Pregnancy Body Shame Game
The body shame game is not a new phenomenon that we are experiencing for the first time during a pandemic. We body shame women when they gain too much weight, lose too much weight, and even after they have a baby saying "she's not losing that weight like I thought she would." We even do this to ourselves and I have definitely been my own target on some occasions and can't help but wonder why we do this at all? The roots of body image issues run far deeper than I care to discuss here today and sure, upbringing and culture have a lot to do with it as well, but when we get older and should "know better" we still do it, and worse at times.
Take pregnancy for example. This beautiful, celebratory time for a woman and her family gets more attention from total strangers than one would ever think. From asking "how long were you trying?" to insinuating that "two was more than enough" people feel like it is their duty to comment on every stage/decision of a pregnant women's journey. What really gets me is the comments about her weight gain or lack thereof at each trimester. Sure, there are standard guidelines that should be followed regarding the "appropriate amount of weight to gain" and guess what??? Life happens so that is exactly why they are called "guidelines". No one can, or should predict the correct amount of weight a mother is going to gain. I have had two pregnancies and did not gain the "recommended" amount of weight for either one and guess what? My babies still thrived and I managed to do just fine. So if I am not worried about it then why are you??
I was enjoying my Sunday outside with my 26-week pregnant belly showing under my shirt and my neighbor took it upon herself to say "oh wow, you are getting big. How much weight have you gained? A lot?" I'm sorry. When did we cross the threshold from neighbors to OBGYN? Sure, her intentions were not harmful, but her remarks came out that way. If I was a weaker version of myself (who did exist 1.5 years ago) this comment could have sent me into a tailspin. I was actually so shocked by her boldness I just smiled and reminded her that pregnant women do put on weight and tend to grow their bellies. I know that I look incredible, and when I look in the mirror I see that strong back and triceps I have been working so hard on. I also see that growing belly that is my son's house and deserves some love and affection too.
Some people will think "oh why let it bother you?" and I'll tell you its because people are getting away with these comments more and more and pretending like they didn't mean anything by it. If you didn't mean anything by it, then why did you say anything at all? Do you think I haven't noticed the belly or the weight gain? Why did you feel it is necessary to comment on this? These comments, these attitudes, this stance is what pushes women into depression during a time that is supposed to be amazing and magical. People know exactly what they are doing and saying and need to be held accountable for it. News flash: Say something about how pretty a new mom looks, or how motherhood looks good on her. That is a welcomed comment that will be received with gratitude and compassion. Take care of one another and especially pregnant women and new mothers. We are a vulnerable population and need more support and encouragement rather than negativity and judgment.