“So I guess it’s any day now,”
“Actually, I have another trimester to go.”
Yes, this was a real exchange that occurred in the kitchen at my workplace. Sounds innocent doesn’t it. I’ve been working as a digital professional for over 10 years, I am well read, I am a Canadian living in New Zealand, a feminist, I have a bachelor of journalism where I had a national column in Canada, but to the world right now I’m just a pregnant woman. And every day someone comments on my body. Every day.
Don’t get me wrong, being pregnant isn’t all bad. I always get a seat on the bus, or jump the queues in the bathroom, but it comes at a price. It comes with a lot of judgement. People staring at, commenting on, or touching your belly. Being under the microscope for the choices you make.
Along with everything else that I am, I’m also a wife of 5 years and a mother of a 2 year old and am pregnant with my second little girl.
Having the perspective of this being my second pregnancy, makes me sure that what I’ve experienced isn’t because I’m being “over-emotional, hormonal or generally crazy” due to pregnancy. People do treat you differently.
Funnily enough a lot of the inappropriate comments come from women and old men. Most progressive men know better than to comment at all.
Here’s the deal with me, I ‘pop’ early, even in my first pregnancy. I’m healthy, I eat well and exercise with daily walks, it’s just how my body works. Personally I couldn’t care less about how I look when I’m pregnant. I have 2 sisters in my family, both of whom have issues with getting pregnant, so the fact that I can, makes me feel lucky. But apparently social norms is, as Sofia Jawed-Wessel puts it, that “I now belong to society,” and therefore can be stripped of my individuality and treated as a ‘baby carrier.’
In my first pregnancy I clearly recall going to my first party post my pregnancy announcement. I was in the beautiful second trimester where the all day sickness had dissipated (on medication) and it was a summer bbq. I wore a form fitting blue/purple, Calvin Klein maxi that showed off my bump for the first time, my bluestone necklace, did my hair and make-up and happily went out the door feeling that I looked great, sort of expecting my first round of excited congrats from friends at this bbq. Instead I walked into a dragons den of judgement.
I was told, I was ‘too big’ and that I should ask for additional scans so I don’t get ‘teared in two’ essentially. Even people at the bbq I didn’t know felt the need to comment and ‘give advice’ to my vulnerable first time pregnant self about how I looked, commenting whether or not I eating too much, if I am on the road to gestational diabetes (I didn’t get it throughout my pregnancy). I went home not really sure what had happened and concerned about the ‘growth’ of my bump, having an afternoon of shame and judgement for dinner didn’t go down well.
Meanwhile at work an older female receptionist told me a story of another women of my ethnicity who she observed while pregnant saying that she was ‘eating too’ much in her first pregnancy and struggled to lose weight, but in her second pregnancy ‘she learned her lesson.’ Meanwhile I snacked on a lot on fruit, veggies and yogurt to fight off Hyperemesis Gravidarum (extreme morning sickness which I took medication for).
Here’s the deal, I’m pregnant, I am going through a lot of physiological changes that I’m coping with, some I expected, some I didn’t, but I have enough going on without non-medical professionals sharing their ideas and thoughts on my body.
So what can you say to me you’re wondering? Maybe, how are you? What were you up to this weekend? How’s your work going? (I am still me after all). And if you want to comment or raise the fact that I’m pregnant – ‘Congrats,’ is always nice, ‘Do you know what you’re having?” is fine, not offensive to me, ‘You look great’, again nice, ‘how are you feeling?’ acceptable question. Steer clear of scary birth stories, scary pregnancy stories, comments on what I’m eating, my bump size in general, medical advice if you’re not my doctor. And don’t ask ‘When are you due?’, no matter what I say the asker always drifts their eyes to my belly to make a judgement on its size, just don’t.