“You’re not even showing!”
“Wow! You’re really ready to pop!”
“Are you having twins?”
“I just can’t believe there’s two in there!”
“You’re really popping out!”
“Are you sure there are two in there?”
Such are the comments women repeatedly hear while pregnant. The fascination with the size of a woman’s baby bump is on par with penis size – yet MUCH more openly talked about. Friends, family, and complete strangers all have an opinion and a woman may hear a comment about her pregnant belly daily, if not more (especially at the end!). However, there doesn’t seem to actually be a consensus on what size belly is the “right” size. You may hear “Wow, you’re ready to pop” one minute and “you’re tiny!” the next.
As someone who “carries small,” I’m on the end of the spectrum where people are repeatedly telling me how small my belly is in comparison to their expectations. While I do think that most mean it as a compliment, or are simply just telling me the truth (admittedly, my twin belly IS smaller than I expected), it does plant little seeds of doubt in my mind at times – Are my babies growing well!? (Luckily with twins I get regular ultrasounds to confirm that yes, they are indeed normal sized).
When I first found out I was pregnant with twins I cyber stalked twin mom blogs and women who were pregnant with twins on instagram, oohing and awing over the size of their giant bellies and showing friends and family how big I was going to get. I was convinced my belly would be giant and that at the end every time I went into public children would point and women would gasp and hold their bellies in feigned sympathy pain. But it turns out, that even at over 36 weeks pregnant with twins, my belly isn’t gargantuan (though I do get asked when I’m due all the time now), scary and it’s even not THAT uncomfortable (don’t get me wrong, it’s not comfortable but it’s not giving me as many problems as I thought it might).
Because I was carried small with my daughter, I’m not shocked to discover that I carry small with twins. With Siena, I never once had someone tell me I was “ready to pop,” even when I was in public at 41 weeks pregnant. It took over 6 months for a stranger to even ask if I was pregnant and I stayed in that awkward phase where your pants don’t fit and it just looks like you’ve been eating too many burritos for several months. I looked at the women with nice round bellies in my online birth groups with longing – where was my cute baby belly!?
From observing many friends, family members, and internet friends go through their pregnancies, it seems that people generally carry differently due to:
- Height – generally, taller women’s bumps appear smaller, though this is not always true.
- Bone Structure – generally, petite women’s (even when tall) bumps appear larger, though this is not always true.
- Abdominal Muscle Tone – generally, women with stronger abdominal muscles show later and have smaller bumps, though this is not always true.
- Number of Pregnancies – generally women show earlier on a second or later pregnancy than their first pregnancy.
- NOT A DAMN GOOD REASON – everyone is different and really there’s not always a rhyme or reason why a woman carries larger or smaller than “average.”
The problem isn’t that people carry differently, is that’s society seems to think there’s a “right” way for a pregnant woman to look based on her weeks gestation, yet they can’t actually pinpoint what that size is. I think one of the reasons for this is that generally in the media (movies, TV shows, pregnancy models, etc.) pregnant women are shown with large bellies (but not TOO large), and not during other phases of pregnancy. Do a quick google image search of the phrase “pregnant woman” and you’ll see that most women are around the same size! I think this has given us all a certain impression of how a pregnant woman “should” look, even though most pregnant women only look this way for a handful of weeks. Before that point they’re small and after that point they’re big.
As you can see from the poll I took in my Healthy & Happy Pregnancy and Postpartum Group (which if I had to classify the women in this poll, I’d say on average are more fit than the average woman), literally no one has ever been told their belly looked just right (one of the members of the group added the “Wow you’re really growing in there” option).
Here are some of the comments from the women in my group after they took the poll:
“I hate the ‘any day now!’ …no, 8 more weeks but thanks.”
“I had a nurse ask me, ‘oh are you about to hatch’? Umm no I’m only 25 weeks thanks….”
“I got ‘small’ with my first until around 7.5/8 months then it was ‘any day now, huh?'”
“I’m ok with people commenting that I’m small.”
“I have had people comment that I am “really popping out” gee thanks…..and that I am so small (I am not…..but ok) Personally I would rather people just not comment on my size/shape at all.”
“I get “oh my goodness you must be getting pretty close to your due date (meaning wow your big you must be ready to pop) Are you having a boy or girl?” Then I say TWO identical girls. Then they say “oh they must be small babies, you are not very big for twins” : ) so I get both almost on a daily basis- [28 weeks]”
“The only time it’s appropriate to say “oh you got so big” is when talking to a 6-year-old!”
While I don’t think that anyone necessarily is being malicious or cruel when commenting on a pregnancy woman’s belly, it’s important to be aware that our words affect people (and that pregnant women generally are more emotional and may take your words differently than intended). I am guilty here too – I have commented on people’s pregnant bellies too. I still remember when a coworker was one of the first pregnant women I interacted with regularly. I would often tell her how big her belly was getting – it wasn’t meant as an insult, I meant that her baby was growing beautifully! But who knows how she took my words.
Every time I’m tempted to comment on a woman’s belly, I put myself in their shoes. And I think what I’ll say from here on out is simply, “You look great!”
What about you, if you’ve been pregnant, how did you feel about people’s comments on your belly? And did you regularly get that you were small, big or “just right”?