“Does this dress make my stomach look too big?” I asked my husband the other day. At 5 months pregnant I had squeezed into one of my non-maternity, stretch velvet, size 12 dresses to decide if it would do for the forthcoming wedding.
“Hold on,” he frowned. “This sounds like bit of a trick question.”
“I just need to know if it looks ok or if I look like a submarine,” I reasoned.
“You’re pregnant,” he said. “You just look pregnant.”
Don’t get me wrong – I love my stretch mark free pregnant tummy. I’m proud of it. My husband says it’s sexy, and my 2-year-old son likes to kiss it and sing “Little baby in there.”
The thing is that I swell up to the size of a hot-air balloon in pregnancy, and like the majority of pregnant women out there, I find my size an emotional issue.
“You’re huge!” were my neighbour’s first words when I saw her after my 4 week holiday in January. I’d left with no noticeable bump, and returned with what I thought was a reasonable-sized pregnancy tummy. “You’re going to get massive, aren’t you?” she giggled, rubbing my stomach.
When I told a pregnant friend about the incident later that day, she laughed and agreed that people say and do weird things to pregnant women.
Why is it that people you hardly know think they can touch your stomach? And the word ‘huge’ is something that no-one ever wants to hear in reference to their size. I mean, you wouldn’t go up to a mate you’d just spotted in the supermarket who’d put on a bit of weight and yell: “You’re massive!” while prodding her belly, would you?
Still, my second pregnancy has been made infinitely more enjoyable thanks to Topshop’s fabulous maternity range. I practically live in the store’s under the bump, skinny fit maternity jeans, and there are flattering mum-to-be versions of the regular fashion collection, too.
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My fashion choices are going to have to be a little different this time though. My son was born in the middle of a February snowstorm, which meant that my pregnant tummy was mostly concealed under jumpers for the winter and was gone by the spring. This year however, with a summer baby on the cards, I’m going to have to make the ‘bump-in-or-bump-out?’ decision on a daily basis.
- Should you bare your bump?
- How do you feel about pregnancy weight gain?
- Mum’s story – going over your due date
I remember hearing a radio phone in during my first pregnancy, discussing whether pregnant women should cover up their bump. As recently as 10 years ago this wouldn’t have even been up for discussion – back then women spent most of their 9 months in a neck-to-ankle shapeless shift.
Things may be different now, but it’s funny that some attitudes still haven’t changed. Angelina Jolie had her pregnant belly pictured in the celebrity gossip mags because she had the nerve to let it hang out beneath a crop top. “Is it twins?” asked one article.
“That tattoo isn’t going to look very good at 9 months,” commented another, referring to the Latin-scribed tat above her groin. Britney Spears got the same treatment when her pregnancy bump started to show.
People’s comments about a supposedly undersized bump, meanwhile, can be just as insensitive.
“When I was pregnant everyone kept saying how small I looked, and that really upset me,” confided one friend when I told her about the ‘huge’ incident. “I was very worried that my baby wasn’t growing properly, because my tummy just didn’t get that big.”
In the past, women were weighed every week during their pregnancy, to check they weren’t putting on too much or too little. Now weight is hardly monitored at all, but this doesn’t stop family, friends or even complete strangers giving their opinions.
“Are you sure it’s not twins?” asked my mother-in-law recently, eyeing my bump with suspicion. “When I was pregnant, I didn’t show at all until 6 months.” Luckily my husband came to the rescue: “Memory fades with age, Mum. I’m sure you were huge.”
So, while showing off our pregnant tummies has become more socially acceptable, it seems that pregnancy etiquette still has a long way to go. I think the solution’s simple: if people can’t say something nice, they shouldn’t say anything at all.
Oh and can everyone please keep their hands to themselves?