First published in Onya Magazine, February 6th, 2013.
It’s interesting being a pregnant woman.
Suddenly, everyone* has an opinion on your body, what you should and shouldn’t be doing, eating and drinking.
Don’t eat poached eggs. Don’t eat ham. Steer clear of coffee. Watch those steps. Don’t lift that. Don’t do this. Don’t try that.
This morning, I heard Chrissie Swan’s tearful and heartfelt admission about struggling to quit smoking while being pregnant.
“Over the last year I have taken up a habit I thought I kicked for good years ago, smoking the occasional cigarette, in total secret and never more than five a week. I never told the chippy (her partner) or my friends I’d taken it up again and I’m not sure I ever would have come out of hiding and acknowledged I was addicted, but this week a pap photographer snapped me smoking a cigarette whilst alone in my car and I knew it was only a matter of time before it became public.”
I’m not here to debate the rights and wrongs of Chrissie’s admission and I won’t get into a debate about it. One tweet this morning was enough for me to realise that some people are all black and white, unable to see the grey. The very same people are full of their own contradictions, but somehow fail to see them. And I refuse to argue with people like that because their blinkers and attitude bother me. Immensely.
I wish Chrissie all the best in quitting her smoking habit – for good. As someone who has never smoked, I have no idea how hard it is to quit, but I have a huge amount of respect for her addressing the issue in the way she did, without making excuses. I’ve got no doubt she’s an amazing mother. And instead of beating her down, I hope we can find ways to support her, and others in similar situations.
When you’re pregnant, people don’t just have opinions on what you should do and eat, they’ve also got opinions on how you should look. I’ve been told everything from, ‘wow, you are huge’ through to, ‘you don’t look pregnant at all!’ At over six months pregnant, I do look it. But I think I look exactly what I’m supposed to look like at this stage of my pregnancy. No two bodies are the same, so it makes sense that no two pregnant bodies are going to be the same. There’s no right way to look. And often, when we’re presented with an image of pregnancy, it’s not an accurate one: a model parading maternity clothes with a belly bump clasped around her waist is not an accurate depiction of a pregnant woman. Kudos to the magazines and online stores that use real, pregnant women to showcase their fashions and wares.
I don’t buy ‘women’s magazines’ (I’d rather stab myself in the eye with a fork) but I was flicking through the latest issue of Woman’s Day this morning, and I saw this:
And I instantly thought, ‘fuck you, Woman’s Day.’ Perhaps the caption ‘they’re in no rush’ was meant in a positive way: ‘Hooray, they’re in no rush to be super slim, how refreshing!’ but I’m not so sure it was.
The focus on women’s bodies post-pregnancy (or any time at all) is not healthy. It’s not constructive. It’s not even important. Where is the focus on health? On happiness? On a happy heart and mind? Why don’t you publish that, Woman’s Day?
I’ve met pregnant women obsessed with their size. Obsessed with exercising and following a strict eating regime. I’ve read countless pieces of information in websites and books explaining what to eat, when to eat and how much to eat. That it’s not necessary to eat for two. And it isn’t – rather, as your pregnancy progresses, so too does the need for you to up your calorie intake.
I don’t eat much junk food. I cook a lot of meals at home. I eat a well-balanced, varied diet. I love fresh food. Fruits and vegetables and grains. Some days, I eat pretty much the same as would I would pre-pregnancy. On others, I’m ravenous every two hours. I listen to my body and feed it regularly – as and when it needs it.
Seeing your body change when pregnant is quite incredible – it’s amazing, but it’s also frightening, at times. The last thing pregnant women need to be told is how pregnant they look. I can’t bend down in the shower to shave my legs properly; do you think I need anyone telling me my belly is growing?
It’s not the right or the responsibility of anyone to pass judgment, comment or advice onto pregnant women. Perhaps an obstetrician, or a GP, when approached and questioned, but it’s not up to you or me.
Eating a sandwich with fetta the other week, my lunch companion questioned whether I should be eating that particular type of cheese. Drinking an iced coffee the other day, the waitress wondered aloud whether it was ok for me to be doing so.
I know being pregnant means being slightly more cautious with certain foods and environments, but it doesn’t mean you can’t live. Or eat. In fact, I’d go so far as to surmise that our obsession with eliminating so many food types is half the reason we have a generation of children walking around allergic to every second food group.
I spent half the summer scoffing prawns and fresh seafood. I’ve eaten camembert. And prosciutto. And I don’t need the pregnancy police telling me how or what to eat. I buy good quality, fresh food and I won’t take policing from someone who defrosts their dinner in a microwave every night.
I’m much more concerned with being healthy, strong and happy. And my focus – and that of the pregnancy police – should be directed towards parenting and raising well-adjusted, empathetic, educated children, rather than worrying about the contents of my sandwich.