I found this picture on a miscellaneous website. I am not one for the bare belly shots myself, but I know each pregnant woman has a different opinion about that. It seems that for some, pregnancy is a time to embrace all the new curves and to feel proud that it shows you’re carrying a life. I suspect that for many others of us, pregnancy is a time when there is more unwanted attention to our bodies than we’re used to or would desire. And it feels like our bodies are really out of our control as well. Although the weight gain is purposeful (and needed!), it’s still hard to feel yourself getting larger by the week – and dramatically so by each month. Double all of that if you’re having twins.
What I find interesting about being pregnant is that the typical “taboos” that apply about commenting on a woman’s body weight seem to fly out the window, particularly for random strangers and (sorry to apply a stereotype) men in general. A few of the comments I’ve heard during pregnancy are:
“Wow … you’re just so … BIG!”
“You’re going to be ENORMOUS by the time these babies come.”
“Well, you’ve really gotten bigger since I last saw you.”
And I could go on, but you get the picture. No woman, even if pregnant, wants to hear someone connect the word “big” or any of its synonyms with her body. As someone who has always been on the thinner side of things (I can take no credit – all genetics – thanks, Mom!), it came as shock to hear these comments and then to notice the way I responded to these comments inside. I would get angry, frustrated, and feel resentful.
I realized that my identity was more wrapped up in my body image than I had previously thought. It was exposed by pregnancy. And as I processed through my thoughts and feelings in response to others’ comments, I realized I was giving them more power than I should. I noticed that my self-concept would rise and fall depending on whether I encountered the store clerk who said, “No way! You don’t look big enough to be carrying twins!” or the one who said, “You look much bigger than 15 weeks along!” Why were their comments so powerful? Because I was defining myself by my body image. I was internalizing the belief that my worth was equal to whether or not someone else perceived me as “big.” This is certainly quite different from where my true identity lies as a woman created in God’s image and redeemed by Christ (I taught on that in January through our Ephesians study, ironically enough).
When I began to meditate on who I really am – what is most true about me – others’ comments began to have much less effect on me. This also freed me from the inward judging and resentment I felt towards others because of what they said. I could laugh it off and let the comments “bounce off me” instead of letting them set the tone for my day.
Now I won’t say that it wasn’t still a struggle to go to Virginia Beach during the height of tourist season as the only pregnant woman for miles … but at least I began struggling against the lies instead of simply accepting them. And, hey, one benefit of bed rest is that there is much less opportunity for strangers’ comments about my ever-expanding belly!