It’s a serious faux pas to assume a woman is pregnant. Ask a non-pregnant woman when she’s due and you can ruin a moment, a day, an ego and maybe even a relationship. We have decided together, as a society, that the question of pregnancy is something we will steer clear of. Even when we’re 99% sure we’re right, we’ll resist the urge to confirm.
Once the pregnancy is confirmed, however, all bets are off.
I am 26 weeks pregnant, and since day one, I have received the following comments from friends, strangers, co-workers and even my own mom:
- “You don’t even look pregnant; you just look like you’ve let yourself go.”
- “Your body is so fluffy.”
- “Is that really how big you are? Are you sure it’s not triplets?!”
- “Your baby is going to be HUGE, and you’re going to need a C-section.”
- “YOU. ARE. HUGE.”
Would you ever in a million years go up to a stranger, male or female, on the street and tell them they were huge? Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, maybe. Your favorite band, OK.
A human person with feelings living in a society that rewards the svelte, and shames the fat? A human lady-person who has gained a lot of weight in a short period of time through no fault of her own, who is unable to work out as hard as she might want to because, oh, pick a reason like feeling the urge to vomit 24 hours a day? Would you do that?
Of course you wouldn’t. You have empathy. You are a decent person.
So why do decent people do it? I’ve had 180 days to give this question some serious thought, and I’ve come to two conclusions:
People have no idea what goes on during a pregnancy.
I’m talking men and women. I’ve been asked some insane questions about being pregnant; everything from, “If you sneeze, will the baby fly out?” asked by a man, to, “Does being pregnant feel like intense period cramps for nine months?” asked by a woman.
If the latter were true, humanity would have died out a long time ago. I’m not even surprised they don’t know jack about pregnancy; god knows I was in the dark before these cells started dividing.
It’s not something society is comfortable talking about. It’s not even something women are comfortable talking about. And yet, it’s the one thing literally every person has in common: we were all born.
People look past “you” to only see “the pregnancy” as if it’s its own separate entity devoid of feelings.
It’s not you that’s huge; it’s the pregnancy that’s huge. The pregnancy is a separate life form that has put the you you used to be on hold for 10 months. (Did they tell you it was nine months? It’s 10. See how little we all know?) You can say whatever you want to the pregnancy because the pregnancy has no feelings; the pregnancy is not you.
When I get these comments and I look in the mirror and for a little bit, I hate myself. I feel like a failure. It’s not like I’m even that big. In fact, according to my OB, I’m great. I walk at least two miles every day, and I eat my greens. I’m just not society’s standard image of a pregnant woman.
My stomach is doughy and has taken on a sort of square shape. My belly button is hidden down deep around the Earth’s mantel and looks more like a half-closed eye than a button. I have two rolls of fat where my round bump should be, so you won’t see my week-by-week photographs of how my belly is growing, and I won’t be hiring a photographer to take black and white photos of me tenderly enveloping my perfect bump.
And god help me, if I hear one more person say “perfect bump” in regards to anything other than Lyft drivers and cocaine, I will seriously lose my mind. (I don’t do cocaine, but thanks.)
Society has a pregnancy mold and I just don’t fit.
I’ve realized these comments aren’t going to stop, and there’s nothing I can say or do to combat them. I don’t want to make the person feel bad just because they don’t know any better.
So instead, I revel in the awkwardness of calling myself fat post-comment: “Nope, my baby won’t be huge, I’m just fat!” I’ve shifted my focus from my rolls, and learned to roll with it.
Now I look at my pregnancy from the inside out. When I feel huge, I picture the teeny-tiny baby inside of me. I picture him running up the inner wall of my uterus like a badass, or twirling his umbilical cord like a strand of pearls.
I imagine how great it will be once he’s here and how all these comments will have been worth it. I look forward to teaching him to laugh at what life throws at you, when all you want to do is cry, and how to be a straight-up weirdo in the face of societal norms.
Are there worse things than a rude comment about your size? Absolutely. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be making moms-to-be feel beautiful.
So the next time you feel the urge to word-vomit over what you think she should look like, imagine that little two-pound fetus -- sucking up its mom’s energy, shifting her organs, and making her “fat” -- and for the love of god, give that poor woman a compliment.
Or a cupcake; she’ll lose the weight when the baby comes.