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To Ask or Not to Ask? Awkward Mom Questions

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Thank goodness Halloween is over. My problem with Halloween isn’t how I eat a whole bag of Costco candy before I go trick or treating with my kids but that I can’t always tell who is wearing a costume!

Seriously, someone is wearing something a little too short, a little too tight, a little too colorful, and you think, “Is that a costume or do they just have an odd fashion sense?”  One thing you can’t do around Halloween is say to someone while out and about, “Nice costume!”  What if it’s not a costume!? I was walking downtown a few weekends before Halloween and I swear I couldn’t always tell! Of course, that better be a costume if you’re knocking on my door asking for candy.

It got me thinking though. What are some other questions to avoid shouting out? How about, “Is that your grandbaby?”  Really, in this day and age, of infertility treatments and delayed childbearing, you just can’t assume if someone is Mom or Grandma.  Unless there is incontrovertible evidence, like a walker, that someone is a grandma, you cannot assume!  Even with a walker, you just don’t know. What if someone has a muscular disorder?  A few wrinkles and some gray hair isn’t enough to know for sure, not enough at all.  Always assume first generation.  That error, should it occur, is always forgiven (and most often appreciated).

Also, I hope you all know by now to never ask someone if they are pregnant. That’s the big one.  Unless you are actually witnessing the birth, you shouldn’t even think about asking.  I’ve been asked if I was pregnant when I wasn’t and I tried to play it off, but it was a sad moment.

As an OB/GYN, I can often tell when people are pregnant pretty early. There are secret signs we learn about in residency that I can’t tell in this public blog.  We are talking deeply held secrets here but I can’t tell them.
But even knowing the secret signs, I would never say anything to the expectant mom.  One of our staff members was almost eight months pregnant, but I didn’t say a word until she said something to me.  Maybe she thought I didn’t care, but I’d rather make that mistake than the opposite. That can scar someone for life.  Or at least turn them into an obsessive runner.

And while we’re on the topic of pregnant women, if you don’t know the woman, don’t touch her pregnant belly.  Even if you do know her, hands off.  If you are a male stranger, definitely and I stress definitely, don’t take that liberty.  A pregnant woman does not put her belly out there on purpose as an invitation.  It’s just there. Leave it alone.  Apparently, it is now illegal to touch a baby bump in Pennsylvania. That seems right.

Now that I’m on a roll here, don’t touch a stranger’s baby either!  New moms, especially first-timers, are paranoid as well they should be.  We all have dirty hands, there are a lot of bad germs out there, and do you know what babies do with their hands?  They put them in their mouths.  So just resist the urge and don’t touch the baby.

At the end of the day, mistakes happen but try and remember that some questions aren’t meant to be asked. And if you feel like touching the oven, just remember that you might get burned or in Pennsylvania’s case, thrown in the slammer.

Guest blogger Joyce Gottesfeld, MD has been an Obstetrician/Gynecologist with Kaiser Permanente Colorado for the past 17 years. She’s a mother of three young daughters, ages 15, 12 and 8 and married to Marshall Gottesfeld, also an OBGYN in Denver. To read more of her blog check out Kaiser also recently introduced a new weekly podcast series of which Dr. Joyce is apart. They are are free and available through mobile devices and personal computers at Kaiser Permanente’s recently launched website, TotalHealthRadio, and will soon be available on podcast-distribution platforms such as iTunes and Stitcher.

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  • comment avatar Lauren November 7, 2013

    I would like to add one: When you know someone is a student, don’t guess what year he/she is. Just ask, “What year are you?” instead of “Are you a freshman? (insulting the highschool senior)” I remember thinking that a lot when I was in school!

  • comment avatar Laura R. November 7, 2013

    How do you politely ask people NOT to touch your baby, or politely offer antibacterial soap BEFORE they touch your baby?

  • comment avatar Christina November 7, 2013

    This is great! I love it!

  • comment avatar Tienaa November 10, 2013

    Very funny!!

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