I was nine months pregnant (I gave birth to my second son a few weeks ago!), it was a steamy New York summer day, and I wore a crop top on the red carpet, NBD. Or, so I thought.
I had recently decided to start celebrating my new pregnant shape by wearing outfits that exposed my bare baby bump. I wasn’t exempt from nagging thoughts of comparison and judgment about my changing body—but when they crept in, I caught myself. I’m proud of my body—not just how it looks, but that it’s capable of creating a new human being. I felt—and still feel—that pregnancy is the height of women’s fertility and the epitome of femininity: ripe, juicy, sensual. I wanted to own that and to celebrate it.
I’m proud of my body—not just how it looks, but that it’s capable of creating a new human being.
I got tons of compliments and congratulations that night. Eka called me his “real-life superhero,” and said he, too, believes “the pregnant female form is the epitome of feminine beauty” and that he loved that I didn’t shy away from celebrating it. I agreed—but apparently plenty of people online didn’t. The reactions to Eka’s Instagram post of us from the premiere—and the comments on another article about me and my bare belly—were overwhelmingly negative.
Here are some of the highlights of the lowlights:
“Not everyone is as thrilled about your stretched out gut as you are” - Katherine
“So they publicly prove they have screwed around” - Maggie
“Come back out when you've lost the weight and look good again” - Lee
“I see nothing particularly attractive about an oversized stomach”
“Want to get an idea what you all look like, go to the beach and sit next to a fat chick wearing a bikini” - Kathleen
“No one really wants to see your disgusting belly and your nasty belly button” - Tim
“I've had two babies and I still think pregnant bellies are gross to look at” - JS
Their words stung, but I wasn’t that surprised: Walking around the streets of New York, pregnant and, at times, wearing a midriff top in the weeks before the premiere had been quite the cultural study. For the most part, I was met with uncomfortable stares and awkwardness from both men and women. Some people seemed too ashamed to look. With this kind of reaction, it’s no wonder so many women struggle with their body image when they’re pregnant.
With this kind of reaction, it’s no wonder so many women struggle with their body image when they’re pregnant.
What started to become clear to me was the self loathing, self-deprecating beliefs lurking in the collective female psyche. As women, we tend to think we’re getting bigger and fatter and less attractive as the pregnancy develops and that somehow this is something to feel ashamed of; something that should be hidden.
In ancient cultures, the form of a pregnant women was worshipped as the pinnacle of all creation. It was something to be honored and celebrated. But in our modern, Western culture, have we reduced it to this severely limited beauty perception? (During my field research, there did seem to be some exceptions to this trend: Any positive feedback I received from baring my belly came from the African-American and Hispanic communities.) There’s a stigma that women should have to cover up, look not-pregnant from behind or appear to be carrying a tiny basketball-belly shape to be beautiful while pregnant.
There’s a stigma that women should have to cover up, look not-pregnant from behind or appear to be carrying a tiny basketball-belly shape to be beautiful while pregnant.
This couldn’t be further from the truth! Pregnancy is a truly amazing and glorious time in a woman’s life and something to be revered and cherished. We come in all shapes and sizes, as do our baby bumps. Sometimes we get stretch marks, dark lines, extra hair, popped-out belly buttons, and extra weight— but that doesn’t mean that we should have to be ashamed. I’ve certainly gone through my own process when it comes to adjusting to the changes in my body, but, to me, pregnant is beautiful. When I stepped on to that red carpet, my body was doing the job of growing a human. It had become a nesting place of creation, and how my body looked then—or now, after pregnancy—is a testimony to that.
It’s not always easy when your body starts to change and morph into a baby-building vessel. But it’s time we start recognizing the beauty of the pregnant form. Let’s not be each other’s (or our own) harshest critics. Together, let’s shift the paradigm around pregnant bodies and embrace our body beautiful, at whatever stage of life we’re in.