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Stop talking about my baby bump like it's not attached to my body

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

My baby bump is not an open invitation to give me your opinion about my weight

20 weeks. If there's a perfect part of pregnancy, this is it, in my opinion. At the halfway mark you finally start looking obviously pregnant, you look cute in maternity clothes, you (hopefully) get to find out the gender soon and you can park in the mother-to-be parking spots without feeling guilty.

(Side note: pregnant women do not need special parking spots, really. You know who does? New moms. The baby is relatively easy to carry as long as it’s tucked in your abdomen but add colic, a car seat, a diaper bag and older siblings and you need valet parking just to go to the grocery store. Seriously.)

But the visible baby bump has one serious downside: everyone feels they have a right to comment on it -- and even worse no one can agree on it. For example, just last week preggo Kate Middleton was called out by a prominent feminist for being too thin and now this week a woman has penned an Op-Ed in defense of pregnant women who work really hard to stay skinny. The former article detailed all the ways that Kate is being a bad woman by being a skinny baby baker while the latter went through the author's regimen for staying skinny through her pregnancy and her derision for anyone who lets themselves gain weight.

Of course Kate has not commented on either story, probably because she's too busy barfing her guts out while also trying to chase a toddler. (FYI: Kate has hyperemesis gravidarium, a medical condition where she throws up so much during pregnancy that she has to have IVs, poor thing. So I doubt she even remotely cares what her body looks like right now.) So since she is incapacitated, I'll get angry on her behalf! Seriously, just reading both articles made me want to throw a What to Expect When You're Expecting book at their heads.

All the furor reminded me of a conversation that happened when I was about halfway through my last pregnancy. Now, I'm not the type to mind an affectionate pat on my tummy, even from a stranger, or a “look at you!” but this was too much even for me:

Lady #1: Oh, look at your tummy! It’s HUGE! I can’t believe how big you’ve gotten! And almost overnight too!

Lady #2: No, no, she’s not huge – she’s itty bitty. I can barely see her little bump!

Lady #1: Are you serious? Look at her! If I didn't know better, I'd think she was having twins!

Lady #2: What? She’s tiny! I was twice as big as she was when I was pregnant.

Lady #1: Not me! I wore my regular jeans right up until delivery – just had to ride ‘em low.

They had this conversation in front of me. The irony is that I was exactly normal for 20 weeks along. My fundus – that’s the supercool name for the top of your uterus -- measured right on for the baby’s gestation. So I wasn't big or small; I was just a normal pregnant girl. The problem is that no one knows what those look like anymore.

Each woman's baby bump will look different, just like each child is different. There are so many factors involved in how big your stomach gets and I'm not sure that "willpower" even makes the top ten. How many pregnancies you've had, how much amniotic fluid is in there, how big the baby is, how much you weighed when you started, if you had to use fertility meds, what your genetics are like, if you have any medical complications and a host of other things can inflate or deflate your tummy like a circus balloon.

And the worst part is that no one knows that better than the pregnant woman does. There's already so much pressure on women to look a certain way and weigh a certain amount but pregnancy amplifies that by a hundred. Now if you're too skinny you're starving the baby but if you're too fat then you're condemning them to a life of obesity. There's no middle ground where people say, "Hey, you're doing a great job making that whole entire human being from scratch! Nice work, momma!" What we all need to remember is that pregnancy is not a competition and whatever you need to do to have a healthy kiddo is worth it.

More on pregnancy and body image

Kate Middleton is pregnant again, get ready for 9 months of the pregnancy police
Plus-size yogi shuts down skinny stereotypes in stunning photos
Pregnancy doesn't make you fat, it makes you pregnant

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