There are several things that people love saying to pregnant women. There's "whoa, are you expecting twins!" (No. I am not.) There's "Can I touch your belly?" (No, stranger, you cannot.) But there’s one “compliment” that comes up again and again. When people say it, it's with the best of intentions, yet it’s annoying AF. And that is when people tell pregnant women they're "glowing."
To be clear, “pregnancy glow” is not a myth. Thanks to increased hormones and blood flow, there are some women who might experience a dewy complexion, an effect that is basically akin to using the greatest highlighter ever. But, let’s be real, this is not what a lot of pregnant women. Personally speaking, my skin has decided to regress to its middle school state, and I’ve basically been broken out for the past seven months. Also, I’m exhausted from carrying around a legit bowling ball all day. So when you tell me that I’m "glowing," you and I both know the truth: it’s most likely sweat, and it’s really not all that sexy.
I’ve received this comment on several occasions: in fact, the receptionist at the nail salon said it to me this morning. Every time I hear it, I know that it’s complete BS. I have a working mirror; I know what I look like. So if there is any inkling of a “glow,” it’s because I spent 20 minutes applying a full face of contour makeup before going out. That’s it: no magic, no hormones, no pregnancy beauty voodoo.
If I have any inkling of a “glow,” it’s because I spent 20 minutes applying a full face of contour makeup before going out. That’s it: no magic, no hormones, no pregnancy beauty voodoo.
I know people mean well when they offer up this comment, as it seems like a “safe” way to comment on a pregnant woman’s appearance. That’s not to say that there aren’t people who will blurt out, “You’re huge!” or ask if someone is carrying twins when she’s just nearing the end of her third trimester. Those people are out there, and they're terrible. But to the oblivious outsider, “glowing” is a flattering word, a way to tell a pregnant woman that she looks good. But when a compliment doesn’t sit well with the recipient, is it really a compliment at all?
Obviously, everyone has a different experience with pregnancy. There are some women who love every second of their pregnancy and feel like a magical goddess during those nine months. But for other people, myself included, pregnancy is a weird time. Your body doesn’t feel like your body. It’s uncomfortable, painful, and altogether foreign. And you know what? That’s OK. In fact, I wish society did a better job of telling women that it’s simply OK to feel gross during pregnancy. That it’s OK to not feel like a fluttering pixie embracing her physical changes with grace and poise. Maybe if there was less pressure on that front, outsiders wouldn’t feel that obligation to comment on a “glow” that simply isn’t there.
You might have the best of intentions when you tell a pregnant woman that she’s glowing, but take a minute to think before you offer this observation. Are you just saying it for the sake of having something to say? Might it be possible that she doesn’t agree with you? Could she feel self-conscious about her appearance to begin with?
The underlying point is actually quite straightforward: it’s time to stop commenting on a woman’s appearance, period. Even if you think you’re being flattering, or just trying to be polite, it’s hard to know how a complete stranger will react to someone else offering up their opinion on how she looks. For the record, this should be the rule no matter if a woman is pregnant or not. But pregnancy is an especially personal time for people, and it can already be challenging to have something so intimate be so visible to the outside world. Add in unwanted comments from strangers, and it’s enough to make some people never want to leave their house.
You might have the best of intentions when you tell a pregnant woman that she’s glowing, but take a minute to think before you offer this observation. Are you just saying it for the sake of having something to say? Might it be possible that she doesn’t agree with you? Could she feel self-conscious about her appearance to begin with? Chances are, the answer is “yes” to at least one of those questions, which means you should probably keep that “glowing” comment to yourself. If you really need something to say, try simply asking how she’s feeling. Because ultimately, that matters a lot more than the shimmering nature of her skin.