When Someone Asks If You’re Pregnant … And You’re Not

Yesterday, I was checking out at the vet when the receptionist smiled. “I shouldn’t ask this,” she said, looking at what I thought was my wallet. “Is that a baby bump?”

“No,” I said.

Where is my dog? Bring back my dog. It’s time to get out of here. 

The dog came back. I played it cool, smiled at the receptionist even. The dog wagged her tail as we walked to the car.

And then I cried for thirty minutes in stop-and-go traffic, on my way to pick up my daughter.

Apparently I’m fat, I thought. And then my thoughts got very, very ugly. I used to have an eating disorder — anorexia nearly killed me. Since yesterday afternoon I have encountered the ugliest body-image thoughts I’ve had in more than a decade.

On this blog I have written extensively about my experience with pregnancy after an eating disorder and related concerns. Less than a month ago I served as a keynote speaker and did a workshop on pregnancy and postpartum concerns at an eating disorder recovery event hosted by the Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt. I spoke honestly, as a person in recovery who has been doing damn well for a long time.

It is because of this, in part, that I want to be honest. Recovery is not always easy, and things can come up and bite you in the ass out of nowhere. Living in recovery means confronting those inconveniences at inconvenient times.

What happened yesterday hurts me so much.

I cried another round telling my husband later last night. I was ashamed to tell him, for fear he would see me differently.

Shame is the dominant emotion I feel, which raises a flag. Shame is what is causing me to write about this incident openly and honestly now. I have long felt that unmasking shame is at the heart of the feminist project, that when we talk about shame it loses its power to keep us down.

It is shame telling me my body is not acceptable, when I know perfectly well that my body is healthy and a gift and powers this amazing life that is mine. It is shame telling me to feel bad personally, when in reality we should all feel bad about a culture that deems it acceptable to comment on women’s bodies and make pregnancy (actual or presumed) a spectator sport. It is shame telling me that you will look at me differently after reading this post, staring at my stomach and judging me, when in reality if that is true I should grab my dog and get away from you as quickly as I can.

A good piece of what has made me cry so hard is being forced to have the ghosts of my eating disorder engage in open combat with my political beliefs of today. I know better, and I also want better; being forced to contend with a reality I very much don’t like — being the weight my body wants to be, getting assessed and confronted by others on the basis of how I look, considering the civil rights implications of presumed pregnancies — is unpleasant.

Another piece revolves around my daughter. She watches everything I do, even when I think she’s not, and mimics my behaviors to hilarious precision. If I hate my body, I am teaching her to hate her own. If I let an idiot comment stop me from moving forward, I am teaching her to do the same thing.

I refuse to do that. Not just for her. For me. And frankly, for all of us.

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing such a personal experience. Powerful.

  2. Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

  3. I cried reading this post…all the while nodding my head ferverently.

    Thank you SO much for your vulnerability, honesty, and bravery in this post. I’ve been in similar situations and always go back to, “Damn aren’t we over this yet?!” I caught myself in a lapse of few weeks back and shed more than a few tears + battled more than a little shame. It never ceases to amaze me that one single comment, incident, etc can set fire to embers we barely knew were still burning.

    This piece in particular spoke to me: “A good piece of what has made me cry so hard is being forced to have the ghosts of my eating disorder engage in open combat with my political beliefs of today. I know better, and I also want better.” This captures the very heart of the struggle with feminism, body image, EDs, etc: some part of us KNOWS and WANTS so very deeply.

    I haven’t thought about my ED in terms of my feminism before, at least not beyond the basic connection to cultural norms about female beauty. I’m intrigued to explore these connections more, both personally and on a larger scale.

  4. passionkait says:

    I cried reading this post…all the while nodding my head furiously.

    Thank you SO much for your vulnerability, honesty, and bravery in this post. I’ve been in similar situations and always go back to, “Damn aren’t we over this yet?!” I caught myself in a lapse of few weeks back and shed more than a few tears + battled more than a little shame. It never ceases to amaze me that one single comment, incident, etc can set fire to embers we barely knew were still burning.

    This piece in particular spoke to me: “A good piece of what has made me cry so hard is being forced to have the ghosts of my eating disorder engage in open combat with my political beliefs of today. I know better, and I also want better.” This captures the very heart of the struggle with feminism, body image, EDs, etc: some part of us KNOWS and WANTS so very deeply.

    I haven’t thought about my ED in terms of my feminism before, at least not beyond the basic connection to cultural norms about female beauty. I’m intrigued to explore these connections more, both personally and on a larger scale.

  5. I cannot even begin to tell you how your words ripped my heart apart. thank you, from the bottom of my heart, from the body image I battle every single day, from the same I fight from the time I wake up to the time I lay down at night….thank you.

  6. Your last blog really hit home for me. I have dealt with my own body and eating issues, although I have never been hospitalized or diagnosed.

    I had a horrible pregnancy, was put on bed rest, got preeclampsia, and gained over 70 pounds. Due to the swelling, 30 hours of labor, etc, I ended up tearing my abdominal muscles. If you tear a quad playing basketball, insurance pays to repair it. However, if you tear your abdominal muscles during pregnancy or child birth, surgery is considered cosmetic. The result of this? I look pregnant…all of the time. I have back problems because of the abdominal weakness. This is a whole other issue of gender inequality. We will fix torn muscles as a result of recreation, but not if it is a result of procreation. I.e. Bill needs his quad to rock his lunchtime basketball league, but we are totally fine if you can’t sit up in bed or carry your child without pain.

    On another note…Every time someone asks me if I am pregnant, I cringe and cry a little inside. Since I have gotten used to this question, I have started to respond, “No, I just look a little different after becoming a mom. I think it is a great learning opportunity for my autistic kids who are learning socially acceptable comments. (I am a speech pathologist) I always teach them that you would never comment on someone having a baby in their belly unless they are told that there is a baby in there. Otherwise it is insulting.” This is my passive aggressive way of telling people that my autistic elementary students have better tact than they do.

    Why does everyone expect me to look like I did in college? Why is my happiness and success automatically assumed by my outward appearance?

  7. Reblogged this on tamarlomidze.

  8. thaixclub says:

    Thank You.

  9. Asking a woman in such a situation if she is pregnant is inappropriate.

    No question about it.

  10. I have never struggled with an eating disorder (my 22 year old daughter has), but I can tell you that it is definitely hurtful even without that struggle. I think my son was 8 months old when it happened to me. When I told my husband about the comment from one of his co-workers, he shrugged and said “everyone wants you to have a dozen kids.” Not helpful, and probably even more concerning! But an older, wiser me sort of understands. When I see a young women with a more rounded figure, I sometimes think “oh! I hope there is a new baby in the works!” New life is exciting and something to rejoice! I never say anything, but that’s partly because I learned by experience that it can be hurtful and partly because I have lived and loved a child with an eating disorder. Of course it’s not appropriate for a stranger or an acquaintance to ask if woman is pregnant, but it might be a little easier to take if we try to remember that they do it because it’s a joyous life event.

  11. I totally agree with your views on shame. Nobody can make you feel embarrassed unless you let them. Your openness and honesty is not only a shield, but a powerfully helpful force in all of the good work that you do.

  12. I’m sorry to hear that this hot you so hard. I can’t claim to understand what it’s like to carry the emotional strain of a past eating disorder through age, let alone pregnancy. But I’ve probably received two dozen comments like that in the last 2.5 yrs since my son was born. I used to be in great shape. I used to have a toned tummy. And now it sticks out, even when I exercise regularly. And everyone asks- friends, family, strangers on the street. And I’m now conditioned to wonder about my friends. And I hate it. Sorry for your experience. I hope you can find peace with it. 😦

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