Care and Feeding

I’m Pregnant, and People Keep Asking Me How Dilated I Am

I don’t really care to talk about the state of my cervix! How can I get the intrusive questions to stop?

A row of pregnant bellies.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My friend and I are both pregnant, and we need your help with a good comeback line. As we all know, pregnant women’s bodies always seem up for grabs in conversation, and no matter how rude we seem to agree this is, for whatever reason it doesn’t stop people from commenting. When it gets close to time to have the actual child, the conversation seems to always get super intrusive: “Are you dilated? How dilated are you?” We think it’s bizarre and rude that people think that just because we are carrying babies, it’s socially acceptable to inquire about how open or closed our CERVIXES are. We are not cattle! What is a good comeback we can use when people ask this question to let them know 1) how rude this line of questioning is and 2) that women’s bodies are not up for discussion just because we are pregnant!

—None of Your Business

Dear NoYB,

Coolly offer that “the state of my cervix is a personal matter between my doctor and me” and that you’ll happily announce your child’s birth when the time has come to do so. Politely remind friends and family that pregnancy is an incredibly challenging experience and that you’ve chosen to keep certain intimate details private—as they should be—in order not to increase your stress levels. Take this approach to any and all intrusive questions before and after the birth of your child. Let folks know that you’re glad to share as you see fit, but that more personal aspects of this experience are shared on a need-to-know basis. If you need to lay on the guilt to sell your point, add “I’m sorry, I just get a bit anxious talking about some of these things and would rather just have those conversations with my doctor and my partner (if applicable).” Wishing both of you a happy, smooth, and safe delivery!

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Dear Care and Feeding,

As regions and states begin to open back up, do you have advice about sending kids back to day care, school, or summer camp? We are in a fortunate position in a lot of ways: There are two of us parents in the house, we’re partnering well, and we can both still work from home at our full-time jobs. But taking care of a 6-year-old and a 1-year-old at the same time is stretching us thin. We’re trading off half-days of work time and child care time, squeezing in work in the evenings, and generally stretching ourselves way too thin. I don’t know how long we can do this without big impacts on our work, our parenting, or our sanity.

Our region has done pretty well at flattening the curve, and it looks like child care (although not schools) may open next week. Sending the 1-year-old back to the child care center and teachers he loves would thrill him and make our day-to-day home life so much easier. The center is a great place, and I know they’ll do everything they can to comply with the latest guidelines. But, at the same time, we’ve seen those graphs of the second wave of the 1918–19 pandemic, and no matter how careful we remain at everything else, this will break social distancing for our family. And then next month, the same question arises for the 6-year-old, if summer camps are allowed to open.

We can keep going the way we are. It’s just really, really hard. What kinds of data or clues would you look at to make this kind of decision? And, if you decided to send your kids off, what would you be looking for as a sign that it’s time to keep them at home again?

—Summer in Doubt

Dear SiD,

Just yesterday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, arguably the most visible and trustworthy member of the president’s coronavirus task force, told Congress that we may face “serious” consequences if states open up too soon, and that it was highly unlikely that we’d have a vaccine or widely available treatment options before schools would typically reopen in the fall. Unfortunately, there are politicians and constituents who are operating without regard to expert insight, and there have and will likely continue to be institutions and places that open sooner than it is safe to do so.

Personally speaking, even if camps and schools were to open up in my state this summer (I live in California, where that is highly unlikely), I would not allow my child to go just yet. In addition to Fauci’s guidance, I remain concerned there is a lot that remains unknown about the virus that could make a return to group activity unsafe; furthermore, in my casual observation, there are way too many folks in my area who are failing to effectively practice social distancing habits. I do not foresee feeling confident to send my child out into the world in such a way for at least a few more months.

I am certainly empathetic to your situation and that of all parents who are struggling to work from home while keeping kids occupied—it has been, in many ways, a nightmare for me that has put my economic stability in great flux. However, there will be an entirely different, potentially tragic, set of circumstances to contend with if the coronavirus were to strike your camp or school of choice. There are two of you, and while that doesn’t make this an easy task, try and think of the many parents who are left to take care of children alone either during a partner’s working hours or for the entirety of their time indoors during this crisis.

The “big impacts” to your work, parenting, and sanity that you fear are basically inevitable—they’ve already begun, if we’re being honest. Alas, making it through this difficult time alive and as healthy as possible should be our collective primary goal right now. Continue to make adjustments to your schedules and routines and explore new ways of operating that may make this period easier to endure, but please continue to try and leave child care up to the two of you as long as you possibly can. Wait until the best knowers among us have established that it is safe to begin moving toward our old “normal” way of life. Best of luck to you and to all of us.

• If you missed Tuesday’s Care and Feeding column, read it here.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 5-month-old baby girl is great! She loves to eat, and she loves to sleep—you can’t ask for more than that!

My problem is that other new parents will always ask about said eating and sleeping, looking to commiserate because they’re having problems … and I’ve just got nothing. I’ve worked on making my answers sympathetic and commiserating without really explicitly talking about my baby. Still, very often they ask direct and demanding questions like “How much did she sleep last night?” (usually four to seven hours) and “Did you deal with enormous pain and scabbing when you first started breastfeeding?” (nope). Then, when I’m honest with my responses and try to play it off with a comment about how we know how lucky we are and a joke that we’ll probably pay for it when she’s a teen, I’ve gotten genuine, angry responses that quickly devolve into the questioner going into a parental guilt negative spiral. It’s happened enough now that I’ve started feeling awful about it, and I’ve realized I’m trying to avoid friendships with other new parents, just because this sort of conversation feels inevitable.

How can I better deal with this? Is avoiding this type of friendship the answer? The absolute last thing I want to do is make other parents feel guilty, so should I refuse to answer if they ask such direct and negative questions? But how do you do that gracefully?

—Smooth Sailing

Dear SS,

It’s always tricky dealing with someone who needs to commiserate about XYZ when XYZ hasn’t given you the same level of trouble, and few people seem to be as triggered when this happens as parents who’ve come across someone having an easier experience with newborns than they are having. While the “I’m having an easy time now, but she’ll probably give me a rough ride later” approach seems fair and reasonable, folks who are truly struggling with a fussy, perpetually awake baby don’t seem to be moved by it at all.

Surely there is something that has caused you some grief or stress about new parenthood—perhaps the loss of certain activities or a particular sensitivity to the smell of a dirty diaper? Lean into it and complain as if it’s a more challenging matter than it actually is. Or just be dishonest and pretend that you’ve had some of the same experiences that these parents want to gripe about. Why? Because misery loves company, and that’s all these friends want from you right now. It’s worth the “moral” complications to just make them feel better. Don’t go overboard and start telling tall tales; instead, try an “Oh, yes, isn’t that the worst? Ugh, so bad” approach where you simply affirm what they are experiencing and focus on being a listening ear.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I’m in my late 30s, and I don’t want children. I’ve never outright discussed this with my parents, but I think they pretty much realize they aren’t getting grandchildren. They don’t say anything to me about it, but I know it makes them sad. They always get so happy when someone we know has a baby, and they love children. My parents are wonderful people, and it does make me feel guilty that I won’t be making them grandparents. How do I reconcile that?

—Sorry, No Grands

Dear SNG,

It’s time for you to confirm what your parents already have suspected about your disinterest in having children in order to prevent them from clinging to any false hope that your mind will change at some point. Explain to them the reasoning behind your decision and that your choice is not a reflection of the childhood and the love that they provided to you (unless, of course, it is your own experiences with them that have led you to decide not to procreate, in which case you should disclose this if you feel safe and comfortable doing so). Let them know that you recognize how disappointing this may be for them, and that it isn’t your intention to cause them any pain, but that you’re clear on what you want out of life and what you feel capable achieving, and that parenthood simply isn’t on the list. It doesn’t sound like they have any reason to be surprised by this information, and by your being open about it, they can make their peace with the finality of your decision. Best of luck to you.

—Jamilah

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