What is it about pregnancy that makes people so at ease with commenting on other people’s bodies?
Things we would never dare to say to another person suddenly come bursting out without filter.
Wow, your boobs are getting so big!
You look huge, are you sure they got your due date right?
Are you sure it’s not twins?
Your belly is tiny, are you eating enough?
Are you leaking milk yet?
Your hips are so narrow, how are you going to push that baby out?
I cannot tell you how many pregnant clients I have worked with who are distraught with worry after an encounter with someone who felt it was their right to provide commentary on their bodies; someone made them feel too big, too small—too anything other than just as they should be.
Sure, I could tell my pregnant clients to not worry, just to ignore it, but it’s not that easy! It happened to me, too. Despite knowing that my pregnancy was progressing as it should and that everything was measuring well, there were still absolutely times when a comment from a stranger or coworker would send me into a tailspin of worry.
Because ultimately, the message being conveyed is one of doubt and fear; one that implies that we aren’t doing a good enough job taking care of this future baby.
I do think that at least sometimes it comes from a well-intentioned or loving place; we see a pregnant person and we get excited. We want to share in the joy of their new baby, but since the baby isn’t here yet, the only thing we can talk about is the body that is currently housing them. But there’s a more troublesome root to this issue, too—the patriarchal way we view the bodies of women and nonbinary people. The objectification of bodies, especially as it pertains to reproduction.
First and foremost, bodies do not exist for your feedback, period. It doesn’t matter what that body is up to (yes, even if it is growing a human), what a person is wearing or any other variables. Do not remark on people’s bodies.
The other huge part of commenting on someone’s pregnant body is considering how the comment will land or be interpreted, even if it is meant well. Will this question make someone doubt themselves? Will it instill worry? (The answer is more than likely yes—so please drop it.)
Because soon-to-be mothers and parents are worried enough as it is (especially during a pandemic). They’re already nervous about birth. They’re already anxious about the health of their child. They’re already having thoughts about whether they will be “enough” when the baby comes.
They do not need our help worrying—they need our help thriving.
They need our help as they develop their self-trust.
They need our support as they find their way through pregnancy and parenthood—yes, even if their way looks completely different than our way.
So instead of telling someone how big their belly is, ask them how they are doing; how they are really doing.
Instead of suggesting that someone’s build means birth will be a challenge, ask them if there is a way you might support them after the baby comes.
And instead of suggesting all the ways that someone may be unprepared for parenthood, remind them of all the ways that they are going to absolutely rock it (ways that have nothing to do with the way their pregnant body looks).
I bet the baby will appreciate having a mom who loves the outdoors as much as you do.
You are such a kind person. What a wonderful parent you’ll be.
I want you to know that when the baby is here, you can always count on me for support.
Please, consider your words carefully. They’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness more than you know.