Saturday, January 28, 2012

No belly pictures this time

When I was pregnant with Marko, friends and family kept hassling me for pictures of my pregnant belly. I let them talk me into it, and posted a few. This time, they've started to do it again ... and I've decided to say no.

The reason I went along last time is because I'm at such a distance from my family. I knew it must be hard for them to get their heads around the idea that I was becoming a mother. So I posted a few pictures in the hopes that it would help.

But I've never really been comfortable posting belly pictures. I don't like putting up a picture of myself so that people ignore all the features I consider important about myself (like my face) and just stare at my belly. I feel objectified when they do that. In person, people might comment on my belly but they also interact with me individually. Online, when there's just a picture, only the belly gets any attention. I guess I feel like a container instead of a person. People say they "want to see the baby," but they can't see the baby. All they can see is my big ol' gut. Then they all talk about how big it is. Where else is it appropriate to exclaim over the size of a woman's belly?

It just makes me uncomfortable. I don't mind posting pictures of myself when I'm pregnant, and if my belly happens to be visible, so be it. That is what I look like. But it's frustrating to post a picture of me with my husband, or me with my son, or me doing something fun, and all the comments are "oh, it looks like you're showing!" (Especially when I'm not. That's the way my belly always is, thank you very much.) I wish they would comment on how happy I look, or the fun thing I'm doing, or the people I'm with, like they would if I weren't pregnant.

I guess sometimes, when you're hugely and obviously pregnant, you would like people to treat you as just a regular person, instead of always noticing and commenting on the fact that you're pregnant. I imagine disabled people would get tired of people always commenting on their wheelchairs, too. I'm not ashamed, but at the same time, I'm not just a pregnant woman. I'm still the same person I was before.

And when it comes down to it, it is my body and my image. I do not have to post pictures for everyone else to see if I'm not comfortable with it. I came to this conclusion after writing the post about bodily autonomy. If a woman can post a picture of herself nursing her baby, simply because she wants to do so, then I can not post a picture of myself showing off my pregnant belly ... simply because I do not want to do so.

I'm sure lots of people I know will be disappointed by this decision. But in the end, they can't help but respect it. No one can make me display what I don't choose to. And no one can make me feel guilty for respecting my own personal boundaries -- because I don't believe there is anything for me to feel guilty about.

Am I the only one who feels this way? I know it seems the norm to post belly shots ... but surely there are other people who choose not to.


Heather said...

You're most definitely not the only one who feels that way (says the person who only speaks from observation of other people). Do what feels right to you and stick to your guns. The people who would want to see them respect and love you anyway, so they'll (or they should) respect whatever your decision may be on any particular thing.

That said, it's a bit foreign to me this concept of only looking at the belly in the picture. Because for me, personally, I like to see how the woman who is my friend is reacting to her changing body. So, happy! Or tired. Or strong! Or reading a book I'm also reading. Or whatever. I would hope that other people react the same way, too.

But I totally get that in certain belly/baby-obsessed societies today, the belly really is what gets the attention and that would make women who happen to be pregnant uncomfortable.

In any case, when it comes to you, as long as we know you're doing well and are happy - through your words - we'll be fine. =)


Luschka said...

I absolutely love posting my belly shots, but that's possibly because pregnancy seems to be the only time I'm NOT overly conscious about my size. If you choose not to post your belly shots, I think that's totally up to you and to be respected too. Whatever makes you feel comfortable is what you should do!

Momsomniac said...

Bodily autonomy = choices. The right to say NO as well as the right to say yes. Always. Too often "freedom" just becomes an alternate opression.

And personally, I would never have put a picture of my pregnant belly on-line. I didn't mind people touching my belly (only happened with #3; with #1 I just looked weird & fat). But if they wanted to ogle it? No matter how excited and loving the motivation, no.

And I think the ONLY proper comment to make to a pregnant woman about how she looks is "You look great." : )

Enbrethiliel said...


If you don't mind a retro flashback . . .

This reminds me of the Murphy Brown episode in which Murphy asks why people think they have the right to reach out and pat a pregnant woman's belly, even if they are strangers to her. In a later scene, we see the lift doors open on Murphy . . . and an entire lift of people all patting her belly at the same time! LOL!

Point taken. ;)

Sheila said...

YES. "You look great" is exactly the right thing to say. Even though I admit I always felt odd when people would tell me "you're glowing" when I knew I was chalky-pale from nausea, shadowy from fatigue, and sporting a huge acne breakout. Were they just trying to make me feel better? Or did I actually look better than I felt? I don't really love being pregnant, so it's hard to imagine that I look great.

One thing I didn't mention, but should have, is that I myself have trouble adjusting to my constantly changing body. I don't mind it, but at the same time, it's weird. One day I look like this -- the next day I look different. And every day that belly just gets more enormous. I have to come to terms with my new body on a daily basis ... and I guess I really do that better in private. That's really what it comes down to.

Some women LOVE to get huger and to take pictures of their progress. I myself feel very ambivalent about it. It's easier for me to come to terms with it on my own than to get a bunch of comments about whether I am bigger or smaller than someone else was, or whatever.

And yet, when other people choose to share their photos with me, I feel pleased and honored. It's really a matter of a woman choosing to show or not show what she wants, to whom she wants, under the circumstances she wants. No one should be made to feel bad about it, whatever choice they make.

CatholicMommy said...

I'm with you. I didn't take any belly shots while pregnant with Peter. It made me uncomfortable that people suddenly thought my body was public property, wanting to touch me and constantly asking about symptoms. I tried to be polite while avoiding their questions; I don't know how successful I was.

Enbrethiliel said...


I don't know about other women, but one of my aunts really does "glow" when she is pregnant. She lives far away from my family, so we see her once a decade or so, but the last time I was there, she was pregnant with her first baby and showing off her wedding album to those of us who hadn't been able to attend.

After my turn to look at the album, I told her, "I think you look prettier now than you did on your wedding day." And I swear that I spoke the truth!

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