This year – for the first time since I can remember – I didn’t spend my Halloween weekend fancy-dressed up and covered in fake blood, with back-combed hair and drink in hand while tottering around the pubs and clubs getting pissed as a fart. Nope, this weekend we decided to attend a Bump & Beyond! exposition with a cup of tea after and a shopping list for a nice homemade dinner before an early bedtime. Lovely.
I’d been told by people who’d attended this expo previous months that it’s a must-see when expecting, as you can get loads of helpful advice and ideas about what to expect in the looming next few months.
I was excited. I hadn’t really even looked at baby clothes in shops before this as I’m a bit superstitious and didn’t want to tempt fate… y’know… just in case. Fuck it! I said, we can’t tiptoe around so cautiously forever!
So off we trot down to the hotel that was hosting the event and I couldn’t wait to get inside and gather up all the leaflets and freebies I could, while hopefully learning shit loads about birthing and parenting that I’d not even thought about before!
Boy was I disappointed.
After spending a few minutes scooping up (admittedly needed and very informative) booklets regarding maternity welfare, and rights etc, I eagerly craned my neck around to see what exciting stalls I could find in this exhibition to jump on first.
GET FIT QUICK!! … Slimming World… Fit into THAT LITTLE BLACK DRESS!!
What the fuck is this?!!
My eyes weren’t deceiving me. There was actually a stand with a slim mannequin wearing a tiny black dress and some personal trainer type person standing in front of it looking all buff.
I swiftly kept walking hoping to find something to compensate for what I thought to be very offensive stands at a pregnancy and baby fair, but nothing was grabbing my attention. Pregnancy fashion… okay, fair enough; Dance yourself fit with baby… okay, I’ll let that one go as it seems kind of fun for the baby; Artwork made with the umbilical cord… Ooh this is interesting! Actually, no, it’s kind of gross.
A woman working for Boots pounced on me as I passed brandishing No.7 vouchers and a ticket that said I can get my perfect skin-foundation match in-store! Whoopeee!!! And how is this suppose to help me raise my child?! As if I’m going to give a flying fuck what colour my face is when I’m lying back, legs akimbo, squeezing out a baby. I know she meant well, but there’s a time and a place!
I realised we had done a lap of the premises and had landed back to the entrance where we began. Is that it?!
I left feeling very disappointed and then somewhat angry. So what kind of message is that to lay on pregnant women or new mothers? That your main prerogative is to join Slimming World the day after you’ve given birth so as to fit into a little back dress? Do we not have enough on our plates?! The whole affair was like being vomited on by one of those women-hating, gossip rags like Heat magazine or The Daily Mail.
Then it got me thinking about how people have commented on my weight since becoming pregnant and how self-conscious it made me feel. Thanks to suffering from the oh-so-lovely coeliac disease that forces me to follow quite a restrictive diet, I was relatively slim before falling pregnant. Then as the severe pregnancy nausea set in, I found it VERY difficult to eat as much as I could for a good few months so I never gained weight, maybe even lost a pound or two. It never really bothered me as I knew at some point it would lift and I was still getting as much nutrition into me as baby needed – but then something new happened. I suddenly became really paranoid about the fact that I hadn’t gained weight, or that at just over 4 months pregnant I haven’t developed a noticeable bump. I began to frantically Google feeling like I had done something wrong, like there must be a reason why I haven’t got a bump. Is the baby OK?! Has something gone wrong and I’ve lost the baby and that’s why I don’t have a bump?! I haven’t got another scan for a few weeks, should I call someone about my concerns?! All these frantic thoughts whizzed through my head and panic frequently set in.
It all boils down to less than a handful of folk who made comments to me like ‘Show me your stomach – sure you’ve nothing there at all!’, ‘You’ve not much to show for it. How far are you along again?’, ‘You need to eat more’, ‘Suppose you’re like one of those ANNOYING people who have a baby and then just snap back into shape the next day’ etc etc.
I would never approach a pregnant lady and exclaim ‘Oh my God! You’re HUGE!! You’ve put so SO MUCH WEIGHT! Holy fuck your stomach is massive…are you sure you’re only X amount of months??’ Nobody would say that! So why is it OK to say the opposite to me?!
This is my first pregnancy so I have no idea what way my body will respond to each month that passes, or how I’ll develop physically from one day to the next. And I don’t know what annoys me more, the fact that I even spend moments thinking about it, or the fact that it’s overshadowed the much harder-to-deal-with psychological changes and worries that come with the territory. I can imagine some people think that maybe it’s always deemed a compliment to say someone is too slim, but for me, especially when pregnant, I would much rather someone ask me how I’m coping in my mind, or how I feel about becoming a mother or ideas about how I might raise my child. THOSE are conversations that are nourishing to me – not vapid ones about how I look. ‘Cause you can be rest assured that how you look hasn’t even entered my mind space; all I absorb and carry are words.
I can’t blame those select few for their misplaced and misjudged comments. After the disappointment of that baby fair I realised that they too are just victims of that grand, self-loathing, self-deprecating machine that advertisers and companies create, thrive off and monetise on. It’s all about sales. Keep women feeling inadequate and vulnerable and they’ll buy, join, do ANYTHING to feel better about themselves. Hence the ‘Little Black Dress’ stand and Slimming World presence at the expo.
I wasn’t expecting this ‘side-effect’ of pregnancy but in a way I’m glad it’s happening because I, too, have probably been guilty of innocently making unwanted or unnecessary comments to someone else. Throw-away comments are not always throw-away to the person on the receiving end. And it’s something I commit to taking seriously when my little one graces us with their presence. I’ll teach them the value of words and the weight that can sometimes be behind them. You never know what challenges that person may be dealing with at home or in their mind, so support and encourage them, not draw attention to their appearance – unless they’re at death’s door or medically in trouble then who cares?!
So what if my child might find themselves uncomfortably on the receiving end? I’ll teach them that a well placed and swift Go Fuck Yourself! will do (minus the swear words, of course). And just like that I feel the popcorn popping-flutter under my ‘non-existent’ bump so I think that means already we’re in agreement – in fact I think I heard a very muffled ‘Touche’ there.