“When are you due?”
I can no longer count the number of times I have been asked this question. Granted, it happens less and less now that I am older and the greys are coming in. But it still catches me off guard from time to time.
The thing is, I’ve never really have a good answer. Namely because I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat!
First came the excuses
There was a time that I would hang my head in shame and mumble something along the lines of “I’m actually not pregnant, but I recently had a baby”. Emphasis on the recently. As if that was an excuse for the fact that I was still wearing maternity trousers two years after giving birth!
Once my youngest started nursery, I figured the old “I’m still trying to lose the baby weight” excuse would no longer fly. Trust me, people look at you funny when they ask to see a photo, and you show them one of your 3-year-old.
I honestly used to dread being confronted with questions about my non-existent baby. More than I dreaded a jury summons or a root canal. It’s just so awkward and embarrassing for both parties. Granted, it has been a while since I was able to check the colour of my underwear without looking in the mirror, but that has nothing to do with the miracle of pregnancy and everything to do with the fact that I ate all the pies.
Then came the lies
I’m going to be honest right now and admit that sometimes it was just easier to pretend to be with child. When a stranger gave up their seat for me on the tube, I would just mumble my thanks and take it. When someone asked me how far along I was, I just flat out lied.
At first I used to say five months, but that would often be met by further insensitive questions like “oh, is it twins then?”
So then I started saying seven. That way I knew that they would compliment me on how small my baby bump was, and I would get some perverse pleasure out of that. Yes, I knew it wasn’t a real baby, but at least my pretend baby bump was smaller than expected. You’ve got to take the compliments where you can get them folks.
Anyway, as is the case with most lies, you eventually get caught out. The lady at the checkout starts to get suspicious when 3 months later you’re still sporting a ‘pregnant belly’ as opposed to pushing a squalling newborn around the supermarket. And unless you’re prepared to borrow a friend’s baby every time you pop to Sainsburys, things start to get tricky.
I have been known to change where I do the food shop just to avoid the inevitable awkward conversation that is likely to ensue.
Nobody wants to be an apple
The thing is, I have always hated my belly. It is a source of deep shame that spans back decades to when I was a little girl and my family would poke fun at it. And I mean literally poke. As in, they would poke it and then make fun of me.
Charming, I know. I have since learned that I have what is termed an “apple shape”. This doesn’t help at all. Because lets face it, who in their right mind wants to be compared to an apple?
Apple shapes are thicker around the middle than their pear counterparts, who have the lovely curves we associate with the Kim Kardashians of this world. Having a larger middle has been a constant source of struggle for me.
I can still remember the look in my mother’s eyes every time I would try on a pair of jeans in a shop and struggle to do them up at the waist. They’d be baggy around the bum, loose around the legs, but that damn top button always managed to outfox me.
To be fair, I have a similar body shape to my mother, and her mother, and her mother’s mother – you get the picture. Yet in spite of this, she wouldn’t even attempt to hide the disappointment in her eyes whenever I had to try on a bigger size.
I realise now that she was only projecting her own insecurities on to me. But no matter how many times I tell myself that, I can still feel her eyes on me every time I’m trying on clothes in a dressing room.
[She died over 7 years ago, so that is even more creepy than it sounds.]
It only got worse as I got older. I wanted an hourglass figure like a curvy model, yet somehow I ended up with the opposite. Tiny hips, big waist, and disappointingly uneven boobs. I thought myself hideous.
Then I had children, and it was like my body was mocking me. Before I got pregnant I figured it couldn’t possibly get any worse. I was mistaken.
My husband recently pointed out that ever since he has known me, I have looked in the mirror and immediately covered up my middle. I can’t bear to look at it. I’m so ashamed not only by its size, but also by the stretch marks and the fact that it’s gotten so big that it’s kind of split down the middle.
On the plus side, I no longer have to worry about my bikini line because I literally have to lift my belly up in order to see it. But for some reason that offers no comfort at all!
There’s a voice in my head that likes to repeatedly point out the obvious. Your belly is so ugly. And by extension, you are ugly too.
I guess that is one of the main reasons I get so upset about being mistaken for a pregnant woman. People are essentially pointing out how big my belly is. It takes me right back to my childhood when the people who were supposed to love me would poke fun of it.
Who is really at fault here?
But more recently, I’ve started to wonder… What on earth is that person thinking? I get that they aren’t deliberately trying to offend me, but surely they are smart enough to realise that their question has the potential to backfire spectacularly?
There are better ways to make small talk and pass the time. We’re British for heaven’s sake – just talk about the damn weather.
Also, didn’t you ever learn to mind your own business? I don’t go up to random men in the street and ask them about their male pattern baldness. Or enquire after a teenager’s acne. What makes total strangers think they have the right to ask in the first place?
But they do. And they were almost certainly just trying to be friendly and had no way to know how much a seemingly small question would send me in to such a giant tailspin. So now it’s up to me to explain that whilst their assumption was a reasonable one, the fact is I’m not pregnant. I’m just fat.
And now, I’m fat and sad.
It’s time for the truth
Whilst there was a time I would have made excuses or just lied to spare their feelings, I’ve realised that in the end it’s better to go with the truth.
“I’m not actually pregnant, I’m just very fat.”
You see, whilst I have no right to get upset with people for asking the question, it’s also not my responsibility to make them feel better when the inevitable awkward conversation ensues.
That’s all on them since they asked in the first place. And that actually feels quite liberating. Because I’m learning to stop apologising for myself.
Look, here’s a free piece of advice. If you see a woman in the street and you think she might be pregnant, assume she is not unless she explicitly tells you otherwise. Even if you haven’t seen each other for a while and you’re struggling to make conversation.
Even if you’re extremely curious because the last time you saw her she just got dumped by her cheating husband and you heard they recently got a divorce. It’s always better not to ask.
[Unless she’s lying on the floor, clutching her belly and making a sound somewhere between a cow mooing and chicken squawking, in which case there’s a chance she’s in labour and she might need your assistance.]
Mind your own business
Once upon a time I used to dread being confused with a pregnant woman. And to a degree, I still do. But I’m learning that I can choose not to absorb all the shame, guilt and awkwardness that comes with it. I’m not the one in the wrong here, so I don’t have to defend myself to anyone.
No matter their intentions, if someone makes an assumption about me and it turns out to be the wrong one, it’s up to them to apologise to me. And maybe in doing so, they’ll learn a valuable lesson.
I mind my own damn business, and so should you!
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. If you liked it then please feel free to share it. I’d love to be able to reach as many people as I can. You can also connect with me on all the usual social media channels.
Or why not subscribe? You can chose to get an email alert every time I post new content (no more than twice a week), or stick to my monthly newsletter. You also choose to find out more about upcoming events. Remember that you can unsubscribe anytime.