Sunday, October 28, 2012

A PSA on Pregnancy, Self-Image, and F-ing Stupid Comments

Remember that time almost two months ago that I revealed to the world (and by the world, I mean Facebook and the 10 people who subscribe to my blog) that I'm pregnant?  Remember how I then disappeared from the blogosphere?

Pregnancy is EXHAUSTING, you guys.  In between working full-time, moving apartments, pretending to be a responsible adult and napping, I'm lucky to have enough time to take a shower or read fanfiction (because, yeah, that's still happening).  There are all sorts of lovely things that accompany pregnancy.  I have, thankfully, soared past some of the really nasty things so far (vomiting, excessive water retention, hemorrhoids, excessive weight gain) but I've had to deal with some of the normal things that are less than awesome (intense acne, some constipation, excessive crying/mood swings, extreme lethargy, food aversions, and round ligament pain).  According to doctors or whatever, pregnancy is a time of intense change, both inside and outside.  Because apparently you're making another life, or something, and that means that stuff goes to crap sometimes.

But I want to talk about self-image and pregnancy.  I do not have a great body image.  I wish that I did, but as my friend Monica reminded me a couple of years ago, I have wanted to lose ten pounds since I was about fourteen.

Yeah.  That's not healthy.

15 year old Jessica.  Obviously not fat, even though she might argue with you about that.  A healthy self-image can be difficult to gain and to hold onto.
I've tried over the years to come to grips with the fact that I am never going to be 5'9" and 130 pounds.  I have big hips and boobs, thanks to both sides of the family.  I have thick, shapely thighs and I've been a C-D cup since I was 23 (my 15 year old self would be happy about that last part).  I am 5'3" when I stand up really straight, and my BMI before pregnancy was in the "overweight" category.

Not too little, not too big... juuuuuust right.  For me.  At least, that's what I try to remind myself.
But I've tried to accept my body and all its imperfections.  I may have wide hips and cellulite, but I've also got good hair, a nice rack, and straight teeth, thanks to my parents' investment in orthodontics. 

And then came pregnancy.  I have told myself for the past three years that I'd lose a good 15-20 pounds before getting pregnant (this didn't happen, even after P90x).  Then I was told that it could be quite difficult for Bryan and I to get pregnant on our own, since my Follicle Stimulating Hormone (or whatever) measured as higher than normal for my age.  As of July, we'd been "trying" (which is a really awkward term for "having sexual intercourse without any sort of birth control, and yeah, now everyone is thinking of our sex life") for ten months to no avail.  We had decided to try the initial fertility drug my health care provider recommended come January 2013, assuming we wouldn't get pregnant without medical intervention. 

And then my sister-in-law Amanda visited us in July with her kiddos, and recommended that I take a pregnancy test, since I was a few days late.  I was SURE I wasn't pregnant.  I mean, I had cramps, and a headache, and I was super bitchy and tired... which meant I should be expecting my monthly friend at any moment, right?  That's what I thought when I peed on that little bit of plastic.  And then I saw two lines, and then I said a bad word, and then I started to laugh and cry (hysterically, I'll admit) at the same time.

I was pregnant.  I was crampy and achy and bitchy and tired because I was PREGNANT.

There was a day full of happiness, and excitement, and TERROR.  And then I started to think of all the changes that would befall me in the next 9.5 months.  And I remembered that I was going to gain weight, possibly a good amount of it.  And then I tried not to freak out.

It's hard though, when one of the reactions you get to, "We're pregnant!" is, "You're going to get fat!"  It's said with laughter, of course, but it still stings a bit.  When people find out you're pregnant, they naturally start checking out your belly, so God help you if you've had a big burrito for lunch.

I had hoped to be one of those women who didn't "show" until she was 20 weeks along (halfway through the pregnancy).  I knew a number of these women, so it wasn't like they were unicorns or whatever.  I diligently checked my Baby Center phone app daily to find out what was happening with the kiddo, and what changes I should expect.  Week 12 came and I found out that many women noticed a small "bump" begin to take shape between weeks 12 and 16.  Sweet!  A tiny little bump was okay, right?

Except apparently my body was really in-tune with this app, because that little announcement seemed to be all the permission my mid-section needed to start SHOWING.  At 12 weeks.  And man, did I notice.

Everyone else started to notice around week 15, it seemed.  That's when I realized that my Bella Band and half-way unzipped regular pants were starting to prove uncomfortable, and so I went shopping for actual maternity pants.

Yeah, that's also depressing. Because you know that stretchy bit of material that substitutes for a waistband in maternity pants?  It's going to STRETCH.  A LOT.  I mean, I'm only 18 weeks, and I'm already amazed by how much I'm showing.  But it's okay, right?  I'm growing a freaking LIFE inside me.

Apparently this bump gave some other people the visual proof of pregnancy that made them think that they had the right to say whatever. the. hell. they are thinking.

STRANGERS.  People you DON'T KNOW think it's okay to weigh in (guffaw) on your body.  Like this ho-bucket that came into my office the other day.  She asked how far along I was, and I told her.  "Are you having twins?"  Ummm, no, unless the two ultrasounds I've had are SERIOUSLY off.  "Are you sure you're not further along?"  Ummm, yes, I'm sure, and so is my doctor.  "Wow, you're big for 17 weeks!"  Wow.  Well.  Okay.  I mean, I've only gained two and a half pounds so far...  "SERIOUSLY?  ONLY two and a half pounds?  Are you sure?"

By this time I just wanted to cry.  Or round-house kick this ho.  Because guess what, Princess?  MY BODY IS NOT YOUR BUSINESS.

She wasn't the first to say any of those things, either.  It's amazing what dumbass comments come out of people's mouths.  And you know what?  They STICK WITH YOU.  You try to tell yourself that it's fine, but no matter how many people say you look great, or that "you're not fat, you're pregnant" (which actually is supremely helpful, but hard to remember), it still stings.

16 weeks and DEFINITELY showing.

18 weeks and the bump seems to be disappearing... it looks bigger or smaller depending on the type of pants I wear and what I've eaten for the day.  And some days it's just bigger or smaller, depending on... I dunno, something.
I try to take it all in stride.  Because I'm pregnant, not fat.  Except that those (now) 3 pounds I've gained seem to have gone straight to my tummy, hips and thighs, all which are seeming a bit more plump.  And yeah, your entire body SHIFTS when you're pregnant - some things feel bigger and others, smaller.  I can feel my hip bones more than I used to be able to, but I also notice that I'm carrying weight right under my breasts, at the very top of the bump, and that's a weird place to notice you've put on weight/fat.  And it's easy to look into the mirror at the sudden changes in your body and think "maybe I do look fat," or "do I really look like I'm having twins?"  Sometimes, you believe the lies.

Here's another thing I'd like to reiterate about pregnancy:  your hormones are WHACKED OUT.  Little things set you off either screaming or crying.  Don't even mention politics around me at the moment, unless you want to say, "Doesn't everyone seem like a big liar?"  We can agree on that.  But try to push your agenda on me and I am likely to go off.  A heart-wrenching commercial comes on?  I'm crying like a baby.  And when my husband told me I looked like a blueberry in the puffy, blue down coat I was wearing today (after I asked for his absolute honest advice), I told him that I was not going to talk to him for the rest of the night, and then I refused to hug him or listen to him apologize.  Because I was picturing this:

Violet Beauregarde, looking like a blueberry.
Apparently it wasn't me, it was the fact that the coat itself is blue and puffy.  Because it's a puffy blue down coat.  But to me?  He was saying I was a big old fatty, and hideous to boot.

I'm going to blame 50% of my pregnancy image issues on myself, because yeah, I could do better with the self-talk and all of that.  But I think a lot can be said for people saying stupid crap.  Since when did it become okay to tell a stranger she was too big or too little?  Or that she needs to watch what she eats?  Or that maybe her doctors are wrong and she's having TWINS, because DEAR GOD YOU ARE FAT, WOMAN!  This is simply not appropriate behavior.  And while we're on the subject, what the heck is with touching a pregnant woman's belly without asking?  And honestly, you probably shouldn't even ask to do so unless you know the woman really well.  Because yeah, there's a baby in there somewhere, but that's her stomach. It's still attached to her, and it may make her feel hella awkward that what was once HER body now seems to be available to the world (but guess what?  It's not). I've decided to combat this with the following move: whenever I feel uncomfortable with someone touching me, I'm going to touch their stomach.  Because it's my hypothesis that no one wants their tummy rubbed, especially when they are not pregnant.

And for those of you that think that hormones are too easily blamed for women just acting crazy?  You have no idea.  I mean, I've been feeling a lot more like myself since the second trimester started, but still.  There were times in the first trimester that I felt completely unable to control my emotions.  We're not just talking tears, we're talking sudden, intense, unreasonable amounts of rage over small, small things.  And there is a part of your brain that says, "what are you freaking out about?" but the rest of you?  The rest of you feels like strangling your sweet, loving husband.  You know, the one who makes you tea and tells you that you're pretty, and that you should relax and put your feet up?  Yeah, that guy.  No, it doesn't make sense, but that doesn't make it feel less real at the moment.

So here are few suggestions I have to help all of us, pregnant and non-pregnant alike, to live a bit more harmoniously:

  • If you're not COMPLETELY sure a woman is pregnant, don't ask if she is.  I have seen this happen to too many people, and it's hella awkward, and super embarrassing for everyone involved.
  • Do not touch people unless you know they are okay with it.  This is actually a really good rule no matter if the person in question is pregnant or not.  Consent is a GOOD thing, folks.  Remember that.  (Just for the record, I don't mind close friends or family touching my stomach.  But random colleagues or people I'm not friends with... don't touch me, dude).
  • Do not comment on a pregnant woman's weight, size, or shape.  Babies and pregnant woman come in all different shapes and sizes.  It's rare to have that perfect little basketball sized baby bump; you know, the kind where you ONLY gain in your tummy and the rest of you looks amazingly svelte?  Just because Hollywood is obsessed with the "bump watch" and an unrealistic view of what is beautiful doesn't mean that we should be the same way. 
  • DO remind pregnant women that their body is doing exactly what it should do - creating life.  It's an incredibly helpful, soothing reminder, even when it seems like their body is completely rebelling against them. 
  • If you can't say anything nice (or helpful, or loving), shut up.

If it sounds like I'm bitter, I'm not, actually.  People say stupid crap all the time, about all sorts of things.  A lot of things can be said with completely innocent intent, but are, in effect, totally hurtful (this is true not only for pregnant women, of course, but about all SORTS of things).  I know this, because I've said some really bad crap that I SWORE I didn't mean 'in a mean way.'   But words have consequences, and when you add in hormones, a changing body (that you can do NOTHING ABOUT), and the pressures of society... well, stuff gets personal really fast. 

So there's my $0.02, which is actually more like $20.00.  And yeah, I'll probably wait another two months before updating again, but no worries, I'm good.  I find out (hopefully) in three days if we're having a girl or boy.  I'll be ecstatic about either, just for the record.  I'm feeling good, I'm feeling happy (90% of the time) and I'm resting a lot.  I'm still so thankful that we get to have a kid, that this was even possible.  Life is good.  Just don't ask if I'm having twins.