"How're your lady parts?" Help me fend off TMI questions from colleagues
October 22, 2013 3:52 PM   Subscribe

I’m returning from maternity leave next month and I’m already fearing the questions from coworkers about my labor and delivery.

While I was pregnant, multiple times per day, my colleagues asked me questions about my pregnancy, so I can’t see why labor/delivery would be any different. I don’t want to give them too much information (or rather ANY information) because we’re in a professional setting. My superiors don’t ever discuss such things (one of the big reasons I don't want to talk about my personal life at the office), but I often got roped into pregnancy conversations near their offices by well-meaning colleagues. Further, my story is not exactly pleasant, and I can’t really see how I would explain any of it without implying all the gory details.

On the other hand, and this is the important part, I like all of my colleagues a lot and consider some of them friends. I worry about alienating them by giving a cold response that I don’t want to get into the details. I absolutely don’t want to be too closed with them because my feeling is that people become closer by sharing a little bit about themselves (yes, even though it’s really none of their business).

So I come to you, mefites... any suggestions for clever, lighthearted responses to the inevitable questions about labor, epidurals, c-section vs. vaginal, etc., etc.? In particular, I’m looking for responses to direct questions (“so did you end up getting the epidural?”; “so did you end up having a c-section?”; etc.) because there will be direct questions.
posted by juliagulia to Work & Money (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A Bon-vivant kind of hand wave in the air, brilliant smile with sparkly eyes, "it was a breeze" comment should leave them stunned into no further questions! Then away with you to other things. If you get cornered, repeat.
posted by Lornalulu at 4:04 PM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do you think you could fend off the specifics with a general comedy answer? Something that makes people laugh but also sends a signal not to pry further?

I'm thinking like "All I'm gonna say is: I went through the portal and I came back different"

If a friend/coworker responded with something like that I would take it as a signal that further questions on the subject were not desired.
posted by menialjoy at 4:05 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

"The less said the better"
posted by InkaLomax at 4:07 PM on October 22, 2013 [21 favorites]

Here's a few suggestions:

1. "It was really gory; you don't want to know anything more."

2. "We decided to keep little ___'s birth story private until s/he's old enough to hear it - we want to share it with him/her first!"

3. "The stork was right on time!"

4. "That's between me, my husband, and our doctor - I'm sure you understand."
posted by k8lin at 4:09 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I sort of feel like for the direct questions with direct easy answers, you might just answer them. A c-section or epidural information doesn't seem particularly TMI or gory to me. "It ended up a c-section; everything is fine." is going to save you a lot of trouble in the long run, especially if these people are your friends. I can't imagine not knowing if my women friends had a c-section or not. I think that would be strange. If you don't want to talk about it in the hall by your superiors, then, that's fine, just go out to lunch one day and tell them whatever you're comfortable telling them, or tell them you don't want to talk about it.
posted by dpx.mfx at 4:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think this is less likely to happen after a bit of maternity leave than it is if you go back to work immediately. People at work asked me about my pregnancy, but when I came back it was mostly questions about the baby, not about how he got here.

And if they do ask, make it about the baby. "Oh it was great, because we have little Baby JG now and she is adorable! Want to see a picture?"
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [24 favorites]

Oh I'm fine. We used an artificial womb. They're all the rage these days. All I had to do was show up to the unbottling ceremony, cut the ceremonial ribbon, and pull out the stopper.
posted by anonymisc at 4:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

Are you willing to fudge the truth? I'd just tell people that I slept through almost all of my labor and got to the hospital right in time for a very easy and super-quick birth and that baby is awesome! So quick! Nothing to tell! So lucky that there wasn't any drama or interesting tidbits to share! That's how it's always been for the women in my family!

People love to hear about the trainwrecks, a quick and easy event is hardly as interesting and their morbid curiosity won't be triggered. Any hint of a less-than-ideal birth or a mysterious birth will lead to lots more questions, gossip, and possibly hurt feelings of those who thought that they may be in your inner circle.
posted by quince at 4:15 PM on October 22, 2013 [4 favorites]

"All I know is I HAVE A BABY and she / he is amazing."
posted by Night_owl at 4:16 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

"The baby's great! We've been adding a couple minutes more to our video of little JG every night, if you'll stop by my desk later I'll show it all to you!"
posted by easily confused at 4:18 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I honestly don't remember a thing between conception and delivery. So, what'd I miss?"
posted by mochapickle at 4:27 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I sort of agree with dpx.mfx. Of course, you don't have to tell them anything, but that's not really compatible with having actual workplace friends rather than just colleagues.

If I were you, I'd just answer the yes/no, either/or questions, and then decline to elaborate.

Friend: So, did you have an epidural??
You: Yup, sure did.
Friend: Oooh, when they stuck it in, did it blah blah blah?
You: *holds up hand in 'stop' position, smiling* No, sorry - not going into gory details. Hey, here's a picture of her with her dad...

Honestly, unless they're complete boors, a couple of instances of this and they should get the message.
posted by Salamander at 4:28 PM on October 22, 2013 [19 favorites]

Once the baby is born, all they care about is the baby. Get ready to answer HOW'S THE BABY? 100 times a day. Any other Qs can be fended off with a picture of the baby.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:34 PM on October 22, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't think you need to resort to glib jokes to get people to back off; those are barely disguised "fuck offs", and I feel they are often seen that way by the recipients, who are frequently just trying to be friendly.

Firstly, I wouldn't borrow trouble - people are interested in pregancies, especially first ones, as a way of expressing support and reminiscing about their own pregnancies. And it's all they have. When you come back - it will be a long time after the birth, and YOU WILL HAVE A BABY YAY. People will be much more interested in the baby and asking questions about eating, sleeping, crawling, pooping etc.

Hardly anyone will be genuinely interested in the story of your labour, honest. You will probably get a few "and how was the labour?" questions, to which you can just reply: "It was tiring! *laugh", or "Really good! Such and such is a great hospital, I felt really looked after." That will satisfy 99% of askers I think.

Also, just a tip: be prepared for a fucking tsunami of baby advice and opinion, especially if this is your first. When it comes to babies, everyone's a goddamn expert. It can be very annoying, especially if you are struggling with sleep etc. Just remember: 1) Everyone talking about how their little angel slept through from two week or whatever is A LYING LIAR WHO LIES, 2) Most people have terrible memories of that period due to sleep deprivation; nothing they say is exactly how it happened 3) every baby is different.

Best of luck!
posted by smoke at 4:52 PM on October 22, 2013 [11 favorites]

I can't imagine not knowing if my women friends had a c-section or not. I think that would be strange.

I can't imagine a scenario in which I would ask if my female friends had a c-section or not. I think needing to know would be strange!

If people ask you about your L&D, say "Well it resulted in NAME and boy isn't s/he cute!" Cue pulling out your stack of photos.
posted by arnicae at 5:00 PM on October 22, 2013 [5 favorites]

I can't tell from your phrasing whether you consider these details entirely private (i.e. you're seriously not wanting to ever talk about it to anyone outside of the absolute closest family), or whether you feel like sharing some details with moderately-close friends would be a good feeling for you and your friendships, but you'd be against ever having that kind of conversation at work.

I like Salamander's approach of answering yes/no questions, but fending off the details. One of your follow-ups, as well as, "no, not going into gory details" and "the doctors did a great job" and "that's not important, the best thing is that (baby) is here now" is "oh, it was okay, but not the kind of story I'd want to get into at the office." (note neutral word "okay" which doesn't claim perfection, or offer up that there might have been a problem.) You can then, if they're the kind of office-friends you'd be interested in being closer to, invite them to come by and meet the baby sometime, with the implication that you might answer more of their questions when you're not at work with your bosses just around the corner.
posted by aimedwander at 5:01 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Oh it was DISGUSTING... I'll tell ya about it after work."
posted by matty at 5:05 PM on October 22, 2013

Just say something boring like "Oh, it was long but it all turned out fine." Don't come up with a smart aleck answer -- people mean well.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:08 PM on October 22, 2013 [10 favorites]

"I had a c-section, everyone's doing well now," is about where I left it. There were not a ton of detailed questions about the birth but I want to warn you that the thing I found really shocking was the number of comments about the shape of my postpartum body. May be useful to think about a response to those. (I gave a suspicious "I *guess*?" or "I haven't really thought about it" to most of them, which at least made my discomfort clear.) Depending on the crowd there may also be a lot of questions about when where and how you're parenting the baby, which I also deflected as much as I could.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:11 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Once the baby is born, all they care about is the baby. Get ready to answer HOW'S THE BABY? 100 times a day.

For what it's worth, I'd probably ask about all the gory details, and about the baby as an afterthought. I usually assume the baby's as babies are, but wacky birth stories amuse me.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 5:11 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the best response is a friendly "I really really don't want to talk about it" it has the benefit of being perfectly honest and true. Change the topic right away, and you should be fine.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:19 PM on October 22, 2013

The problem with "I don't want to talk about it" is that it implies there was an incident or trauma or some such. That's not going to fend off the nosy parkers, nor the people who mean well but are clueless, nor the women who believe that birth stories are our war stories and we should share them with each other.

That's why I advocate being boring.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:38 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

What rabbit rabbit said - make it about the baby. "Oh my gosh, such a blur, want to see pics??"

I didn't get too many personal questions but when I did, that was the answer. More likely, you'll get questions abut the baby and how he/she is sleeping. Whatever you do, don't gloat if baby is sleeping well because I assure you it won't last!
posted by echo0720 at 5:43 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd go with the standard, "everybody's happy and healthy, thanks for asking!"

I mean, who doesn't love a good story - but if people need to be reminded that you don't want to go into gynecological detail at the job maybe say "Not at work - let's save that for lunch/happy hour/after hours" which you can conveniently be too busy with the baby to schedule.

Congrats on the new baby!
posted by Space Kitty at 6:22 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also warn you to be prepared to be asked about stuff that happened after giving birth. For example, "are you breastfeeding?" Now, I think most of the folks who ask this want to be supportive and offer help to breastfeeding moms, which I totally appreciated, because yes, breastfeeding is often harder than you thought it would be and it's nice to know that many others have struggled and get some pro tips. But, it's also work and you may not want to talk about lactating, or you may be bottle feeding and not want people to get judgy on you, or whatever. It's really not their business, I would just respond with something noncommittal like "I'm doing my best."
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:45 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's any comfort there are those of us out there who are delighted and relieved that you are not forcing is to hear the gorey details. Find one of us in the crowd and ask us a question about something non baby related. I assure you we will be only TOO glad to help you change the subject!
posted by WalkerWestridge at 7:12 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

I feel like I type this advice in all the "what do I say?" threads, but I think it applies:
Once you've decided on your answer, go ahead and say it AND THEN KEEP TALKING. Don't just stop as if you are waiting for a response, but keep talking to either show a baby picture or ask about the TPS Reports or How about those Dodgers?!!

For example, in this case from above:
Friend: So, did you have an epidural??
You: Yup, sure did.
Friend: Oooh, when they stuck it in, did it blah blah blah?

You should not stop after "Yep, sure did" and give Friend the opportunity to elaborate. Your answer (should you choose to engage) is "I sure did and here, look at the precious baby we got as a result" Or "I had great care; that hospital is fantastic. Has Boss told you what we need to bring to the meeting this afternoon?"
posted by CathyG at 7:39 PM on October 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Honestly I was so drunk who can remember?"

I think you can tell people who you're friendly with "it was so intense and physical it's just not something I want to recount, you know? When it was all over I had this awesome little kiddo and that's all that matters." Or you can say it was an intense experience between you and your partner and you don't want to share.

Just don't seem like you're being coy and people with manners will get the picture and back off. And people who don't after that, even if you're friendly, you can give a more stern "seriously, I'm not going to talk details about my south 40. Ever."
posted by phearlez at 8:11 PM on October 22, 2013

I had a c-section and offered to show pictures of the birth. Unsurprisingly, there were no takers and that was the end of that discussion.

I am favouriting so hard treehorn+bunny's comment about breastfeeding. This will be the most difficult one to deflect if you are breastfeeding + pumping at the office. I cannot tell you how self-conscious I felt schlepping the horns of shame around the office all day long to extrude my bodily fluids. I never thought up anything witty for this one. Fortunately I worked in a pro-breastfeeding workplace with proper nursing mother facilities so nobody batted an eyelash. You may not be so fortunate.

I encourage you to share at least a little bit with a few colleagues so that they can help you protect your pumping time and space. You'd return the favour for them, right?
posted by crazycanuck at 9:55 PM on October 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Add another vote in the "be boring" column. I think you could simply say "it went well... the doctor did a great job, and the baby's doing great at home now." If someone presses for more labor details, just keep it boring and positive and they'll back off.

I do this with my vacations. My coworkers know I go to visit my grandparents to help them out on most of my vacations. But, they don't need to know the ins and outs of how my grandfather's Alzheimer's is doing. They know I go visit him, so they ask how he is, and I just say "he's doing ok! It was great to go visit and we really enjoyed each others' company." Period. That's a nice, gentle, boring answer. But it's also a friendly answer that keeps things positive.

I would strongly disagree with advice you're getting to come up with cute, jokey, pat responses. In my experience these just annoy people as they are a blatant way of saying "none of your business, go away." These kind of answers may put off your coworkers, who are just trying to be friendly if they ask basic questions.

Best wishes and congratulations!
posted by Old Man McKay at 12:19 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Totally agree with CathyG - answer the question as best you can/are up to, and then segue into something related but more comfortable for you. Having a baby is big stuff! It would be weird if people didn't ask you about it, I think. Perhaps consider this less of an intrusion and more of a sign of caring about your well-being through this huge change in your life. (Even if it IS really an intrusion - give people the benefit of the doubt.)

My answer would be "it was awful/long/whatever - but it's over now and I've already started to forget! I do not want to think about it. But seeing him for the first time was really, well, wow. Do you want to see a picture?"

Then move the conversation onto more comfortable territory.
posted by lyssabee at 5:33 AM on October 23, 2013

Once you have the baby, no one is going to care about you anymore! The only people who are going to ask you about your birth experience are women who are contemplating pregnancy in the next few years or women who are already pregnant for the first time, and they aren't asking out of concern for you - they want to hear stories about other births that are hopefully reassuring to them. You also may have interest from women who had particularly awful birth experiences, and they are only asking because they want to talk about their own childbirth stories. So just make them all happy and say, "Once I had my baby in my arms, I forgot everything else."
posted by amro at 6:05 AM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

You can say, "I'm traumatized!" And then show pictures of your little one.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:49 AM on October 23, 2013

My birth/labor story was really harrowing for me and I genuinely wasn't ready to talk about it for a while. I found that telling people "Everything came out fine. I'm not ready to talk about the rest," worked with everyone I spoke with. Women who had given birth all understood. People who hadn't... weren't interested in the hardcore labor details anyway.
posted by Mchelly at 9:07 AM on October 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wouldn't give anything too breezy or jokey, or change the subject too quickly - those really are basically F yous.

I'd go with something like a little crinkly face (conveying they don't want too many details!) followed by a smile with an everything turned out fine, the baby is amazing and listen to this cute baby story! Or better yet, if you're friendly enough to go to lunch with them and you think they'd understand, discreetly ask them if you can take them to lunch and chat about the baby then. At lunch, just explain that your supervisors don't talk about personal stuff that much, and you really like talking to Jane or whoever but you'd rather keep it to lunchtime or break time so the bosses don't get too focused on you and your time out of the office?

People are going to be okay if you're sincere, give them a little something (not too cryptic or nothing, or it will make a big gossip thing), and seem happy to see them and chat like normal.
posted by mrs. taters at 3:39 PM on October 23, 2013

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