I am pregnant and I work in fashion. I know what you’re thinking: “But having babies is so fashionable. Look at Beyoncé and Gisele and all those Victoria’s Secret models.” Yes, the rising popularity of the name Maddox and the movie What To Expect When You’re Expecting prove that procreating is trendy. But here’s the thing I’ve learned as a first time mom-to-be: while starting a family may be en vogue, pregnancy is not glamorous.
This is especially true when you consider that the definition of a glamorous woman today is basically one of those Victoria’s Secret models: impossibly thin and tall with unproportionately large breasts, thick glossy hair and perfect skin.
To be honest, I did luck out in the hair and skin department. My normally thick hair has only gotten thicker and shinier and my complexion (when not dulled by dark circles from lack of sleep) hardly needs any makeup, which is good because I’m often too tired and lazy to apply it. But despite my increasing bra size, the weight gain and belly, of course, disqualify me. And the current definition of glamour continues to include four-inch heels (I now wear sneakers to counteract swelling ankles and back pain) and a fabulous wardrobe (have you seen maternity clothes?). Plus, the glamour girl never breaks a sweat or worries that she may lose control of her bladder.
Don’t get me wrong. Pregnancy is beautiful, magical and even empowering – but it isn’t always pretty. You become slave to your bodily functions; peeing every ten minutes, being tortured by gas pains and kept up at night by back aches. And here’s the kicker: no matter who you are (Victoria’s Secret models most likely included), you are told all along that your body is not normal. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a doctor or midwife who discounts these messages but the media, pregnancy guides, acquaintances and strangers alike will continue to tell you that something is wrong.
For instance, I have gained 33 pounds and still have two months to go. The BMI calculator on both my pregnancy app and a Canadian government website tell me that for my height and pre-pregnancy weight, I will gain between 25 and 35 pounds. At this point, I’m thinking it may be more like 50.
Ironically, my belly is actually measuring just a little small for my stage of pregnancy. Baby is healthy, I am healthy, but being that this is my first and that I had reasonably strong abs prior to getting knocked up, my belly, as my doctor says, is compact.
So basically, I’ve gained too much weight but don’t have that much to show for it. And the worst part is that every time I attend the launch of a new moisturizer or fashion line, someone compliments my small belly as if a small baby somehow equates to beauty—like I may never be a size four, but at least I’ve managed to keep my fetus from making me look too fat. It really is a terrible mindset. People like Jessica Simpson are chastised for gaining 60 pounds and looking “huge.” The woman is 5’3”. Whether she gains 10 pounds or the average 25 pounds you’re “supposed to gain” while pregnant, her small stature means that she will look bigger.
Babies, generally speaking, develop at about the same rate. Whether you’re 5’3” like Jessica or 5’8” like me, you have to carry around an infant who will come out weighing about 7.5—or in Jessica’s case—almost 10 pounds. And it’s not just baby that adds extra weight – there’s more blood circulating through your body, amniotic fluid, a placenta that weighs a couple pounds and a whole lot of water retention.
The amazing part of all of this, of course, is that you are growing a human being. It’s easy to forget unless you’ve actually been through it, that pregnancy is—as corny as this may sound—a miracle. And as strange as it feels and looks sometimes, when you see that baby move beneath your skin, you’re reminded of the life inside of you. That belly no matter how big or small is a very special thing.
So please, next time you see a pregnant woman who’s ready to pop or doesn’t even look close, don’t comment on how big or small she is, don’t judge the size of her belly. Think about how beautiful she looks and if you can’t do that, consider how tortured and tired she must feel and at least wish her a fast delivery—and soon!
Vanessa Grant is a writer and editor in Toronto, Canada. She is the online editor of TheKit.ca.