When I was pregnant with our first baby, I was mostly oblivious and naive when it came to what the outside world thought of my changing body. As an eating disorder survivor, pregnancy had been a celebration of what my body had healed from and its capacity to create and grow new life. Even so, I don’t think I was prepared for the myriad of comments I would get about my growing belly, body, and appearance in general.
From well-intentioned loved ones to random strangers, the comments began to increase the further I progressed in my pregnancy. I’ll never forget the sweet old lady in the elevator who gasped when I walked in, asking, “Are you sure you don’t have two in there? Your tummy looks much too large for just one”. Or the co-worker who insisted I was having a girl because I had become, “more ugly” throughout my pregnancy.
Acknowledging a Woman Beyond Her Body
As a society, we have become conditioned to viewing people for their bodies. Appearance, body shape, size, and weight are the immediate aspects by which we judge another. Women in particular face increasing scrutiny about their bodies, and this can be especially damaging during the pregnancy and postpartum phases of motherhood.
So what if we changed the narrative? What if we were more intentional about lifting women up during a time that can feel especially vulnerable and sensitive?
For starters, a woman’s pregnant body doesn’t need to be the topic of conversation or a means for small talk when there’s nothing else to discuss.
How to Support a Woman in Pregnancy
Whether you’ve been through pregnancy yourself or want to support a woman who is, here are some suggestions to keep in mind:
1. “How are you doing?”: While it may seem obvious, most people forget that a real woman is beneath that growing baby bump with a life beyond the scope of her pregnant body. Asking her how she’s doing reminds her that you see her and care about her state of being, besides the obvious pregnancy. Pregnant mamas love to be recognized beyond the fact that they are growing a human.
2. “You are beautiful”: Not all pregnant women may feel as though they are beautiful with the many changes their body is going through. Reminding a mama-to-be that she is inherently beautiful, regardless of the changes she is experiencing, can be an uplifting encouragement.
3. “You are strong”: The fact that a woman’s body is capable of growing a human being is incredible and miraculous, though a pregnant mama may not necessarily feel this way within her own body. Remind her of her strength, endurance, and perseverance through this pregnancy journey, and she will feel empowered.
4. “Can I help you with anything?”: This is music to a pregnant mama’s ears. She might not always accept help or need assistance, but even opening a door or carrying a grocery bag can be an incredible gesture of kindness.
5. “You are already an amazing mother”: Will I be a good mother? Many women find themselves asking this question at some point in their pregnancy. There’s a good chance that a pregnant mama is feeling slightly overwhelmed by this major life transition. She may be questioning her ability to care for this baby or even go through with the motherhood calling. Remind her of the qualities she has that are already making her an outstanding mama, and she will feel more supported through this transition.
6. “Trust your instincts”: There’s also a good chance that a mama-to-be is also buried by information overload and trying to navigate so many impending decisions. Breast or bottle? Natural or epidural? Stay at home or go back to work? Instead of questioning her decisions or sharing your views on the subject, let her know that she will ultimately decide what’s best for herself and her family.
7. “That is one lucky kid”: Most moms and mamas-to-be are generally hard on themselves in some form or another. It’s easy to be self-critical, and pregnancy can leave many women feeling vulnerable about bringing a child into this world. Remind the mama-to-be that her little one is blessed to be in her loving hands and care.
So whether a mom-to-be is in her first or sixth pregnancy, remember that she is experiencing a journey that is both exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time. Intentional words of support can make all the difference in the life of pregnant mama and allow her to feel supported by those around her. Remember that this woman is carrying the next generation, and kindness in words and gestures can make all the difference.
What would you add to this list?