- Top: H&M
- Necklace: Fig & Ginger, Mothers Day gift from little e. and his dad
- Skirt: chopped from a thrifted maternity dress
- Belt: thrifted
- Sandals: Jeffrey Campbell
A couple of weeks ago a reader e-mailed us with this observation and question:
I realized that the cute pictures of pregnant women and bloggers and celebrities that we see are usually of the girls that look like twizzlers who swallowed a grape. The ones who don’t look pregnant from the back. And I started to wonder if, along with the movement toward pregnancy being beautiful, there is not now a huge amount of pressure to remain beautiful and cute while pregnant. Is it becoming unacceptable to gain a lot of weight and wear sweats and not bother with your hair?
I found this to be a really difficult question to answer. First off, what role DOES social pressure and the media plays in my self-image on a regular basis? I’ve always been the skinny flat-chested girl, but how much was my embrace of that body type motivated by an acceptance of social norms or was it more self-generated? I don’t know that I can really say for sure. And how about with a pregnant body? Certainly, descriptions of women’s obsession with not gaining weight during pregnancy appeared in Pregnancy Today and the New York Times. I don’t think that photos of skinny pregnant celebrities played a significant role in my past pregnancy or this one…but I’m certainly willing to admit that media influence is often a lot more subtle and seductive than we realize.
But besides social pressure, I also had to think about the particularities of my own body proportions, personal history, career path, and lifestyle. I don’t especially want to delve into my medical history here, but I will say that those specificities have powerfully shaped the way in which I understand my body and my pregnancy.
So here’s the thing. For me, the worst part of being pregnant is how my body has suddenly become grounds for public conversation and debate. Strangers and mere acquaintances frequently pass judgment at the grocery store, in the park, or at the library. “You’re too small to be seven and a half months pregnant. Are you eating enough?” “Oh, you’re only 5 months pregnant? That’s going to be a big baby!” “Wow, you’re carrying low. Is your cervix okay?” If I’m wearing a dress and cute shoes or deemed “too small,” I’m accused of being too vain and not taking adequate care of myself or my child. If I’m deemed “too big,” I’m still accused of not taking adequate care of myself or my child, hence the “excess” weight. A bit of an overwrought rant? Sure. But it is rather amazing to see how much public attitudes towards pregnancy have changed in the past several decades, from a “condition” that was not discussed in polite conversation to a free-for-all debate over health and responsibility.
Perhaps I am still just too close to the situation to answer this reader question adequately. Am I buying into a Hollywood myth of what pregnancy should look like by wearing a body-conscious striped dress? Or am I just having fun with an unfamiliar body? All that to say…I don’t particularly want to look like a twizzler that swallowed a grape. On the other hand, I’m not crazy about the hand and cheek bloat that comes with being pregnant in the middle of a hot summer. And finally, I’m sorry if I give a stand-offish vibe in the grocery store. I’m probably worried that you’re judging the fat content of the food in my cart. Because I can be anxious like that.
Just one last thing. S. and I have different bodies and have thus had different pregnancies. And, except for our overlapping love of the hippie mama look, we’ve dressed differently from each other to accomodate our own bodies, work habits, and family routines. So S., just so you know, I think you’ve looked beautiful this whole pregnancy. Good work and good luck.