No, I'm not having twins but thanks for asking
Navigating bump shaming and heading into the final trimester
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As I write this week’s newsletter, I’m just a day away from my final trimester. I can’t quite believe how fast it’s all going this time around and what a different experience it’s been from my first.
I also forgot what a strange phenomenon it is to be pregnant and around people (after spending my first five months in relative isolation) and how common it is for complete strangers to make personal comments on your weight and bump size.
During the first week of lockdown easing in April, I was told by a lady in a shop that I looked like I should be due any day now and given a ‘wow’ expression when I told her I was just six months along. I was also warned by the lady in the nail salon - who seemingly moonlights as a midwife - that my baby was probably going to come early and that there was no way I’d go full-term.
Later in the week when I went to the park with my son wearing a new dress and feeling quite good about myself, I was told by a fellow mum that I was massive, carrying big, and the old favourite question, ‘are you sure you’re not having twins?’ I was so taking aback by the tirade of rude comments coming out of her mouth, that I didn’t really know what to say. I went home feeling like an elephant and that new dress got pushed to the back of the wardrobe.
It’s such an odd attitude that as soon as a woman gets pregnant, their bodies seem to be such a point of speculation and open discussion. Can you imagine in any other circumstance making such wild comments about a stranger’s appearance? I think not.
I suppose, I have to think myself lucky that I’m just a normal person who can enjoy some sort of relative privacy. But the experience has really made me feel a great deal more empathy for celebrities who receive such awful public shaming during their pregnancies.
Take Paloma Faith who was relentlessly hounded by the media during her first IVF pregnancy. The paparazzi worked their hardest to get the most unflattering shots of her body in an attempt to shame her for expanding to accommodate a new life. It affected Paloma so much that she pleaded with them to give her some space during her second pregnancy for the sake of her mental health.
And then there was Kim Kardashian who, during one of her two complicated pregnancies, was likened to a killer whale as she dealt with preeclampsia. Her and her baby’s health were minimised to her size and body shape, and her own mental health was completely disregarded.
It simply isn’t enough to grow a tiny human from scratch. You must look look like a bikini model at all times too, apparently.
I know, from speaking to other women, that these kind of comments can be just as hurtful when your bump is small and you don’t show as obviously. A worrying experience for many new mums, no one wants to be asked if they’ve got their dates right, or if their baby is growing properly. It can be a very stressful nine months if an issue has been flagged, such as growth, during a routine scan. And who needs that made worse by a stranger's offhand comment?
And so, at the end of another Maternal Mental Health Week, I hope that society’s attitudes towards pregnant women and their bodies may start to change over time. I’m not naive enough to believe that strangers bump-shaming habits will stop any time soon, but perhaps if more pregnant women like me start to remind them that it’s really not ok to make comments on their body, they may think twice before saying something similar again.
Until next time,
Me and my massive bump.
Before you go...
I just wanted to mention a brand new parenting magazine that's being created by TFP subscriber and journalist, Sophia Waterfield. Paranting Magazine is due to be published in June and Sophia is working really hard to raise funds for its publication. I'm one of the many writers contributing and it's set to bring real freshness to the parenting space.
If you'd like to support the magazine and it's Kickstarter fund, you can do that here.