Pregnancy & Body Image: Building Boundaries
“Being pregnant is in no way, shape or form an under-the-radar kind of experience. After a certain point, people will notice you. And they will make it clear, each in their own way, that they notice you. That level of exposure can be tough to handle — especially when it’s so body-focused,” according to authors Claire Mysko and Magali Amadei in their great book Does This Pregnancy Make Me Look Fat? The Essential Guide to Loving Your Body Before and After Baby.
People might do everything from asking how much weight you’ve gained (and commenting on whether that’s too much or too little) to asking if you’re having twins to judging what you’re eating to touching your tummy without asking permission.
The best way to deal with all this attention? Create some boundaries!
For many of us, this is super hard. I get it. I’m that person who gets bumped into and says “I’m sorry.” I can relate to apologizing for taking up space.
But as Mysko and Amadei explain, “Pregnancy is a time to let go of those people-pleasing tendencies so you can start taking care of yourself. If you don’t learn how to do that now, you’ll end up feeling wiped out and you’ll get steamrolled by others’ voices instead of listening to your own. That’s not the pattern you want to keep repeating as a mom.”
So while setting and maintaining your boundaries might feel odd, uncomfortable or even like you’re being rude at first, it’s important. (And you’re not being rude.) You deserve respect.
In fact, I think all women can use these boundaries as inspiration in general to avoid talking about weight, calories and any other off-limits topic for you.
Here are Mysko and Amadei’s tips for creating boundaries.
1. Determine what you’re OK with and what you’re not.
Consider what questions and comments may be triggering for you. While you can’t anticipate everything, it helps to thoughtfully reflect on what makes you comfortable and uncomfortable. For instance, Mysko and Amadei suggest asking: “What details are you comfortable discussing with whom?
2. Don’t talk about weight or body size.
Mysko and Amadei say that there’s a difference between sharing how you’re feeling and asking for support in dealing with your changing body and scrutinizing how much you’ve gained or lost.
I couldn’t agree more. The last thing you want to be doing is bashing your body, counting calories and trading numbers. This only heightens your worries and anxiety. No good can come from it.
3. Ask your partner, friends and family for help.
In addition to identifying your boundaries, articulate them out loud. For instance, if you’re chatting with a close friend, Mysko and Amadei suggest simply saying: “Hey, it would be great if you could run interference if you see me getting quizzed about my weight. I’ve decided I just don’t want to get into it.”
4. Pick your battles.
Some confrontations just aren’t worth it. If you have a relative who’s been the same way for decades (or centuries it seems), they probably won’t be changing any time soon. Instead, maybe you and your partner share an eye roll behind their back or your sister engages the person in another conversation. It might help to laugh it off to yourself, too.
5. Practice what you’re going to say.
“Out-of-left-field comments and questions about our bodies, our weight, and our choices are so commonplace during pregnancy and after delivery that women have come to believe that it’s our obligation to respond and be accommodating,” according to Mysko and Amadei.
It’s not! So Mysko and Amadei suggest practicing phrases like “I’m not comfortable talking about that.” Or “I really don’t want to go there. But let’s talk about (insert your topic of choice).”
Again, everyone can learn a thing or two about setting these kinds of boundaries. So if you’re not pregnant, consider conversations that you’d like to be off-limits, practice what you’ll say when someone says something out of line and stop the conversation when weight, calories or other “fat talk” enters the conversation.
Remember that you deserve to be respected and treated with dignity!
Tartakovsky, M. (2011). Pregnancy & Body Image: Building Boundaries. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2011/12/pregnancy-body-image-building-boundaries/