From “You’re tiny!” to “You’re huge!” and everything in between, it’s just not necessary.
What is it about being pregnant that makes people think our bodies are acceptable to comment on and question?
From strangers concernedly telling me how small I was through most of my second trimester, to someone I greatly admire telling me I was alarmingly “huge” in the third trimester, to the elderly gentleman I pass every morning recently warning, “You’ll be very uncomfortable soon!” comments on our changing bodies can come from all directions and sources.
Pregnancy is a time of great vulnerability. It’s not just our bellies that are growing, but our hearts, so it is unfortunate that this is also when we become target practice for other people’s anxieties.
At first, I thought I was being particularly sensitive. I have a history of an eating disorder, and we suffered a pregnancy loss with our first pregnancy, so any concerned remark on my body elicited worry.
However, talking to others who have been pregnant, I began to realize very few of us are immune to the effect of these thoughtless remarks. Not only are they hurtful, but they also stir up fear as they’re often tied to the well-being of our babies.
When my husband and I got pregnant the second time, the shadow of our first pregnancy’s loss hung over me. We suffered from a “missed miscarriage” during our first pregnancy, where the body continues to produce symptoms even after the baby stops developing.
This meant during my second pregnancy I could no longer rely on pregnancy symptoms to indicate healthy growth. Instead, I waited every minute of every day for the clearest sign of our baby’s development — my bump.
I had no clue that you may not show with your first child until well into your second trimester (or third as it happened for me), so when months 4, 5, and 6 passed and I was still just looking bloated, it was especially triggering for people to publicly point out “how small I was.” I found myself having to convince people, “The baby is measuring fine. I just went to the doctor” — and yet, still I questioned it internally.
Words have power and even though you have the scientific proof of an ultrasound image sitting on your desk, when someone asks with extreme concern if your baby is okay, you cannot help but wonder.
A friend was also carrying small in a recent pregnancy, however unlike me, her baby was not measuring well. It was a very scary time for her family, so when people kept pointing out her size or questioning if she was as far along as she was, it only fueled her concern.
As the friends, family, and public in these scenarios, if you’re concerned about the health of someone’s baby based on the size of their belly, rather than alarming them further, perhaps check in with the mom and ask more generally how they’re feeling. If they choose to share, then listen. But there is no need to point out someone’s size.
Pregnant people are more than aware of the shape of their bellies, and there are many different reasons we carry the way we do. In my case, I am tall. In my friend’s case, the baby was truly at risk. Luckily, her baby is now healthy and perfect — and isn’t that more important than her belly size?
Somewhere in the seventh month, my belly grew exponentially and though I still thought I was small as compared to other pregnant women in the same week, the new comment of choice from some was how “huge” I was. I had been wishing for a belly the entire pregnancy, so you’d think I’d be pleased, but instead my eating disorder history was instantly triggered.
What is it about the word “huge” that is so hurtful? I found myself arguing with strangers that I was a good month or two from giving birth. Still, they insisted I was ready to give birth any minute.
Talking to other parents, it seems a common occurrence that strangers seem to think they know your due date better than you or are convinced you are having twins, as if they were the one at all your doctor’s appointments.
If you have a pregnant friend or family member who has grown quite a bit since you last saw them, rather than making them feel bad by using words like “huge” or “large,” try complimenting them on the amazing feat of growing a human being. After all, that is what is happening inside that bump you find so surprising. There is a little person in there!
Or, honestly, the best rule may be that unless you are going to tell a pregnant person how beautiful they are, perhaps don’t say anything at all.
Sarah Ezrin is a motivator, writer, yoga teacher, and yoga teacher trainer. Based in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and their dog, Sarah is changing the world, teaching self-love to one person at a time. For more information on Sarah please visit her website, www.sarahezrinyoga.com.