Pregnancy Week 17: Pregnancy Body Image and My Muffin Bump

Pregnancy Week 17

Week 17 quick stat breakdown:

Baby is the size of a: pomegranate, chipmunk, video game controller? (About 5 inches long and 5 ounces).

The baby’s bones are transforming from cartilage to actual bone, and its body starting to build fat.

Speaking of building fat, I thought I’d devote this week to talking about pregnancy body image. (Mine, more specifically).

It’s the last day of week 17 for this pregnancy, and aside from some still sporadic (thank goodness) heartburn and the occasional flutter kicks I feel low in my pelvis, I’ve mostly just felt fat this week, to be honest.

I am carrying lowwwww this time around, surely because my abdominal muscles are still pretty wrecked (and neglected) from the last time they got stretched to the limit a mere 19 months ago. So I’m at the bump stage where if I’m wearing the right maternity clothes, and I let it all hang out, I look pregnant, but if I’m minding my posture at all, or wearing something with the slightest trace of a waistband, all I see is muffin top.

Mostly, I’m okay with this. I feel grateful to have hit a stage in my life where my self worth doesn’t feel entirely hinged on what I see in the mirror. My pregnancy with my first baby and childbirth gave me a profound respect for my body’s abilities and a strong antidote to the idea that I owe the world a certain degree of beauty to occupy space here. (Sure, when I go too far between haircuts or wake to discover my weird allergies have given me one puffy purple eye in the morning, I feel less like going to the grocery store, but I haven’t crumpled into tears while standing on the scale in a long time.)

That being said, I sorta miss the “just a bump” look I was rocking at 17 weeks the last time around. I’m having more of a spreading-out pregnancy this time around, and I still need to make peace with this different, and still entirely fine and healthy, pregnancy body of mine.

Fortunately I’m still in the phase where it’s very questionable whether I’m actually pregnant, so the only commentary I’m fighting in this battle for self-esteem is my own. But judging by my last pregnancy, that will change soon, and I’m bracing myself.

Last time around, a coworker stopped me in the ladies’ room to reflect on how big I looked compared to another coworker who was pregnant, six weeks ahead of me, and how she was carrying “just in the belly” and I was carrying “all over” with hand motions to drive home the point that I looked like a behemoth. It was a cruel thing to say in such a casual, innocent tone, and I would have flipped my shit had this woman not confided in me months before I became pregnant that she had finally given up after 10 years of infertility. I told myself she was coming from a place of deep pain and tried to feel sympathy for her while I internally seethed.

That being said, if you know me and see me in person, please remember this common courtesy that I, if not all pregnant women, appreciate, regarding our bodies: If you wouldn’t say it to a non-pregnant acquaintance, keep it to yourself.

I don’t want to hear how big, or small, or pudgy, or like I’m carrying twins, or guppies, or donuts, I look.

As the moms at One Bad Mother have wisely advised, the only appropriate thing to say to a pregnant woman is, “You look great.”

Pregnancy Week 17: Pregnancy Body Image and My Muffin Bump

Thoughts on raising a son on International Women’s Day

Oh, hey guys. I’m glad I didn’t recommit to regular blogging during my last post, because that obviously didn’t happen. I would say that I’ve been super busy, but I’ve talked about how much I hate that as an excuse, and also lots of really busy, badass people (for example my girl Melissa) find time to post almost daily. It’s just not a thing I can (or am willing to make the effort to) do.

Before I get into the real topic of the day, here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on at the old TLMB household over the past few weeks:

About a half hour after I published my last post, my dad came over (he lives across the street) and got the phone call while he was sitting at my kitchen table that his dad had died. My grandpa had been in hospice for about a year, and in a nursing home for almost 18 months, so while it’s hard to say goodbye, it was a relief to us all that he wasn’t suffering anymore. Ever since my grandma died last year, he had been really going downhill. I will always miss them, and always be grateful to have had them in my life.

We are, indeed, moving ahead with our plans to get a little taste of the farm life: We’re taking beekeeping classes and have ordered bees, we visited some goats over the weekend (and got lost in Amish country, with a carsick and subsequently nearly naked toddler, on the ride home) and will be picking them up sometime in the next few weeks, and I’m prepping to pick up a half dozen baby chicks in the next couple weeks. It’s overwhelming how much there is to learn, and I’m a little terrified, but we decided that the only way to tackle our goals is to jump in with both feet. So stay tuned for more on that. (I’m even thinking about closing the books on this blog/starting up a new one to sporadically document this new chapter, because why not start yet another blog I’ll inevitably neglect?)

I’ve also been keeping up with freelancing and have made a handful of sales on Etsy. End of update.

Raising a feminist son: Reflecting on International Women’s Day

What I meant to talk about today is what I wish for my son, and what I hope to instill in him, as I reflect on International Women’s Day. Feminism is no less important to me because I have a son rather than a daughter, because it’s about equality. So here’s a list of hopes I have for my son as he grows, in the spirit of International Women’s Day:

I want my son to be someone who treats women as equals and also who doesn’t suffer or inflict the consequences of toxic masculinity.

I want him to be able to express the full range of human emotions without feeling like he has to censor anything that might be considered effeminate.

I want him to understand that compassion and sensitivity aren’t  the sole purview of women.

While yes, there seem to be some seemingly innate differences between girls and boys (whether because they’re truly in many kids’ individual natures or because they’re reinforced despite our best efforts to avoid gender stereotypes), I don’t want my son to feel like he can’t do something because it’s “girl stuff” or to judge anything “girly” as less than. He can like pink. He can nurture his baby doll. He can smash trucks together. He can cry when he falls down and be comforted. He can be afraid of snakes. He can dance.  He can get muddy.

I want my son to understand that sexuality — his and anyone else’s — is not something shameful, nor is gender identity. I don’t want him to ever be afraid to tell me who he is, gay, straight, male, female, questioning or non-conforming. I want him to grow up knowing that I would be equally proud to be his mom in any of those scenarios, and eager to support him and learn what I do not know in order to do so.

I want him to understand consent. I want him to know that respect and basic human decency don’t “entitle” him to anything as a man, and that “friendzone” is not a thing.

Just as I would want a daughter to have the full range of career options open to her, I don’t want my son to feel discouraged from being a preschool teacher or a nurse, if that’s what he wants to do.

I want him to understand his privilege and use it to help uplift others.

I didn’t expect this post to come full circle, but I had to eulogize both my grandmother when she died, and my grandfather just last week, so I’ve done a lot of reflecting on their lives, and it’s vividly apparent how inequality shaped their lives and their relationships.

They were lovely people with a lot of amazing qualities. But my grandma died with a lot of regrets and resentment about how her life had gone. As I cleaned out their things, I came across ample evidence that she was frustrated and unfulfilled in her role as a housewife. My grandparents’ marriage almost never seemed happy to me, and my grandfather’s role as the “man of the house” certainly was to blame for much of it. He was demanding, domineering, and disdainful of anything that seemed like weakness. My father suffered under this environment, and I grew up watching my brother endure a lot of the same  ridicule. Of course, their unhappiness is a complicated subject, and was their responsibility just as much as it was a product of the patriarchy, but looking back I can’t help but wonder how different it could have been had they seen each other as equals.

So… one day late, now, because The Toddler took an hour to go to bed last night and I just didn’t have it in me to finish this thought, I hope I can instill the importance of equality in my son as he grows up. Happy (belated) International Women’s Day, everyone.

 

Thoughts on raising a son on International Women’s Day

The misogyny of “get your body back”

My mid-morning errand today involved going to Target to buy things I needed (diapers, coffee) and a few things I didn’t really need, that nevertheless will make my life a little easier (Dollar Spot mini binder with abundant list inserts to replace my near-full daily to-do list notebook, underwear that isn’t so old and stretched out that it barely stays up – sorry, I have no dignity).

What I came across, and what should come as no surprise yet still filled me with rage and dismay, was something I really, really didn’t need: a glaring reminder that I personally and new moms across the Western world owe it to society to GET OUR BODIES BACK after baby.

I was meandering through the baby aisles looking for a non-plastic sippy cup option (no luck) as The Baby has taken to clanking his bottom teeth on the shot glass I fill with water to offer him at meals. At the end of the bottles and breast pumps aisle, there it was, shining like a beacon of judgment: A rack of fitness magazines showing off the extremely fit, glowing bodies of women.

Body shaming at Target
While you’re worried about making sure your baby is thriving, don’t forget: You’re not good enough!

To this I say (and here comes some French, with no apologies), FUCK YOU, TARGET.

Like just about any woman with a pulse in America, I have fought my whole life to come to a place where I can love and accept my body as it is. It took me marveling with wonder and gratitude at my body’s ability to grow and push out and feed another human being. I’ve finally been able to quit grimacing at the way my thighs spread out on a seat or glowering at my arm hair or wishing I were different, or better. I am finally content with who I am, and while I have never had to endure the stigma of being extremely overweight or otherwise extremely far from conventionally acceptable appearance, I feel something almost like grief at the first 30 years of my life spent looking in the mirror and not feeling like enough.

And I have nothing against exercise. In fact, I credit exercise with helping me maintain my sanity and maybe having an almost obscenely quick and easy labor. I have been craving a chance to go running again and take every opportunity to walk around the farm or get a good stretch in, because it makes me feel good.

But this display isn’t about exercise. It’s about exploiting the vulnerability of women whose bodies have been stretched and taxed and transformed in ways that definitely don’t always feel comfortable or normal or acceptable. Society seems to think pregnant women’s bodies are public space, open for any remarks or criticisms that might come to mind. And then when baby actually arrives, even though life is 1000% different and priorities have shifted like tectonic plates, there’s that shitty expectation that if you don’t get your body “back,” you have tumbled headlong toward permanent fat frump town and your worth as a woman is forever revoked.

Exhausted new mothers who face fear and judgment and limitless guilt in every direction. It’s not enough to keep a baby alive and fed and happy and appropriately enriched. Better make room in your cart for instructions on putting yourself back together, because you’re (still) broken.

How dare you, Target.

How dare you strategically place this column of manufactured perfection in this spot, amplifying those insecurities for new mothers who are just trying to find a pump so they can go back to work or the right bottle in hopes of easing colic.

I know Target didn’t invent this expectation, but they certainly have no problem taking advantage of it to sell more magazines.

This makes me angry and sad, and makes me want to say to new moms who come across this and other post-baby fitspo and feel the monstrous weight of inadequacy:

You are good enough.

You’re more than good enough, in fact. You are a goddamn superhero, and you don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way.

Dear New Mom: You're good enough.

I know this may seem like a big soapbox for a small transgression, but this and every instance of post-baby body pressure is yet another form of misogyny that we shouldn’t have to fucking put up with. If we don’t call it out when we see it, if we don’t condemn it for how it makes us feel and for how it reinforces society’s apparent say in how women must occupy space in a certain way, then it’s never going to get better.

Target, you don’t get to make me feel bad about my postpartum self. I’m good enough.

 

The misogyny of “get your body back”