“Oh, wow, are you pregnant?!”
(Insert awkward silence here).
Let’s talk about why this question is impolite and naive, no matter how innocent its intention. I write this post as a public service announcement to help everyone involved in this awkward situation. I have personally experienced the pain of poorly timed comments and questions about my tummy, and I have seen hundreds of women who have been deeply wounded by these same comments. I honestly believe most people have no intention of hurting these women…but they are. So in an effort to help all of us, I have finally decided to provide some simple etiquette regarding this sensitive question for women.
Have you ever been asked (or asked someone) questions like these?
“Oh, wow…when are you due?”
“I did not know you were expecting, how far along are you?”
“Are you pregnant?”
“Congratulations…you look like you are having another baby?”
“Well, look at you! You have one on the hip and another in the belly” (This was said to me by the produce guy at the store 1 week after I lost my 5th baby)
When asked one of these horrific questions, you feel this person is essentially saying: you look fat, you have not bounced back like you ‘should’ or that you look frumpy and beyond exhausted. It doesn’t matter where you are from; none of these comments are polite or necessary. Women can “look” like they are expecting for many reasons. Perhaps you’d never thought of these reasons before, but you will now.
Reasons Women Look Like They Are Expecting
1) They just had a baby in the past few months. Unlike TV, most bellies cannot stretch to 10 times its size and just disappear overnight. Their bellies have to heal, which just takes time.
2) The delivery could have been extremely difficult and/or the baby could be challenging – both of which lead to longer physical recovery time.
3) They could have just had a miscarriage. (I lost 5 babies and was asked repeatedly after each when I was due only to have to share with perfect strangers over and over again that I miscarried.)
4) They have a separated abdominal wall. Diastasis recti is a condition that is especially common in post-partum mothers. While carrying the baby, the abdominal muscles stretch and separate causing the organs to protrude through and leaving the mother looking pregnant far after delivery. This condition leads to many other health issues that perpetuate the frumpy mom appearance. It is not simply about working out and eating better. Core rehabilitation is required to repair their core.
5) They have chosen not to purchase “in-between” clothes (perhaps they don’t have money too). Because of this, they are still wearing some larger maternity items which are less flattering.
6) Their body has shifted and looks different as a mother than it did prior to motherhood. Against the strong media influence, most women develop and maintain more curves and softness in their bodies as they age and become mothers. This is not a failure, it is a biological fact. It does not mean they “let themselves go.” Their body did what was necessary to provide for their babies and a lifetime of being a mother.
7) In desperate hope to have a baby, they are in the midst of fertility treatments which can often make you bloated and distended.
8) Many other reasons…
It’s hard enough with the pressure media puts on women before kids. Imagine feeling out of control of the changes your body is going through. Being asked these questions just makes women more insecure. Of course, many of us do have some weight to lose and it is usually very difficult to lose that weight as a new mom. But to be honest, most of America has some weight to lose. And yet you’d never walk up to overweight people asking these insulting questions. I can guarantee you NO ONE wants to look pregnant when they are not. But there is more going on than you know.
Now, to be fair, as hurtful as these comments can be to women, in most cases, people are either curious or careless. Curiosity, as normal as it may be, is not always polite. Carelessness is another matter. Careless words can cause long-term pain. So before you say anything, ask yourself: Is this information that I need to know? Do I know if they have had a baby recently? Do I know if they have had any medical issues recently? Do I know them well enough to ask something so personal?
If you answered ‘no,’ then you really have no business asking. Does that make you uncomfortable? Do you have an insatiable need to know? Well, if you simply cannot control your curiosity, then this is the proper way to ask:
“Are you planning on having any [more] children?”
That’s it. Leave it at that. Yes, this is still a personal question. But you were the one who insisted on asking. By asking it, you are inquiring about their family plans, their fertility and their hopes and desires. However, it gives the person the opportunity to respond without experiencing deep pain. Perhaps they will say:
“Maybe, but I just had a baby 2 weeks ago so it is too soon to think about that.”
“We would like to but we are not sure.”
“Yes! I am actually 5 months pregnant now!”
“Nope, we are done. Our youngest is 10 years old.”
All of these answers can give you enough information, with minimal pain or awkwardness to both the person asking and the women being asked.
The pressure for women to conform to a specific body type and size continues to be overwhelming. The desire to be beautiful and look good is ingrained in us as women. It is the definition of beautiful that needs to be addressed. Many men will say that their wives have never been more beautiful than when they were holding their newborn baby for the first time. Which is quite backwards to worldly thinking since that’s when we look the least “put together.” It is the internal beauty that is radiating through the mother at that time that is so impacting. It is the love, sacrifice and nurturing quality that radiates beauty.
So before you ask… THINK. What do you really want to know? How is your question going to be received? Are you simply wanting to embrace the joy of new motherhood? I get that. But your question can also cause deep wounds reinforcing feelings of insecurity and failure.
At the Tummy Team, we are passionate about helping women take care of themselves. We know that the strength and health of the mother will set the tone for the entire family. In no way are we saying it is okay to completely ignore your body. However, the extreme demands on new mothers physically and emotionally, combined with the extreme pressure of society, friends, family and media to physically look perfect postpartum, is damaging and unhealthy.
If you are struggling with some of the issues addressed above that are contributing your tummy not healing, The Tummy Team can help you. We have a clinic that specializes in healing tummies in Camas, WA. If you are out of the area, we also have a very effective online program.