“Are you pregnant?” Many moons ago, I blurted those inappropriate words to a colleague as she washed her hands in the office bathroom. As I glanced at her reflection in the mirror, I noticed a tiny bump, and without thinking, I asked if she were pregnant. She smiled and said yes, pleased that I could tell. I congratulated her warmly. She beamed.
I was lucky. The situation turned out well, but it could have easily turned ugly. What if she didn’t want to talk about it? What if she hadn’t planned to keep the baby? What if she had just put on a few pounds?
You get the point. Wait for your colleague to announce her pregnancy or to tell you personally that she is pregnant before you congratulate her. Ignoring her belly may feel a bit awkward, but what may appear to be a baby bump may not be a baby at all. Spare yourself and your colleague an embarrassing “What baby?” moment. Once your colleague has confirmed that she is pregnant, listening more than talking, and following a few simple guidelines should help you avoid offending her and embarrassing yourself.
First and foremost, don’t offer advice. Your colleague doesn’t need pregnancy counseling from her coworkers. Even when given with the best of intentions, such advice is often seen as rude and intrusive.
Secondly, it may take a village to raise a child, but why or how it gets here is none of your business. It is wildly inappropriate to inquire about the number of children a woman plans to have or to ask questions about how the child was conceived. We hear celebrities talk so much about their in-vitro procedures and surrogates that it is beginning to feel appropriate to discuss these matters in professional environments. It isn’t.
Also, keep in mind that many expectant mothers experience anxiety about the birthing process, so please don’t add to your colleague’s worries by sharing scary stories. It may be topical, but this is not the time to reveal that your mother was in hard labor with you for 28 hours and has walked with a limp ever since.
Finally, I hope that most of us already know that it is verboten to comment on a pregnant woman’s weight – no matter how good you think she looks!
Watch as Hugh Grant unsuccessfully navigates a “What baby?” moment in a scene from the movie Two Weeks Notice.
By Stayce Wagner, Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC/All rights reserved