Tag Archives: respect

In Which Pregnancy Makes You a Spectacle

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The proverbial cat is out of the bag. Obviously, everyone remotely connected to Jason or I through Facebook land was aware. Most of our neighbors knew (they do see me walking my dog every day). All of our Milwaukee friends knew. All of my co-workers knew.

And then this started happening:

And became this:

And now everyone knows, whether I want them to or not.

Which, I mean, its fine. I’m not ashamed of my pregnancy. We wanted this. And while I’m normally a very open person, especially when it comes to social media, the awkward conundrum of being pregnant is that everyone expects you to be very open about a subject that I feel is none of their business: my body. Oh yes, I know. I know I’m a vessel for the miraculous and it’s so exciting and aren’t I just amazed because I’m going to be a mommy. And while all of this is true…I am still me. Me, who really has no desire to have extended conversations about the size of my stomach. Again, not that I’m ashamed of the fact that I am bigger and I have gained weight but pardon me if I’m not thrilled about the ridiculous amount of scrutiny my midsection has gotten.

Thankfully, there have only been two attempted belly touches. One was from a well-meaning older lady that I see on a regular basis. Customarily, we hug before we part ways, and even before I was showing she would start leaning in to cradle my stomach. This was easily deflected by changing my hug to a one-armer and putting the other arm across my belly. It was a quiet way of being protective and saying “No, I am not for touching”. The other attempt was similar; this woman was of another ethnicity whose culture tends to be much more open and touchy-feely than mine. At first, trying to be sensitive, I let her hug and rub away. After a few weeks of being completely weirded out by this, I shortened our hugs and started keeping my arm in front of me. Again, that seemed to do the trick.

However, if anyone has any pointers about politely deflecting unwanted conversations about my stomach, I’m totally open to them. At this point, I’m ready to start pointing out random features on the commenter’s body to change the subject.

Because, seriously? Would you feel it’s appropriate to discuss as length about how big or how small a woman is if she isn’t pregnant? And since when does pregnancy make her a free-for-all for public scrutiny and commentary? I am still a human being, deserving of respect and privacy. I have not become a heifer simply because I’m carrying a baby.

I’m carrying small, which my midwife tells me is normal given that it’s my first and that I was petite before pregnancy. Depending on what I’m wearing, I can either look really bloated or I can actually appear to be 27 weeks along. To my horror, I overheard someone at a recent gathering talking to someone else (like, I’m not even a part of this conversation) about how when they saw me three weeks ago, I wasn’t showing at all.

“But now,” he went on to say, “Well now she is!”

A client came into the office where I work as a secretary and jokingly asked me if I was gaining weight. Half-laughing along, I confirmed that yes, I was expecting a baby. When I told him my due date, he went on to make repeated comments about how small I still was and to ask if I meant November of this year. This is not someone I’m related to, see on a regular basis, or even consider a friend. I stood there trying to remain professional and feeling incredibly uncomfortable as he kept looking me over and talking about my undersized belly.

There is a difference between a general compliment and an unwanted comment. My sister telling me that she thinks my baby bump is cute is acceptable. And it’s not like there aren’t exceptions. Kids, for example, who are naturally curious and exciting. My husband; you know, the father of the baby. My midwife, who’s concerned with my size because it’s her job to be. And…let me think…

The bottom line is that I don’t care how damn exciting it is for you: making unsolicited comments about another person’s body, no matter what phase of life they’re in is never appropriate. It’s rude. It’s embarrassing. Even if you’re trying to make a joke (“You’re gonna need a wheelbarrow to haul that around by the end!”) I am not laughing. I’m wanting to get as far away from you and your prying eyes as I possibly can.

So friends, especially male friends, if you want to say something to a pregnant lady about her body that is more than a straightforward, “You’re looking great!” don’t. Just don’t. Not unless you feel comfortable with them pointing to your butt, chest, pimples, nose, or any other body part and starting a conversation about it. If you do actually feel comfortable with that, by all means, be my guest. We can chat about your double chin all you want.

And for some comic relief, I will recount a conversation between Jason and I that took place while camping with friends last weekend:

Jason: You’re looking awful bloated.

Me: (After some liberal use of profanity) I could be really nasty right now.

Jason: Go ahead! I can handle it.

Me: Well, at least my belly is full of a baby and not chocolate chip cookies. I have an excuse.

Because that’s how we roll.

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