At 22 weeks pregnant with my first baby, I was finally starting to feel good about the way I looked as a future mama – the shock had worn off (mostly), my fuller tummy now had a decisive baby bump, and my skin (which had broken out like the onset of a vicious second puberty) was starting to calm down.
I was wearing a fitted black dress and boots and was feeling more like myself than I had for months, if a little nervous.
The cause for alarm? My partner and I were headed out to his twin nephews’ pirate-themed fifth birthday party (I know, not generally a code red). But I have a checkered history with his family, and my sister-in-law generally goes out of her way to be nasty, so I was gearing up all morning for birthday cake with a side of potential mutiny.
My fears were justified within 10 minutes of our arrival, when a (well-meaning but oh-so-misguided) close member of my husband’s family walked over to assure me that she was being very careful not to get me in any of her family photos. You know, since I “probably wouldn’t want to be photographed, looking the way I do in my current state.”
I found the (increasingly narrow and unpopulated) high road and walked away. I then ran into my sister in law, who had never said a word about the pregnancy to me, even though the baby will be her children’s cousin. When I asked if she needed help in the kitchen, she told me to just “go back outside and look fat.” Twice. Which I guess was partly my fault because I was certain I had misheard her the first time and asked her to repeat herself.
There were far too many tiny pirates and princesses around for me to use the language I would have liked, but when I calmly told her she was out of line, her response was not to worry, there would be “another fatty coming along later who was even bigger than me, so I wouldn’t need to feel as bad about myself then.”
With the exception of my partner, not one of the surrounding family members or guests said a word, which was the most hurtful part of all. We left.
I know I am not the first to experience this, and I’m definitely not the last. Society as a whole seems to think that once we announce that positive test, our bodies are cause for open discussion, comparison, ridicule, and comment, and for some reason we should feel ashamed of our changing shapes. You’re too big. You’re not big enough. Are you sure you’re pregnant? Don’t worry, you don’t look pregnant yet; more like you had too much lunch!
So, for any pregnant woman out there who has experienced this adult body-shaming and had others keep silent, if I had been there, this is what I would have liked to have said to you (after I was finished attacking the bully who had torn you down, that is).
It is no one’s place to tell you how to feel about yourself, or what you want or don’t want from these incredible nine months of your life. You have the right to distance yourself and your child from people who don’t deserve to be around you. Think about what your body is capable of, and what you are doing as we speak.
Whatever the shape of your body - and it is none of my business what that shape is - you are a bloody walking MIRACLE, producing a beautiful new life for this world. And you’re doing an amazing job.
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