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Rules of the Load 

How to avoid the wrath of a pregnant woman

My husband has notified me that it's my duty as a pregnant woman to write about all the things that make pregnant women crazy. His intentions aren't so much noble as selfish. He wants to discover what makes me crazy and stop doing whatever it is, in hopes of scaling down the ire he suffers so frequently. Let me speak directly to my husband and to all fathers-to-be: there's nothing you can do. Because, in most cases, you live in such close proximity to us, you will suffer from our daily, hourly, minutely and secondly mood swings. And it serves you right, by the way. After all, who got us knocked up in the first place?

But there are some things you, the general public, can do to avoid pissing off pregnant women you happen to see out and about. Most of the time, the pregnant women you encounter put up with your hijinks just to be polite, but secretly they're seething. In addition to raising the future mother's blood pressure (not healthy for moms or babies, by the way), you're also contributing to the abuse heaped on the poor fathers-to-be. So here are the rules:

Rule #1: Do not touch the belly. For some reason, many people seem to be under the impression that just because a person is sharing her stomach with a baby, that stomach has become public property. Frankly, I don't care if you've had 12 kids or if you're 90 years old. If I don't know you, don't come over and touch my body. I'm certainly not going to allow you to come up and touch the kid when it's actually born, so there's no reason for you to get close now. I plan to deal with this problem in the future by reaching out and rubbing the belly of anybody who rubs mine. With any luck, they'll feel this is an invasion of their personal space, which it is, and back off. By the way, there's no need to ask a pregnant woman you don't know if you can touch her belly. This just creates an uneasy social situation. Trust me, she wants to tell you no. If she's me, then she will tell you no.

Rule #2: Do not tell a pregnant lady that she is huge (or any other adjective denoting largeness). Unless you're dealing with someone of extremely limited mental capacity, it's likely she's noticed how abnormally enormous she is. She notices when she shops for huge maternity clothes, every morning when she takes a shower and every time she tries to slip between two cars parked beside each other in a parking lot. The only thing you'll do by making this comment is cause a huge crying fit that her husband or significant other will be forced to deal with when he gets home. And, again, that's just what he needs.

Other similar comments you don't need to make are, "That's going to be a big baby!" and "Do you know if it's twins?" The last thing a pregnant woman wants to think about is the size of the entity that will very soon be emerging from her vagina. The only thing that might trouble her more is the possibility of two such entities emerging from her vagina.

Rule #3: Opening doors and carrying things for pregnant ladies is OK. Women's lib issues go out the window here, men. There may be a few virulent pregnant feminists out there who will still get mad at you for helping them, but at least you can move faster than them and won't get hurt. It's very helpful to me when people hold doors and carry heavy objects without being asked, because my inability to do things I've always done easily is the most frustrating thing about pregnancy. I've learned to simply swallow my pride and ask for help when I need it, but it's nice to not have to ask every now and then. (I'd like to give a special shout-out here to the kids at my high school who help me all the time without being asked. Who said teenagers don't have a sweet streak?)

Rule #4: Do not give name suggestions. Now, I'm open to name suggestions from family and friends; it doesn't mean I'm going to take them, but I'm open. This is because naming a child is a difficult business. You have to think of every variation of nickname and every potential name-calling situation. Just because it's hard to think of the right name, though, doesn't mean I want to hear your list of favorite names for babies. If our only common ground is the grocery store checkout line, then the fact that your great-grandmother's name was Enid means very little to me.

"Have you considered the name Obadiah? We once had a dog named Obadiah and we thought it would be the perfect name for a baby." Then there's a long pause in the conversation during which the person is obviously waiting for me to say, "Wow! That's it! The perfect name for my child! The dog you once had!"

Instead, I just give a tight smile and become distracted by the cashier who is trying to rub my belly.

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