Photo: Meredith Bacon
I stumbled on this blog post recently, written while I was Very Pregnant. I never published it at the time, and then I had a baby, and then 6 months later here we are, but I loved the words and the message and wanted to share it.
I didn't start showing until very late in my pregnancy (thank you, first baby) and no one even mentioned or commented on my pregnancy publicly until I was about 28 weeks along.
At first it was pretty innocent, mostly "Congratulations! How are you feeling?" Or, "When are you due? Do you know what you're having?" followed by mostly sweet stories of their own pregnancies, or if I was really lucky, their horrible/dramatic/awful birth stories, and other pleasant, encouraging things to tell an expectant mother.
Around 30 weeks, the comments started to shift from people sharing their own stories to their thoughts on how I was doing as a pregnant person.
All in the same week I heard: "Oh my gosh you're so BIG!" and two separate instances of "How far along are you?" And when I'd answer, they'd follow up with a "Oh wow, you look so much farther along than that!"
Oh wow is right.
My sister in law told me the only appropriate response in that situation is, "Thanks! You too!"
I was shocked, and truthfully, very unsure of how to respond.
Do I agree? Disagree? Blame it on a big lunch/lots of water/pregnancy bloat/etc etc, or share that actually, I feel even bigger than I look (which is obviously whale-status and maybe not even possible considering the level of commentary I was receiving)? Or do I simply confirm the small detail that I was, in fact, pregnant?
I was dumbfounded.
I developed a strategy for whenever I heard strange comments (and there were many). I'd immediately smile and/or laugh, graciously deflect and say "I knowwww!" (why was I trying to make them feel better?) and attempt to shift the conversation as quickly as I could. A part of me just really wanted to respond with, "I'm actually not 29 weeks like I just said, I'm 42 weeks! I'm like, totally overdue and am actually on my way to the hospital right now to deliver triplets!"
I felt like I needed a statement that extreme because it was the only way I could rationalize how BIG I was - surely I wasn't just carrying one child, surely I wasn't that few weeks along.
But yes, it was only one child.
And yes, I was that "few" weeks along.
It was so strange to me that suddenly, it was acceptable for anyone - friends/strangers/family/my grocery store clerk to comment on the size of my body, of all things, and not just a neutral comment, but on how large I was. This is still totally bizarre to me and I can't think of any other situation in life when people feel that it is ok to comment on how alarming your body size is, to your face, publicly.
After looking back and chatting with friends, I realize this is just kind of what comes with the territory of being pregnant. By some stroke of luck, I ended up with a fast metabolism and come from a thin framed family, which I realize is like winning the lottery for some women who would give anything for my jean size. I remember the feeling of being "too big" though, and the comments that came with it. During that time it was hard for me to remember the purpose of being so large: that my body was growing me a healthy baby. The shocking and off-handed comments were a glimpse into the shame-land that so many women live in daily, and a sad distraction from all the good my body was doing for me.
The appropriate response to someone who is Very Pregnant is this: "You look beautiful. Congratulations." Anything else is unhelpful at best and scarring at worst. Our words are powerful; let's make sure we choose them wisely.