Pregnancy as Hospitality

NYMag’s Vulture blog had this post on how the movie posters from the What to Expect When You’re Expecting movie are “deeply disturbing.” And they are, look–

And that’s one of the less-bad ones.

What’s frightening about these photos is how ridiculously skinny and airbrushed these pregnant women are, like the pregnancy is some kind of abdominal accessory.

Make no mistake, “skinny pregnant” is a thing. I get blog hits every day based on those kinds of search terms. When I was first pregnant, I read, with great interest, this article about pregnant New Yorkers who worked out like crazy and counted every ounce. I learned of this exercise program aimed at preventing and reversing the “mummy tummy.” And I also found the oddly titled Pregnancy Without Pounds.

Because, I’m ashamed to say, I was afraid of getting bigger.

A number of times now, I’ve been asked how I went from disordered in my eating and body image to joyfully (if occasionally) consuming pie for breakfast.

I’m never quite sure how to answer the question. It’s complicated.

But there is one thing that I can point to for sure. Wait, two things, actually:

Oh, I didn’t start out well. I fretted about getting a belly (will it ever go away?) and confessed to my husband that I “just didn’t want to gain weight.” And he said:

“If you don’t gain weight, our baby will die.”

{Ouch.}

And so I did the best I could. I ate. (And managed not to puke it all up.) I got bigger. And I had a really, really beautiful baby. I nursed him. And as I nursed him, I felt a powerfully strong sense of our connection. To feed him, I had to feed myself. I wanted him to get bigger and stronger. I had a context for seeing feeding and weight gain as unquestioned positives, and to make that happen, I had to feed myself so I could feed him.

Having my baby showed me my unmistakeable connectedness.

To me, that’s the thing that’s scary about the obsession with pregnancy skinniness, which I see reinforced everywhere–on Facebook, in conversations, and (certainly) among the tabloids, which seem always to be screaming about how skinny this or that celebrity just X number of weeks after having a baby, and now, these stupid movie posters.

The obsession with pregnancy skinniness spectacularly misses the point, which is that women’s bodies are capable of

making room.

hosting new life.

welcoming babies, those nearest of strangers.

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