A little PSA regarding baby bumps:
Dear Pregnant Woman,
That’s me, that picture above. Did you instantly compare yourself to it? Did you instantly wonder how far along I was in each picture? Were you sizing yourself up based on where you are in your pregnancy?
Did you? Because its exactly what I would have done. I still do it, although with much less fervor than I did the first time around. If you did not, feel free to skip the rest of this message, because you don’t need it. Also, bravo, and please tell me your secret. But for the rest of us, here is what I have to say:
If you are tall/short/petite/”big-boned”/in shape/out of shape/overweight/underweight, you might have a big or a small or an in-between sized baby bump. Your baby may be small or big or in-between. I have observed literally zero correlation between any of these factors.
Pregnancy is a crapshoot. There is absolutely NO rule that is always true about pregnancy, except maybe that it will end at some point. How much and how quickly you show seems to be at best, luck of the draw. I know extremely thin women who never showed much, extremely thin women who had very large baby bumps. I know women who worked out religiously and watched what they ate during pregnancy and still gained way over the recommended 25-35 lbs. I know women who ate junk food and have laid around for most of their pregnancy and gained 7 lbs or less.
I know tall women with big bumps, petite women with big bumps, tall women with tiny bumps, and petite women with tiny bumps. I know women of literally every shape and size who “showed” early, and women of literally every shape and size who barely ever showed at all.
People will tell you wonderful, kind, and very empathetic things like “OH MY GOD YOU ARE HUGE!” And “Oh my god, are you starving yourself?” and “Oh my god, you are showing ALREADY?!” and “Oh my god, when are you ever going to start showing?” and “It must be twins/a huge baby!” and “Are you sure you are even pregnant?”
People will “comfort” you by saying “You are huge, but its alllll belly!” or “Its just because you are so tiny, the baby has nowhere to go but out!” or “Your strong ab muscles must be hiding the baby!” or “I’m sure its just because you’ve been so sick that you are still so small.”
The underlying message will feel like “here is the excuse you should use, because you should look different.”
I had a “huge” belly. The picture above on the left is me at 6 weeks pregnant, while the picture on the right is at 38 weeks. I looked like the left picture until around 16-19 weeks and then looked like the pic on the right from about week 31 through 40. And when my 9lb baby who was literally off the charts for length emerged from my 5 foot 2 size 2/4 frame, I wanted to shout it from the fucking rooftops. “HA! LOOK AT THIS, FUCKERS! MY BIG BELLY WAS LEGIT. LEGIT! HOW MANY OF YOU HAD BABIES THIS BIG??” But nobody noticed, or commented, or cared. Because, why would they? I cared though. Big time. I carried the memory of people gasping when they heard my due date and saying “but you are so big already!” with me, along with the memory of the lady at Target who insisted I must be due any day ( I was 26 weeks) or I was having twins ( I was not) or my baby must be HUGE ( turns out, yes, she was a big baby, but we didn’t know that yet.) So I still bring up my daughter’s impressive size whenever I can. Because I still feel defensive. It’s like I am attempting to convince myself that I wasn’t a failure for being “too big”. Because people are obsessed with sizing up and comparing baby bumps. Which is freaking ridiculous. Who actually cares about the size of another woman’s baby bump? Seriously, who? I’m going to go out on a limb and say these people maybe aren’t the healthiest of folk. And maybe have way too much time on their hands.
I think the vast majority of people make these comments without thinking. They do it because its what they’ve been taught to do, by media, culture, friends and family. It is a social pastime to discuss women’s bodies. We think its our right. We think a woman wants to hear our feedback on her body. We criticize the bodies of female celebrities without even thinking twice, for even a split second.
Here’s the scary but 100% honest truth: we don’t get to pick what our body does when its pregnant. We don’t get to pick how we carry our baby, and how that looks on the outside. Its kind of the ultimate shame-fest topic because not only do we get to shame a woman’s appearance, we get to tie it to her ability to be a good mother. You get too big and its not good for the baby, you are too small and its not good for the baby.
And some of us will have huge bumps and tiny babies, some of us will have tiny bumps and huge babies, and some of us will get so sick of having to “defend” the size and shape of our pregnant bodies, of hearing these comments lined with a “polite” layer of judgement and “concern” that we are moved to write pregnant PSAs on Facebook.
So from one pregnant woman to the world – if we could just go ahead and agree to only say things like “you look great/beautiful/good/amazing” or SAY NOTHING regarding the appearance of a pregnant woman, that would be great. And from one pregnant woman to another – at least its only 9 months.