It’s noon, and I’m standing in Sainsburys with a tired toddler in a pushchair, a tired 4 year old who is telling me how tired she is, a trolley and a 6 month pregnant bump. We have spent the last 4 hours in some sort of busy to-ing and fro-ing, walking around, going to coffee shops and then parks and we are all a bit cranky and ready to go home.
We all look cranky and ready to go home, and I’m doing my absolute best to keep my shit together whilst waiting for the unbearably slow checkout line to diminish.
This is the point where having a conversation with Ava about the ‘My Little Pony’ magazine she’s about to buy in a patient and engaged fashion feels like a huge parenting triumph.
This is not the point when I feel up for another discussion about how pregnant I am and how I have a huge bump and how I must be mistaken because surely I am not due when I just said I was, but actually, as the lady today suggested, ‘tomorrow, given the size of you’.
Well, okay, stranger who I’ve never met before, thank you for offering your views on the inaccuracy of my carefully considered due date, and thank you for sharing your complete and utter amazement that anyone could possibly be so big and not ‘about to pop’, but if it’s okay, I’d rather not.
I know. All of these comments and brief conversations are ‘well-meaning’. But that doesn’t really cut it. My body is not up for discussion. The same rules apply when I am pregnant as when I am not. You’re not allowed to be rude or condascending regardless of how funny you think it is, because the chances are, I’m not going to find it so funny. It’s old. I have heard it hundreds of times before. Once already today, actually, and every time I think, ‘Do I really have to explain to you, annoying stranger, why I have such a big bump, or that I am quite, quite sure when I am due?’ No. I really do not.
And I also know how completely and utterly fascinating pregnancy and babies and birth is to everyone. I find it fascinating too. If you really wanted to ask me a question I would so happily answer you, because there is nothing I love to talk about more than my children or the amazing feat of carring a child and birthing it. If you really wanted to know something about any of that, I would be delighted to engage with you.
But what always happens is this. You want to tell me something about me. And since you don’t know me, or anything about me, I find that kind of annoying.
I’m totally down with the fact that I have big bumps. And since I tend not to put on much weight anywhere else, I’m quite sure I look quite the sight, being roughly the size of Jupiter, and overshadowed by the sizeable sphere on my front. I am also down with the big babies I seem to birth, and agree that, yes, I probably do look like I am about to go into labour at any second. But is the size of my bump really the most interesting thing about a pregnant lady? I can think of so many other things I’d rather ask.
Recently, during Ava’s ballet lesson, I had the following conversation.
Stranger lady: Oh my God. Look at you! When are you due?
Me: Not until May.
Stranger, patting my stomach: Oh my God! You’re kidding! You’re kidding me right!? (Shouting loudly across the room) Kate! Kate! Look at this! This lady isn’t due til May! Can you believe the size of her bump!
I moved away at this point because honestly, I don’t want to be rude to someone who I assume is just…what? A little inconsiderate and not so good at physical boundaries?
But this is not a rare occurrence by any means. It happens every time I go out. It happens at every stage of pregnancy and it has happened throughout each one so far. I assume the main reason that these comments always come from women, instead of men, is that men are probably more aware how a comment about a strange women’s body might be construed. It is socially unacceptable lest they be considered a perv, so they don’t do it.
And whilst I love the feeling of sisterhood and comradery amongst fellow women, I don’t think that gives us a free pass to start treating each other like public property.
Especially in the checkout line of a busy supermarket with trolley and two other children in tow.