Recently I've had several people ask me when I'm due.
And not just people but women. And not just women but skinny women. I don't know if they're so thin that they're not getting the nutrients to help their brains think through things but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. They're probably not bad people, it's just they're starved and can't think clearly.
Because I'm not due. I'm fat. Just fat.
Thank you, Skinny Woman, for looking at my body and assuming that there must be a gestating baby in my womb because my belly is so round. And I know, I know that I'm still wearing maternity jeans and dresses so it's almost like you're being set up and it's not fair. But let me explain something to you:
Some women have the horrible genes that make them carry their weight in their mid section. We few, we unfortunate few, are known as apples. Or barrels. Or squares. Or constantly 6 months pregnant. Or fat.
And when you encounter us you should NEVER ask when we're due.
In fact never ask any woman ever when she's due with two exceptions:
1 - If she just told you she's pregnant.
2 - If the baby is crowning. But even then it's not a good idea.
When you, Skinny Woman, ask me when I'm due and I have to tell you that I'm not it's embarrassing for both of us. And I can tell by the look on your face that you feel really, really bad and probably you should. The remorse you feel for having asked such an innocent, well meaning but completely thoughtless question means you will probably never again ask another woman when she's due. So I'm glad I can help out my fellow Apples.
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking at a local moms' group, sharing the story of my son's alleged miracle. They wanted me to provide a bio for them to use to introduce me. I gave them this:
Bonnie Engstrom is from central Illinois and lives in G----- with her husband, Travis, the physics teacher at --- High School. They have 6 kids, one in Heaven and then 5 aged 5 and under. Bonnie is currently NOT pregnant and therefore drinks a beer almost every day.
Please notice the last sentence. I didn't include that to be funny. I included that so everyone there would know that I am fat, not pregnant, and they shouldn't ask me when I'm due. It's too bad that as women were gathering and therefore before I had been introduced a woman asked me when I was due. If only she waited five more minutes...
And I know, Skinny Women, I know that you're just being nice and trying to carry a conversation. And you can probably guess how I feel about my body.
I pretty much hate it. I am embarrassed of all the weight I've gained over the last 6 pregnancies. I'm ashamed of the way my body so boldly communicates my lack of self control. I am ashamed of how I look and it's getting to the point where I sometimes consider skipping out on social events because I want to be unseen. I dress in the dark or in the closet so my husband cannot see my naked body. I don't like my kids to touch my soft, round belly and I'm afraid of the day when they learn that in our culture their mom is not beautiful because she is fat.
That innocent, well-intentioned question of "When are you due?" runs me through all those feelings and thoughts and it's a perfectly good way to ruin an otherwise perfectly good day. Just don't do it.
This past weekend, I gave three workshops at the Archdiocese of Detroit Youth Ministry Conference. Two on homosexuality, one on social media (so you know, super light topics). Anyway, I gave birth via c-section 2.5 weeks ago, so I probably had no business giving the workshops in the first place. So, I leave the house running late and drive for about 7 minutes. Then, I realize that I forgot my sweater, the ONLY thing that would keep people from asking if I had delivered yet. So, naturally, despite the fact that I am already late, I turn around to grab it, so as to not have to have that awkward conversation twelve thousand times. Get the sweater, get to the conference, about to go to my workshops and this woman stops me, 'so when is this next one coming'. AND...awkwardness ensued. #truestoryReplyDelete
You are beautiful and you make me laugh!ReplyDelete
Well written. You are not alone.ReplyDelete
Bonnie, I used to walk around thinking that I was skinny because of all my awesome temperance and self-control and work ethic. But I have come to realize that I am skinny because not over-eating and having motivation to excercise just don't happen to be things I struggle with. I struggle with LOTS of other things, just not things that are visible from the outside.ReplyDelete
It is NOT heroic for ME to be skinny. Maybe it would be for you. But for me, it just is what it is. Which means I get to struggle with humility too.
You are suffering for this now, I'll betcha there's a lot of skinny girls in purgatory coming to the realization that maybe they should have worried more about their own sins and less about other people's.
Hmmm, that probably applies to more than just skinny girls.
You are lovely. The way our kids see us is what's TRUE. The way we see ourselves is what's out of whack.
I've read your blog for over a year now (so I'm not just a random creeper:) but never have taken time to comment. I can totally relate to this though after three kids in 2.5 years. I can only imagine how much harder it is with 6 pregnancies in 6 years! I just don't get how so many people weren't taught tact! I thought everyone knew that question was off limits, along with questions pertaining to family size, income level etc. I am truly sorry that you have had to deal with people who obviously missed that memo. It does make for such an awkward moment and the b$#@&y side of me wants to act like I misheard them at first and say something like" Oh YOU'RE pregnant? That's so exciting". I enjoy reading your blog and thank you for being open to writing about the good, bad and the ugly side of being a Catholic mom open to life! Keep up the good work! ~StaciaReplyDelete
sorry for the rough day. you are beautiful! and I'm not just saying that to be nice. I do think you are pretty...and smart and talented and kind and so much more than the just outside stuff.ReplyDelete
I am an apple too. when i get pregnant i turn into a balloon--not pretty pregnant. I carry my apple better when I am not pregnant but when I am and post baby several months I look very plump.
and I think a large part is genetics--no matter what you or I eat or how much we exercise or what we deprive ourselves of or use moderation in or not....we will always be apple shaped.
Bear with me here, but I have a little theory which may or may not encompass a lot of these awkward encounters. Dave has told me more than once that it isn't fair to myself nor is it right to compare my body with the bodies of women who are contracepting, his point being that in our society, most women of childbearing age are using birth control, and therefore, are not walking around in bodies that reflect a seemingly endless cycle of pregnant/postpartum/nursing/repeat. His point was that it's buying into the world's spirit of what is beautiful to reject part of the package of being 'open to life,' which includes, for many of us girls who are, looking like you have, in fact, had children.ReplyDelete
I'm not saying all these women are on the Pill, but a lot of them may be, and this kind of repeated offense might be some kind of spiritual attack from barren wombs on one whose womb has been generously full.
Again, maybe a stretch, but it has helped to keep me from throwing things at my mirror to remember that I'm 'supposed' to look like this, even though I pray it is a temporary form and that somebody I'll be sporting a slightly smaller, slightly firmer body.
I know Kendra didn't mean a thing by it, but lest anyone become confused, your body woes most definitely don't stem from lack of discipline or exercise or a propensity toward overeating, but from being pregnant 6 times in as many years. So yeah, I'd like to see anyone walk away from that without 20 or 80 extra pounds hanging around. Especially given the award-winning size of those Engstrom babies.
Brilliant! I love your theory!Delete
Bonnie, I don't know what to say, except please don't stop going out. It's very encouraging to us first-timers to see veteran moms out and about, and we think your strength is your beauty. You are very strong - you are very beautiful. Promise.ReplyDelete
Amen! Leaving the house can be such a sanity saver and is so worth it for the sacraments!Delete
See, I'm skinny, and I think you're prettier than me. I think you have great hair and a really, really pretty face. And there's something that just shines through you, something I don't have and a lot of people don't have, that I can only describe by the word beauty. I honestly have never looked at you and thought of you as fat. I think of you as feminine and stylish and more beautiful than me in so many ways. When I look at myself, I see a skinny body that a) doesn't have the curves men desire, b) is not something I can take any credit for or deserve or anything else remotely positive, and c) does not have great hair nor a pretty face. I hate my hair and my face. I hate that my skinniness resulted in stretch marks all over and loose, hanging stomach skin from my pregnancies. I don't see anything beautiful about myself, even though I am "skinny."ReplyDelete
Yes, people are rude and ask stupid questions and make even stupider assumptions, and they shouldn't. Your two scenarios in which it is okay to ask when someone's due are exactly right. In any other case, it is rude and uncalled for no matter who asks and who they are asking. I'm sure it is painful to be asked that, in a variety of circumstances, post-pregnancy, pregnancy loss, or overweight and not pregnancy related at all. It's definitely not okay, and I'm sorry that their comments have caused you pain. But I want you to know that this Skinny Woman thinks you are beautiful.
I'm so sorry Bonnie. I'm just a blog follower from Iowa who has three kids of my own, and while I have never personally been asked that dreaded question (I'm more of a junk-in-the-trunk body shape), I share your lack of self-love. I too refuse to dress or undress anymore in front of my husband, avoid any mirror that shows me anything below my chin, and leave the house only as long as I have to. I had gestational diabetes so thankfully my restricted diet didn't let me gain more than 20 pounds with any of my babies, but if I hadn't had that I know I would have gained 50 pounds or more due to my complete lack of self-control. This has been on my mind a lot lately and while it breaks my heart that you are feeling like this, I'm glad to know I'm not the only one stuck in this vicious cycle.ReplyDelete
I have serious anxiety about asking women when they're due. I almost NEVER do it. No matter how obvious it might be.ReplyDelete
Others have said it so much better than I could, but know of my prayers.
Bonnie, you are so beautiful and your worth is not in your body type. Because that's what it comes down to: body type. Effing genes. I struggle with this same issue, especially since I have several sisters who do nothing, don't watch what they eat and don't exercise ever, and they're a good 50 pounds lighter than I am. It's not anything we're doing or not doing. Screw people and their insensitive comments. Don't let it stop you from living your life. Don't let the skinnies get you down! We love you, Bonnie!ReplyDelete
oh I've been there! I said, I'm not pregnant, but I DID just have my 4th baby 5 months ago... she just said oh. I'll never forget that woman. And I learned my lesson to nehehehever ask a woman if she's pregnant.ReplyDelete
I had this fabulous empire waist dress that I had purchased from the GAP so I thought I was looking hot and, for once in my life, trendy. So I'm standing at the counter at my doctor's office checking in and the man beside me says, 'oh... so when are you due?" and I thought about it and figured it would be less embarrassing for both of us if I just went with it. I said, "march" four months away. Then he wanted to know if I knew what I was having. I said, "boy" (because I have three boys). After he left the receptionist said, "you're not....?" I said, "no, I just figured this way was less embarrassing." Several women were close enough to hear and we all had a good laugh over it. I've raised my boys with the understanding that unless the woman TELLS YOU she's pregnant or unless you see a head crowning, never assume pregnancy.ReplyDelete
Oh Bonnie, this dumb culture. I'm an apple.. APPLE like, totally had that question. It just breaks my heart that you wrote and think " I'm afraid of the day when they learn that in our culture their mom is not beautiful because she is fat." Oh Bonnie! Leave the culture. We all know true beauty is not skin-deep. My heart aches for this issue for you and all women, and yes, I do trouble through it. But please let go of this culture's ways...they are empty and lifeless. And I believe you will teach your children to know beauty through character and virtue, and they will see a wonderfully beautiful momma in their midst. Serious.ReplyDelete
P.S. Just read the first three books of Anne of Green Gables and it was so sweet that her childhood best friend was "plump" and it wasn't bad or good - just was. Anne was "willowy." I loved that there wasn't a right or wrong way to be, just so long as you dressed presentably. :) Sorry for my geekish comment, but wanted to add it!ReplyDelete
I think we all struggle with so many different things. I hate that you feel that way about yourself. You truly are a beautiful woman and have many gifts. Choosing life comes with a whole lot of sacrifices and gaining weight is one of those sacrifices, we as women, endure. Your body is one of the visible signs to others on how much you love your children, your family. I have always struggled with my appearance. Never wanting my picture taken, not wanting to look into someone's eyes because I struggle with wondering what people think of me, of my appearance. My nose is too big, my eyes are too close together, my teeth aren't white enough, my skin isn't clear enough, etc.. The list goes on, but my husband and prayer have really helped me to try to view myself more as someone created and loved by God and not someone thrown out by the world's standards. I'll be praying for you Bonnie and please pray for me too.
Oh my gosh. What do you say back to these women? Do you just simply say you are not due? And do they apologize? I don't even like being asked that question when I am pregnant.ReplyDelete
I think, if you're asked that question and you've *ever* had a child, no matter how long ago, you're entitled to respond, "I'm postpartum."ReplyDelete
I have definitely been asked when I was due, 4 months postpartum! It's so hard. But this reason I sat across from a woman who was clearly pregnant and didn't say a word. Because there is no reason to ever risk the awkwardness!ReplyDelete
Oh my goodness...thank you for this post, Bonnie! It's so hard to see your body drastically change from child bearing and it's encouraging to know that you're not alone in feeling insecure about how you look after multiple pregnancies. And yeah...it's especially hard when you're genetically predisposed to being a certain size and no amount of anything does much to change it! I've really struggled with that, especially since my husband's side of the family tends to run thin.ReplyDelete
For the record, you are lovely! And your body is awesome for having carried so many little ones!!!
Oh Bonnie! I so often relate to your posts, and this one really hits home. I've been asked when I'm due, and I immediately go home and put that shirt in the Goodwill. I struggle with the extra weight, I don't dress in front of my husband, I'm afraid of when my kids will figure out I'm not beautiful! Thank you for writing this. Sometimes I honestly think I'm the only one who feels this way!ReplyDelete
Bonnie- You are awesome. Some people speak without even thinking! And some are insensitive. You are a beautiful woman, friend. Others have said much more thought provoking things here already.ReplyDelete
I think you always look great, you take care of your appearance and always look stylish and put together. I'm serious!!
I feel so much of what you have described. I'm sure you really want advice (not) but I recently read "Made to Crave" and it's helping me change my attitude and heart in regards to food. May the Blessed Mother help all of us moms who struggle with our bodies.ReplyDelete
Bonnie, you are great! I have five kids, all (almost) grown up now. I LOVE reading your blog to remind me of the craziness that was my life. I miss it, and your funny writings gives me a glimpse into that world I used to know and love so well. Don't let little comments bother you, Bonnie. You are in the middle of a battlefield called child rearing years, and you can't let yourself get distracted. You are doing the most important work in the world, and doing it well. I just can't figure how you manage to blog....I guess that is why God invented night! Stay sane, Bonnie, and know that you are loved!ReplyDelete
After the Mass I wrote about in my last post, the priest asked one of the moms when she was due with "this one". She laughed it off. And her belly is smaller than mine. But he KNOWS I'm not pregnant (I'm 58). Once a waitress said she couldn't serve my sister champagne at a wedding reception. My sister asked why not and the waitress said: "You're pregnant". My sister said she didn't know whether to be insulted because the waitress thought she was fat or happy because the waitress thought she was young enough to be pregnant. By the way, I told the priest that you should never ask a woman if she is pregnant unless you actually see a baby emerging. He was mortified (good).ReplyDelete
Women who have had one baby or five have earned every stretch mark, pound and pooch. They are our medals of honor. I weigh more now than I did with either pregnancy. I am not proud of my weight, and I struggle with it, but I am very healthy (to my doctor's consternation). I walk a couple times a week and pretty much eat whatever I want. I know what I have to do, I just don't want to do it!
I totally relate, and I have been asked that question too. I have three aged four and under, so I'm not surprised that people might think I'm pregnant, but it does hurt all the same. I also still wear my maternity tops!ReplyDelete
The thing is, I'm not actually overweight, but my mid-section looks fat because I have a condition called diastasis recti. What this means is that my stomach muscles never came back together after separating during pregnancy, so that my belly literally has no "abs" holding it in anymore. My doctor advised me that the only way to fix this is through surgery...and after 3 C-sections I am less than keen on another invasive and difficult surgery and recovery, especially with the three active little beans to take care of. So for now I am just living with it and ignoring the comments.
I've learned through posts like this never ever to ask. Heck, I get nervous now even suggesting my clients might be pregnant even though they've hired me as their doula :) Bonnie, you are a beautiful daughter of the King and I pray you will be able see that. I am so sorry you were hurt. Our culture's idea of what a grown woman should look like are so distorted. Prayers for you.ReplyDelete
I can totally relate, even though I carry my weight differently and I've only had two babies. It is impossible for me to lose weight while I am nursing...okay, at least super hard! Both of my girls nursed for two years and by the time I stopped nursing my first daughter my second daughter was almost born. So I've had lots of time being pregnant and nursing and am quite a bit heavier then I was when I got married. I think that the suffering that comes from the weight is such a good offering for any intention, because it is such crazy suffering! And I bet your children will always think you are beautiful because you are such a wonderful person. My five year old has been cracking me up lately. I got a pair of jeans and she told me they were the "cutest pants ever". She is very funny. I am praying for you!ReplyDelete
I can relate to this more than you can even imagine.ReplyDelete
You are such a beautiful person!
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