As someone who battles with my weight and self image, I’ve spent my life trying to hide my body. It dictates what I wear, what I do and even how I sit – these are all done in a way which minimises the amount of flaws on display. So the visibility of my body during pregnancy is something I struggle with.
Suddenly it’s ok for people to comment and discuss my shape, often without invitation. Don’t get me wrong, most comments are well meaning and complimentary…but even they couldn’t take the sting out of being told I was basically a fat freak by someone I’d barely even met before. On more than one occasion this charmer has reacted with shock when overhearing how far along I was, gasping that I was huge. In one instance she even combined the classic I thought you were nearly due with the equally tactful is it twins?! I was 24 weeks at the time.
The rational side of me knows not to take to heart the words of an airhead (common office perception, not just me being a bitch) who thinks it’s ok to dress head-to-toe in gradients of Barbie-pink in her late 40’s (ok, that was me just being a bitch). But when has body hatred ever been rational? Instead of writing those comments off as just moronic standard phrases tossed out by conversationally challenged people to anyone expecting, I have internalised them.
This is dangerous territory for someone with a history coloured by disordered eating and low self esteem. And trust me, I’m trying hard to put it in the fuck-it bucket. I want to enjoy what is probably going to be my last pregnancy, to embrace my changing body. I’ve only put on half a pound in the last 11 weeks, and my fitness and nutrition focus comes from a desire to give myself the best chance at having as active and natural a birth as possible, to give my baby the best start with all the nutrients he needs and to fuel myself to get through each day. My aim is to keep any excess weight gain to a minimum to avoid the negative health impacts of a dramatic increase in body fat. On the whole, this is my healthiest pregnancy ever, and I should be proud and content.
But it’s always there, the fear that in the eyes of others I look enormous. That I am enormous. It leaves me feeling uncomfortable in my maternity clothes, self conscious during my Clubbercise class, guilty about what I eat. I wonder if that idiot had any idea of the weight of her words?
So next time you talk to a pregnant woman, ask about her, ask about her baby – names, siblings, if she’s got everything ready yet, how she’s keeping, when she’s planning on finishing up for maternity leave. There are a million things you can chat about…her body doesn’t have to be one of them.
In fact – pregnant or not, male or female, can we just quit commenting on anybody’s body? I think we’d all be a lot happier then.