By the end of my first pregnancy, I’d fielded more comments about my body than I did in my first few decades of life. People wondered if I was having twins; they guessed the baby’s gender based on how absurdly high I seemed to be carrying; they joked about how much I ate and expressed disbelief at how far away my due date was. And then there were all those well meaning “Oh my gosh, you’re huge!” comments. The person’s intention was always to convey sympathy and amazement (fair enough) but on the other hand … oof.
This experience is pretty normal for pregnant women. And it’s not just from friends and strangers, either. At the doctor’s office, we get weighed every time we come in, and spend a lot of time doing mental math. If I’m only supposed to gain THAT much, but I already weigh THIS much … and wait, I have HOW many weeks left?
Pregnancy is a time when there’s a lot more focus on our bodies and our weight than usual, and it’s not easy.
If every time you manage to forget about the scale for a day and somebody says something like “Are you sure you should be eating that?” and you feel the self-loathing creeping back in again — you’re not alone.
If you go off and cry when somebody you’ve never met is positive that you’re two months farther along in your pregnancy than you actually are — you’re not alone.
If your pregnancy has been healthy and uncomplicated, but you’re still beating yourself up about how much you’ve already gained — you’re not alone.
I need you to do something really difficult. I need you to give yourself permission to forget about the numbers. Give yourself permission to ignore whatever hurtful remarks that strangers — or friends, or family — make about your body.
Are you healthy? Is the baby healthy? Then you’re good. These recommended numbers for each trimester weight gain are ballpark estimates, not universal medical commandments. Do your best, but at the end of the day, you’re still you, and you’ll have a baby in your arms. Life is mysterious and beautiful and you are, too.
We all want that picturesque bump that rides so high people can’t tell you’re pregnant from behind. We all want that modest 15-pound gain that drops right off after a few weeks of breastfeeding. Sometimes you get lucky, but the reality is that pregnancies are as different as bodies are. There’s no right way to be pregnant.
Strangers aren’t always as good as they think they are at knowing whether you’re carrying twins. But you already knew that. When I was a bank teller, an obstetrician came to my counter and guessed that I was almost due. I was six months along; I just carry high. It got into my head, though, and I was sure my baby was going to be gargantuan. He came out at seven pounds. The moral of that story is that even when people are literally experts, if they don’t know you, they don’t know.
In the end, there’s no “right” way to get through this time. There’s no right way to look. All that attention on your body and your weight — it’s just attention.
Being pregnant isn’t easy, and it’s a hundred times harder when you’re not gentle to yourself. The best thing you can do, when people have something to say about how you look, is to smile at them (or not) and disregard it. Or if you’re feeling more straightforward, you can remind them that “Every pregnancy is different,” and that there’s no reason to worry.
Or if you’re feeling all the way fed up, feel free to say “That makes me feel uncomfortable; let’s not talk about my weight.” Or don’t say anything at all, but don’t turn the comment inward, either, and use it as a reason to worry. You deserve better than that.
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