Women have been gestating babies for generations. Literally thousands of years. Still, the media never seems to capture pregnancy accurately. Sure, things have improved since I was a kid and every sitcom featuring a birth showed a woman waddling to the door with a hand on her back while her flustered husband seemed to be taken completely by surprise that the baby would actually have to come out some time. But even in 2016, there are media depictions of pregnancy that every pregnant woman hates. From the way pregnant women are represented in movies, advertisements and on our favorite television shoes, it is clear our culture has complicated feelings about a woman's superpower to grow a human being.
For example, I have never seen an athletic wear brand feature a pregnant woman safely working out, yet I was an avid gym goer throughout my first pregnancy, taking my last spinning class on my due date. Pregnant ladies like fancy lingerie too, but you wouldn’t know it looking at ads for intimate wear. I’ve rarely watched a storyline about a pregnant woman unfold on TV or in film where she wasn’t surrounded by either a bunch of other pregnant women, or dudes, or just an ensemble cast befuddled by her pregnant state. It’s like the media can’t wrap their head around the idea that pregnant women are still women, and can be found in pretty much all the same situations that non-pregnant women are seen in (except when it comes to roller coasters).
We really need to step up our game to include more representation of pregnant women in scenarios that aren’t solely centered around motherhood. The more we see pregnant women in the media doing all the things, the less of a stigma pregnancy will be. It will advance the fight towards parity, for all women, when images of us represent the variety of shapes we come in. So, as we rally for better representation of our pregnant selves, let’s take a moment to reflect on the following media depictions of pregnancy that every pregnant woman hates, to motivate the movement towards more inclusive (and accurate) imagery:
In the ninth (bordering on 10th) month it is a struggle, I won't lie. However, if the couch was truly too squishy to hinder our ability to rise to a standing position from it, we would not have sat down there in the first place. Give us some credit, please.
Yes, I was in awe at what my body was capable of doing. I was literally morphing, and everything was still working and, well, pregnancy is amazing. But I didn’t find myself wowed to the point that all I did was stare at my growing baby bump. It was more like thinking to myself, as I’d catch my reflection in a window, “Oh cool, that’s me.” Then I’d go back to finding something to eat.
Unless it was to hoist the bump up over the waistband of the jeans I was literally hours from being able to wear anymore, I don’t recall ever pretending my belly was a baby. Not everyone goes full-on maternal about their growing belly. We may have mixed feelings about our changing bodies.
No. Touching. Seriously. Don’t even ask to touch it. We don’t want anyone’s hands on any part of us. I mean, would a non-pregnant person ever be OK with someone asking to touch a certain part of them, especially someone they don't know?
Cravings happen but I have yet to meet a woman who lusted after this creamy-sweet-dill combination. If we weren’t struggling with morning sickness already, just mentioning this concoction would have us hurling.
Why do I rarely see a sweaty pregnant lady on television? My tolerance for heat was obliterated by the end of my second trimester. I would have the air conditioner and a fan blowing on me. I went without socks into November (and New York City isn't exactly balmy that time of year). We are carrying extra body weight, increased blood volume, and thicker hair when we are pregnant. All that makes us very hot (literally and figuratively).
I treated my bump with the respect it deserved: with elastic waistbands and plenty of coconut oil. Never did I use it as a laundry folding platform. I’m sure it’s tempting, especially for those who carry high, but I felt weird about putting things on my belly, with a kid in there.
I was hit with the nesting urge late in my pregnancies, but it never crossed over into a full interior designer mode. First of all, we couldn’t afford all those Pottery Barn sets with a baby on the way. Second of all, I didn’t even like any of that furniture. Having a new (and newish, for my second kid) crib, a sturdy changing table (which you don’t even technically need to wipe a butt) and some clean blankets and clothes tucked away was as crazy as I got in preparing the baby’s room.
I get that there are women who are way more into decorating their homes than I am, and that's valid. Still, it would be nice to see just a little diversity in what the media’s idea of a baby’s room could be. My kids didn’t even sleep in their rooms for the first four months, as they bunked in with us to make the frequent nighttime feeding sessions easier.
This made me mad because it was so true. Watching my skin stretch in places as the baby kicked made my horror film-loving husband squirm. He couldn’t handle it. So seeing television dads react the same way is kind of a bummer. I don’t want to believe that all male partners are so easily made squeamish by their future kids or the amazing things a woman's pregnant body is doing and can do.
This is played for laughs in movies like Knocked Up, but dads-to-be should probably be annoyed about this particular depiction, too. We don’t expect our partners to understand exactly what we’re going through — since most of the time they have not experienced pregnancy, physically, firsthand — but to perpetuate the myth that future fathers are incapable of doing research, asking thoughtful questions, and doing whatever it takes to be a trustworthy partner is ridiculous. My husband may not have been able to grasp the concept of pregnancy from my point of view, but he never pretended it was beyond his ability to try.