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Maintaining boundaries during pregnancy

In a world full of motivational Instagram quotes that proudly proclaim, “Live your life with no limits!” you might not necessarily think to view limitations as a good thing, but boundaries can be an important part of maintaining healthy relationships with the people around you. Strong boundaries help set the kind of limits that allow you make clear which types of behaviors from the people around you are welcome, and which are far from okay. Some people find that getting pregnant ignites some challenging conversations about boundaries with loved ones, and even with strangers. As you set boundaries and expectations for behavior, some good general rules are to remain calm (if you can), keep things straightforward and simple, and stay consistent. But how you tackle these boundary issues might be different depending on who exactly you’re dealing with.

Loved ones

Dealing with boundary issues with loved ones can be incredibly challenging, but working through these issues can actually be a blessing in disguise. These are the people who you will continue to have in your life one Baby is born and it’s likely that some of these issues will come up again as he grows, so there’s no time like the present to begin to establish healthy and appropriate boundaries.

You might deal with boundaries early on in your pregnancy – Just how much health info are you comfortable sharing and with whom? – later on down the road – Do you really want to share your baby name short list with your opinionated mother-in-law? – and even up until your due date is fast approaching – Just who will tell great aunt Irma that she should wait until you’re home to visit with the baby when she planned to show up to the hospital? These challenges can come in all forms, from fielding prodding questions and receiving unwanted advice to people offering gifts you never wanted and telling you exactly how you should care for your little one when he arrives. In some ways, you might find that these issues that arise during pregnancy bring to light challenges that were actually already at play in your relationships. Major life changes, like having a baby, have a way of bringing these issues to the surface. And, of course, you’ll need to deal with different individuals in different ways.

You might maintain boundaries by opting for an explanation that is short and sweet: “We really don’t want to share any names until we’ve decided on a keeper.” Or you might need to speak about things more honestly: “Aunt Irma, we love you, but we really don’t want a ton of visitors at the hospital because we want to try to get some rest and enjoy alone time with Baby when he arrives. I understand it’s not what you hoped for. We’d love to have you visit a few days later once we get settled in at home.”

Doing your best to deal with these issues with patience, kindness, and an honest understanding of just what sort of boundaries you need during this time isn’t always easy, especially for those ongoing relationships, but the boundaries you set now will help to define how these relationships evolve in the future.

Colleagues and coworkers

Whether you’ve already shared the fact that you’re pregnant or are about to, your coworkers may be interested to know how you’re feeling and how your pregnancy is progressing. Whether you’ll share or not depends on how comfortable you are with them – you might be comfortable sharing a lot with your work bestie, but not with a coworker you don’t know especially well. If they still seem interested to hear more than you want to share, you might need to keep things brief and then just carry on with work stuff.

However, there may be times where you need to share a bit more, which can be a fine line. If, for example, you’re dealing with some unexpected health issues and you need extra time off or work accommodations, you may find yourself sharing health information you might otherwise have preferred to keep to yourself. If you’re comfortable with your boss, this might be a pretty open conversation. If you’re not quite so comfortable, you’re only obligated to share just a much as you need to. If the conversation is pushing further than you’d like, you might see if you can send over documentation from your doctor instead of having a longer conversation.   

Strangers

These are people who – if they’re pushy, nosy, or crossing major lines – you never need to see again, which opens up some possibilities. It might be the older woman at the grocery store who notices you’re pregnant and starts asking you if you’re going to breastfeed, the stranger on the train who touches your belly without asking, or the person on the sidewalk who eyes your bump and asks if you’re having twins. If it’s a clearly rude comment thrown your way, you can either respond as you see fit or ignore the person and just walk away. If it’s someone who you think means well but is pushing to get you to talk or share information that you’re not comfortable with, it’s up to you how you respond. You can either duck around the subject – “I’m just not sure” or “Sorry, I’m in a rush and really can’t talk” usually works well. Or approach it head on – “I’m not comfortable discussing that with you” or “That’s none of your business” tends to do the trick. And if it’s someone who touches you without your permission, you can shut that right down. “I don’t know you,” “You’re making me uncomfortable,” and “You can’t just touch me without my permission,” all work wonders. 

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