I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point I became invisible to the general public. Maybe it was when I got married, or maybe it was when I turned 30, but regardless, I stopped getting attention from strangers like I did in my early 20’s. For me it was great. I had been quite happy with this state, being someone that doesn’t enjoy extra attention or the focus to be on me. But this silent existence came crashing to an end as soon as my pregnancy became noticeable to strangers.
The thing is, people either love or hate a pregnant woman. Yes, without knowing the actual woman at all. As a pregnant person you are either bravely carrying the future generation or you are a nuisance to the world for simply existing.
Let me start with the positive people. People you don’t know will be SO excited for you. Which is mostly really sweet. The state of our world is one where we pass other human beings without acknowledging them, and that is sad to me. I’m not expecting to be friends with everyone, but a nod, smile, or hello are basic decency. I digress. When you are pregnant people will actually talk to you. This is a blessing and a curse. It is healthy to have human interaction, even with people we don’t know personally. But let me tell you, every conversation will be exactly the same. And it gets a little old.
Every single time the person will engage you with a comment on your bump. Sometimes in a nice, sweet way and other times in a rather rude or degrading way. This comment will be followed by asking when you’re due. Once this question is satisfied, they will ask if you know the sex of the baby. Following that is an opinion on said sex. The next question is inevitably if you have picked out a name and what it is.
If you’ve made it through all of those questions without somehow offending the character of the other person (yes, you will offend a lot of people… somehow), they will then launch into tales of either their pregnancy or their children. If you have, in fact, managed to offend them to their core, it will often begin a diatribe of how this generation does things so differently, and their opinions on such things. Either way your quick trip to the store will take much longer than it used to.
Lots of these interactions go fine. If you’re willing to share, people are happy. The more you share, the happier. And the more you listen to their story in return, the happier-ier.
And then… then there are the people that don’t like pregnant women. Most are not bold enough to actually engage you, thankfully. But you will see them and you will hear them. Usually it is an exaggerated eye roll (yes, by simply walking into the grocery store you have warranted an eye roll) or a full body scan followed by a “harrumph” or the like. Other times you will hear people comment to themselves about your state. And it usually isn’t nice. Or, like today, someone will come around a corner to see you and almost involuntarily let out an, “Oh god!” while looking more than disgusted.
I try not to take these interactions (or lack thereof) personally. Obviously I have not done anything to offend this person. Something or someone in their life has brought them to the conclusion that carrying on the human race is something to be condemned. Hey, we’re over populated, I get it. You do you. But maybe do it more quietly, so that I can do me.
Interestingly, this type of polar reaction is not a new one for me. When meeting people and going through the pleasantries of what I do for work I tend to get two responses. As soon as the words “marriage and family therapist” leave my mouth one of the following situations follows:
My response is met by a gush of emotion and a complete opening up of this other person’s life story. Or…
They become wary of me. Their eyes widen with the unspoken question: “are you judging me?” or “she must be analyzing my every word/move.” For the record, I’m not. I’m just trying to enjoy this wedding, BBQ, birthday like everyone else. You can chill.
This phenomenon is so prevalent I have spoken with other therapists who will actually tell people fake careers. Not every person of course, but those they meet on an airplane or other situation in which a false identity would be safe. I can’t bring myself to do this, at least not yet… give me another 20 years.
In my current state I have a double whammy of biased opinions coming my way. But my obvious physical state won’t last forever. I look forward to the day that I can slip back into boring anonymity when out and about. Then all I’ll have to worry about is which fake career I will pursue so I can exist in peace.