This 'Joke' We Make About Pregnant Women Is Actually Really Screwed Up
It happened for the first time the other day. I was in Whole Foods, buying ingredients to make a Thai peanut ramen dish for dinner, when the cashier turned to me with a big grin on her face and said: “Congratulations! Are you having twins?!”
I shot her an icy expression. The answer was no. Definitely not having twins. Just carrying one baby inside my belly at the moment, thank you very much. I clenched my teeth, took a deep breath, and replied, “Nope!”
The cashier didn't seem embarrassed that she'd asked me such an intrusive question, nor did she seem to register my cold response. Instead, she cheerily continued ringing up my coconut milk and red curry paste, firing off the usual questions: When’s your due date? Do you know what you’re having? Have you chosen a name?
To be honest, I should have expected this question sooner or later. It seems as though it’s the curse of all pregnant women in the third trimester: once you reach a certain point in your pregnancy, people can't help but ask if you're having twins. Whether it's a "joke" intended to highlight how huge you've gotten or a genuine inquiry is irrelevant. It's annoying, and I'm sick of it.
Hearing “are you having twins?” translates to “you look massive.” And that’s damaging on a lot of levels.
When I heard that question, I didn’t necessarily hear the words “are you carrying twins?” I interpreted it as a commentary on how big I looked. I must have looked huge for a stranger to think that I could be months away from giving birth to two babies. Did I really look double the size I actually am? And even if you couldn't tell how many humans I had in my uteruses — why on earth would you even think to ask?
I can rationally explain the cashier's behavior. I can tell myself that she’s rude, or at the very least, inconsiderate of a pregnant person's feelings. I can tell myself that, because I’m petite and small everywhere else, my belly looks disproportionately big to the rest of my body. But no matter what I tell myself, hearing “are you having twins?” translates to “you look massive.” And that’s damaging on a lot of levels.
I am recovering from an eating disorder and I continue to struggle with body image. It takes a lot of conscious effort to not focus on the way my body has changed during pregnancy, and it’s a daily process to remind myself of the importance of being healthy for my daughter. So comments about my size during my pregnancy hit home. And while I can’t blame the Whole Foods cashier for not knowing about my personal history — isn’t that also kind of the point? We can never know how comments like that will resonate with strangers — so perhaps the safer route is to not comment on someone’s body at all.
When it comes to commenting on a pregnant woman’s body, people seem to feel entitled to make inquiries or remarks, as though the pregnant woman in question doesn’t have ownership over her body anymore. It’s hurtful, embarrassing, insulting, and just plain awkward.
Questions like "are you having twins?" might be rooted in good intentions, or simply the desire to simply make conversation. But they can end up doing a lot more harm than good. And there appears to be a disconnect when it comes to commenting on a pregnant woman’s body; people seem to feel entitled to those inquiries or remarks, as though the pregnant woman in question doesn’t have ownership over her body anymore. It’s hurtful, embarrassing, insulting, and just plain awkward.
For me, it’s hard enough navigating my own thoughts about my body. I don’t need other people's voices in my head, too. And now that I’m in my third trimester, I’ve started feeling like my belly is a conversation piece rather than my belly that belongs to me, and it’s not a good feeling at all. The mere task of going to the grocery store has become a battlefield of comments, questions, and personal anecdotes from total strangers about their own labors — all of which I have zero desire to hear.
If you find yourself tempted to ask someone if they’re carrying twins, just please take my advice and don’t. You’ll survive without knowing the answer, I promise.
Hopefully, we can get to a point one day where we simply stop commenting on one another’s bodies. The rule of thumb should be quite basic: if you’re unsure how the person might respond, it’s better to steer clear of any topic relating to someone’s physical appearance. And if you find yourself tempted to ask someone if they’re carrying twins, just please take my advice and don’t. You’ll survive without knowing the answer, I promise.