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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The Nerve!
Mrs. Ralphie is pregnant. I tell you this not to get your well wishes but to present an odd phenomenon: when it comes to pregnant women, people seem to forget, well, common decency.

We've all heard stories of people placing their hands on pregnant strangers' bellies. But my concern deals with the verbal.

Tonight we visited some friends. When we told them the news, the wife half of the couple said, "I thought so! I didn't want to say anything... but I thought, wow! You are really showing! When I hugged you I thought, Hey, what's that?"

Now let me tell you that my wife, just entering month 4, is not showing. But now of course she is convinced that she is, and I cannot seem to convince her otherwise. What was that woman thinking?

Hey, you say, pregnant women tend to grow larger than their normal sizes. That shouldn't be offensive to mention. Fine. But what about this:

"Was this a surprise?"

What makes someone, anyone, think it's okay to ask this question? Is it not the same question as, "Is your unborn child an accident?" "Did your preferred method of birth control fail you?" "Were you aware that sexual intercourse can lead to insemination?"

And, frankly, it ain't too far from:

"Aren't you a little old to be having more children?" and "Isn't it slightly uncouth to have more than two children?"

I know this blog doesn't have the largest readership in the 'sphere, but can somebody please spread the word that this kind of this is not OK? Much obliged.
Be glad you didn't have the opposite problem!

When we first got married we lived in a religious section of Brooklyn and almost immediately my wife started getting the "Nu, so what are you waiting for..." kinda questions from the old biddies. Her standard response before walking away from these idiots was: "There are only two reasons why a couple might not be starting a family: Either they don't want kids right that away or they can't have them. Now with those two things firmly in mind, can you think of a scenario where your question could have been even remotely considered appropriate?"
B'shaah tovah to her.

Questions and comments range from true concern to moronic, 'tis true. Even after a baby is born!

At my youngest son's bris: "Pearl, you look like you're having another one!" (thank you very much; the 34 lbs I put on during my pregnancy did not fall off last week when the baby was delivered!)

Two weeks after child #1: "So...are you gonna have another one?" (Dammit, let me enjoy this one, and come back and we'll talk in a couple of years, okay?)

People just love to be inappropriate, don't they? Like when finding out you're expecting again, "Can you AFFORD to have another?"
b&c told me last week and I forgot to congratulate you when we spoke on the phone.


People are bozos. Men should know that no comment about a woman's body can lead to anything but trouble. And if men know that, you'd think women would know that.
I remember when my mother was pregnant with my little sister. She was 40 and my dad was 51. People kept saying to them:

How did THAT happen?!

Personally, I would rather not think about it, but what kind of a moron do you have to be to ask THAT question?
Ralphie: Well mazel tov to you and Mrs. Ralphie anyway. As a man I NEVER NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant.

I had a woman who was obviously pregnant apply for a job in the lab I was managing. I knew that a pregnant woman would not be allowed to work in a lab with chemicals. But you cannot ask these kinds of questions in an interview - for legal reasons.

Eventually I asked her if she had any other comments or questions and she said she was pregnant. (I acted surprized.) Bottom line was HER doctor would not allow her to work in our lab.

Ralphie: Do you know what you are having? (This has become an acceptable question.)
Something strange happened. You need to know that the comment from anonymous was actually from Lord Emsworth.
ME, I'm particularly fond of 'you two are dark haired and your kids are all blond. Whose are they really?" And then there's the couple that MUST SHOW YOU the PICTURES OF THE DELIVERY. "Oh, here's he's crowning, isn't it great? " NO! and I NEVER WANTED TO SEE YOU NAKED, let alone with a HAIRY PROTRUBERANCE THE SIZE OF A TENNIS BALL IN YOUR HOO-HAH.
In this era of sperm donors, surrogacy and infertility, the best response is always just "congratulations." After birth, the best thing to say is "isn't she/he beautiful." There is always something to say even if you suspect the kid is not genetically related to the parent. Try "what beautiful hair!" Not, "where did you get a blond kid?" I found that people rarely said anything to me when I was pregnant or after. Perhaps that is because, when pregnant I perpetually looked pissed off. Tell the misses to look like she's just about to bite someone's head off and strangers will leave her alone.
Mazel tov!
Both of my parents are blue-eyed but my sister has brown eyes.

We adopted a son after eleven years of marriage and then we had a daughter two years after that and another one two years after that - both girls very high tech gold-plated babies.

Baruch Hashem for all my kids, who are now in their teens and wonderful kids when they are not driving me and each other crazy.

Anyway in all the infertility years I heard plenty of crazy comments. And crazy questions. "Why.....?" "Stress is the problem, take a vacation." "You need to get your mind off it, work more hours." "Have you seen a doctor?" Duh.

Asked of my husband: "Where did you get a hetter for birth control?" Moron, why would you think frum people with no kids would use birth control for years?

The best was from the sweet young wife who said she "had the same problem" but could tell me how to solve it. Turned out she and her husband had, um, not figured out how to consummate their marriage right away -- turns out failure to consummate causes infertility -- who knew?

Re what to say to an ugly baby, my friend says, "Wow! That's some baby!" But I think it's safe to apply the Talmud's rule about brides to babies: Talmud says every bride is beautiful so it is never a lie to say "the bride is beautiful" It's never a lie to say the baby is beautiful, either.

And anyone who tells a pregnant lady or a new mom that SHE looks beautiful is telling the truth too.

Besa'ah tova, Ralphie. Your wife looks beautiful.
(hetter = a lenient ruling from a Rabbi)
Toby: I thought the one about frun couples not knowing how to consummate their marriages was a urban legend! Wow!

You know, it took me a loooong time to figure out that the couples in my shul who weren't pregnant weren't using birth control. What finally clued me in was that for many of them, after years of "using birth control," they suddenly had twins. However, you can be that ignorant when you're 20, but not when your 35. Anyone over that age who asked questions like that should be shot.
Trep: Exactly.

Pearl: My mother-in-law asked when we were going to have a second when. When the first was still forming organs inside the womb.

Lord Em: We're having a Jew.

Og: I know! Just because my wife and I are white and my children are black people think I had nothing to do with them!

All: thanks for the well wishes.
Ball-and-Chain: you wrote "it took me a loooong time to figure out that the couples in my shul who weren't pregnant weren't using birth control."

I guess I owe an apology to the guy who asked where we got a hetter to use birth control. I thought he was being holier-than-thou (and stupid)-- or that he was envious and wanted to know where he could get the same hetter -- but maybe he was just asking an honest question.
Toby: For people (like me) who wern't raised that religious, you forget about some of the implications of being frum. If the guy was raised religious, though, he shoulda known better.

The opposite can be just as bad. In the frum world, if you're married a few years with no kids, you start to get knowing, sympathetic looks from others. Or so I'm told.
Had a new winner, I think, yesterday:

Relative (to my wife, who has not yet had her amnio): So-and-so had to have an abortion because a problem came up on her amnio.

My wife: (speechless - has not slept since)
By the way - my wife never reads this (or any other) blog. I sat her down this morning to read this post and its comments. About 3/4 of the way down she got up and projectile vomited in the sink.

Does this say anything about the blog?
No but you better wash the sink out with bleach before you invite us over for lunch.
first of all b'shaah tova!

I've got a nice line to share Ralphie...

My son is 20 weeks old now, and after 9 long months I finally give birth to our beautiful son. On his 8th day of life we have the bris at our home, exhausted I was, slept no more than 6 hours that entire first week, but surviving because I am experiencing the greatest joy of my life. The day of the bris I actually pull myself together (somewhat), I washed my hair, even used some product and dug out the makeup bag from the back of the bathroom closet. I put on a new (elastic waist!) skirt and felt wonderful, this day I will share my son with with dear family and friends, this great love of ours. It's the time in life I'd assume women get a little slack on appearance, it's alright to have the dimply thighs, engorged breasts, circles under the eyes and loose belly. Right? well, I guess I assumed wrong...

So, Thanksgiving comes along and I'm reunited again with family and here it goes...

"Oh, Mrs. Wanderer, you've lost a lot of weight, your chest is much smaller now, they were so big at the bris"

.....gulp.... say what? ....

Hmmmm, I wonder what ever happened to 'You look great!'

Sorry about the nausea - sucking lemons and sherbet worked for me!
I forgot to mention one of the stupid comments I was going to write. It was at a gathering of women at someone's house on a Shabbos afternoon not long after we adopted our son. They were all sharing war stories -- painful and disgusting labor stories I mean (sorry Mrs. Ralphie, please don't get sick!) -- and I was holding my baby and one of the ladies looked at me and said, "You did it the easy way!"

After eleven years of tests and treatments and yada yada, it didn't seem so easy to me. I embarrassed myself by bursting into tears. (Odd side note: you get post-partum depression after adopting a baby too -- maybe has to do with sleep deprivation? Or just all those roller coaster emotions? "He's so cute!" "Yeah but someone has to clean up the poop!")

Anyway to this very day it seems like a major miracle to me that someone can go to bed not pregnant and wake up the next morning pregnant, humming happily to herself like Scarlett O'Hara the morning after Rhett carried her up the stairs that night. Even when I was sick and felt awful (pregnant with my high tech babies) I was so excited to be pregnant I could never get over the thrill of it. Try to enjoy it Mrs. Ralphie, hope you feel better soon. (Pizza and ginger ale worked well for me.)
Toby: That is so sad. I despise being pregnant and labor and delivery sucks, so I have often had the thought that adoption is the easier way, but I wouldn't ever say that out loud!! To an adoptive parent, no less! People are strange.
That reminds me... it seems that one kind of question is never off-limits post-partum - any kind of question about labor & delivery. All the gorey details. Mrs. R both answers and asks with relish.

(And I am always happy to warn first-time expectant fathers that it ain't pretty.)
Congratulations, Ralphie! Pardon my lateness to the thread.
Fathers should not look, it ruins romance. (It is also halachically not OK to look) Father should stay near Mother's head and be very very very sweet, that's his job for the duration and his only excuse for being there. [Given how useless the average dad really is under the circumstances.] Mysteries should only be demystified if you are an ob-gyn.
Here were my instructions at the birth of our first (given during a painful moment): Don't touch me. Don't talk to me. Don't even look at me.
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