Friday, March 18, 2016

"Are you pregnant?"

The first time I got asked by a stranger if I was pregnant, I was 19 and 125 lbs. Of course, I wasn't, but I went home and fully examined myself in the mirror, sucking in and pouching out my stomach.

Did I look pregnant? Was I *still* fat?

What that all too curious stranger didn't know is that I was in the grips of an eating disorder and had virtually starved myself down to that weight. How could someone who had striven to be so thin still be so far away from being considered "thin" by society? I was already punishing my body with brutal workouts and depriving myself of vital nutrients. I had pushed through the hunger pain to the point of not being hungry for food anymore. I only craved validation. Would I EVER be good enough?

That encounter has been sitting in the back of my mind for years. Of course, I've learned to tell the nagging that the guy was just an asshole, but every once in a while, I still try to figure out what exactly it was that he saw in me, and more importantly, what compelled him to lend his voice to his own thoughts without regard for how I would answer, or how it would make me feel.

I was so happy when I was pregnant. I loved my body. I was one of those women who let people rub her belly in public and accentuated her bump. It was the first time I could use pregnancy as an "excuse" for why my belly was large, and not only did people understand, but I was praised for it.

But pregnancy belly is such a bait and switch. As soon as you pop out the baby, there is this unspoken socially acceptable time frame for which to lose the baby weight. And God help you if you don't lose it by then, because then nosy ass people pop up here and there and ask you when you're due.

I've since had three kids and gained 100 lbs. I know I need to lose the weight, but food is still something that I struggle with. I lean on it for an emotional crutch and spend many nights binge eating for lack of anything else to fill whatever void I'm feeling. And of course, since having children is life changing and, at times, unbelievably stressful, I lean on food to help myself cope with the ups and downs.

This shame of not having accomplished a goal, of not having "returned to normal" is horrible. The shame I've felt for not having lost the baby weight is palpable. So when someone asks me if I'm pregnant, it stings. If you don't know the answer, what makes your curiosity more important than my self esteem?

It's a subtle way of not only body shaming, but also mom shaming someone if they aren't pregnant.

"You didn't lose the weight in time, and now you're just fat and that's so unacceptable to me, that I feel compelled to speak up.", they say.

Sure, people don't actually mean to be mean by asking. They really are just curious. But if the person you are asking isn't pregnant, you could be sending them into a shame spiral. And let's also remember that there are women out there who are trying their hardest to get pregnant. How do you think that makes them feel to say no?

Please, don't ask women if they're pregnant, because if they are, they will share the good news with you. If they don't share the news with you, it's none of your God damned business anyway. Err on the side of caution, because you don't know what spark you're starting inside someone's brain. There are complex issues involved when a woman "looks" pregnant, so please never assume.

And no, I will never be pregnant again, so for now, the best I have cooking are Girl Scout cookie babies, and I guess a mis-aligned timeline and different priorities than you have. This is my body. You are not welcome to comment on it, no matter your intentions.

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