Public Opinion On My Baby Body

The metrics surrounding pregnancy – and becoming pregnant – are infinite. I began by counting days on a calendar, calculating my eventual due date, noting baby’s development at each week’s gestation, and adding up my maternity leave. The progression of my pregnancy and the changes to my body were a source of pride: I gleefully posed for the monthly snapshots in the mirror, instantly feeling connected to my body and the person growing inside of it. 

Aside from a handful of family and friends, I waited until my pregnancy was mostly visible to disclose my happy news at work and to others. And then, on cue, the comments began.

“Oh, I was wondering why you looked like you gained a few.”

Or, after surfacing from what seemed like weeks of toe-curling nausea, hearing, “You’re not going to be able to keep this [pregnancy] a secret much longer.”

Hmm. Enter my social humiliation via the public’s opinion of my body.

Women subjected to unsolicited comments about their pregnant bodies registers right up there with dental work without Novocaine: it’s cruel and unnecessary. The reason why it’s common to hear these body image war stories is because women enter the battlefield of public opinion about something incredibly personal practically every day. And, according to our offenders we pass in the grocery store or at the copy machine, it’s not only their right to approach us this way, but it is their social duty. It is imperative that they inform us how big we look, how our current appearance compares to any other pregnant person they have ever encountered, or how everything seems to be ‘coming along’ in our outward appearance. Imagine if they had absolutely nothing to say and they simply smiled?

In these moments of humiliation and a general lack of manners, I found my pride and self-confidence quickly diminished. I attempted to mitigate my bruised ego with a few different strategies. I would like to say that I was able to quickly rebuff these comments with sarcasm, but unfortunately, witty zingers often came many hours later, not in front of my offender, but instead muttered under my breath during the car ride home. Another time, despite my challenge with confrontation, I spoke calmly and directly to an individual about their offensive comments. They simply laughed off their transgression with no apology to accompany it. Clearly my tactics weren’t working, but the only person who seemed impacted by this lack of awareness was me.

Public Opinion On My Baby Body | Duluth Moms Blog{Photo credit: Kim Berrisford}

Chasing a toddler around while eight months pregnant wasn’t particularly easy, but a combination of stubbornness and a desire for normalcy motivated me in building sandcastles at Park Point, hosting fires in the backyard, and pushing a trike around the neighborhood. What didn’t appear as extra softness in my face or arms all navigated towards my robust, protruding belly. It was significant, especially for a five foot, six-inch frame. 

“How do you avoid tipping over with that giant belly of yours?”

Once my son arrived,  I became focused on this tiny human before me and again, the landmarks to note were practically endless: developmental milestones, eating routines, sleep schedules, and diaper changes. And while the majority of the focus became centered on his habits and accomplishments, it became apparent that once again, my appearance was a topic of conversation, sometimes the only topic of conversation.

“You had a baby three months ago? You don’t even look like you had a baby.”

I’m sure the 60-year old man meant to pay me a compliment. But why can’t people look like they had babies? They did. That’s the interesting part. It’s real. And there’s no metric that all women follow about their appearance before, during, or after babies. 

I learned to embrace and almost revere the concept of transitional clothing. I gave myself up to the idea that for about two years, I’d be moving up and down a variety of sizes, with a non-specific time period attached to those physical adjustments. My body was going to do what it needed it to, and worrying about the way I should look was a complete waste of time. It was liberating. I was saving space in my psyche to care for my son and to care for myself. The public opinion was irrelevant.

For the most part, I abide by that blissful ignorance now. Not to say it’s always easy. As much as I’ve endured probing questions while pregnant, my non-pregnant self has also received an abundance of awkward questions. The best advice I have to combat these insensitive and overly personal comments is to believe that whatever size you are, whatever you believe should happen to your body during this time of incredible change, is precisely what it should be. Take care of yourself – body and mind – and remember the adage that having a real woman’s body is incredible.

2 Responses to Public Opinion On My Baby Body

  1. Beth December 8, 2016 at 7:12 am #

    Aww, this made me kinda sad. Feeling bad about ourselves sucks.

    I struggle with not judging myself for my body (currently post-pregnancy), and I hate it when I judge others for theirs (though I’ve never made any comments; that’s just being a jerk). I know these attitudes have been programmed into me by our culture, but it’s still my responsibility to rewire my thinking.

  2. Carrie
    Carrie December 8, 2016 at 10:39 am #

    Hi Beth, I can relate. It’s easy to opt in to others’ opinions and comments despite knowing better. Loving our bodies is a powerful thing, especially for our families to see. I’m conscious of that with my sons, especially.