The Politics of the Baby Bump

“Oh! I didn’t know you were pregnant. I never saw you post baby bump pictures!”

Ah, the baby bump. For myriad reasons, the baby bump represents the greatest trigger for most of my issues on pregnancy. Womanhood in general if you want to go there. A second pregnancy -and one far more public than in the pandemic- has provided an opportunity to learn not to spiral into blinding rage when the term “baby bump” comes up. But it’s a slim margin. Why? Good question.

Now firmly planted in motherhood and child rearing, my social media feed floods with affirmations for mothers. “Don’t feel bad about this!, “Don’t feel bad about that!” “Believe in yourself!” Why is this messaging necessary? Are women really plagued with such doubt about their decisions on how to raise their children?

The stark answer to that question appears to be- yes, yes they are.

Good for You, Not for Me

When preparing to have my first child, I read six baby books. I poured through PubMed articles and dabbled in the mommy blog forums (those were abandoned quickly). I knew from the start I would breastfeed as much as possible, but also, that baby was getting a full bottle before bed from Dad so I could sleep, and I couldn’t give a lick less if it was formula.

As is my standard, I researched extensively, weighed options, outlined a plan, and went with it. I have no regrets about what we did. I did the best I could with what I had available -why have regrets about that?

But that’s me, and my decision making process. Your choosing to to do something differently isn’t an affront to my existence. And yet, it would appear there is an insidious thread of, “If you say you didn’t do it like me, you’re judging how I did it” out in the world.

With small margins of health and safety secured, I’m sure you too did the best you could and that’s wonderful. That’s all you need.

Authenticity or Decency?

Once upon a time, I wouldn’t have been sensitive to my personal opinion being a threat to anyone’s psychological security. Now I’m old and…life’s been lived. It’s a question of the age I suppose. One the one hand, a push for authenticity -being safe to be your real, whole self- that’s in conflict with decency -some things shouldn’t be said because there’s no good reason to say it. Both arguments merit consideration and an attempt to balance the scales.

Given the hair trigger when that comes to the topic of motherhood -how in the world can you make an effective choice? Why can’t it be okay to say, “Good for you, not for me.” and leave it at that?

The Truth of Why I Hate the Baby Bump

Which finally brings me back to baby bump. I hate it. I hate it when people mention it. I hate when people point it out. I hate every sort of commentary around it, but especially I hate when people ask me to show it off.

Mine of course. Not yours. Yours is lovely and adorable, and I’m so proud of you for sharing it whenever you want. Truly.

Maybe it’s suppressed body dysmorphia of some sort, but I suspect that’s not it. In my heart of hearts, I’m quite sure it’s because I’m a control freak who hates anything that imposes on my independence and autonomy. Yes, even for choices I myself made. (My ego can keep that id in check, okay!)

That and it’s unfair. My husband gets to kick it for 10 months and have a baby at the end but doesn’t have to deal with any of the inconvenience? Ridiculous.

Yes, it’s a wonderful and fantastic blessing I’ve been able to have a baby. My heart aches for those that want it and haven’t gotten it. But just in the way a Mom complaining her toddler is exhausting doesn’t mean she doesn’t love the toddler, my hating my baby bump doesn’t mean I’m not grateful to be able to have it.

Every mention, every notice fills me with remembrance and loathing that I’m restricted. It’s not “right” to say such things, so I haven’t. If we’re being authentic, I’d like to.

For the best though, I’ll try to focus on the good. The baby bump photos I took were few, but I really enjoyed the ones I did.

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