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Dealing with Coworkers' Inappropriate Pregnancy Comments

Dealing with Coworkers’ Inappropriate Pregnancy Comments

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

I am 30 weeks pregnant and due with my first baby in September. My husband and I are thrilled and the pregnancy has been relatively easy so far.

The biggest complaint I have are my co-workers. I am the youngest one in the office and most of them already have grown children or even grandchildren. I think this makes them feel like they are entitled to give their opinion or give “advice” to me, that I don’t want.

This advice or observations range from critiquing my shoe choices, to my beverage choices, to lamenting the fact that I chose to be pregnant over the summer. But what is most hurtful and annoying is when they comment on how big I am.

I have started standing up for myself. One co-worker told me I looked much bigger than a person having a baby in September and implied I should be worried because it was only going to get worse from here. I told her that wasn’t a very nice thing to say and that my doctor is pleased with both my weight gain and my growth (both true). Another guy kept joking that I was having twins, I told him his jokes weren’t funny and he stopped. But some more indirect comments come up, when some co-workers I haven’t seen for a while are marveling at my belly, people will say things like “Yeah, she’s pretty big and she still has a way to go!”

Besides these co-workers, most people tell me I look great. I am trying so hard to stay healthy through this pregnancy, but I can’t control the size of my belly. These comments get into my head and make me afraid for what is going to happen in the next two months, and the comments I will have to endure at the end of my pregnancy.

Do I just need to toughen up? Should I keep confronting the rude comments? I seriously am starting to dread coming to work.

Thank you for your advice,
Just Say “You Look Great”

Oh, lady, I FEEL YOU ON THIS.

There’s a really weird phenomenon that happens when you’re pregnant — some people seem to think you are community property, and you must be supervised and micromanaged and commented on by committee. You know, for the safety of TEH BABYYYYYY, because clearly, you (and/or your doctor) don’t know anything about pregnancy safety, diet and  health as much as some random stranger on the street.  I got crap from a valet outside a sushi restaurant, bizarre advice from old ladies in the supermarket, and yes, completely inappropriate comments from everyone from my coworkers to my freaking MAILMAN about my size. Up to and including predictions of premature labor. Those were super cool.

It didn’t help that yeah, my first baby was 9 lbs., 15 oz., but I carried all three of my pregnancies completely up front, so I was all belly. Even my average 7-pounders looked like huge watermelons towards the end, so all those random size/due date prognosticators really had no idea what they were talking about. Yeah. My stomach is big. No, I’m not due yet. You wanna fight about it or something?

They view the pregnancy as this thing that is completely separate from YOU, the fully grown and developed human being

Honestly, I think you need to keep shutting people down the way you’ve been. Speak up when someone says something inappropriate. I don’t even think you need to go into the “my doctor is pleased with my weight gain” details.  That’s none of their business. (Like, even if you were struggling in that department, comments of the size of a pregnant woman’s body are NOT OKAY.)  Continue to use more pointed words and simple, declarative sentences: That’s rude. That’s inappropriate. I would appreciate if you would refrain from any and all comments about the size of my body. Thank you, mic drop, you out.

And I think that’s part of the weird disconnect that happens in people’s brains when they make these comments. They see the belly as the baby. Even though, you know, it’s actually still YOUR belly, your body.  They view the pregnancy as this thing that is completely separate from YOU, the fully grown and developed human being. And thus it becomes a thing they can discuss like it’s some sort of disembodied topic of wonder and assvice. (And then feel like they have the right to police and judge your pregnancy choices in general.)

But nope. The belly, the fetus, the pregnancy…it’s still all part of YOUR BODY, and you have every right to hold them to the same standards of speech and appropriateness as you did prior to pregnancy. They would (I HOPE) never comment on a coworker’s regular ol’ weight gain,  or discuss the size of someone’s boobs or butt.  Or openly make predictions about Frank from Accounting’s future hair loss.

If you have an HR department, by the way, you can totally go to them. Not to tattle or rat anybody out, but to suggest that MAYBE there are some folks in the office who need a general refresher on what’s appropriate to discuss in regards to physical aspects of their coworkers, pregnant or otherwise. This might honestly result in zero action (especially since it would be difficult for HR to address too super-directly without outing the sole pregnant team member), but getting it off your chest might help with those feelings of dread about what’s in store over the next 10 weeks. You could also start discussing work-from-home/telecommuting arrangements with your boss for the last weeks or month of your pregnancy — not early maternity leave, but just not having to schlep into the physical office and listen to comments about your physical state.

If going to HR seems too formal, you can enlist the help of a trusted female ally in your office — let her know how much these comments bug you and how pervasive they’re becoming. Even though my childbearing years are behind me, believe me, I would be more than happy to be your back-up in shutting down Frank from Accounting from ever mentioning how “big” you looked ever again. SHUT UP, FRANK.

But from the sounds of it, you’ve so far managed to be a solid, assertive advocate for yourself, and I applaud your backbone in shutting down the most egregious of the comments. (It must be twins! Wow, what an original joke that no pregnant woman has ever heard before! Yuk yuk.) (SHUT UP FRANK.) Remind yourself that for the MOST PART, people don’t mean to be hurtful or stress you out. The comments typically come from a place of cluelessness, rather than cruelty. But that doesn’t mean you have to put up with it. Call them out, tell them to knock it off. Best case, you’ll successfully educate someone on what’s appropriate to say to a pregnant woman. Worst case, they chalk it up to “pregnancy hormones making you act all crazy or something.”**

**Actual thing said to my face from a male coworker. Good times. And why I work from home now. 

Photo source: Depositphotos/Slphotography

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Myriam

    People are clueless… One will comment on how big you look, and the next day, someone will tell you you’re much too small and should see your doctor… I remember the babyshower game, when people need to guess the lenght of a string needed to mesure the belly… Do you know what I mean? Nobody’s right, no even the pregnant woman! So, people just don’t know. Depending on your relationship with the person, I’d either go with a short “that’s inappropriate” or a “yes I’ve noticed, I’ve tried a corset, but it’s really unconfortable” type of humour… Try to not let it get to you, pregnancy is only the one of the “community property” phases of life, good practices for all the assvice on babyfeeding, baby sleep, “gettig your body back”, introducing solids… If you’re confident, the comments will either go away, or at least fade into background noises. Good luck!

  • aw

    Yes to all, BUT- I can see a different perspective. People are feeling connected and engaged in your pregnancy. They want to be connected. It’s a new person you are creating after all. This is a good thing. You may swear these people are not your friends and have no bearing on your life other than work. That is a faulty sentiment. You will want them invested in yours and the baby’s life. There will be a day when you have to take too many days off to care for sick baby. You may leave your position and need a reference when you decide it is time to come back from baby raising. Very long term, some of the assvice givers may end up being college references for the little bundle. It’s kind of like MILs. They are coming from a place of shared interest and probably whole lot of not listening to themselves. From here on out there is going to be a lot of assvice. Some of it will be amazing and comforting. Most of it will be nonsense. Smile, tell them everything is fine and yes, it sucks being pregnant in the summer (that is a known fact here in Texas). Share the parts you are comfortable sharing. It takes a village.

    • Nicole

      I agree with this…YES, it’s super annoying to be the target of idle banter with coworkers about YOUR BODY. But usually they’re just trying to connect with you over something really exciting. Maybe adopt an aura of “aw, poor awkward human” for the more egregious offenders, and try to let it roll off? If you keep working, you want your coworkers to care how you’re doing and how the baby’s doing and to look the other way when you leave early or skip out on a meeting because you have to pump or whatever.

      Alternatively, time to start practicing your RBF, because I guarantee the comments don’t stop once the baby comes. Does he have a hat? Where are his socks? You’re breastfeeding/bottle-feeding? The horror! 🙂

  • RayJ

    When I was pregnant I had a coworker LITERALLY pinch my cheek and say, “You’re really filling out!” And what did I do? I said nothing (because I’m a wuss). My husband was ready to march into my workplace and tell my coworker off for me (because he’s not a wuss). I was also told that my child would grow up to hate me for having a birthday during holiday season. And the belly-touching/invasion of personal space? GAH….. Good for you for shutting down the haters! It takes grit.
    One thing I will say, all the negative comments helped me truly appreciate the people who were supportive of me during pregnancy. The ones who never commented on my size, who asked me how I was doing, who offered to help or hang out with me, and were understanding when I was tired/cranky/frustrated.

  • Ugh, I feel you. Just last week my FREAKING CEO commented that he “felt sorry for me” that I was about to have a baby. Granted, not a comment on my size, but weird, inappropriate, and not remotely a reasonable comment to make to a 35w pregnant woman. (I just stared at him until he changed the subject.)

  • So I have to admit to making these kinds of statements before I got pregnant and started reading message boards from women who hated hearing them (I’m sorry, to anybody I upset on accident!). It sounds like you’re interpreting their statements as opinions about your weight gain, and maybe they are (I don’t know these people!) but I know that when I see a pregnant woman and think, “She’s so big!” what that translates to is, “WOW! There is an ACTUAL HUMAN that will be joining the world soon! It’s not just a little weird fetus thing that doesn’t look like a person, but now it’s a real live baby and it’s going to be born before you know it! Yay, SO EXCITING!!” And during my own pregnancies, I’m sure the thing I said more than anything else was, “Look how HUGE I am!” because DANG. The whole process of growing a little person never ceases to blow my mind. So if you don’t like the comments or you think they really ARE coming from a mean place, then ABSOLUTELY tell people that you don’t like it. You have every right to do that. But before you explode in rage at someone, I just wanted to let you know that they MIGHT just be excited for you and your impending baby. So still feel free to shut them down, but just keep in mind that they might not be trying to be mean. (If you think they mean well, this would probably be the perfect scenario to enlist a work-friend to maybe quietly spread the word, “Hey, comments about how BIG she is come off like you’re criticizing her weight! Maybe you could just tell her how excited you for her, instead”).

    And hey, congrats on your pregnancy, and best of luck to you! 🙂

  • fcupcake

    I work from home, so mostly my pregnancy flew under most coworkers’ radar until I visited our headquarters in the second trimester. There were a lot of surprised co-workers, but most of the comments were pleasant. I got one “twins?” comment but it was in response to me saying that I felt bigger than most pregnant ladies in the second trimester, so I shrugged that off. It’s weird, either people will want to chat about it, or it will fly completely over their heads that I’m pregnant. Weird that the reaction is either “you’re so pregnant!” or completely obvious. I’m glad to be working from home without any more planned office visits (OB won’t sign off on any more flights) for the rest of the pregnancy.

    The weirdest/inappropriate comment was someone in the office asking “Was it planned?” Major WTF. I had just gotten married a few months ago, and I’m in my thirties. Of course it was planned! Not that you need to be a certain age, not that married folks always plan to have kids, not that unmarried or single women can’t plan to have kids, but when is this question ever OK?

  • No_P_In_My_Pail

    I had a huge belly for both of my pregnancies. People were so rude. My friend had the same issue and whenever someone said something rude she’d say “Are you trying to make a pregnant woman cry????” and they’d get it and STFU.

  • Diane

    Oh, I remember this phase well. It was all I could do not to strangle people who commented on my size/weight gain etc. Then I got to my last month and I did not care anymore. Yes, I am huge, I am in my 9th month of pregnancy-shouldn’t I be huge. My best memory is when I was on the elevator going down in our 40 story building and a co-worker got on the elevator. He worked on a different floor than I and I did not see him regularly. He looked at me, eyes wide, and said “oh my, when are you due?”. When I answered “yesterday” i almost fell on the floor laughing when he exited the elevator immediately. I should note that a) I was not in labour and b) he had children of his own!. What did he think- that i was going to deliver on the way down? Honestly, some people are not rational, and there is no reason for you to put up with their silliness. Stand up for yourself as you have been doing. You are doing just fine.

  • Worker Bee

    Gracious, I could have written this question with my last pregnancy. One lady said, every time I saw her, “you are just so BIG!” She said it with absolute astonishment. Another told me I was much bigger than her daughter who was due soon — I was nowhere close to being due yet. And the worst part was that they didn’t say your belly is big, they said you are big. When it kept up for a while, I tried to laughingly say “you can’t say things like that to people” but they were not deterred. Finally, I told them it wasn’t nice, while very obviously trying to hold back tears. I’m not sure if my obvious hurt stopped them or if my boss, who found me crying, stopped it, but it did stop. I think most people genuinely mean no harm, but for some reason pregnancy seems to make people forget their manners. It never hurts to remind them of those manners and common courtesy.