how it’s amazing how joints loosen up enough, but not enough that you fall down. A few people have told me stories of loss or a traumatic pregnancy. Many have tried to reflect on their own complex relationships with their own kids. When it gets beneath the trite platitudes of things, I have really appreciated how this pregnancy has opened up new conversations with folks–and listening to people’s stories.

And along with that, comes the completely inappropriate comments. For me, i’m trying to create an excellent mental translator in my head, especially for well-meaning people who don’t know better. It’s like a universal translator from a sci-fi show, where whatever dumb thing someone said is instead replaced with what they are trying to say, like:

“I am excited about your pregnancy and don’t know what to say!”

“I want to bond with you, and don’t realize that I’m using massive gender stereotypes!”

“I am noticing that you are growing a person, and can’t help myself making comments on other peoples bodies!”

With 18 weeks to go, I’m guessing it will get a lot of practice.

 

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