If you frequent mothering or pregnancy forums of any ilk you are sure to stumble across the following post on a weekly basis. “Listen to what this person said to me!!!” The post will tell one pregnant woman’s story of some friend, family member, or even complete stranger saying something along the lines of;
- Wow, you are HUGE!
- You look like you could pop any minute!
- You’re only six months? Are you sure?
- Wow, you must be carrying twins!
- Looks like you’re have a boy. I carried my weight around my hips and butt with my boys.
The thread continues with other women chiming in on the horrible things people have said to them and the snarky comebacks that work the best.
I am always silent on these threads. You see, I’m one of those people! My friend J recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Every time she came into my office at work I’d say something like “look at you! So big!” and one time I even said “your boobs are huge!” [1. note: probably not appropriate for the workplace in any case.] Just writing those things down I can clearly see that they are not politically correct or very socially acceptable in our culture. Our culture rewards “thin” and tries to sell you ways to be thin if you don’t fit that mold. A large size is almost never good (penises being the glaring example which is a whole post on its own). Smaller is better. Of course you’ll gain a little while pregnant but society (and celebrity) tells us that our eye should be on getting back our “pre-baby” body as soon as humanly (or inhumanly) possible.
So what makes me blurt out these social faux pas, I wonder?
I certainly wasn’t trying to make her feel bad or comment on her “weight” in any way. I guess I looked at her and saw a glow. A beautiful glow of fertility. She looked ample, bounteous, abundant, and ripe. I looked at her and saw a woman overflowing with life. In a word, she looked lush. And, I feel this way when I see almost any pregnant woman. I try to just smile at a stranger but if I know you, chances are I’m going to comment on how beautifully huge you are.
So, what if the people that prompt these angry threads on pregnancy forums were also just blurting out their thoughts and not meaning to be rude[2. I'll allow that some people are just rude.]. I think that the majority of people react to pregnant women in this way because it is a primal reaction to seeing life unfold before your eyes. Our culture has conditioned us to believe that thin = good and fat = bad but that isn’t what our species knows at an instinctive level. Do you think worshipers of the Venus of Willendorf were just chubby chasers? No way. Lush, curvaceous women were healthy and fertile women. Our brains, like theirs are genetically hard-wired to look for body proportions that indicate health and fertility. We can all recognize this when we see it even if only subconsciously.
So, perhaps, the problem is not the commenters who are breaking social norms due to the overwhelming power of their primal joy at seeing life in the making. Perhaps the problem is in the receiver of the comment that has been conditioned to read any remark about size that doesn’t include “omg, you are so skinny” as an insult. Maybe the comment hits a sore spot because women are brainwashed to believe that their ability to look fabulous (read: skinny) quickly after the baby comes some how reflects not only on them but also on the parent they will be. After all, if fat = bad, then everything about you must be bad as well. Then again, maybe the comments are just compounded by an obstetric community that also preaches minimizing weight gain despite evidence of the ill effects of this bad advice. It is certainly true women are getting it from every direction when it comes to body shaming and blaming. I can see how one more comment about your size could just feel like an additional jab.
But what if it isn’t?
What if we decided to see those comments as blinding moments of truth. A brief moment in time when our humanity breaks through our conditioning and revels in the beauty of something as old as time. What if the next time someone said “you are gigantic!” you let that feeling glow from inside you and responded, “I know! Isn’t pregnancy amazing!?” What if you walked away with a spring in your step feeling like the lush, powerful, woman you are – growing another human being! – and just decided to internalize the comment as the greatest compliment a pregnant woman could receive? I bet if we learned to do this maybe, little by little, we could chip away at the paradigm that says big is bad and replace it with big is beautiful!
Big, bountiful, lush and beautiful!