CAN WE PLEASE STOP BODY-SHAMING WOMEN?

I’d like to know when, if ever, it became socially acceptable to (a) comment on another’s size, be it to point out how thin or fat they are, and/or (b) openly compare another’s size to your own? I should hope the answer to both questions, is never. However, I’m finding myself increasingly inclined to believe we have made no such progress on the body-shaming front, and that if anything, it is more commonplace than ever to insult women with our body-fascism. Oh, and please don’t worry about this becoming a man-bashing, feminist (although I do openly identify as a SIW) rant, because perhaps unsurprisingly, it is women who are the most guilty of parties in this crime. Shame on you, you terrible anti-girl-power femmes! You make it impossible to castigate men for supposedly abhorrent sexist-driven objectification, when you insist on dishing out such cruelty to the women you seek to defend against such behaviours!

My particular aggrievance lies with individuals wanting to comment on the pregnant body. Mainly because this is my current state, and after insane levels of comments, I feel I’m pretty much an expert in this body-bashing field. As someone who has a very nondescript body-type (you’d consider me neither ‘fat’ or ‘thin’ if you were to even consider my body shape at all), pregnancy has been a body-shaming eye-opener for me. And yes, I know I’m in danger of sounding like a broken record, but I’m too pregnant (read angry) to care. You see, these size comments really are the stuff of progesterone-fuelled nightmares, and have an untold impact on the emotional wellbeing of us hormonally charged, and often paranoid child bearers. Therefore, I will continue to repeat this same ‘stop commenting on a pregnant woman’s bump’ message if it means even one pregnant woman is saved from the upset that such body-related comments have.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this type of body-bashing behaviour, is that most perpetrators would normally be the first to defend an individual’s right not to be aesthetically judged. Yet this freedom from insult, seems to evaporate upon their victim housing another human being. I’m assuming these individuals rationalise their behaviour on the basis they are commenting not on the individual’s size, but on that of someone else: the baby. Well here’s the thing. A woman’s bump gives no indication of the baby’s size. And what if it did? Well they’re essentially saying ‘gosh your baby is small/big for its gestational age’, which as we all know, can carry with it a myriad of potential health issues.

The other day I found myself having to defend my size to an acquaintance who already has two children, and quite frankly should have been more sensitive. Upon receiving her negative commentary that ‘you’re so small, much smaller than I was at your stage’, coupled with her disgusted expression, I (attempting to hold back my upset, and humour the lady!) suggested the height difference, my long body, or the fact I’ve never carried weight around my stomach but instead develop dumpy legs when I’ve been a bit greedy (yes I even put myself down), to somehow explain away her confusion. By the end I felt exasperated, and was beyond disheartened to learn I was not done for the day.  I was next informed by a man that my face was looking thinner and I needed to eat more (I mean what the hell?!), before later being informed by a lady that she has a bigger stomach than mine post-pizza. It’s almost laughable that my stomach should be considered the size of an unpregnant person’s even after pizza, and I say this despite having digestive issues which mean even the whiff of a gluten base causes me to balloon to King Kong proportions. Furthermore, it’s just not true…I now have to aggressively contort my face, and even back in the vicinity of a camera, so as to avoid a double chin and/or back fat (all depends on the angle…).

I would consider retaliating to these size comments by firing a devastatingly personal, and equally pointed comment in the direction of the offender, but that’s so against the matriarchy (is that even a thing?), and you know girl power…So instead I’ve settled on a far more pacifistic approach. Now, whenever I meet up with people I haven’t seen in a while, I commence our interaction by commenting on the size of my bump. I suppose I naively believe if I get there first, their inevitable bump judgement will sting less (it doesn’t)…but seriously how sad is that?!

I do wonder why these people (although let’s be honest, it’s mainly women) feel compelled to make such personal comments. What are they fuelled by? I’ve narrowed (was easy considering my tiny bump…) the driving force behind their cruelty down to all/one of the following: (a) a deep-seated insecurity which means they need to tear someone down who is openly joyous and happy at expecting a baby, (b) jealousy at the fact the pregnant individual may for once feel immune from the vanity that expectations of a ‘perfect’ body tend to bring, and so they want to remind them they’re still under the body police’s control, (c) a bizarre competitiveness? Think a ‘size off’ kind of contest (weird but no weirder than someone commenting on your bump size…), (d) insensitivity, and/or (e) I’m overthinking everything as usual. Some (including my mum) claim that people comment on my size (and others’) in a complimentary manner. This would be believable if it weren’t for the disgusted/horrified face they pull, and the disparaging manner in which they deliver their one-liner.

If you find yourself reading this and recalling the time you commented on a pregnant woman’s size, and thinking ‘I didn’t mean it like that’, well I ask you, what indeed did you mean by it? Because after extensive consulting of both current and past preggos, I can confidently and passionately declare that we didn’t like it, we don’t like it, and we’re left dumbfounded by your insensitivity every time (since you insist on repeating the bump comments EVERY single time we meet). So please do enlighten us on why you glare, stare, and insist on telling us we’re so ‘huge’ or ‘tiny’. We’re not dolls for goodness sake.

Individuals who comment on other people’s size, pregnant or not, are no better than the keyboard warriors who frequent the Daily Mail, and are potentially even worse since they seek to weakly disguise their mal-intent behind their otherwise whiter than white, and social etiquette-abiding demeanour. So if you’re one of these delightful individuals, I’d like to say that I’m sorry I’m tall, and that I’m not showing as much as I potentially would if I was shorter. I’m also sorry that another lady is ‘so big’. But you should also be sorry. Sorry for shaming her, shaming me, and for making us feel terrible about ourselves during a particularly vulnerable, and often terrifying time in a woman’s life. Shame on you.

I’d like to end by thanking my brother, who (I like to think) in an act of sibling solidarity, or because he remembers that unpregnant Georgia doesn’t waddle, comments ‘you’re so pregnant’, each time he sees me. I like his intonation, and the surprised tone he adopts each time he repeats this phrase. But I especially like the fact he doesn’t use the words ‘tiny’ or ‘big’. After all, I am so (in a strictly biological categorisation sense) pregnant.


N.B. In the vein of substance over form, and so my words rather than image are the focus of this post, I have resisted including photos of my ‘tiny’ 33 week-old bump.

 

30 WEEKS PREGNANT: UPDATE

Disclaimer: The week was too action-packed, and stressful (in less than equal proportions) for me to provide an accompanying photographic narrative. I hope it still counts.

At 31 weeks + 2 days pregnant, it is the perfect time for me to reflect on week 30, especially when I consider the last 24hrs of agonising leg cramps/pain/whatever one can class these horrors as, which allow me to look back on the preceding week with rose-tinted glasses.

At the dawn of the third week of the third trimester, both the baby and I began to grow exponentially. As if to confirm my ever-expanding form, the other morning when Rich and I were racing (why am I seemingly incapable of building pregnancy slack into my original routine?! N.B. letting myself go has somewhat mitigated this issue) out of the door to our first antenatal class, my coat popper burst free in the midst of the battle between my swollen calves and unsuitably knee high boots. Fortunately, my fantastically supportive husband, provides me with the confidence boosts I need during such challenging times. Take our walk to the antenatal class for an example of such wife-affirmation.

Me (grabbing my hamster cheeks, and unable to work out if I’m pleased or not…): “Look at my face. I have zero wrinkles thanks to how plump it is”.

Rich: “Yes but you’ve always had a cute button face”.

Me (because we all know a button is generally round…a perfect circle really): “You mean chubby”.

Rich: Laughs in my (button?) face.

It’s okay though, because when we arrived at the session and were asked on our best and least favourite part of pregnancy, Rich said “doing all of the washing-up all of the time”. So whilst I’m still struggling to pull my rotund self out from under the red London bus I was thrown beneath, I’m left wondering whether that’s Rich’s best or least favourite part? In his defence (or arguably anyone that doesn’t scour the literature for endless pregnancy tidbits), he may have been overwhelmed by concepts like ‘episiotomy’ which were being liberally thrown around by us bellies. Also, credit where credit is due. Rich does do all the washing up all of the time, and he appreciates my agency sufficiently so as not to make the mistake of proclaiming that ‘natural’ (meaning in this context without epidural…) is definitely the best way to have a baby whilst staring pointedly at his wife, like one of the other (insert: brave/foolish/insane) husbands*.

Nonetheless, if you still need convincing of a husband’s ability to make everything better, take mine and Rich’s Monday night exchange for the final example. I’d say final straw, but fortunately I’m not a camel (I pee way too often to store more than a thimble of liquid), and (un?)fortunately my back is now too wide to be broken.

What I said (underwear clad with back to Rich): “Look. When I have my back turned to you, you’d think I was just chunky, and not pregnant”.

What I was really saying (underwear clad with back to Rich): “Tell me that if it weren’t for my bump, which is now hidden, I look positively slim, and like my usual self”.

What he said (examining me, and delivering his carefully considered response): “Yes you’re right”.

What she said (since I refuse to be associated with the ogre that suddenly entered my body and declared war against husband): “What do you mean? I’m not chunky am I? You just said I was. That must mean I’m really chunky”.

Needless to say, as quickly as the hormone-fuelled witch entered me, and her embarrassingly unreasonable outburst took place, I simmered down. Because let’s face it, who cares?! So besides emotional outbursts, weight-gain, and the discomfort that comes with my growing baby, I’ve also faced some delightful comments on my apparently still ‘tiny’ bump (more insulting than ever when you consider my apparent weight-gain!). So to the wonderful human who thought it appropriate to inform me I look closer to 5 rather than 7 months pregnant, and to kindly question whether my baby’s growth was okay (“his growth is all on-track though, right?”), I’d like to say “no”.

Last week amidst the flurries of snow, and after half a day of changed strength (albeit not frequency) of foetal movement, Rich and I ended up in the maternity assessment centre with me on a monitor at 1.30am. This was followed by a growth scan which revealed our son not to be growing at the normal rate so as to be the average weight for his age of 2.9lbs. No. The two measurements that were taken provided us with an estimate (let’s remember there’s c.10% margin of error) of him being 3.12lbs and 3.13lbs respectively. So it transpires that my ‘tiny’ bump is safely housing our wonderful baby rhino.

So goodbye, and hello to another week of pregnancy excitement, hormones, wonder, bafflement, and strife. Please let there be no more bump commentary. My hormones will determine whether any metaphorical or actual bird flipping takes place on my part. I claim no responsibility from here on out.


*Kudos to the midwife, who on his fifth attempt at shaming his wife into going ‘natural’, pointed out to the husband that both a birth with, and without pain relief is considered natural. We’ll have to wait until next week to see if he’s convinced.

HOW I FELL PREGNANT

I’m just kidding. I don’t think anyone needs lewd details, or a conception story. Especially not mine. Nonetheless, this was not intended as a clickbait title. Therefore, I guess it’s more of a ‘how it began’ post. Full-disclosure: we weren’t trying to conceive but nor can two well-educated individuals claim the conception of a baby was an ‘accident’.

So I don’t know why, but since turning 27 I had convinced myself I would struggle to conceive. It became a bit of an inner dialogue with myself. I suppose it had something to do with me having an irregular cycle since coming off the pill a few years ago, my skin being terrible (notably not any better since falling pregnant…we all have our own cross to bear!), and my gynaecologist asking if I was trying for baby at each visit since I turned 24 (which I took to mean I clearly should be by now, now meaning every year since turning 24). My husband who clearly knew better than me, though I concede only on this subject matter, rejected (after much qualification) my concerns. Nonetheless, on the basis it was unlikely to happen to us, from June 2018 we ceased to use any form of contraception. Given my pessimism, our shared naivety (?), and lack of planning (my proclivity to overthink meant actively trying for a baby was out of the question), we were not expecting to fall pregnant two months later.

Throughout the w/c 23rd July, following each of our gym sessions, I bemoaned to Rich that I was unable to go as hard as usual (I must caveat here that my going hard is sitting on a stationary bike watching YouTube videos). In fact, I was flat out exhausted even selecting the YouTube videos to accompany my gentle spin, and put my inability to perform at my usual level down to our consecutive gym sessions. Although, I was surprised, and a little confused that Rich seemed to be unaffected by our schedule!

That weekend, we met up with Rich’s sister, and far from my usual Prosecco-loving self I found that a) I didn’t really want to drink at all, b) I fell asleep around 10pm at the house of an acquaintance (so unlike me who is (1) a night owl, and (2) extremely selective about where I will sleep), and c) I felt nauseous upon returning home during the small hours of the next morning. Again not like me, especially following a delicious take out pizza (the subsequent nightmares about the potentially unpasteurised and listeria-harbouring cheese still haunt me).

Still, despite the aforementioned blindingly-obvious-in-hindsight symptoms, I hadn’t put two and two together. Or if I had, I had come up with five and deduced it was a case of overdoing it, whatever it was. Certainly not the gym or work. In fact, it wasn’t until 1st August when I noticed what appeared to be some physical changes in my appearance that I started to think perhaps something was up. However, my husband’s second opinion was that I was overanalysing my reflection, which given I do overanalyse, and my umbrage at his implying I was being vain, I quickly quashed all suspicions. Although, we now know that far from me overanalysing, it is he who is guilty of under-analysing!

On 2nd August, whilst working from home and caffeinated up to the eyeballs on two coffees, and probably quadruple the number of green teas (my recently discovered-and-ever-since-put-on-hold life’s passion), I was feeling a little distracted/bored so figured I’d do a pregnancy test, if only to confirm these changes which I suspected were not in my head, were in my head. After following the instructions, I set the stick on the floor, and started putting clothes away. The next time I looked back at the stick (note that I wasn’t stick-watching because of course I wasn’t pregnant), a timer was flashing, which in moments was replaced by ‘1-2 weeks pregnant’. I started to shake. Unlike all these cool women you watch on YouTube or read about, I didn’t ponder on whether to break the news to Rich by gifting him a t-shirt with the slogan ‘baby daddy’, or to greet him home from work with arms outstretched, clutching the urine-soaked test. No that would be far too cool for me. Instead, I called him at work and asked if he was free to chat. After giving him a solid half a second to say ‘ye-‘, since the additional ‘s’ in ‘yes’ would take too long, I requested he look at his text messages. What greeted him? The image below.

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Rich’s reaction to this test result, and the subsequent three (I had to be sure!), confirm what a cool man my husband is. Combined, my hysteria and his collected response, we make a semi-cool (or rather hysterical but collected) little team. What’s more, I am grateful everyday, and truly think of our baby boy as a wonderful gift. Although we won’t know why we conceived when we did (I’ve since read that so many factors need to be aligned, that the creation of life seems even more miraculous), I’ve since thought it can only have helped that before we fell pregnant, we were regularly gyming and following a plant-based diet (n.b. this is NOT a vegan plug. Note I said before falling pregnant!). In short, we were probably in the best shape we had been since meeting at 21, which can have only been skin-deep all those years ago, given our penchant for nights out (both), take-outs (both but mainly Rich), Diet Coke (me), and limited exercise (both but mainly me).

Would I have done anything differently? No. Although, I think I’d have had a week-long binge of the softest and smelliest cheeses beforehand, taken folic acid in the preceding months, and not taken a test so early. Nobody needs to prolong the worries of the first trimester!

Left: Us at 22. Right: Me at 27, and 26.5 weeks pregnant. Featured: The everlasting onesie.

30 WEEKS: NESTING TIME

fullsizeoutput_2a5dfullsizeoutput_3431fullsizeoutput_3434I’d heard that nesting was a thing, and of course I desperately hoped I’d be a ‘nester’ (god knows I needed to become tidier), but what I didn’t expect, was how instinctual the urge to domestically cleanse would be. My husband will cluck at me as I pace our tiny 35 m2 apartment seeking out ‘projects’. Gone are the days when I could just sit still and switch off.  Rather I spend the evenings glancing surreptitiously around our ‘cosy’ abode, or if I’m feeling particularly bold, openly inspecting areas I could/should be organising….I mean I won’t have time for this when the baby is here will I?! Even when it might look like I’m sprawled across the sofa watching Netflix, in actuality I am peripherally scanning each and every corner of the room for items to rearrange/tidy. My current compulsion is replacing all our photo frames so they are uniform, and ergo aesthetically appealing (who even am I?!). The White Company for one will appreciate this impulse, and Richard too, once he accepts the visual harmony that I’m busy creating.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that rather than relaxing this weekend, which I think I should justifiably be doing, I’m afflicted with this overwhelming desire to clean, organise, and generally obsess over irrelevant household minutiae. Which let’s face it, nobody, especially one that is now officially waddling, should be concerning themselves with. Take the last few hours as an example of my (newfound?) lunacy. I set my phone to a YouTube music playlist (Taylor Swift aplenty), and what started with a very normal process of dusting the sides, ended in me wiping clean the inside of the wardrobe, and switching out any odd hangers so they are now all a uniform black. I also rounded up further clothing items to be vacuum-sealed for the foreseeable future until my body decides to deflate to its pre-pregnancy size once more (fingers crossed!). I also dusted the inside of the fireplace, because god knows that needs to be spotless…so you see it must be a visceral response to my baby’s imminent arrival because the ‘normal’ me wouldn’t be down for this insanity (I like to reserve that for other areas of my life).

Don’t worry though, Rich isn’t immune to the nesting allure, I’ve made sure of that! I have also conjured up a list of absurd tasks for him to do tomorrow, which amongst other all-important items, includes tidying his sock drawer, and folding jumpers.

Piece of advice: if you insist on antibacterialing (patent pending for my newly-created verb) the floor, don’t. Ask a friend/partner. I tried alternating between my hands and knees and squatting, and they both left me aching and short of breath (but then again what doesn’t these days?). Plus, you’ll want to conserve what little pregnancy energy reserves you have, for those all important other nesting tasks such as wiping bannisters, and polishing door handles…

I LOVE MONDAYS

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What’s not to love? The alarm signalling the start of another week of newness. The opportunity to begin afresh. Perhaps akin to a New Year on an ultra minute scale. Unlike the New Year, I do make resolutions for the week. As for this week, I have made a promise to myself, and to my husband, that I shall be productive and I will absolutely, definitely not procrastinate. 

With the exception of house or anything baby admin, for which I’m the proud owner of Excel spreadsheets, I’m one of those people that hoards ‘To-Do’s’. I get so caught up in the catharsis of making the To-Do list, and smugly revelling in my productivity at its creation, I don’t quite get around to its completion. To make matters worse, and in my bid to procrastinate further, I’ll often (whilst aiming to tick an item or five off my list) contemplate why I’m such a procrastinator*, and/or watch a vlog on ‘being a more productive human’, and ‘living your best productive life’ amongst other obnoxious titles.

Consequently, thanks to past Georgia, this last weekend has been one of overwhelm (on my part), and shock (on Rich’s part): ‘You have items on here dating back months’. Actually Rich, a year. Maybe two. And sadly, I was more caught up in revelling in his underestimation of my disorganisation (I blamed his puritanical indignation), than in (rightfully) owning my own shame.

Nonetheless, there’s nothing like a 10 week (and a bit) countdown to the biggest life changing event to stimulate even the laziest of us to start hitting life admin like no tomorrow. I mean, what’s the likelihood I will be any more likely to tick these items off when I have a squawking baby in tow?! Therefore, and despite the physical and mental pain I am expending in addressing them, I am doing just that.

In case you’re also struggling with procrastination, and you too despair of advice like ‘create a fake deadline’ or ‘find an accountability partner’, here are some tips which make ticking off that To-Do list semi-bearable:

(1) Create an exhaustive list.

That means everything you need to do is in one place. I’ve only recently started using the reminders app on my iPhone (thanks Rich). Rewind a couple of months, I had lists spread across ripped sheets from notebooks, in my phone notes, in Word docs, Excel sheets…Needless to say this is/was a quick-fire way to losing sight of the scale of your problem. N.B. In contradiction to how it might seem, I’m not inherently disorganised. Rather I’m all or nothing, and for a long time I’ve been all nothing…

(2) Ensure your list is realistic.

Will you really send thank you cards a month post-Christmas? Accept you’re an ungrateful recipient, you’re unlikely to receive a gift next year, and move on. So I wasn’t guilty in this regard, but there were tons of ridiculous items on my list, and Rich (despite my protestations) was right in questioning whether they a) warranted a spot on the list, and b) the mental energy I was expending on them. ‘Paint nails’ and tasks from 1.5 years ago certainly didn’t, and so I painfully removed them.

(3) Ask your people for help.

My parents and Rich are now the proud owners of some of the tasks. After all, we all know you must share. This tip will especially appeal to the dictatorial natural leaders among us.

(4) Mentally note (or set a reminder for a specific time…a far more aggressive way of tackling those tasks!) each evening before bed,  which items you will address first thing in the morning. Emphasis on first thing. You must face them head-on when you’re fresh, and semi-raring to go for the day.

(5) Switch up your environment.

This works for digital life admin only. Not so well for tasks like cleaning the house! If you’re a coffee tyrant like me pre-pregnancy, find a coffee shop and deposit yourself and laptop in a comfy seat, where high on caffeine you can pretend you’re having fun ticking off those tasks.

(6) Costs and benefits shake-up.

Ensure the benefits to you of completing your To-Do’s outweigh the costs. On a most basic level, consider rewarding yourself as you go. One item, one cookie…or perhaps if your procrastination has been as acute as mine, you’re better sticking to something non-food based.

(7) Tip for the future: If a task takes less than 5 minutes, do it immediately.

Don’t even add it to your list. I’ve spent triple the time needed on simple tasks because they’re so old that I have to search my addled brain for what they’re in reference to, and/or locate the necessary documents hidden way back (amongst junk mail) in my inbox.

(8) If all else fails, accept you won’t do it, and stop wasting energy beating yourself up over it!

I’m sure if you started this article wondering why the title, you’ve probably figured out by now, that yes, I procrastinated in my writing of this post until Tuesday. As you can tell, it’s a long road ahead for me, and my procrastinating way!

Oh, one last tip: don’t be tempted to read self-help guides on addressing life admin. These are the ultimate in procrastination. Incredibly, I found I had to physically prise myself away from the below.

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*Such contemplation is never wise when you’re prone to obsessive introspection. Although, just in case you’re interested, I’ve narrowed it down to (a) stress…doing the items makes me feel stressed?!, and (b) perfectionism…I want to complete the items ‘just so’, and wait for the ‘perfect’ moment. Because of course, everyone needs to achieve perfection in mundane tasks like ‘sorting pension’…