It happens to me all the time.
There was the churchgoer who every week told me “Congrats!” as he walked past me. There was the neighbor I ran into at the grocery store who expressed her joy for me. There was the man whose English was poor, and he panicked trying to figure out how to apologize.
The worst was probably the instructor of a course I took who actually had the audacity to argue with me, as though maybe I had forgotten I was pregnant, and his comment surely would remind me. In front of ALL the course participants.
All too often people ask me when I’m due only to be incredibly uncomfortable when I tell them I’m not pregnant.
I’m not expecting. I am not pregnant. There is no due date, no next one coming.
This is just me, trying to learn, shop or walk without you reminding me of my extra weight, trying to live my life without people punching me in the self-esteem gut. See what I did there?
It does not help I had large babies and now find myself with a more severe than usual case of diastasis recti. Haven’t heard of it? It’s where your ab muscles separate and give you a bulge shape in your tummy, sort of like you’re permanently shaped like the “is she pregnant or just constipated” phase of pregnancy.
Add a few extra pounds from summer s’mores, backyard barbeques, and all the cake from endless celebrations when you have four children and you have the perfect non-baby baby bump!
This is my life. A mom of four babies + extra weight + diastasis recti = many uncomfortable conversations.
There’s a joke about not asking a woman if she’s pregnant unless you see the baby’s head crowning, but this seems to be something people don’t follow because I sure am not crowning a baby in the grocery store, or at the park, or in the library. It sounds like a poorly written Dr. Seuss story: Not crowning here, there, or anywhere!
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, I might be able to put all the children I birthed through college. Maybe I ought to start charging the nosey! “No stranger, I’m not pregnant. Put a dollar in the how embarrassed are you now jar please!”
As much as I kid about it, it really does hurt. Here’s my plea: do not ask women if they are pregnant. Ever. Never.
For all you know, maybe the woman is pregnant, and the baby has a terminal illness, and she doesn’t want to discuss the horrors of her pain in the grocery store.
Maybe she is pregnant but it’s a baby she is placing with another family upon birth.
Maybe she just gave birth or lost a baby and the shaping is still there.
Maybe she has been trying for years to have a baby and this just adds insult to injury.
Maybe she is doing fantastic on a personal weight loss journey and this just reminds her she’s still not yet there.
Or maybe she is just a mother who doesn’t complain about the damage her children left behind because her gratitude is bigger.
Maybe, she fights to accept her “new” self every single day and now you have pushed her back ten steps on her journey to loving herself.
Just don’t ask. It’s not worth what you do to the person you are asking. Though I may explain diastasis recti or listen when you joke about being bloated, I am humiliated and hurt.
What you don’t see is me walking away, pulling my shirt down trying to cover my stomach. You don’t hear the call to my husband (whose body hasn’t changed a bit despite our four children) to tell him it happened again.
You don’t hear the never-ending sequence of words I tell myself for my shame of these moments. You aren’t there to see me struggle to find the right pant and shirt combo to hide the shaping. Forget dresses!
Never once have I responded with “Well, you have gotten a lot grayer since the last time I saw you,” or, “I might look pregnant but at least I don’t have a muffin top,” or, “Dude, you need a bra for those man boobs.” I wouldn’t dare say any of those things. They are rude, hurtful, and play into people’s insecurities. What difference is it when you comment on a woman’s shape or size?
I have told many women who struggle with their weight how often this happens to me, and I’ve been surprised to hear many say it’s happened to them, too.
So please: stop asking if I am pregnant. Stop asking women in general if they are pregnant.
If it is any of your business, a woman will tell you when she is expecting. Let her share her joy instead of risking embarrassment for you and her.
Because now that I think about it, I am serious about the jar thing.
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