8 Things Your Pregnant Coworker Wishes You Knew

Any woman who has carried a baby will know that, as miraculous as it is, the whole process can be really difficult. It's true that some go through those nine months without many problems while others can't seem to catch a break.

Having been pregnant 13 times, I can attest to the fact that every single time is different. It's a deeply personal transformation yet much of it is experienced in the most public of ways. After all, an increasingly burgeoning belly seems to reveal all of your secrets! I found comfort in those early months when I could privately process what was going on inside of me because, really, it's such a whirlwind of emotions.

I was never working when I had my first three children. I juggled motherhood as I made my way through college. It was difficult but I was young and independent. After seven miscarriages, I was sure that I would never be pregnant again but after a divorce, I found myself suddenly expecting just months after being told I was perimenopausal. It was a shock, for sure.

I was in a different stage in life. My school years were far behind me, I wasn't married, and I had just created an empty nest vision board on Pinterest. I was completely bewildered but, fortunately, I held it together and things fell into place. Still, it was an even bigger shock when, just 16 weeks after I gave birth, I found out that I was pregnant with twins.

I learned a lot of things while dealing with coworkers during that very tumultuous time in my life. I hope these insights will help you understand and empathize with the expectant mothers in your own workplace.

Her feelings about the pregnancy may be complicated

Even when a pregnancy is planned, there are going to be moments when reality sets in and it can be so confusing. On the one hand, it's exciting and mystifying that a human being could be growing inside your body. On the other hand, you can't help but wonder what's going to happen to your life.

There seems to be an increase in emotions as the months tick by and the belly gets bigger. There's a realization that nothing will ever be the same again and it comes with a lot of questions. Trying to imagine life on the other side of childbirth can be very overwhelming to a mother, whether it's her first child or her sixth.

I would get lost, sometimes, in the happiness and magic of my pregnancies... and then I'd remember that I basically had a parasite living in my body and I'd panic. Then I'd think that panicking was a sign that I wasn't ready for motherhood. After all, if I had everything together, why would I be so scared sometimes?

In other moments, I'd be reminded of the fact that, in order to hold my beautiful baby (or babies), I'd have to give birth and, again, I'd be filled with dread and uncertainty. Why did I do this to myself, I'd often ask and I sometimes couldn't come up with a good answer. It's a turbulent time because the fears and concerns are real – but so are the hormones!

The pregnancy may have been unplanned

There's nothing wrong with unplanned pregnancies. In fact, the CDC estimates that about half of all pregnancies are not intended. Yet, there's a shame and a stigma that surrounds this. Even if a woman has found herself pregnant due to what some would define as carelessness, it's no one else's business.

It amazes me how many people are willing to ask if a pregnancy was planned. If that question has ever popped into your mind, please don't ever ask it. It's so incredibly rude. Think about how intimate this line of thinking is and choose to focus on being happy for the soon-to-be mother.

At the same time, if a coworker doesn't seem overly thrilled about their pregnancy, respect that they may be adjusting to the idea of this new arrival – and that's okay. I remember being a teenager and one of my sister's friends had four kids. After having a tubal ligation, she found out that she was expecting her fifth – and she was horrified. She cried and cried for weeks. She had just been accepted into law school and had delayed her own education in order to focus on raising a family.

I found her reaction really surprising and, if I'm honest, I judged her. I thought that, if she had already chosen to have four kids, why was she so upset to have another? It wasn't until I was in a similar position that I understood how she felt in that moment. I was so close to having an empty nest that the idea of starting over felt like a death sentence. I saw the confused looks on people's faces when I cried through a surprise baby shower at work but I couldn't fake happiness.

I thought my life was going to be ruined, I didn't know if things were going to work out with this child's father, and I feared that I was going to have to raise this late-in-life baby on my own. Why would I want a party? Fortunately, I just needed time to accept what was happening and, yes, it took until three minutes after his birth for me to realize that things were going to be just fine.

So, in other words, respect the fact that not everyone is excited about a new baby at first. It's not uncommon to feel this way and it doesn't make someone a monster!

She worries about miscarrying

It's funny. Even during a pregnancy that I wasn't sure I wanted, I was still terrified by every little twinge or the slightest hint of bleeding. The first time around, I could feel my body stretching through every stage of pregnancy. I worried that the feelings I was having were warning signs that I could be losing my baby. By the fifth successful pregnancy, I worried that my body was too stretched out and that I wouldn't be able to keep the babies in. I felt like a crazy person.

On top of that, I worried that everything I did was going to cause me to miscarry. I painted my toenails and was convinced that the fumes had given my child brain damage. I had a rum bucket during a rare night out the day before I found out I was pregnant once and, again, was sure I had ruined any hope that the poor kid would ever be normal.

This level of paranoia is hard to hide when you work closely with others. For example, pot lucks and luncheons can be a major source of anxiety since pregnant women are probably going to ask for a lot of accommodations. They can't eat fish, deli meat, or anything that has raw eggs in it (even Caesar salad dressing can be considered off-limits). It can be uncomfortable for her if she feels mocked for making, what she feels, are essential health-related requests.

Also, it doesn't matter how many Instagram profiles showcase pregnant women lifting weights at nine months pregnant, the expectant mom in your office may be scared to carry that 20-pound box of office supplies to her desk. Don't make fun of her.

She's not trying to be a diva and most pregnant women aren't trying to get special privileges. We really do want to do everything we can to give our child the best start in life and inhaling the fumes in a recently re-carpeted office can definitely feel like the end of the world.

Some pregnancies can be life-threatening

The majority of pregnancies may have some complications and come with an expected level of discomfort but, once in a while, things can escalate into a potentially life-threatening situation pretty quickly. It's important to remember that this is a very natural but complex process and, unfortunately, things can go wrong.

I had some issues arise during my first four successful pregnancies, but really, I was pretty lucky for the most part. It wasn't until I was expecting a set of twins that I learned how bad things could be. I hoped that my female coworkers would be a source of support but the opposite was true – they were the worst!

None of them had ever suffered the way I was suffering and so they made me feel like I was just a whiny pregnant woman. Their ability to shame me was so venomous, in fact, that I began to doubt the severity of my own symptoms and it almost cost me my life. Worse, it almost cost the lives of my twins.

I had horrible itching and swelling. I felt out of breath. I could barely walk. I had a weird pain under my ribcage. My complaints were met with eye rolls. I was told that it was normal for pregnant women to have dry skin so I used extra moisturizer. I drank more water to try to ease the swelling. I told myself to suck it up in order to avoid further embarrassment. I shouldn't have done that. I should have trusted my own intuition and I should have listened to my own body.

By the time I was 34 weeks, I had been diagnosed with intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy, pubis symphysis dysfunction, cardiac arrhythmia, atrial tachycardia, premature ventricular contractions, and iron deficiency anemia among other things.

Without getting too technical, I had a lot going on and having my coworkers downplay my concerns discouraged me from seeking the medical attention that I needed.

She feels insecure about herself

Pregnancy brings on a lot of change and it often makes a woman second-guess so many aspects of her life. Maybe it's because we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to prepare for a baby but it often just feels like we are just picking ourselves apart.

Throughout those nine months, it's completely normal for a future mother to be anxious about her ability to care for a newborn, even if she's had one already. As her body changes, she might also be worried about whether she will ever look and feel like her old self. As her fatigue sets in, she may also feel like she's less capable of getting her work done. The last thing a woman with "pregnancy brain" needs is to worry about getting fired.

Throw all of this together and you've got a recipe for a defensive, insecure, hormonal mess. So, if your pregnant coworker seems extra hurt by the slightest bit of criticism, remember that she is feeling some serious pressure and will probably be back to her normal self after her baby is born. In the meantime, show some love by praising her for working so hard.

She is tired of people asking when she's going to give birth

There are so many reasons why you should never ask a woman when she's going to give birth. First of all, she might not even be pregnant! There's nothing worse than having someone ask about the baby in your belly when the only thing responsible for your extended waistline are burritos and nacho chips!

When addressing women who truly are pregnant, several things can happen when you bring up due dates. For one, you might be surprised that, given the size of her stomach, she's not further along. This can lead you to say horrible things like "wow, you're big for five months."

On the flip side, her due date may have passed days earlier and she's secretly super frustrated to still be pregnant. No one can really know when they will go into labor so asking a question that doesn't have a real answer is just irritating.

On a more serious note, there are some women who might actually be terrified of this topic. Typically, these are women who have either miscarried, gone into premature labor, or are at risk for preterm births. I've been through this and it's horrible.

My third child was born two months early and seeing medical staff struggle to get her to breathe on her own will always be one of the worst memories of my life. When I was expecting twins, I knew the risk of premature labor was high and I did everything I could to push those thoughts out of my mind. I worked really hard to stay positive and optimistic because I knew that getting stressed out wouldn't be good for my babies.

It was hurtful, then, when coworkers became frustrated by my unwillingness to engage in this topic. For them, this was just small talk, but for me, it was about doing everything I could to keep my babies cooking in the womb for as long as possible. I wish people had been more respectful of that.

She doesn't want to hear your scary labor stories

After five births, I have many, many stories to share. Fortunately, they are mostly very positive since four of my six children, including a 10-pound boy, were born through normal, vaginal childbirths without medication. I relied on hypnotherapy, visualization techniques, and deep breathing to get me through the rough patches.

Whenever I've spoken to other mothers, I've focused on sharing the positive aspects of my experience while encouraging them to believe that they could have great births too. I've always been surprised by how many people want to share the worst horror stories with a woman who is about to go through such a physically demanding, unpredictable experience — but it happens all the time.

Once, I was in a car going to lunch with coworkers and, despite my protestations, the other three women insisted on sharing how much they had suffered to bring their children into the world. I couldn't exactly leap out of a moving vehicle so I was stuck listening to this — and later, had to work pretty hard to get the images out of my mind.

Why would you want to do that to someone? If you really want to share war stories, either wait until your pregnant coworker isn't around or do it after she has safely given birth.

She knows she probably won't get much sleep

If there was one thing that annoyed me to no end it was that people seemed to feel obligated to remind me that babies don't sleep through the night. One of the most ridiculous moments was when a coworker came to see me in the hospital, just hours after I had given birth, and was insulted that I wanted to keep the visit short. I was exhausted and wanted to rest while my newborn was sleeping. When she finally took the hint, she paused at the door and seemed to relish saying, "You know, there is no sleeping with a new baby. You need to get used to it."

I get that new parents need to be prepared to care for an infant around the clock but why do some people like to rub it in? I've never understood the point of making statements like that and I don't think I ever will. Unless your coworker is completely unprepared, they know that they will be going without sleep for a while. If you have a genuine concern for their well-being, you could always offer to come by and let them have a nap after the baby arrives!

Keep it positive

Having a baby is a huge undertaking for both parents but it's especially tough on the expectant mother. Physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially, she is having to make big changes, and has probably never been more vulnerable.

While you don't have to walk on eggshells, try your best to be mindful of how major this milestone is in her life. Be positive and encouraging. Be patient when she seems demanding. Respect her privacy and ignore her daily battles with indigestion. Soon enough, she will give birth and be back to her normal self. Except for the never ending stories and pictures about her new baby, of course! You'll just have to learn to live with that.