TIME Parenting

9 and a Half Things You Should Never Say to a Pregnant Woman (And 1 You Should)

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Claire Howorth is the books editor at Time.

1. Do not say “Wow, you must have twins in there!” or “Did you swallow a basketball?” or “I don’t see any evidence!” In fact, do not comment on size, period. (Ever. Gestational status notwithstanding.) Some of us aren’t comfortable with how big we’ve gotten, and others aren’t comfortable with how small we are. “You look lovely!” will do just fine, thanks.

2. Do not, unsolicited, regale a first-time mom with stories of an episiotomy that left you permanently incontinent, or how you know someone whose epidural didn’t work so labor was more like writhing-silently-in-pain, make-your-best-Edvard-Munch-face twilight sleep from 1950s horror-flick lore. (If she wants to pursue anecdotal gore — and many of us do and will — let me her initiate that indelicate conversation.)

3. Refrain from telling her you think everything pregnancy- or childbirth-related is gross (even though it most certainly is). After your mom gained a gajillion pounds and sprouted stretch marks like a Holocene estuary, you arrived in a magical cocktail of bodily fluids, just FYI. The gross circle of gross life.

4. Do not touch the bump unbidden. If you want to feel the baby move, ask first. She will be delighted to place your hand exactly where you can best sense budding life — though fetuses aren’t really into command performances — or she’ll say “That makes me a little uncomfortable, sorry.” Either way, she will be so grateful you had the courtesy to ask, and you’ll feel like a gem for having done so.

5. Do not complain about how your partner’s pregnancy left you celibate. Some pregnant mothers supposedly go full-on Wilt Chamberlain; sorry you didn’t make it to the championships. But that’s beside the point — we don’t want to know about your sex life; we just feel bad for your partner that you’re whining about it publicly. Think of this as pregnancy’s little “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. (Unless we ask. Then by all means, please tell!)

6. Do not say, “So great you are having [your baby daddy’s] baby.” She is not pregnant with a dude’s baby; she is pregnant with their baby, or maybe she’s just pregnant with her own baby. I disagree with Mila Kunis about the “We’re pregnant” thing — I’m happy to share mine with my husband — but I’m not a vessel for his progeny. This little person is ours.

7. Do not follow up “Congratulations!” with “You’ll never sleep again!” Got that, Mr. Quentin Q. Qualifier? Let the exciting news go unchecked… For now.

8. Speaking of, leave the gender-value judgments to Congress. “Girls are such a handful,” or “Boys are kind of disgusting, and they fidget with their penises constantly,” are things we will be happy to discover on our own. Most of us are happy with whatever genitalia we reap, and we can’t really control which one that is.

9. Do not tell other people, unless you’re absolutely sure the parents-to-be are fully out of the closet (which you will know if you ask them), but especially if they have said something along the lines of, “We are only telling a few close friends and family for now.” They may be worried about miscarriage, but with modern medicine’s borderline-TMI abilities, prenatal testing can last well into the second trimester, and a fetus isn’t viable until about six months. If the mom and dad find out something has gone tragically wrong, a flourishing grapevine will make a painful, private decision that much more difficult. On a lighter note, they want to be able to share good news themselves.

9.5. Unless they have explicitly given you permission to post to social media, do not Facebook/Instagram/tweet/tumbl/myspace/Friendster/reddit/CERN their news, even if you think they are out of the closet offline. **GARBAGE TRUCK-IN-REVERSE NOISE** if you hear about their good news via a third party and feel the urge to post “Sally Jane Jenkins told Second Cousin Mark who told Steve the Acupuncturist who told me about the baby! Congratulations!” on a Facebook wall, or any other public place that is otherwise devoid of prenatal references. DO NOT DO THAT.

On the do side of things, it’s much simpler…

1. Hey, sweet Aunt and Uncle Now-Well-Informed, do share and enjoy your friend’s happiness! Celebrate, congratulate, be merry, and get excited to hold that delicate little nugget when he or she arrives! We can’t wait to have a huuuuuuge martini with you very soon.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME sexuality

Butt Out! In Defense of Hot Moms

Kim Kardashian Paper Magazine
Jean-Paul Goude—Paper

Claire Howorth is the books editor at Time.

We Americans like our Moms and Wives a certain way—and only that way

I’m about to be a mom. And I love Kim Kardashian’s butt. Would that it were mine, well, it would be on the cover of Paper instead of sitting here writing in defense of hers. (Kim, I hope you’d do the same for me.) Would I pose glistening and naked? No. But do I think as a wife and mother Kim is beholden to some absurd notion of postnatal propriety, as some Glee cast members and other folks with wag-happy fingers seem to? No. In fact, I wish there were apron strings hanging down each cheek in that first photo—it’d be all the more winking an image. If you’re going to chastise a mother for indecency, why not get a head start and say women in general should never pose naked? Most of them will be moms one day. It’s as if, in the words of a foolish paragon of archaic decorum, “We can have a good time, but we cannot be wild.”

We Americans like our moms and wives a certain way, for the most part. We like them in minivans and on the sidelines—spread the Jif, not the legs. Just look at our advertisements (which have come a long way, even in my adulthood). There’s the Cadillac mom, so chic, so pulled together, so … fully dressed. There’s the series of LG Appliance ads—humorously written, but nevertheless relegating moms to the kitchen, the laundry room, the home front.

This is not to say we don’t want them to be attractive. No, we want that. We want postpartum bikini bodies and the jogging skirts that maintain them—marionettes on puppet strings, in G-strings, if you believe DirecTV. We fetishize famous moms throughout and after the gestational period—from bump watch to bounce back, and the faster the better. (Remember how hideously we treated Kim when she was pregnant?) We are okay with—enthusiastic about?—the classic Mom I’d Like to [This Bleeping Acronym Is Not Allowed Here], but even she must carry a few wholesome attributes: unconditional love, a sense of devotion, some bosomy, lipsticked comfort atop the five-inch heels.

How do we not like our moms and wives?

We do not like them dancing dirty.

We do not like them acting flirty.

We do not like them being lewd.

We do not like them in the nude.

We don’t want moms to be naked-naked, nipples that recently breastfed a baby reverted to something perverted (we have enough problems with nutritionally exposed breasts as it is). Surely a mo-om (say it in your best multi-syllabic teenage voice) should not be getting a bikini wax. Or perching a crystal coupe on her behind while an arc of bubbly squirts suggestively over her head. It’s part of the overall “mommy problem” that the writer Heather Havrilesky nailed just days B.B.I. (Before Broken Internet)—”You might feel like the same person deep inside, but what the world apparently sees is a woman lugging around a giant umbilical cord.”

So in a few weeks, do I officially enter some sort of Sisterhood of the Sexless, whereby we stop celebrating the very thing that made us mothers in the first place? Grab the twinset and pop the chardonnay! For whatever else you can say about her, at least Kim is putting forth—very, very forth—the person she always has been, before baby and now beyond.

What about when North grows up? Will she be embarrassed? Well, there are many other problems in the family tree of more serious psychological concern than Mama’s wanton nudity. As far as Kim’s body parts go for the rest of us, we’ve seen it all before, on ourselves and on her. If she wants to strip down in a puddle of sequins, baby oil and champagne, great. I’ll take a judgment-free gander. Maybe some moms will feel sexually reinvigorated or newly liberated by Kim. For anyone who prefers not to see all of Kim, make like a breastfeeding scold and look the other way.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Books

Harvest Boon: 7 Great Fall Books

A month of reaping great reads

  • Fragrant: The Secret Life Of Scent

    by Mandy Aftel

    A perfumer by profession, Aftel offers a combination history-slash-recipe book-slash-meditation in Fragrant. Instructions for homemade “Coca-Cola” and flower-infused chocolate, among other aromatic concoctions, are woven through scent-based sections: Cinnamon, Mint, Frankincense, Ambergris and Jasmine.

  • Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography

    by Neil Patrick Harris

    Life is anything but linear in Harris’ whimsical take on the celebrity memoir. Written in the second person, the book uses a hopscotching format that invites the reader to jump around the text (“To kill someone, turn to page 165″). “You” are Harris, careering through a highlight reel of your past, from childhood to Doogie Howser to the arrival of your own kids via surrogate, with contributions from celebrity pals.

  • Lila: A Novel

    by Marilynne Robinson

    Robinson completes a trilogy of Midwestern novels that began with Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005, and which she followed with Home in 2008. Where Gilead told the story of John Ames, an Iowa preacher–and Home concurrently recounted that of his best friend–Lila brings us the tale of Ames’ much younger wife, who struggles from a hardscrabble youth to a quiet Christian life and eventual hard-won contentment with Ames.

  • The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms The Way We Think, Feel, And Buy

    by Joel Beckerman with Tyler Gray

    Beckerman, a composer who specializes in “sonic branding” (he created AT&T’s four-note tune), combines experience and science to explain how we process sound. Using familiar examples from the sizzle of a Chili’s fajita to Apple’s soothing boot-up tone, The Sonic Boom will alter how you hear the world.

     

  • De Niro: A Life

    by Shawn Levy

    Levy, the biographer of his share of Hollywood heavyweights (Rat Pack Confidential; Paul Newman: A Life), takes on the iconic but deeply private actor in nearly 600 pages. Levy paints a detailed portrait of De Niro’s career and life, from his early days working with Martin Scorsese to the serious family matter, a son’s bipolar disorder, that drew him to his role in Silver Linings Playbook.

  • Breaking In: The Rise Of Sonia Sotomayor And The Politics Of Justice

    by Joan Biskupic

    A veteran Supreme Court reporter charts Sotomayor’s evolution from a poor Puerto Rican girl living in the Bronx to the first Latina Justice on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor’s sense of ethnic identity, Biskupic argues, may be as important a legacy as the Justice’s legal contributions.

  • Glass Jaw: A Manifesto For Defending Fragile Reputations In An Age Of Instant Scandal

    by Eric Dezenhall

    In this primer on modern scandal, Dezenhall, a crisis PR manager, explores reputational disaster in the social-media age. The author uses his expertise to examine high-profile fiascoes (Paula Deen, Tiger Woods, the Susan G. Komen Foundation–Planned Parenthood fight) and how they might have been avoided. There is, he posits, such a thing as bad publicity.

TIME politics

A Zagat Guide to ‘Hard Choices’—According to Amazon Reviewers

Hillary Clinton's new book already has as many reviews as the hottest restaurant—so why not harness the "wisdom" of the online bookseller's crowd?

On its first day out, Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices hit #2 on Amazon’s bestseller list (sorry, Hillary—John Green trumps Tom Cruise, too), and is picking up around 12 user reviews per hour. Whether or not the reviews are based on actual digested information, well, you be the critic…

Hard Choices

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

Political memoir | Ubiquitous

Prose: 25 | Poesy: 17 | Candidness: 12 | Cost: $35.00 $21.00

This “well-written stage setter” of an “engaging memoir” comes across as “election propaganda” “designed not so much to enlighten as to persuade” to some; others think it could give The Manchurian Candidate some competition “in the fiction section.” Clinton’s “resume is quite impressive” stands among the fainter praise, though another reader “had to stop myself from vomiting”—perhaps there is some political salmonella in the “low-salt, low-fat, low-calorie offering with vanilla pudding as the dessert.” Or maybe that was from someone else “just here to troll the Democrats.” For anyone “hoping for something more,” um, duh, get the net—“Hello, people, she can’t reveal too much until AFTER her presidency.” (I mean, really, “It’s a memoir—did they expect her to paint herself in a negative light?”) Several reviewers were skeptical of peer ethics: “Unless you’re really fast readers, I doubt that you finished reading the book, let alone bought it.” To read or not to read, ain’t that the question? “Under no circumstances would I ever read this book even if Hillary paid me a million $$… I am serious!” (And we will bet another million “$$” you’re not serious.) Nevermind all the Benghazi brouhaha, though; Hillary failed to answer that other all-important question: “I was really hoping to find out who killed Vincent Foster.”

Claire Howorth is an editor at Time and a writer for other publications

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