There is something about seeing a pregnant woman that makes people lose their filter. It’s almost as if her bump is public property – in fact, complete strangers will think nothing of striking up a conversation about it and while some lines of questioning are fine, others border on the inappropriate to the downright rude. And don’t even get me started on the random bump touchers. Just no.
During my first pregnancy I suffered with undiagnosed antenatal depression and while I was happy to be pregnant I piled on weight and hated my body. With it being my first and sporting a large bump from early on, people often stopped me to ask how my pregnancy was going. This was, of course, well meaning but already I felt I was losing my identity; people rarely spoke to me about anything but the impending arrival and that made me feel like nothing more than an incubator – a feeling that only intensified after my son was born; I felt completely invisible. However, I took these comments and questions for what they were – the well-meant interest of colleagues and friends. Since I didn’t understand my mental health at that time I couldn’t possibly expect them to.
However other comments were harder to swallow, in particular remarks about my size – ranging from being referred to as “fatty”, being told I was “huge” and going to have an “enormous baby” and worst of all “are you sure it’s not twins?” I honestly cannot fathom why people feel it is acceptable to make comments about people’s bodies in this way – because when it came down to it the fact that I was pregnant did not make me feel any less deflated, demeaned, unattractive and self conscious. I felt like the butt of a bad joke. I also felt that it would be rude for me to defend myself; that in doing so I would be seen as vain and shallow. I felt guilty for not loving my body, the way everyone assumed I should. In short these comments caused me emotional pain that I felt unable to vocalise for fear of judgement.
I’m currently 36 weeks pregnant with number two and for some reason I’m carrying much more neatly than I did the first time around. I’m also medicated for antenatal depression and all of this has made accepting my pregnant body much easier this time. That said I have also informed friends and colleagues who are close to me that comments about my body make me feel uncomfortable. And where people have commented I have been quick to shut them down in the politest ways that I can think of: I remind them that I am very close to my due date now and that the changes to my body are what you would expect in this phase of pregnancy. I tell them that whilst they might believe that my bump is large, according to my midwife I am measuring exactly as I should be. And then I change the subject, I talk about work, the weather, my son, I ask them questions about their lives, I move it on. Because my body and my bump are mine. They are not up for debate or discussion. They are not public property.
In fact the only comments I welcome about my appearance during pregnancy are that I look well, healthy or glowing. If you don’t think these apply then make no comment at all. Ask me how I am by all means, but remember that how I am is not just pregnant – I am all of the things I was before. I just happen to be pregnant now as well.