It was awkward. And I have no one to blame but myself. There I was, surrounded by several of my good friends who took me out to remind me that I am actually a person and not just a non-exercising baby incubator, when this happened:
Friend: Oh you look so adorable! You’re all belly!
Me: Oh no, really I’ve gained a ton of weight.
Friend 2: No! You look fabulous! Your face isn’t puffy at all.
Me: It just looks that way because I straightened my hair. Trust me, it’s puffy.
Friend 3: But your legs look great! Exactly how they do non-preggo!
Me: No, no, you’re just distracted by my huuuuge belly. Once this is gone then you’ll see how massive my thighs and hips have gotten!
Friend: (smacking me sharply and yelling) SHUT UP!
Actually she didn’t smack me. They’re all way too nice for that kind of Scarlett O’Hara dramatics (which is probably why we’re friends) but they should have. I even annoyed myself. Many women, myself included, have a hard time accepting a compliment with a simple “thank you.” (“What? Oh no, my hair isn’t fabulous at all! And by the way I wear colored contacts, I have Spanx on underneath this dress and my house looks like it was cleaned by blind orcs with Lego diarrhea.”) Not only does this tendency not go away with pregnancy but it seems to get worse. Why is this?
Because pregnancy makes even a normally confident gal insecure. And the rest of us who are normally insecure? Self-esteem havoc.
It shouldn’t be this way. After all, we are performing a normal and some might even say necessary biological function. So why, after millenia of gestating and birthing, are women suddenly freaking out? I blame this:
Khloe Kardashian, famous for being the sister of a sex-tape star, recently got married and, natch, immediately had to field questions about future babies. She responded to the weirdly intrusive queries by saying,
“I want to be a skinny pregnant person, like how my sister Kourtney looks so cute pregnant. I can’t be a house [after] I just lost weight.” She adds, “Well, I am always fat no matter how much weight I lose. It’s like I can never have a good body. But I have a really strong sense of self-esteem.” (Charlotte’s note: Sure you do, sweetie! That’s why you and your strong self-esteem just launched a dubious diet aid!)
It’s not just Khloe. It’s Sarah Michelle Gellar’s “stunning post-baby body just 1 month after birth!” It’s Lisa Loeb (remember her??) “showing off her tiny baby bump.” It’s Trista Sutter’s “Bikini Bod [only six months] after Baby Number Two!” Don’t even get me started about Ellen Pompeo. At least Heidi Klum was honest about “exploding” at the end of her pregnancies – even if she is famous for losing all that baby weight and more in time to walk the Victoria’s Secret fashion show mere weeks after giving birth. And those are just the top stories from this past week.
Ladies, in case you missed the memo, not only are you expected to be a MILF both while gestating and not (bring on the hawt pregnant chicks in bikinis!) but now you are also expected to be “skinny pregnant.” This means of course that you gain exactly the weight of the baby plus the placenta and amniotic fluid and not one ounce more. Your hips should not widen. Your butt should not expand. Your arms must remain perfectly defined. And your cheeks, while they should “glow,” should not be round.
There was a reason that Mary, of immaculate conception fame, was described by her bible biographers as being “heavy” or “great” with child. Skinny Pregnant is an oxymoron!
And yet, weirdly, I have internalized this message as much as anyone. I hate to admit it but I do feel really fat. And it depresses me. Enter Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei, the authors of Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat?, with their sensible girlfriend advice on how to be a healthy pregnant woman in our skinny pregnant girl culture. I got this book in the mail not one moment too soon and read the whole thing in one afternoon. My only complaint was that there wasn’t more of it! When I finished I wanted to run after them and fling myself around their ankles crying, “Don’t leave me alone in this!” This book has tips on everything from how to deal with pregnancy weight gain when you have a history of eating disorders to snarky retorts for nosy people who insist on asking you ridiculous questions like “How quickly do you plan on losing the baby weight?” (Answer: I plan on losing it in one week! Sadly, in the immortal words of Winona Ryder, reality bites.) I think I just found my new favorite baby shower gift.
I know I’m not the only pregnant woman who struggles with body image issues. Lisa of Workout Mommy – due just a few weeks after me (read: I will pluck my nosehairs with baby nail clippers if you have your baby first, girl!) – recently wrote a very poignant post about her pregnant body image issues and the help she also found in this book.
What do you guys think about the pressure to be thin, even while pregnant? If you have had kids, how did you manage your fears about your body changing? If you haven’t had kids, does the fear of getting fat hold you back?