We were talking on Twitter today about the political and deeply personal nature of belly pics for those of us who are fat and pregnant1. There aren’t a lot of pictures of us — because we tend not to take them.
For most people in this culture — not only fat women — bellies are one of the, if not the, most stigmatized, most shame-laden part of our bodies. Add the all-over shame of existing in the world with a fat body, and it’s really, really hard for most of us to take and share photographs of our pregnant bellies.
There are a lot of reasons for this, each of which could be its own post, but briefly2:
- Our bellies are fat, and, as is drummed into our heads and souls a thousand times a day in a thousand ways, fat is bad. And ugly. And bad! So even this place that nurtures the future, carries a wanted pregnancy, we cannot see as good and beautiful. (And then, even if, miracle!, we do, we are afraid of the reactions from others, afraid of the shaming and judgment and tsking and cruel comments.)
- So often we spend years in fear of hearing “Are you pregnant?” when no, we’re just fat. Our bodies do not have the space to have “cute little pooches” in early pregnancy like people with very little abdominal adipose tissue. Our bellies are changing, but when we start out “already looking pregnant” (and told that is bad), we don’t want to take those early pictures.
- Then, when we don’t have early pictures to compare to (because we’re “just fat”, and no one wants to see a fat belly!), we don’t want to take later pictures — because, again, we still look fat! Only a little more so! Our bodies may not look like what we expect mid-pregnancy bodies to look like, thanks to thin celebrities and Photoshop. Sometimes we look what we expect a very very pregnant person to look like very early on, and sometimes we hardly “show” at all. So we don’t take the pictures.
- Finally, when we’re good and pregnant and really it’s quite obvious that’s a baby belly — we’re huge! We’ve may have gained weight all over, and there may be shockingly dark and purple stretchmarks bisecting all those old and silvery lines, and we think, that’s not what a pregnant belly is supposed to look like! And we don’t take the pictures.
The only way, the only way to overcome this is for more of us to take pictures. And to show them off. To say “this is what a fat and pregnant belly looks like”, and to know that not all fat and pregnant bellies look like that, because no two bellies, or bodies, are ever exactly the same. We don’t store fat the same, our uteruses don’t grow the same (betwixt multiple pregnancies, much less different people), our torsos and pelvises aren’t shaped the same. And yet — there is something amazingly uplifting about seeing a body that is like ours (even if not the same as ours), to see it celebrated and held up as beautiful and worthy of love and respect and, yes, photographs.
It is so very important for us to see3 people who look like us doing all manner of things in life so that we know we can do them too. It’s incredibly hard to be the first, or in the first generations, when we have so little to guide us, so little to let us know “yes, you can” and “yes, this is ‘normal’”, and “no, you are not alone”. And it’s scary, and hard, and often risky. So I’m not going to shame anyone for not taking or sharing pictures of themselves. But I am going to say please.
And you deserve to be seen.
And you are not alone.
And I’m going to post my pictures4. And you don’t have to like them, and you don’t have to gush over them5. But I hope you see them, and share them, and know that this is what a fat and pregnant belly looks like. And it deserves to be honored no less than any other belly.
There’s a lot more I could say6, but instead I’ll leave you with some links, and a promise that this won’t be the last picture:
Which lead me to: Feeling fat during pregnancy
Finally, no post on pregnancy and fat should be allowed without a link to Plus Size Pregnancy, which is an all-around amazing pregnancy and birth resource for everyone, but especially, obviously, for those of us who are fat and pregnant. It’s written by The Well Rounded Mama whose most recent post — sometimes I believe in serendipity — is Belly Thoughts.
We are out there, those of us willing to take pictures of and share our fat pregnant bellies. I’m hardly the first. But until it’s not rare enough to note, until we see bellies rounded from the start of pregnancy, stretch-marked going in to gestation, until whether one takes pregnancy pictures is only a question of “are you a picture person or a private person?” not “are you ‘beautiful’ enough or brave enough?” — it’s worth celebrating, these bellies of ours.
Did you blog about size and pregnancy, regardless of your weight? Did you take, whether or not you shared, pregnancy photos starting from early on? Was something holding you back that I didn’t discuss here? Please share your stories — and your links if you have them!
- You can follow the convo — and whatever other topics come up under that topic — on Twitter at #fatandpregnant. ↩
- Those of you who are regular readers are laughing right now. Don’t think just because I can’t hear you that I don’t know. I know. Oh yes. I know. ↩
- Which implies visual representations, but all forms of coming-to-know are meant to be included. ↩
- I’d say every week, but my regular readers haven’t recovered from laughing at “briefly”, and I wouldn’t want to cause you injury from further guffaws. ↩
- And for the love of all you hold dear please don’t say “but you don’t look fat!” ↩
- Why lying down? Why basically nude? When am I going to get a decent camera and not my crappy first-gen iPhone? Will I ever learn how to compose a decent shot, or even what that means? (Probably not.) And also: yes, this is scary for me. I’m doing it anyway, but it took quite a bit of ramping up to get here, and now I’m in midair, uncertain of my landing. As the Fat Nutritionist and I jointly said on Twitter, the difference between a fat activist and an “overweight” person isn’t that we don’t feel any shame, it’s that we know the shame is bullshit. ↩