Pregnant women shouldn’t play competitive sport. Most health professionals say so. Except that pregnancy itself has become a competitive sport. And you have no choice but to play for nine long months.
There are many individual categories: Who Got Pregnant Most Easily; Most Weight Gained; Least Weight Gained, Most Unpleasant Pregnancy Symptoms; Size and Shape Of Bump; Best Pregnancy Wardrobe; Sexiest Pregnancy; Least Pregnant-Looking Pregnant Person.
Pregnant celebrities and the genuflecting glossy gossip media aren’t helping. In fact, they seem to have turned pregnancy into an industry as well as a sport. Christina Aguliera and Angelina Jolie insist being pregnant made them feel sexier. Claudia Schiffer appeared nude on a Vogue cover during her recent third pregnancy and Mariah Carey, pregnant with twins, also posed nude with her husband thoughtfully holding up her breasts.
There are websites dedicated to watching celebrity baby bumps and glossy magazines promoting the ultimate pregnancy wardrobe. It’s intense.
Nobody explains this before you get knocked up. Foolishly, you thought pregnancy was about having a baby not trying to look like a slightly bloated Victoria’s Secret model. Now you know.
This week, I learned that control underwear is being marketed to pregnant women. Spanx, the world’s most famous fat-sucking undie brand has a new range called “Power Mama”. The marketing spiel on their website goes like this:
“Spanx is here to support you, baby bump and all! Power mamas love to look great all nine months and these Power Panties® deliver!”
Why is there a market for products that try to make pregnant women look like they’re not pregnant?
One of the things I loved about my pregnancies was not having to suck in my stomach and being reminded of what my body could do not just how it looked. Clearly, this is because I am lazy and not a Power Mama. Can we not have even nine months’ respite from the expectation of having to look hot?
It wasn’t always like this. Pregnancy used to be treated with a kind of twee, condescending reverence. Women wore shapeless smocks with childish bows, as if they worked at Darrell Lea. On the 50s TV show I Love Lucy, the word ‘pregnant’ was banned because it was deemed too crass and Lucille Ball’s “expectant” character and her husband had to sleep in twin beds. They were, however, allowed to smoke. Priorities.
Up until a few decades ago, pregnant women were treated like fragile, docile, facile creatures. There’s no nostalgia for that but at least they got a rest from the relentless pressure to be sexy that today, starts pretty much at primary school.
Now, not only do you have to be sexy when you’re pregnant, impossibly, you also have to be thin. Not your tummy. Well, not entirely. So long as you’re thin everywhere else and just look like you have a small netball stuck under your shirt, that’s OK. You must also glow and look yummy. A yummy pre-mummy.