Written by Sara Clark
If you have heard any of these comments during pregnancy, you are not alone. As a mom of 3, I have been there and heard all these things multiple times throughout every single one of my pregnancies, and I hated it every time. Every comment left me feeling incredibly self-conscious and embarrassed; like there was something wrong with me or how I was choosing to manage my pregnancy. Everyone seemed so excited to appraise my pregnant body for changes, and no one really bothered to pay attention to the person, and their feelings, behind the bump. The more comments I got, the more it stung. While these comments are often meant to be a way to ask about your pregnancy, and most of it is intended to be lighthearted, sometimes it can be really insensitive! Managing your own conflicting feelings about your changing body and pregnancy can be difficult enough without the added stress of heading into a social event knowing you will hear these things over and over again. So, what are we supposed to do about the frustrating, confusing, wonderful, and sometimes anxiety inducing feelings we have over our changing body in pregnancy and on top of that, handle navigating social situations with them?
First of all, take a deep breath and know that you are not alone in these feelings, studies show that pregnancy is a time for increased anxiety especially over all of the physical changes that are experienced. What you are feeling is totally normal.
Something that has been shown to help manage any new or old anxious feelings is to practice mindful self-compassion. Mindful self-compassion is learning to view yourself, your experiences, and your feelings with a more open and forgiving heart. This might be something that you are familiar with; the idea of mindfulness is not exactly a new concept. This philosophy has been used in Buddhism for thousands of years. However, more recently researchers are taking these philosophies and making them much more accessible in daily-life practices and formal meditations. According to Dr. Kristin Neff there are 3 main components to engaging in self-compassion; they are self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. By introducing these into your everyday life and activities, you are giving yourself skills to learn to manage any emotions that come up when people comment on your changing, pregnant body and increase your wellbeing.
Imagine you’re enjoying yourself at a party and someone says to you,
“Oh wow! Haven’t you had that baby yet!”
And suddenly you feel really angry, and then you immediately feel guilty for feeling angry at this person for simply trying to make conversation. What do you do?!
First, good job using mindfulness and acknowledging how you feel! Now is a good time to practice some self-kindness.
Self-kindness implores us to treat ourselves with the kindness and understanding that we would a close friend or family member. While that might seem simple enough, sometimes it can be really difficult! Take a moment to think about the last time you made a big mistake, were the comments you made to yourself very kind, or were they critical? Would you say those same things to a friend if they made a mistake? Contrary to popular belief, we tend to treat others with more kindness than we do ourselves. Imagine a friend is retelling this story to you from their point of view, would you criticize them for feeling angry in the moment? Probably not, as a friend you would most likely offer a kind, sympathetic ear and comfort your friend.
Self-kindness can look different for different people in this situation. It might look like simply getting through the conversation as cordially as possible and then taking a moment to yourself. Something that helped me move through these events was to have a few phrases that helped empower me, while creating my own self kindness support and boundaries with others.
Some of my favorite phrases that I liked to use were;
“I know! Isn’t it amazing, I’m growing a whole human being!”
“Thanks for your concern but my body is no one’s business but my own”
“My doctor tells me that we are fine and perfectly healthy”
“I don’t know what you mean? I’m not pregnant?!” but only if you are feeling extra, ;-)
The final pillar of mindful self-compassion is Common humanity. Common humanity is taking a moment to realize you are not alone. For example, you are not alone in your feelings, and you are not the only pregnant person to ever have these feelings. Sometimes, being human can be incredibly isolating. We can trick ourselves into thinking that no one could possibly understand us. That’s not true! As someone who has experienced pregnancy, I can absolutely relate to all these frustrating confusing feelings. The next time you’re at your Obstetrics office take a moment to look around the waiting room. I guarantee at least one (most likely all) of those other expecting parents have heard or thought negative comments about their changing pregnant body. Odds are they felt exactly like you did when you heard intrusive comments about your pregnant body. You might be the only pregnant person in your family or friend group and so finding common humanity might feel difficult. To help build common humanity, try to seek out positive pregnant parent groups. These groups can be found on social media, “preparing for baby” classes at your hospital, local Le Leche League chapters, or even local prenatal exercise classes. The most important thing is that you find a place where you feel most comfortable, supported, and can find common humanity with other pregnant families.
Just like you are practicing ways to respond to your new baby’s needs through learning things like diapering, feeding, and soothing skills, mindful self-compassion skills are essential for learning how to take care and support yourself. So, when you find yourself on the receiving end of any of these “intrusive pregnancy comments” take a moment to remember we tend to treat others with more kindness and understanding than we treat ourselves. Rather than becoming frustrated with yourself for not loving every part of pregnancy and feeling personally attacked or resentful about the comment, remember that you are human and what you are feeling is normal and valid. Finally, we are worthy of kindness, even if in the moment it is only coming from ourselves, taking a minute to reflect on this can ease some of the most stressful moments in pregnancy.
If you are interested in more mindful practices, please visit Dr. Kristin Neff’s website, they have many free and wonderful resources, to help you practice mindful self-compassion during and after your pregnancy.
Resources for local pregnancy support in Kentuckiana: