Over the course of the last several months I have had several students ask me if I'm pregnant. Being a yoga teacher, I'm often "on display" in front of students. I'm moving, sometimes wearing tight yoga clothes and my focus is on teaching not on what my body looks like. That being said I am NOT pregnant, I am two years postpartum and while it comes from a place of curiosity and interest I have several problems with this question.
First and foremost this rubs an issue for me that goes beyond my annoyance at the supposition that once you have one child you're automatically going to have another, and while that irritates me to no end, its the idea that one's fertility, whether they choose to get pregnant or not, is up for public discussion.
Whether we choose to get pregnant or not, is not up for public consumption. Our journeys to pregnancy are not anyone's stories to know but our own. Asking a question like this also ignores whatever journey I may already be on. You don't know if I have been trying to get pregnant, if I got pregnant and miscarried or if there is a medical reason why I can't get pregnant again . These are all very personal things and the asking around pregnancy can be incredibly wounding for someone, even if they've been pregnant before (and don't get me started on asking folks who don't have kids this question).
Second, the question "are you pregnant?" presupposes that there is something about my body that looks pregnant. And underneath that is the more subtle assumption, that postpartum bodies should go back to looking how they looked before they were pregnant. This is a harmful assumption for many reasons.
Most bodies never look exactly how they looked prior to pregnancy. Whether there are stretch marks, extra skin or fat in places there weren't before the postpartum body is a roadmap of growing, birthing and caring for a child. Layered on the changes that happen to the body during pregnancy is the vast spectrum of postpartum changes that happen. Breast tissue changes for those who nurse or pump, hormones continue to fluctuate and metabolic changes postpartum, combined with sleeplessness, different patterns of exercise and nutrition all impact what our body looks like.
And even those who eat well, sleep well and exercise regularly will never have their pre-baby body back. And why the heck should we? What is so important about the body we had prior to having a baby?
Yet underneath the question, "are you pregnant?", is the statement that "there is something wrong with the postpartum body because it cannot be accepted as anything but a pregnant body." And that is a HUGE problem. This idea pushes diets, weight loss programs and all sorts of guilt and shaming for new parents about "bouncing back", all of which can be extremely harmful to actually finding wellness and health postpartum.
Let me tell you a secret, there's nothing to bounce back to. Becoming a parent means embracing a new you on so many levels and also letting go of many parts of the old you.
Yoga teacher, sound healer and explorer of the inner landscape. Join me!