‘Yes, my bump was small, but it was still very “real”.’

Video by MWN

A while ago, Mamamia ran a story that really annoyed me.

It was this article about what pregnant women ‘really’ look like, and subsequently it was shared with a caption around what ‘real’ women look like during their pregnancy, without  Photoshop and the rest of it.

The premise of the article is great, as is the project. Photographer, Natalie McCain, who has struggled with her own body image and weight, compiles a series of photographs of heavily pregnant women, showing the perceived ‘truth’ of the matter. The heaviness, which goes everywhere not just on said baby belly, the stretch marks, the cellulite, the linea negra etc etc. You name it, and a lot of pregnant women have experienced it.

The project celebrates the female form and the magic behind conception and carrying a baby. Sounds great, right? I love it, truly.

pregnant body shaming
A photo from “The Beauty In A Mother” photo series, which celebrates mothers who don’t conform to post-pregnancy body expectations.

But here’s the issue. When you start bandying terms around like ‘real’ women, and an ‘authentic’ pregnancy it starts to offend people. Women like me for example, who recently gave birth to a 3.6 kilogram baby girl, but gained very little weight during their pregnancy.

Yes, I was one of those women with a teeny baby bump that everyone hates, who wears their own clothes the entire pregnancy, can exercise up until the thirty-eighth week (which is basically the end) and then returns to their original figure in a few weeks sans stretch marks, loose skin, linea negra etc.

But, why hate me? Does the fact that I carried smaller make my pregnancy less ‘real’ or ‘authentic’? After all I did have a baby in my uterus for 10 months and I did birth it from my vagina.

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pregnant body shaming
Lisa’s body ten weeks post-partum.

So the article made me angry. There are a lot of women out there who had to endure commentary throughout their entire pregnancy about how ‘small’ they were, comments like:

‘Is there even a baby in there?’

‘Are you doing a Beyonce?’ (ie getting someone else to carry your baby but pretending to be pregnant).

‘You are not going to have a big baby, no chance.’

LISTEN: Would you snapchat your birth? (Post continues…)

Oh and here’s my personal favourite:

‘You’re such a bitch!’ said in a well meaning and ironic tone, but really! A bitch because I’m carrying small?!!

And that’s not the worst of it. Those are the people who are just saying things in jest, who you laugh along with because it sort of is funny. What about the people who take you aside at parties and say,

‘I really think you should have another ultrasound, that bump is too small,’ with a concerned look. Said on your thirty-fifth week, implying that the baby’s not growing anymore or worse still…….

pregnant body shaming
Lisa at 38 weeks pregnant.

You know, the one’s that make you paranoid, so then you go to your midwife and ask questions like,

‘Is there still a baby in there?’

Yeah, that’s right. I did that.

So before we go out and label something ‘real’ and ‘authentic’ remember who in consequence you’re labeling ‘unreal’ and ‘inauthentic’.

If we’re going to celebrate the female form we should be celebrating all elements of the female form, not just the one’s society told us are right for a particular occasion.

Here’s to all the women that carried small!

Were you irritated by all the commentary on your size and shape during your pregnancy?

Lisa Portolan has been a communications professional for over a decade, heading up some of the largest Government advertising campaigns, including Digital Switchover, Retune, National Broadband Network (NBN). Previously she has worked in the private sector with a series of advertising agencies and with Amnesty International Australia. She is currently the Director of Communications at the Australian Institute of Sport. Lisa is also a freelance journalist and writer, her debut novel, See Saw (published through the US company Barringer) will be released in August in Australia and Internationally. She also runs a small yoga studio, Purusa Yoga. 

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