Mistaken for Pregnant? Readers Respond

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Have you ever been mistaken for being pregnant? Or have you mistakenly assumed someone else was pregnant? We asked readers to share their stories in the comments section of an article by Elizabeth Yuko, “When You Look Pregnant, but You’re Not.” Over a thousand people wrote in about their mostly mortifying experiences. Below is a selection of their responses that have been edited and condensed.

‘I Will Never Ask That Question Again’

Joan from New Jersey wrote: “I have made this mistake twice, having asked women at the playground and at the kiddie pool when they were due. The first was smoking a cigarette, so I was horrified, but she told me she in fact had a hernia. The other said she had given birth 6 months prior. I will never ask that question again, even if she is lying in the maternity ward on the birthing table, screaming and begging for an epidural.”

Mike from Port Washington, N.Y., wrote: “We were in Kenya, near the border, needing to present our documents in order to enter Tanzania. A plus-sized woman had just completed her document process and I took it upon myself to congratulate her both on completion of the tedious passport examination and her apparent condition. She looked at me with such discomfort and awkwardness that I instantly realized my error, and was seized by embarrassment and guilt for shaming her and myself. Believe me, I have censored this impulse many times since.”

Rubia from Toronto wrote: “I saw a very pregnant woman sniffing cleaning products in the grocery store, and knowing these might be harmful to her unborn child, I was cringing. I kept my mouth shut, but she continued and I just could not stand it any longer, as it seemed so careless and reckless. So, I gently said, ‘Many scientists believe inhaling those chemical laden products could impact your unborn baby.’ She paused and said, ‘My baby is 18 months old and at home.’ I should have kept my big mouth shut.”

Riley Temple from Washington, D.C., wrote: “When I was a young man of 22, I blithely congratulated a coworker I’d not seen in several months on her obvious pregnancy. She gave me a withering look that accompanied her answer through a very tight jaw and clenched teeth that she was not pregnant. She had clearly gained weight — and a significant amount of it, over a very short period of time. I am now 67 and I have never, ever since that time opined on whether any woman is with child.”

‘Ladies, We’re Trying Our Best’

John from Brooklyn wrote: “Some pregnant women are of course obvious. But several times I’ve looked at women wondering, ‘Are they pregnant or is it just the dress or her natural body shape that is confusing me?’ I don’t want to stare and examine someone’s body, but I’m sure I’ve done that trying to figure it out. So ladies, please forgive us if we make a mistake — we’re trying our best!”

Jeff Brown from New York City wrote: “When one of my patients who had a 6-month sized belly was wearing an empire waist dress, I made the grave mistake of asking when she was due. ‘I’m not pregnant!’ she said. I apologized and at the next visit she said, ‘I appreciate the apology, but it’s not necessary. I just went home and burned the dress.’”

‘It Used to Bother Me’

MZ from New York City wrote: “I’ve had this happen to me to. It used to bother me. Now I just smile, say thank you and take the single most highly-prized object during rush hour: a seat on the subway.”

PKD from San Francisco wrote: “I am frequently asked, ‘When are you due?’ or ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ I am not pregnant, but have a genetic kidney disorder called Polycystic Kidney Disease, which causes my kidneys to progressively enlarge and thus, my stomach protrudes. I am not offended by those who ask. I feel people genuinely have good intentions and want to share in my joy.”

Librarian from Brooklyn said: “I am a 50-year-old woman and going through a peri-menopausal symptoms, including heavy bloating. One week in October, two women, on different days, tried to give up their seats for me on the crowded subway trains. First, I was very confused why it was happening (since I actually look younger than my age) then I finally realized that they assumed I was pregnant. I did not feel insulted though, I was actually thankful that those women were very kind and helpful.”

‘I Would be Overjoyed’

Patricia from Winchester, Mass., wrote: “I have three children, and there were multiple times that I was visibly and hugely pregnant, standing up on a city bus, and I had to ask strangers, ‘Excuse me, may I please have your seat?’ They were always quick to stand up and apologize, but I believe they didn’t offer their seats in the first place because of articles like this. They are afraid that they will offend women by offering their seats.”

reader12 from New York City wrote: “As someone who is 8 months pregnant (and clearly looks 8 months pregnant) I would be overjoyed if someone actually offered me a seat. I would not even necessarily take it, but the gesture is enough to make my day. Unfortunately the offer only comes on about half of my commutes.”

“Nope, I’m Just Fat”

Julie L. from New Jersey wrote: “I’ve always been thin but have had unexplained bloating my entire life and this has invited questions from coworkers and family about whether I’m pregnant and when I’m due. I even had a family member insist I was pregnant when I wasn’t and that I was somehow trying to hide it from everyone. The only time I’ve ever felt comfortable about my body was when I was actually pregnant.”

Ellie from Washington, D.C., wrote: “I had my first baby 8 months ago and still have my post-baby belly, which is completely normal. I work full time and barely have time to take care of everything that our family needs let alone get to the gym. I have been shocked by the number of strangers that have commented on my body and assume that I am pregnant. I finally lost it at a museum a few weeks ago when a man said ‘You’re pregnant again?!’ while I was holding my infant. I told him, ‘Nope, I’m just fat!’”

Margaret from New Jersey wrote: “Recently, In a public setting, I was asked how many months pregnant I was. I’ve had a double mastectomy for bilateral breast cancer, without reconstruction, so my stomach looks disproportionately larger because my chest is flat. This was a shocking comment, going to the heart of the vulnerability I feel about my body without breasts. It is rude and uncalled for to comment on a stranger’s body, period.”

‘I Must Have Given Her a Look That Could Kill’

Mrs. S from New Jersey wrote: “I was shuffling down the hallway in the hospital, barely able to walk, when a hospital worker said to me, ‘Somebody’s having a boy!’ When I responded that I’d already had him, she said, ‘Oh! You’ll need to do some sit-ups then!’ I’d given birth 18 hours ago. Yeah, I’ll get right on that.”

Amy D. from Los Angeles wrote: “I actually was asked when my baby was due, by a woman I had never met. I had just had my son and was on my first outing, with my new baby. I don’t remember what I said or if I said anything at all, but I must have given her a look that could kill.”

Yumhaeran wrote: “When I was a graduate student nearing my thesis deadline I went to the corner diner to pick up a sandwich and fries for takeout. It was nearly midnight, I had hardly slept in days and I was wearing a long coat with sweatpants. As I waited for my order the server kept smiling and nodding at me. I thought she was being friendly. As she rang me up she said she threw in some free onion rings ‘for the baby.’ So many mixed feelings! I was humiliated and delighted and ate all the onion rings. Still, the takeaway for me was: No sweatpants in public.”