Sometimes Jokes Aren’t Funny*

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday that has stayed with me.

She’s pregnant and due soon, and posted a photo of her beautiful bump a few days ago. In between the messages of excitement and congratulations were a few comments about the size of her bump. Comments that I’m sure were said as a “joke”… but they weren’t very funny.

So, she spoke out about it. I was SO proud of her.

The whole thing took me right back to the end of each of my pregnancies, when mixed in with the excitement of meeting our new baby, I was feeling bloated, enormous and anxious about the impending birth.

Most than anything, it brought me back to my pregnancy with H.

At my midwife appointments, they began to notice that I was measuring quite large for the baby’s gestational age. I went for an ultrasound, and they confirmed that I was likely going to have a “big baby”.

Let me tell you–telling an already anxious woman that she is going to have to push a “big baby” out of her you-know-where does little to settle nerves. I had to go to a special ultrasound clinic that was able to get more precise scans and measurements, and my midwife began to prepare me for what was likely to come.

…and with that came the information I needed of what could go wrong.

Don’t get me wrong–my midwife was WONDERFUL. I know she needed to give me the information and prepare me in advance, and in a way I am grateful for that.

But I also remember sobbing all the way home from that appointment because I was SO overwhelmed and scared. I didn’t know why H was so big, he just was.

At the end of that pregnancy, I knew my belly was large. People LOVED to comment on it. I got lots of jokes about whether or not I was sure that there was “only one in there”, jokes about having too much to eat at dinner, or of course the general, “Your bump is SO BIG!”

One week before my due date, February 2014

I knew those comments weren’t meant to be hurtful… but it didn’t mean that they didn’t hurt. I was already feeling exhausted, sore, anxious about the birth and a little self-conscious about my changing body.

I remember one particular incident at Walmart with someone I didn’t even know. I was standing in line to checkout about two weeks before my due date. As I stood there, a woman came up to me, looked me up and down and made a comment about how big I was. I don’t remember specifically what she said, but I will never forget how small it made me feel. It was a mean joke, and I didn’t even know her.

Instead of standing up for myself, I kind of laughed with her and let her carry on commenting about the size of my belly before she wandered away.

I cried in my car on the way home. I know I was at the end of my pregnangy and was tired and sensitive… but even though it was just a brief interaction, but I’ve never forgotten it.

I promised myself then and there that I’d never intentionally make a comment like that about someone’s body. I knew deep down that this woman probably didn’t intend to be mean. She probably thought it was okay to make a comment like that because she’d heard it before, or maybe someone had once said it to her.

But when you really think about it, when is it ever okay to make a comment or joke about someone else’s body?

I know this woman didn’t know my story. She didn’t know that I was battling “big baby” anxiety and was already stressed and worried about the size of my bump and the baby growing inside. She was probably just trying to make conversation.

In so many ways, pregnancy is kind of magical. It’s a miracle.

…but it’s also really, really hard.

Instead of commenting on someone’s body or making a crack about the size of their baby bump, look that person in the eye and tell them they look radiant. Tell them they are a warrior.

You don’t know their story. You don’t know their history, or the road that has brought them the bump you’ve just teased. You don’t know the worries or insecurities that woman is hiding behind her tired eyes and smile.

That woman in Walmart certainly didn’t know mine.

Those comments changed me, but they changed me for the better. I’m not perfect. I know that.

But if these experiences have taught me anything, it’s to speak with kindness. It wins over a bad joke every day of the week.

(My handsome H was born four days late, at 9lbs 8oz. My nurses joked that he was the size of a three month old.)

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  • Jamie

    I know exactly who you are speaking of and I sent her a message congratulating her in standing her ground, people are so rude and inconsiderate and think their comments are valid but never think of the impact they are having on a pregnant woman at the end of her rope. Thank you for this post, you are an amazing woman, an amazing mom and so thankful I follow you, even if my kids are
    A little older. I love following you and your family and love seeing your struggles and successes, you make me feel normal.

  • Susan Gowan

    Thanks for sharing another important revelation in your life. It is so important to be kind as we do not know the journey of each person. I have heard many pregnant women talk about being made to feel ashamed during their pregnancy due to their size. That is never okay.