keep your mouth shut

I realize that I am officially ten months’ pregnant, with my second child (ie, I’m not especially small right now), but I still do not understand how this fact makes it acceptable for people on the street to comment on my physical appearance.

In fact, it’s driving me crazy. If one more person says something – whether it’s a sort-of-friendly Congratulations! or a more obnoxious Looks like you’re gonna pop any day!, I might punch them. To the ground.

Why do strangers feel justified in making comments on my physical appearance? Why am I so sensitive to people’s comments on my physical appearance? 

I realize that my identity is “in Christ”[1] – that who I am is not about what I do or how I look. I have spent hours journaling about body image, reading books on eating disorders, talking to therapists. However, this mindset – I am how I look – is a beast, and difficult to shake.

My husband is amazingly supportive when it comes to loving my pregnant, bloated, oversized body. He reminds me daily of its beauty, of how much he loves the child growing inside of me and loves my growing shape. It’s a miracle – the way our bodies can shift and adapt to this job of manufacturing another human being. I am amazed when I think of it – every single cell in my unborn daughter’s body was created and crafted from my own. My blood is her blood; my food, her food.

With my first pregnancy, I was more cautious, careful to abstain from any taste of alcohol or sushi or deli meat, fearing sickness or passing on dangerous bacteria to my growing child. I was aware with every mile I walked and every bite that I ate that I was feeding, growing, and strengthening not just my own body, but another tiny body as well.

This time around, it’s been harder to maintain that attitude – while running around after a toddler and trying to keep up my other work and professional projects, I’ve vacillated from forgetting about meals (consuming the leftovers from my son’s lunches and dinners seemed to be the best I could do for awhile) to indulging in comfort foods to hide the exhaustion.

And it’s been harder this time. Physically harder, psychologically harder, emotionally harder. And much, much harder to love my own body. With my already spotty history of body-confidence (or lack thereof), I expected this challenge the first time around.

Thankfully, it didn’t come. I felt great (well, you know, for pregnancy) most of the time, went running three or four times a week until a bout of sciatica set in around seven months.’ I grew proud of my fit, pregnant body. Too proud.

This time, my self-control has dissolved and the reality has set in: I don’t have the time or energy to exercise while juggling my son and everything else. It was a long, hard, cold winter. (And tell me the last time you really craved a salad and cold bowl of gazpacho in the winter?) And I struggle with the lies in my head:

You are ugly. You are fat. You aren’t ever going to be able to get the weight off. Your daughter will be too big for you to birth without cesarean; she’ll already have outgrown all her adorable newborn-sized clothes.

And those comments from people on the street aren’t helping. They feed my fears, grow my insecurities. I know my body is changing. I know it’s a beautiful thing that a new life – a new person! – is growing inside of me. (And I can’t wait to meet her!) I know that the gift of motherhood is truly a gift from God (Psalm 127:3-5 and 1 Timothy 2:15).

But it’s not easy, people. So next time you see a pregnant woman, hold a door for her. Smile. Help her with a stroller if she’s got another kiddo. But please keep your mouth shut.

[By the way, I happened upon a great post recently on body image and pregnancy. Check out what Megan Gahan has to say, so eloquently, in When Your Body Talks Back.]

[1] Lots to read on this topic. Mark Driscoll’s article What Does it Mean to Have an Identity “In Christ”? is a good start, as is this bit from Rick Warren’s short devotional Embrace Your Identity in Christ. And of course a variety of Bible verses about the idea of identity in Christ.

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Filed under body image, god & faith, motherhood

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