A lot of the time it's great! My favorite barista gave me a feminist pep talk as she rejoiced over my pregnancy! People help out with things I can't do anymore and there is something glorious to receiving assistance from a stranger in the neighborhood. I get to hear stories from all sorts of people about the joy they had bringing their kiddos into the world. A lot of the time, it's great.
And a lot of the time it just sucks.
One man today came up and told me: "I bet you're tired of being pregnant. I bet it makes you emotional. Always feeling so fat and ugly."
Yes. Thanks. This is a hyperbolic case. The only time someone has suggested I'm not only "big" but actually "fat" and "ugly."
What usually happens is people tell me just how big I am. They ask: Am I sure it's not twins? They say: I'm really big for how far along I am. They suggest: Oh, there's no way I'm carrying that baby past seven months if I'm that big already.
Okay, so first off, this is just annoying. Often hurtful but almost always annoying. My reality is that I'm a small short person. This kiddo has nowhere to go but out. So, I feel like maybe I get this more than your average pregnant woman in the community. But it is pretty nigh constant for me. And I would love for it to stop.
But I still struggle to be kind. To smile. To look for the good behind what someone is saying. I'm generally nice about it.
Still, there is a deeper reason for this post than to vent: For a lot of women, this is an unhappy and unnecessary side effect of gestating new life.
And there is a deeper reality I want to address with this post, one that I'm guessing many folks are entirely unaware of when they say these things: Being big for your gestational age is an actual condition. One that medical professionals take seriously.
Midwives and doctors measure you at every appointment. If you are measuring big, it can mean a lot of things. Some are innocuous - like, it's just a big kid or your stomach muscles are loose.
But some are troublesome.
1) Measuring big can be a marker of gestational diabetes which makes both mom and kiddo susceptible to developing diabetes later and also often leads to an early induced delivery. Early induced deliveries often work out fine. But they are not idea. A lot happens for the kiddo in those last few weeks leading up to 40 weeks. And being premature increases risks of infant death. Gestational diabetes also increases chances of birth defects, birth injury, C-section, and respiratory distress for baby.
Gestational Diabetes is by far the most common cause of measuring big for your gestational age. If a woman is actually big for her gestational age and not just a shorty like me, this is very likely what you are reminding her of when you comment on her size. If a woman is measuring big and it is because of gestational diabetes, trust me, she doesn't want strangers or acquaintances pointing it out.
2) Another possible cause is uterine fibroids. These are often not a problem but, if they are big, they can lead to C-section and several discomforting symptoms after delivery.
3) Another reason a woman might be measuring large is that she has too much amniotic fluid. Keep in mind, a good portion of that belly is not baby but all the stuff that comes along with baby. Too much amniotic fluid can be a marker of genetic abnormalities. It can be a marker of fetal abnormalities. While the kiddo is in there, she/he/ze prepares for the big world out here by practicing breathing by swallowing amniotic fluid. If a woman is measuring big, it can mean that her baby has stopped practicing breathing. This is scary. It can cause or be caused by issues with baby's kidneys. It can also be cause by baby having a gastrointestinal blockage or even some neurological problems. Again, if a woman is measuring big because of this, she really doesn't want to be reminded of it by acquaintances and strangers.
4&5) You can also measure big because your baby is breech (dangerous for delivery and often leads to C-section) or you have placenta previa (another condition that usually results in C-section).
6) Or, again, you might just have a big healthy baby.
But, if that big healthy baby is too big, he/she/ze may need to be induced to come early to avoid birth defect and birth injury. And, generally, moms don't want baby to come too much before their due date because babies need to stay in there and grow stronger and healthier.
7) And then, of course, maybe you've just put on more weight during pregnancy than you ought. And, maybe there is no risk to the kiddo - or minimal risk - but generally speaking, women don't like to be told we are putting on more weight than we ought. Certainly not as small talk in line at the coffee shop or over snacks after church.
I made the mistake of drinking too much water before one midwife appointment. My full bladder caused me to measure big. My midwife said if I measured big next time, we might need another ultrasound to make sure everything is okay. I had to spend the next month waiting for the next measurement. Wondering what caused me to measure big. Hearing every day how large I am. Wondering each time if my precious little kiddo is okay and knowing I had no way to even know for the next few weeks. It was hard. It was hurtful. Even though I scored in the 100th percentile for extraversion, I wanted to avoid people during that month.
And then I measured just perfectly again. Sigh of relief. (BTW, let's read that again: I measured perfectly. I am not big for how far along I am. I am a short woman. That is all.). But not every woman who measures big gets that sigh of relief.
There was one woman I had just met that insisted that, if I am this big now, there is no way I will make it a day past seven months. And with all the love and kindness in the world, I want to say to her: "Please stop. You are scaring me. That would be very harmful for my baby. Pregnancy and parenthood is already hard enough. I really don't need this grim prediction from someone I just met added on. Please. Stop."
But, I know that the average person who tells someone she's "big" doesn't mean to scare a mom or to hurt her feelings. A friend suggested I try to reframe it in my mind that people are just saying: "I'm so glad you have a healthy growing baby in there." And, generally, my guess is that that is what people mean. But then, why not say that? Why say: "You're big." "Are you sure that's not twins?" "There's no way you're making it to full term if that baby is that big now!"
Why not say: "Congratulations. You look healthy! Looks like that baby is growing big and strong! I'm so happy for you!"
Of if you can't say that, why not say nothing. Take a lesson from Thumper's mom: If you can't say anything nice ("Congratulations! You look healthy! Looks like that baby is growing big and strong!") don't say anything at all (don't start out a conversation with: "You are big!").
I think, generally speaking, we all love the pregnant women in our neighborhoods, churches, and lives. We want them to enjoy and treasure pregnancy. We want to celebrate with them. We can't wait to coo over that coming kiddo. So, all I'm suggesting is: choose things to say that express these sentiments! This will result in a pregnant mom feeling loved, respected, celebrated, proud, supported - - and drawn in closer to strangers and acquaintances rather than wanting to find a way to politely step out of the conversation. Let's give each other that gift of kind and encouraging words that form healthy community!