We Need To Talk About How We Talk About Fit Pregnant Women’s Bodies

I’ve never been several months pregnant, but you can bet your sedentary ass I will be tree-posing up until my water breaks. And that rings true for many badass women with a bun in the oven, who have taken to social media to flaunt their protruding bellies with a barbell raised above their crowns like a torch, or the fitness models whose six-packs have remained intact all throughout their term. And why shouldn’t they? Why does your own life have to stop while creating a new one?

If you’ve been browsing Instagram for #PregnancyPorn recently (which you should — it’s a damn beautiful thing), you may have noticed Instalebrities like Emily Breeze documenting her fitness journey while pregnant. In some of her posts, she performs the kind of cardio that would make even a non-pregnant person reach for their asthma pump, so no shit she’s boasting about it on the mantle of life that is social media. Among the “Go mama”s and “You go!”s lie, of course, the darker side of the internet, with comments like “Aren’t you supposed to shake the baby after its born? Not during pregnancy.”

Not only is that a little psychotic, but it hints at the overwhelming objectification to which pregnant women are submitted on a daily basis. Even on a post of her newborn looking healthy and perfect as ever, the h8rz had to speak: “And i love how everyone hated on this women now theyre going to be like awe sign him up for a membership and all this stupid shit.”

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Trolls will be trolls, so don’t feed them unless it’s a bite of your Ben and Jerry’s topped with pickles to keep their bored mouths occupied. But the language used to police pregnant women’s bodies raises a larger question: In a culture where we’ve made great (literal) strides in body acceptance, how’s a pregnant woman supposed to feel included in the discourse? When is her body — and what she decides to do with it — ever her own?

Take Chontel Duncan, who at eight months pregnant, sported a magazine cover-worthy six pack. At 21 weeks, she posted a photo looking relatively slender by most standards, proving that everyone carries baby weight a little differently. If you’re going to leave an imprint of your immobile butt on the couch and put on 80 pounds during pregnancy, that’s your prerogative. But you’re in no place to tell another woman how and why her process is wrong because it’s different from yours.

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Loving your body is hard enough as it is, and carrying a child just adds another layer of stress to that equation. Next time you see a pregnant woman on the subway, don’t pat her belly like it’s a puppy that wants to play. Don’t ask her intrusive questions like her body changes are a public Facebook invitation. And for Christ’s sake: Don’t berate her if she wants to stand, or — gasp — take the stairs.