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‘You don’t look pregnant’: Why does everyone have an opinion on your baby bump?
Image / Self

‘You don’t look pregnant’: Why does everyone have an opinion on your baby bump?


by Amanda Cassidy
11th Oct 2023

There is nothing as magnetic as a pregnant belly. The psychology behind it relates to our deeply-seated need for community. But that doesn't make it any less annoying.

“You don’t look pregnant,” my friend is told with a triumphant smile. It is a well-meaning compliment but this friend has spent six years trying to have a baby. She has spent countless hours dreaming of having a bump — a nice, big, healthy bump and now, in the midst of all her baby-growing, there is an implication that having a baby without even looking like she is having a baby is a good thing.

Welcome to the crazy world of pregnancy where everyone has an opinion on your bump. Too big, too small, definitely a girl, definitely a boy, carrying high, carrying low, you don’t look pregnant, you look extremely pregnant. It is a minefield of hormones, do-gooders, curiosity and goodwill.

17-year-old Reanna Stephens from South Carolina was seven months pregnant and hadn’t the hint of a bump. She said it is because of her healthy diet and yoga. She hit the headlines recently when she said she was ‘bump-shamed’ for being so tiny.

Reanna said she is”‘proud of her tiny bump”.

Of course,  there is nothing wrong with being smaller, but it is the immense pride she feels in not looking pregnant that is slightly worrying.

Growing a baby is not something to be ashamed of; it is not something we have to work on. Smaller isn’t better, but when it comes to growing a baby, smaller seems to be the goal. “Look, I had a baby and nothing changed”. Except it did, dramatically.

We need to change our perception of reproduction and stop viewing it as an exercise in judging appearance

It was refreshing to hear Indian actress, Kareena Kapoor, speaking out about her growing bump recently: “Whichever role I do, I am not going to camouflage it on screen. I am proud of this phase (being pregnant) that I am in and there is nothing to hide about it. Whichever film I choose to do you will see me the way I am.”

And that is the crux of it — it is the way that we are. It is nature at its finest and a life-changing journey we will look back on with pride and fondness. So next time someone tells you that you ‘don’t even look pregnant’, feel free to be insulted and call them on it. It shouldn’t be viewed as a compliment. We need to change our perception of reproduction and stop viewing it as an exercise in judging appearances.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, a work colleague pointed out (loudly) that I was HUGE. Not the bump or the baby but I was huge. She is now a mum of two herself, and I know she would be mortified if she remembered but being told that you are big in the society we live in is unconsciously upsetting.

The only thing that is keeping you sane is the fact that you get to eat Nutella straight from the jar without judgement

Lean in

Then we have the bump-rubbers. Those who lean in for a good old rub of that big belly. In one case, my well-meaning male friend went to feel the baby kick. He placed his hands on what he thought was the expectant mother’s lower tummy but ended up stroking her crotch.

What can you do? You are already bone-tired, with bulging veins in unmentionable places. You are gargling Gaviscon by the truckload, and the only thing that is keeping you sane is the fact that you get to eat Nutella straight from the jar without judgement. You are too exhausted to point out that it’s your body and your bump and how would they like it if you started rubbing their belly?

Nobody tells you that having a baby means you belong to the world — you have to surrender yourself to the society that you are populating. It works nicely the other way too — you should be minded, given a seat on the Luas, allowed skip the queue at airports.

People mean well. They get overexcited about the prospect of a new life. So shake it off, remember that your child also marks a joy within the community. And if all else fails, there’s always the Nutella.

Photography by @badgalriri.

This article was originally published in May 2022.