The third and final week of the childbirth class was as frenetic and disjointed as the other two. We took a tour of the birthing rooms and spent some quality time there understanding what happens at key moments in the room, which was actually very helpful. Then it was back to the classroom where, in our horseshoe formation, the instructor resumed everyone’s favorite activity, sharing time! She asked us one by one, “You’ve been to the doctor since we last met. What’s new?” And for me, nothing was new, just that he was still breech… At that, she sized me up sitting in the chair and said, “Oh, look at you. You have plenty of time. How far are you?” “34 weeks.” “Oh, that baby will turn. He’s got lots of room in there, I can tell. You’re not full of baby yet.”
You’re not full of baby yet. That has probably been the most difficult comment someone has said to me – ever. I turned to my husband and winced; “Well, actually I am full of baby. The half of me that can be full with baby is.” He nodded. I contemplated outing my condition to her during a break, but thought better of it – at this point what would she have told me that I don’t already know? As the only person in the room with a breech baby, I didn’t think it was worth taking up everybody’s time to talk about my uterus. Instead, in the hallway the instructor felt my belly and found his head, up near my ribs, and reiterated the Gorilla Walk and the hot n cold method.
I have heard, either directly or indirectly, that lots of women I have met or am acquainted with are insanely jealous of how little my baby bump is. My husband has moments when we are out in public when he has to take a double look to remind himself that I am pregnant. For instance, last weekend we were at a bar with my brother-in-law and his wife sitting in a booth. My husband exclaims out of the blue, “You don’t look pregnant right now. It’s incredible. You just don’t look pregnant.” And I know when I am seated my bump seems to disappear (I’ve seen pictures of this phenomenon). But I didn’t know how to respond to him other than “Okay…” and tried desperately to change the subject. Because he knows that a little bump = a little baby and that it’s not a good thing in my case.
Having been small, flat-chested, and kind of pear shaped I never considered myself having a body people would ever be jealous of, so it feels strange to suddenly be that girl that people wish they were. I don’t really care about what women think about my bump, particularly the ones whose childbirthing days have come and gone; let them think what they will. It’s the women who have yet to have kids that I worry about – the young adults and 20 year olds I work with, who tell me endlessly, “You are like the cutest pregnant woman ever! You have like the cutest pregnant belly ever!” I only smile and say thank you, but I worry that my image will give them the unrealistic expectation that they’ll be able to have a tiny, cute baby bump and everything will be okay. Because it won’t. They don’t realize I’m not “full of baby,” not in the way most of them will be. So, to normalize the entire thing, I offer up the weight I’ve gained – 30 pounds – all in an effort to help the little sucker grow. And I share with them (if they care or we get to it) that the baby is small and that all those healthy habits I had (which they all know) I had to give up; that all the things you’re supposed to do to stay healthy can count against you in pregnancy. And I hope that with that information at least, they might feel better about themselves if they ever have children, to listen to what their body needs, to be empowered with the full knowledge of their medical history and capabilities, to realize that all of this change is temporary, and to work actively with their doctors to have the healthiest baby. Even if that means eating more beef than chicken and not parking at the far end of the parking lot.
Still, I can’t shake the “You’re not full of baby yet” comment. Add that to the list of things never to say to any pregnant woman.