You’re Huge! Pregnancy and Size in a Thin-Centric World

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!


23 thoughts on “You’re Huge! Pregnancy and Size in a Thin-Centric World

  1. In general I agree with you. I think women should be proud of their swelling bodies during pregnancy.

    However, I still think those comments from strangers are out of line. Think in terms of a man or a negative comment towards a thin woman. My husband would be furious if some stranger came up to him in a store and said, “Wow, you should hit the gym. You’re HUGE!” Or imagine an anorexic/bulemic girl getting something like, “You’re so thin, you look like you could collapse to your death at any moment!”

    It’s like uninvited touching of a pregnant woman’s belly. People just seem to think pregnant women are fair game. I like to stick to the rule that if you wouldn’t say or do something to a non-pregnant woman or a man, then it’s not appropriate to say or do to a woman with child either.


    • I agree strangers are trickier because you don’t know where they are coming from. Your examples though are people that are CLEARLY commenting on weight. When someone tells a pregnant woman she is huge (my mom does this everytime she sees me) I don’t think they are commenting on your weight. KWIM?


  2. I got really round in the belly during pregnancy and I was proud of it! I didn’t seem to gain anything anywhere else my arms and legs seemed to lose weight but my belly was massive! I also had people touch my belly mainly friends and family I didn’t care they just wanted to be part of it and the only strangers who touched my belly were Latino and I understand that in their culture they all do that. I remember my doctor saying I was gaining to much right at the end but that comment only got her an eye roll… I think that the standards for weight today are ridiculous yah people should try to stay healthy but we weren’t all cut with the same cookie cutter you know. Women need to realize that gaining during pregnancy is a great thing even gaining afterwards is because you do need to eat to produce milk and serving sizes today are ridiculously small whoever came up with that was stupid.


    • I tend to not be offended when people touch my belly. I think they just want to be “part” of something amazing. And you are right, depending on cultural norms, it might not even cross their mind that it is inappropriate!


  3. Beautifully written! Very wise and insightful.

    You’ll never find a happy, confident person complain about any of the example comments. For one, happy, confident people have better things to do, but more importantly, they are happy, confident people because they do not rely on what other people say to shape their image of themselves and of their world.


    • But, Rebecca, a person making such a comment doesn’t necessarily know if the receiver is happy and confident. What if she has suffered from disordered eating, depression, etc, and that comment triggers something painful in her?


  4. Yes! Love this, and I totally agree. I still try not to make any "big" comments or even assuming pregnancy comments to strangers, because you just never know if and what they are sensitive about. But I will definitely comment to my friends, in a way that I hope construes my beliefs about what an amazing, beautiful thing it is to be a mama or mama-to-be.


  5. Yes! Love this, and I totally agree. I still try not to make any “big” comments or even assuming pregnancy comments to strangers, because you just never know if and what they are sensitive about. But I will definitely comment to my friends, in a way that I hope construes my beliefs about what an amazing, beautiful thing it is to be a mama or mama-to-be.


  6. you don’t get offended when I say you are huge because you love being huge with babies inside. Also it’s because you are sure that I am just as thrilled as you are with your growing boys. You know that i think you are beautifully huge. Love you


  7. I mostly got opposite comments from people, like “You’re not even showing yet!” Or “You look small for 9 months.” I actually didn’t like the first one, because I did have a bump that wasn’t there before, and I felt like people must’ve thought I normally had a little bulge around my middle (not that I care now, but I did then). But once I started to actually look pregnant, I loved it. So that’s what I tell pregnant women. I make absolutely no comment on their middle until they actually look pregnant to me, and then I will say, “You look pregnant. You look so pregnant. Wow, you look really pregnant!” (Depending on what stage they’re in). It’s honest, and to me it tells them that they don’t just look like they’re fat. I also like to tell them they look beautiful. I’m always amazed when pregnant women tell me they just feel fat, so I like to reassure them that it isn’t how they look. I know, it’s a cultural flaw, but I’d much rather say what I can to help them feel good about their pregnant bodies.


  8. Interesting. I hear you, but I was offended when someone says those things to me. Because it IS culturally conditioned, and it usually IS meant to be a judgement and it usually IS meant rudely. If sometimes it isn’t, I’m not psychic, and I was utterly tired of it after, oh, the first time.

    In college, I was underweight and got comments on that. Guess what? Also rude and offensive. Weight is a loaded issue in this society, and unless you know someone REALLY well and know that they’re okay with it, it’s NOT a good topic to touch on. My coworkers doing it would have (and did in a couple cases) upset me.

    There are several non-culturally-loaded ways to convey a compliment about being pregnant. “Wow, you’re looking great!” or “You’re really glowing!”

    Being “huge” or “enormous” or looking like you’re carrying twins when you’re only carrying one, all have the implication (in our cultural context, at least) of being “too large”.

    So I have to disagree with most of the commenters…I think it’s totally inappropriate to say it as a SIZE issue. I loved looking pregnant and being pregnant but if all you can notice about my pregnancy is my size? That’s on the rude side.


    • Hi Laura, thanks for the reply. I think the point I was trying to make is that you might get upset because of the cultural conditioning and it might have little to nothing to do with the person speaking. You said that huge and enormous have the implication of “too large” but we both know that is WRONG, right? That’s that cultural conditioning poisoning our mind! There is no too large and we have to take back our bodies and not let them be shamed by societies hang ups.

      Of course, it will be a slow change! 🙂

      Also, I hope it is not true that most of the people you know would mean it in a rude way!


  9. Uh, I disagree that is should be the onus of the pregnant woman to take these statements as compliments. All around us, from the time we can understand language, we are subjected to fat hatred in this country. It’s now wonder, and no fault of her own, when a woman doesn’t like being called big in any context. If our society decided big/fat whether pregnant or not was not ugly and was not just about the worst thing in the world to be, then more women could learn to see themselves this way.

    Regardless, I think anyone who says “Are you sure it isn’t twins?” or “Really? Only 6 months?” is either ingnorant of what pregnant women look like or a comlete dolt.


    • I understand what you are saying with these statements being very triggering for some people. And it is very hard to say “just take it as a compliment.” I know that’s not always possible but in this situation where you’re unlikely to change what the other person says it can be a good idea to try to shift your own internal thinking if you can.

      I could just as easily write a post about why strangers should phrase what they say differently (how about “are your twins natural” ugh) but mostly moms and pregnant women read my blog! Thanks for your thoughts Olivia!


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  12. How about just saying " You look beautiful" or " You are glowing"….Or, here's a thought? Saying NOTHING at all, unless you know them. I completely agree that we are very size centric in this country but even if we force postive "fat" comments onto others that won't change it. Treating it as a non-issue and not saying ANYTHING about someone's size is the way to do it. It's the same thing as telling someone " You look tired" how are you to respond to that?


  13. Instead of commenting on size, why don't you say what you wrote in your blog, "She looked ample, bounteous, abundant, and ripe. I looked at her and saw a woman overflowing with life. In a word, she looked lush." I think most woman, preganant or not, would so much rather those words than any comment on their size.


    • I agree that saying "huge!" is much better with some description. I'm afraid if I actually said that though, they'd think I was coming on to them! lol.


  14. For me, those comments during pregnancy only ever were upsetting when coming from strangers. You don’t know me, my pre-pregnancy body, my history (if I’ve ever had an eating disorder, weight issues, etc.), or my emotional or physical state of health. I find it rude to say anything about another person’s body to someone you don’t know. I had a cashier yell across Macy’s about how huge I was. I do not enjoy being made a spectacle of. I believe I looked my most beautiful during my pregnancy, and I don’t have the body issues I previously mentioned. I feel the only thing you should say to a pregnant stranger is “excuse me, you can go first” or “you are glowing! You look beautiful”. I would also except your comment of being “lush and full of life”. Other than that, I find it inappropriate to comment on any strangers body, pregnant or not.


  15. I really appreciate this article. I loved being pregnant and did take all the random comments as compliments! Most strangers and acquaintances wouldn't say anything if they thought you looked terrible. (My family would but that's a different story!) Sometimes we all say things that sounded better in our heads. I think that's what happens in these cases. One time a man in my church said "hey, your belly's getting big!" and then back pedaled and started to apologize. I stopped him and said "its OK, I'm glad I am finally showing a lot!". He was clearly just excited for me. Even the old lady who said, "Now that your face is rounder (9months along) you look more like you brother." I just laughed because she was absolutely right! If that woman thought the extra weight made me look ugly she would have kept her thoughts to herself. In her own way that was a positive compliment, so why should I take offense? As you said, we can't change what people say to us only how we take it.


  16. I think that commenting on a stranger's pregnancy is a really bad call. I carry my weight around my middle and I'm otherwise not very big so sometimes people assume I'm pregnant and I'm not, which is awkward to say the least. Also, a friend of mine who gave a child up for adoption had a really hard time with strangers asking her invasive questions during her pregnancy. I get your point about fat phobia but you can't tell strangers to simply deal with your comments.


  17. I agree that we should probably stray away from commenting on a stranger's pregnancy. However, I myself have commented to friends saying those same things fully intending them as a compliment. I look at a beautiful big pregnant belly unrelated to weight, it's a baby! it's a wonderful thing! I would take no offense to a comment like that when I am showing and pregnant, and can't wait for the day that I do have a pregnant belly to show off:) I really think that very few who say those things mean to give offense, they either A) feel the way I just expressed and view it as a compliment or B) Just don't think before they speak and said what came to their mind.

    We choose to be offended or not and let's choose not to and take it as a compliment instead! there is only harm or offense there if we choose to take it that way.


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