I have contemplated writing this blog post for months. At nearly 7 months pregnant, people continue to be in disbelief that I’m pregnant. In person, on Facebook and wherever else people have told me how great it is that I’m carrying so small, I’ve been gracious and said “thank you” while internally, these questions began making me feel badly about the size and shape of my belly. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my pregnancy or the baby (everything is fine) and wondered why the tone in saying I am so small was one that seemed complimentary.
I’ve had many private conversations about my frustrations with people’s reactions and the comments that are made. However, I have to admit that I’ve done a poor job at expressing this more publicly because I didn’t want to make anyone feel badly for trying to be so sweet. I’ve also tried to be playful about it, thus not in any way addressing the issue at hand. Somehow my very strong stance in being person-focused instead of body-focused was derailed. I honestly didn’t know how to handle all of this commentary and so I didn’t. Very interesting, in hindsight, for someone who specializes in body image and eating disorders!
Undoubtedly, there is an enormous amount of pressure on women and body image (men, too) and this pressure does not abate during pregnancy. Are women supposed to carry small? Large? Elsewhere on their bodies besides their bellies? The truth is that everyone carries differently, just like everyone’s natural bodies are their own individual shapes and sizes. It’s not better to show sooner rather than later or vice versa. I’ve heard countless women express concern about how their pregnant bodies will look instead of enjoying the true beauty and amazement that is pregnancy.
The door to comment on women’s bodies seems to get blown wide open during pregnancy. Not only have I had comments about my belly, I’ve had many comment on my legs, my butt, my breasts, my face, etc. and have had many reach out and touch my belly without asking. Nothing is off limits. It seems that because the body is changing, it becomes free rein.
Consider this, saying “Wow! You’re so huge!” is no different from saying “Wow! You’re so tiny!” I can completely understand how more likely than not the intention of both is a good one. But both are a judgment and send unhealthy messages about body image. The best compliments I’ve received thus far have had nothing to do with my body. I’ve been told about my pregnancy glow, how happy I seem, etc.
I’ve spent months wishing I were bigger and looking forward to the day when someone offers me their seat on a crowded subway – wishing I were bigger instead of just allowing myself to be the shape that I am. But the truth is that I feel great, so far things have been smooth and I couldn’t ask for more than that. I love my belly (at whatever size it needs to be) and I don’t take for granted that my body can create this miracle.
This blog post is a step forward in addressing this issue more publicly. I hope that we can all make an effort to be as sensitive and respectful of pregnant bodies as we try to be (I hope) of bodies in general.