When I was first pregnant I found myself automatically apologising to my husband for the fact that my body would change.
And this is weird on several levels. Firstly, OF COURSE it’s going to change. How could you grow a new person within your own body without needing to make a little room?
Secondly, I didn’t do this on my own. I’m not going to draw you a picture but getting pregnant is very much a two person job and one we did on purpose. So, actually, I haven’t changed my body, we have.
And thirdly, why would a physical change require an apology anyway? Changing is what bodies do. We get older, we do varying levels of exercise, we experiment with the volume of Nobbly Bobbly ice creams we can consume during the summer months… We change together and support each other as we go.
But nonetheless, the instinct to apologise was there. He required no such thing, of course, because he’s not a dickhead, but this wasn’t really about him, anyway. It was about how I perceived myself, my own body image, and how we all respond to change, particularly when it occurs in women.
Several people have felt compelled to reassure me that ‘You can hardly tell you’re pregnant at all!’ or ‘Don’t worry, you’re wearing it well’ or ‘It’s OK because it’s just on your tummy and not on your face or anything’.
And it’s so strange because I’d be fine with it spreading anywhere it needs to go. I want people to be able to tell. A child is growing in here and I am happy to look however I need to keep us both safe.
When people say these things, I’m not even sure they know what they mean, only that, for the most part, they mean well. But I think it would be better for everyone if we stopped. There’s no need to panic. Bodies change and that’s OK.
Weight can, of course, be a huge trigger for insecurity, just like any other element of our appearance or lives. And I’m sure that many people who make these comments are just keen to keep everybody feeling good during such a gruelling process.
But we mustn’t normalise the idea that a woman’s body changing is a bad thing. Because it isn’t.
What matters is how a person feels and that they’re healthy. And a positive status in both these areas looks very different from person to person. My healthy and your healthy, and my happy and your happy, no doubt do not look the same. And yours is absolutely none of my business.
Before I figured out that I was struggling with anxiety, I was often a little underweight. Nothing drastic but it was a side effect. When I look at my wedding pictures, I can see that although I’m happy in our relationship, I had some serious personal work to do. And since I’ve done that, I’ve had a steadier, healthier weight, which has involved getting a bit bigger, and that is a good thing.
I found it alarming that my instinct when I got pregnant was to say sorry for the changes my body would go through. That I felt the need to clarify whether my husband would manage to find me attractive during this time. (I am a constant source of Cadbury snacks right now – what could be more alluring than that?)
But I caught myself just in time and do not apologise any more. I am instead trying to enjoy this process, as much as the exhaustion/crying fits/surprise nausea will allow, anyway. Because this is a journey to something I want, so I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If we want to live in a world that’s kinder to women’s bodies, we have to start being kinder to ourselves.
We need to be more honest about what’s fuelling our thoughts. Are you apologising for your weight/look/whatever because you have done something wrong? Or because you’re afraid that if you don’t, somebody else will suggest that you should?
Because, you know what? That is one risk you can afford to take. Because anybody who suggests that is wrong. And they should be the one to say they’re sorry.