Dear Lady at my Child’s Swim Class,
My pregnant body is not available for your commentary. When you noticed me helping my child shower off after swim class, wearing my awkward maternity swimsuit, and waddling around the locker room, you decided to enter into a very blunt conversation on my physical state. Upon discovering when I was due, you did not hesitate to make a shocked face and utter the biggest “joke” that almost every pregnant lady has heard before. “Are you sure there isn’t two in there?” And no, you did not stop there, you continued to discuss and compare the size of my belly to that of your co-worker who is further along than me and state that you could barely tell she was pregnant. Horrified, I tried to muster up a few excuses “Well, this is my third…My body just knew what to do as soon as I got pregnant…I was smaller during my first pregnancy…it must be your co-worker’s first pregnancy (and it was).” And you left to go on your merry way, oblivious to the discomfort that you caused me.
Tears are gathering in my eyes as I think about how, after that conversation, I tried to discreetly dry off and not reveal my pregnant body to anyone else in the locker room. I left feeling embarrassed, questioning my physical state, and delving into further negative self-talk about my size and weight. I am sure that when you blurted out your comments, you didn’t consider I have already been feeling chagrined at how big my belly has gotten when I am only a little over halfway through my pregnancy. I know you didn’t realize that I was embarrassed that I had to start wearing maternity jeans shortly after getting a positive pregnancy test. And I am certain you didn’t know that I have already negatively compared my weight at 15 weeks with this child as to what I weighed with my first. You could not have understood that for each of my pregnancies, the ways in which my body changes has always been a struggle. That it is difficult for me to be so big, and awkward and walk around with the gait of an 81 year old because my hips and pelvis hurt every day. I am sure you did not even think about the fact that there are some women, many women, who do not find pregnancy glamorous or easy and instead, liken it to nine months of suffering. (Worth the suffering, but still suffering).
Dear fellow mother, I am not mad at you. I don’t dislike you. You were happy and tried to enter into conversation with me, a stranger, and make small talk. I appreciate your efforts to form a connection with me. However, I want to reiterate to you, and anyone else, that my body is not available for comment, touch or otherwise random act. Just because I am pregnant, it does not give you or anyone else permission to think that you can say or do things to my body that you would not do to someone else who was not pregnant. For example, would you say to a friend, “Boy, looks like you really put on some weight there? Have you been eating too much pumpkin pie over the holidays?” No, that would be considered rude and extremely unkind (and that is using a “friend” for an example, not a complete stranger).
Dear Everyone, pregnant women are not excluded from the social rules and niceties that apply to all other humans. And in fact, please be even more courteous to those individuals growing and carrying another human being within their bodies because you have no idea what they may be dealing with. Sure, some women feel really sexy and beautiful during their pregnancies and might be able to brush off the random comments about their size or may even feel loved when you randomly touch their bellies without asking. But a lot of women don’t. A lot of women struggle with all of the changes their bodies go through during a pregnancy and many already feel self-conscious about their size or weight before you offer your opinions.
So instead, I am asking you to join me in an effort to be encouraging and uplifting to one another, especially to your fellow mom. Let’s ask how we are doing and offer compliments and positivity instead of joining into a culture that is full of judgement, comparison, and criticism. Next time you see me, I would love if you said, “Wow, you are looking great”. Or, “I love the outfit.” Or maybe don’t even comment on my appearance at all. Just say, “Hey, how are you? You are doing such a great job managing two young children while being pregnant. I’m impressed. You go girl.” For that, this mama would be grateful.