Alice Sutton reflects on ‘pregnancy shaming’ and why people feel the need to be negative.
At eight months pregnant and approximately eight million kilograms, I’ve noticed a trend amongst the non-pregnant to bang on endlessly with negative comments. People will say awful things. Favourites include: “After we had kids is when my marriage collapsed”; and, “What happened to your belly button? It looks disgusting.”
The advice is even better: “Get all the sleep you can now; you’ll miss that soon.” Wow, thanks for that, genius. Thank goodness you told me; now I can stockpile my sleep and just get it out again once the baby is here – that’s totally how sleep works, thanks a million.Since when has this behaviour become acceptable?
In fact, some of the worst offenders for “pregnancy shaming” are men. One guy, when hearing that I planned on delivering in water, told me, “I know how your story will end up: on your back on the bed with an epidural.” Note to men: do not attempt to mansplain labour. This is not your area!
Did I have a sexier body before I was pregnant? Of course. Pregnancy humbles a woman – the size 14 nightie I bought for labour has resulted less in a “relaxed pregnant woman” look and more “deranged Emma Bunton”. Still, being part of this journey is a privilege. How many couples would give anything to see the little blue cross popup on that Clearblue stick. And how many single girlfriends do I know who have frozen their eggs in the hope of finding somebody suitable to raise children with? A lot. An awful lot.
So, for goodness sake, be supportive. When did you last see athletes standing at the sidelines post-Ironman shouting to those who haven’t finished yet, “It’s exhausting at the end” and “Your knees will never be the same again and you look rubbish in lycra!”.
I should note that it hasn’t been all bad. My husband tells me I am beautiful despite being the size of a whale who could give Kate Moss (post bender) a run for her money face-wise. And then there’s the vegetable man at the wet market who insisted on carrying all my shopping back to the taxi because he didn’t want me doing it now I was “with joy”.
I’m not saying all expectant parents need to be wrapped up in cotton wool. I do not expect my son’s nappy to smell of roses; I do not expect to bounce back quicker than you can say “Miranda Kerr”. But being a realist is not the same as being a pessimist. Let’s be a little more Obama and a little less Trump – let’s actually think about what comes out of our mouths.
To all parents-to-be out there who may be feeling afraid or alone, I would say ignore the noise, look down and remember the big picture. Your body is a miracle. Your baby will love you unconditionally from the moment they leave your womb, however that comes to pass. We are all “with joy”, really.
And to all the nay-sayers, I would tell you the same thing my mother told me: if you can’t say anything nice, then say nothing at all.
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