While a bulging belly and an increase in size are an obvious sign of pregnancy, they can be the greatest source of discomfort. This is because people tend to develop expectations based on the size of the woman. Sometimes the comments and questions can be quite unbearable. They can be a source of shame and frustration especially if they are directed towards something that you can do nothing about. They can even affect the self-image and confidence of an individual.
Last week, I cried almost every day because of comments made about my pregnant belly. Because I’m petite (5’0″) and this is my third pregnancy, I popped even earlier than with my other two children. At nearly 27 weeks, my belly is large and in-charge. Throughout this pregnancy, I’ve had a positive self-image, but lately that confidence has dwindled.
Because nearly every day last week I had someone ask when I was due. When I would say in three months, I usually received a “WOW,” as in, wow, you are big, and wow, that is a long-time from now, how are you going to make it.
It was always directed at my size. Always.
Because of the sensitivity, most times a woman does not know how to respond to these comments.
I would respond with a half-hearted laugh and a “yep, guess my body knew what to do this time around” or “downside of being short — there’s nowhere for the baby to go,” but inside I felt shame and wanted to cry.
Pregnancy is about carrying a life inside the body. The baby keeps growing with time and it is only natural that a woman’s size will increase to accommodate the child. It is quite unfortunate that most people feel like they have a right or they can comment on someone else’s body size just because they are pregnant. This is wrong.
Friends, just because a woman is pregnant, that does not give us permission to talk about her weight, marvel at the size of her belly, or rub her tummy like she’s Buddha. Just because a woman is pregnant, that does not make your oohs, ahhhs, & wows not “personal” — pregnancy is always personal. Perhaps among our trusted inner circles these conversations are still acceptable. That’s for those who are pregnant to decide and not for the rest of us to assume.
These comments can easily make a woman feel frustrated and ashamed. Instead of the demeaning and somewhat irritating comments, you can easily make the woman feel better. Do this by joining the woman in celebrating the wonderful journey. Remember it will only last for a few months and is therefore worth celebrating each and every moment.
Pregnancy is a wondrous miracle that should be celebrated. The changes that a woman’s body goes through are intense, both physically and emotionally. During the pregnancy, and in the months that follow, mothers should be treated with compassion, through actions and words. Pregnancy is NOT an invitation to remark on the size of a woman.
If you know a woman is expecting and you feel compelled to comment on her pregnancy, ask about her or celebrate the baby. Be tender and say things like:
- How are you feeling?
- Can I help you in any way?
- You have that beautiful pregnancy glow.
- What are you most looking forward to when the baby comes?
And… Never ask a pregnant woman one of these questions.
Such questions are too personal and you may end up breaking their heart.
- When are you due? (Unless this person is a close friend or family member, you don’t really need to know.)
- (“Wow” should be reserved for things that are truly incredulous and never about a woman’s size.)
- Are you having twins? (Unless this information is offered, it should not be suggested. Ever. When I was pregnant with Elias I had a delivery man who delivered to my office repeatedly ask if I was having triplets. Eventually I got so upset my office manager put him in his place.)
- Your belly looks small — is the baby OK? (Though this hasn’t been my story, I have had friends who have had this experience. If there is cause for concern about growth, the mother’s doctor or midwife will raise that concern.)
- Can I touch your belly? (Because seriously, would you do this to someone who was not pregnant? Unless the mother offers, do not ask.)
As you will realize from the above, such comments are mostly taken negatively because they get too personal. Yes, the pregnancy is public but that is just about it. the finer details of the pregnancy are not a public affair and should be therefore left to the concerned parties. If there is any information to be made public, the discretion should be with the parents and not anybody else.
While people may feel that these are just normal comments that are not meant to be hurtful, it should never escape the mind that it is not about anyone else. It is about the woman and how the comments make her she feel. The pregnancy journey is like a roller coaster. There are multiple changes that are taking place from in all aspects of life. Her physical appearance changes and her hormones also experience numerous changes. These changes affect her brain and as a result she cannot continue with her life as usual.
It is therefore advisable to try and choose right words whenever you are dealing with a pregnant woman. Additionally, having the right attitude will make the woman feel a lot better. Just like in any other situation it is mostly not what you say but how you say it.
Remember that this is something that is only for a season. It will only last for a few months and then pass. It is therefore only fair that the woman is able to go through this period with as much comfort and encouragement as possible. After all, it is not about the size but rather the beautiful gift that the woman is carrying.