So perhaps you've already navigated pregnancy and parenthood multiple times, or you've witnessed dozens of friends and relatives go through it, and you couldn't be happier when a close friend—or even just some lady at the bank—is now with child herself.
Despite your best intentions of offering advice or just making conversation, here are five things that are not helpful to say to any pregnant woman. You should stick to "Congratulations! That is so exciting!" instead of any of the following:
- "Well, it took you long enough!"
Meant in good fun, no doubt, this nevertheless can sting—few people like feeling like they’re late to a party, especially one as meaningful (though vomit-filled) as parenthood. And this has a way of being a more isolating and exclusionary remark than an inclusive one, especially if your friend’s path to getting pregnant included more struggles or challenges than you realize.
- "You’d better get some sleep now!"
Of course, when your friend’s newborn enters the world, she may lose so much rest that she’ll feel she’s been hit by a bus. But isn’t it a bit early to be reminding her of that? In fact, her pregnancy symptomology itself—no matter how early it is—might be making it hard enough for her to sleep in the here and now. Even if it isn't, this clichéd warning will fall on deaf ears, or just serve to make her dread the newborn phase.
- "Oh, we need to go shopping! For cribs! For carseats! Have you signed up for a birthing class? When can we do your registry?"
There’s a good chance that your friend feels fairly overwhelmed with everything that she has to get done before the baby comes (especially since no one ever seems to tell anyone that all you really need for the first few weeks are some diapers, some onesies, and a pair or two of arms). If you're a parent already, it may all seem old-hat to you, and you might be dying to show off your knowledge and initiate the mom-to-be into a world you know intimately. But right now, ignorance can be bliss—you’ll have plenty of time to school her on the intricacies of swaddling when the date comes closer.
- "Hey, have I told you about my episiotomy?"
Your friend will have to endure listening to innumerable horror stories of labor and birthing from friends, relatives, and even strangers in the months ahead. As her friend, or even as a non-friend, make it your job to be an oasis from that. Give her a pass on the gory details, at least for now (and even later, unless she asks for it).
- "Hey, if you want kids so badly, you should take mine!"
You might think you’re being funny, but in one fell swoop, you’re making your friend’s news all about you—and not in a good way. Let her have her moment without being reminded that her bundle of joy will eventually need a bundle of time-outs.
Andrea Bonior is the host of "On Our Minds," and a licensed clinical psychologist, media commentator, professor, and author of The Friendship Fix and the Washington Post Express's longtime advice column Baggage Check. Follow her on twitter @drandreabonior or Facebook or YouTube.