We've all been there. You see an old friend, a colleague, an acquaintance, or maybe a total stranger and notice that they are pregnant...or so you think.
Depending on your boundaries on that given day, you might hesitate, double check, wonder if it is appropriate or not to comment. Or you might just blurt it out without any consideration. Boundaries tend to disappear when we are busy, tired, distracted or overwhelmed.
Regardless of how you have handled this in the past, don't you think that as women, we deserve better? Our bodies are under constant scrutiny throughout our lives from so many sources - the media, friends, family, (strangers!). When women are pregnant or have just given birth this seems to escalate - many people seem to believe they get a free ticket to comment on or even freely touch women's bodies when they are in this sensitive and vulnerable stage of their lives. When if you really think about it, this is a time to stand back with more respect than ever; instead of a time to move in for the kill releasing all of your burning thoughts on how this "pregnant" woman's body looks.
It is so common for women to have body image issues, anywhere from the occasional negative thought to having a diagnosable eating disorder. When women are questioning and criticising how they look on a regular basis they do not need someone else commenting on their bodies - pregnant or not!
Here are a few reasons why you should never comment on a woman's body regardless of whether you *think* or KNOW that she is pregnant.
- She might be pregnant but isn't ready to tell people or talk about it yet for reasons that are none of your business (or else she would have told you already!)
- She might be pregnant but is worried about the pregnancy for more reasons that are none of your business (again, or else she likely would have told you.)
- She might be pregnant but doesn't want to talk about how you think her body looks.
- She may have an eating disorder and commenting on her body could be extremely triggering - pregnant or not.
- She might NOT be pregnant! Maybe she never was, maybe she is unable to get pregnant despite trying, maybe she just had a miscarriage or stillbirth, she might have just given her baby up for adoption, had her baby taken away from her, maybe she was a surrogate. No matter what the scenario is, nobody wants to be caught commenting on a woman's pregnancy when she is not pregnant, am I right?
And then there are exceptions to this. Some women will love it when people are commenting on their pregnant bellies and get excited when their bellies get noticed. Or maybe they have had something bad happen, but welcome the conversations and get support this way. Or maybe they just won't be impacted by your comments regardless of whether they are pregnant, in the post-partum period or have never been pregnant - but these women deserve better too.
Not every woman is the same, but every woman deserves to be treated with respect. Of course pregnancy can be a very exciting time and many people want to talk about it and celebrate it by commenting on your body - which likely comes from such a kind a loving place.
What I'm really suggesting that the next time you see a woman who *looks* pregnant, please consider all of these above scenarios. And if you DO choose to comment after careful consideration, please comment with grace, love and as much respect as all women deserve!
*The inspiration from this post came from an interaction I had recently. I am very passionate about respecting women's bodies, and a way that I practice this is by refraining from commenting on how women's bodies look. I take great pride in this. However, recently I met a woman and I thought she was pregnant. I exclaimed "You're pregnant!" without a glimpse of consideration. She very gracefully told me that no, she is not pregnant. She seemed to be completely confident within herself and not even a little bit rattled by my tactless comment and she accepted my apologies without hesitation.
Despite her calm and admirable reaction, I was mortified and disappointed in myself. This made me reflect on my own boundaries. Do I give "pregnant" women the same body-respect that I aim to give all other women? Or do my boundaries fade in these circumstances like so many other people? I will be very mindful of this going forward, and I'll be sure to not repeat this same mistake again. I am very fortunate that this being my first (and last!) time in a situation like this was with a woman who did not get offended or take it personally. I have learned something from her and for that I am grateful. And in this moment I am going to accept myself as a flawed human being and forgive myself - while also giving compassion to all of the other people out there who have made mistakes and learned from them! But let's do better!