What arguably makes pregnancy all the more difficult to handle, is just how public the entire process is. Towards the end of your pregnancy, and whether you like it or not, you'll end up feeling like a walking spectacle. A pregnant belly seems to invite unwanted commentary from nearly everyone from strangers, to well-meaning friends and family. As someone who has experienced the "fun" that is walking around with a full-term pregnant belly twice, I've created a few basic rules for talking about my stomach while I'm pregnant. Or, you know, ever.
Maybe I'm more sensitive than most women. Perhaps I'm one of the few people that do not enjoy walking into a room and having the size and shape of my pregnant belly be the first thing everyone wants to talk about. However, to me, there really was no comment anyone could make about my pregnant stomach that felt flattering, or that resonated as pleasant in any way. If someone told me how "tiny" I looked, my first instinct was somewhat positive, but then I was like, "Oh crap, what if something is wrong with the baby?" If someone told me that I had "really grown" since the last time they'd seen me, instead of feeling relief that my previous worries about the pregnancy were assuaged, I would be worried that I had gone overboard with my pregnancy weight gain. It really is a losing battle.
I think the singular types of comments that people made that actually made me feel positive about my body were the ones that didn't have to do with my belly at all. Things like, "You look really beautiful," or, "You're glowing," or, "Pregnancy sure suits you," always made me feel good. So maybe we could lay off all this belly talk?
Rule 1: Don’t Tell Me If You Think I’m Showing
In the beginning of my pregnancy, the people "in the know" would often, in the first moments of seeing me, assess whether or not I was showing. In my first pregnancy, I was convinced that at five weeks I was already showing. This of course, was not true (it was just bloat) but I wanted to think that I was showing because it made me feel better about myself and my pregnancy and the life change I was experiencing.
Realistically, I had packed on a few holiday pounds (or who knows what those pounds belonged to, it doesn't matter) before getting pregnant, and had decided that by weeks five or six, I had a little pregnant belly. Everyone else disagreed. They were right, it was just my actual belly with some extra padding, but I didn't want to hear it (and I didn't ask, thank you very much).
Rule 2: If You’re Not Sure If I’m Showing, Hands Off
If you’re not sure I am showing yet, but you are aware that I am indeed pregnant (because I’ve shared this information with you, or because it is public knowledge), please do not give me a surprise shirt lift. This is not Bourbon Street and I am not in an episode of Girls Gone Wild.
Hands off of my strategically layered cardigan or extra large scarf, which I have expressly worn for the purpose of hiding my not-quite-there-yet pregnant belly. I know my body is a pregnant body, but it's still my freakin' body, thank you very much.
Rule 3: No Gender Guesses. Ever.
Your comment about "how I'm carrying" and whether or not it means I'm going to have a boy or girl, brings with it some implications that I might not be comfortable hearing.
For example, you might say that I am likely having a girl because I am carrying “wide." Well, for me, the term “wide” has never been something I've aspired to look like. I don’t want to appear wide, even if I am carrying a wide load. So, please, just keep the comments to yourself. I don’t see you walking around with a special ultrasound machine. Unless you are my doctor or ultrasound technician, I don’t want to hear your crystal ball guesses.
Rule 4: Do Not Tell Me That It Could Be “Any Day Now”
Whether it was complete strangers, or close family members who knew my due date by heart, would stare at my pregnant belly and say, "Any day now!" Ugh.
I would look at them and be like, “I sure hope not, since we still have three months to go!” I don’t know if this is a comment intended to fill space or because sometimes people just don’t know what to say when they see an enormous pregnant belly. Either way, it's just not helpful.
Rule 5: Do Not Liken My Belly To Geometric Shapes Or Objects
At one point in one of my pregnancies, a few people casually mentioned that my belly had obtained a “torpedo-like” shape. This was less than pleasant to hear. What did that imply about the baby inside of that torpedo shape? Was he misshapen? Did he have a cone head? Was I doomed to have him shoot out through my stomach like Sigourney Weaver’s creature baby in Alien?
Rule 6: Don't Say How "Cute" Or "Little" My Belly Is
Of course, the words "cute" and "little" sound nice, but what do they really mean? Is my belly not big enough for how far along I am? Should I be carrying "bigger," compared to your experience with pregnant bellies? Furthermore, I really don't need to be constantly reminded that a woman only looks "cute" when she is taking up as little space as possible. I'm pregnant. More importantly, I'm a human being. I am going to take up as much space as is necessary, and I really don't care if someone else thinks that's "cute."
All of these comments about shape, size, girth, etc. play into a pregnant woman's constant internal panic that something could be going horribly wrong with her pregnancy. If only I could've just worn a shirt every day of my pregnancy that said, "Keep all comments to yourself."
Rule 7: Don't Tell Me How "Huge" I Am
Yeah, I am aware of how huge my belly is. I haven't been able to move from one side of my bed, to the other, without the help of an industrial-sized lever for weeks. I mean, of course I'm "huge," I'm about to give birth imminently.
Again, you're making me feel bad. Just stop.
Rule 8: Do Not Offer Some Postpartum Description Of My Stomach
One of the cruel realities of postpartum life is that your stomach pretty much looks just as pregnant as it did when you were still carrying the baby. I mean, it had a little more or less than 40 weeks to expand, so it's going to take a while to shrink.
Still, literally with every friend or family visit to see the baby, I endured a constant yammering about my ever-shrinking stomach. I know that people were trying to be encouraging, but I would have preferred everyone just ignore my tummy for a while and we could all resume interest in it once I felt comfortable introducing it to the world again. I mean, we'd all been collectively gawking and rubbing and listening and tapping my stomach for like, the better part of eight months. Couldn’t we just leave the poor thing alone at this point? After all, it just finished growing a human being. Give it a rest, will ya?