"Your belly is huge!" (And all the joyful commentary that accompanies pregnancy)

You look HUGE!  You're so petite.  You haven't dropped yet.  You're carrying high.  Look at that basketball you're smuggling.  Your belly sticks straight out.  I'm going to take a picture of it, so you can see how far it sticks out.  Woah, she's really pregnant.  How much weight have you gained?  (Yup, all things I've heard in the past couple months).    

Pregnancy denotes a time when friends, family, and even strangers candidly comment on or ask about your physical appearance.  I get it, and honestly, I've done the same.  Now that my due date has arrived, I'm (very) visibly pregnant, and it would feel odd not to acknowledge my bump.  Additionally, I am a really pregnant yet petite person with a bigger-than-a-basketball-sized belly that sticks straight forward, making most of the above statements true.  But it's still an interesting shift in human behavior.  

Usually rules of common courtesy limit direct inquiries about one's weight or statements like "you look huge."  But with pregnancy, there's a different rulebook, or rather, no rulebook at all.  During my first pregnancy, I worked with numerous new patients each day.  When asked, I happily shared how far along I was in my pregnancy and how I was feeling, and then willingly accepted any advice they had for new moms (cue meticulous note-taking on my end!).  My pregnancy often established instant common ground and helped me to ease into a conversation about their health and nutrition habits.  I was thankful for the connection, but often left the conversation wondering if I was on the right track for a healthy pregnancy.  Any comment on my appearance, even when intended as a compliment, had me questioning the health of my baby, as (inappropriately) determined by how closely I fit the "normal" look for X weeks pregnant.  As my extremely patient doctor confirmed (and as I rationally knew), eyeballing a lady's pregnant belly is not a scientifically sound method to determine a baby's health (what a relief!). 

With my second pregnancy, I'm more confident that my body is growing in all the right ways.  I rely on my doctors to determine if that is not the case, and I keep track of my weight gain to stay within the Institute of Medicine's recommended guidelines.  I take prenatal vitamins, eat healthy(ish) and exercise (brisk walks count, right?) while avoiding alcohol, extreme sports, and not-safe-for-pregnancy foods.  Yet even as a trained Registered Dietitian and (somewhat) experienced mom, I need to remind myself to put on my rational thinking cap when it comes to self assessment.  I've found that a short checklist helps:  (1) Am I engaging in healthy behaviors for pregnancy?  (2) Is the person commenting on my body an obstetrician (or more specifically, my obstetrician)?  As long as I answer "yes" to question 1 and "no" to question 2, I'm in the clear!  Because, yes, I may be a huge yet petite, 40 weeks pregnant, ready-to-pop mama with a humorous bump, but I am just the right size for this sweet baby who is nearly ready to enter the world.  

To my fellow pregnant ladies, may you learn to accept the physical changes that accompany pregnancy with confidence, pride, and, of course, a good sense of humor.  Because you look just the right size, you are growing a baby (!!), and when your belly button becomes the focal point of all outfits or your maternity jeans split down the center, laughter will pull you through.