Words: Annie Ridout  Top image: Harry Sewell

Annie’s story…pregnancy is mind-blowing, the biology astounded me from conception to birth, but the truth is this: sometimes I just felt fat. And it was during those times that nicknames like chubby and fatty – which were assumed to be harmless – became less funny.

Equally, the commentary from strangers about the size of my bump – it was particularly big, but then I was carrying a 10lb 7oz baby – grew tiresome. “Are you sure it isn’t twins?” was one of the jokes cracked at least fifty times a day. “Your bump’s all at the front, it’s definitely a boy” was another. (It was a girl.)

And then there were kind, positive comments about how “glowing” I was and how I hadn’t ballooned anywhere except my stomach. In spite of the good intentions, having friends, family and people you’ve never met analyse your body like this does make you acutely aware of every little change.

This is all part of the skinny culture we’ve become accustomed to, with size 0 the aim and fat rolls a sign of laziness and gluttony, rather than a relaxed attitude to food and body image. And yet every pregnant woman is different. Some embrace the attention they receive throughout the nine-month gestation period, some revel in their growing bumps and bums, others despise the changes to their bodies and the restrictions pregnancy imposes – and some don’t care one way or the other.

I spoke to five women, to find out how they really felt about their changing bodies. And if, like me, they had soon grown bored of the constant observations…

Chloe Githiomi, 34
I looked very big early on because I’m naturally quite small. Towards the end of the pregnancy, people would really stare at me. They’d stop and point at me. I felt like I was the only heavily-pregnant woman in the world. They’d say: “Oh god, you’re big”. That got annoying. “God you’re massive!”

I don’t have a car so I walked three to five miles a day and that was my exercise. I still put on four stone but I didn’t really care, I found it quite amusing. My boobs and thighs got bigger and my hips got wider, and I liked it. But then my placenta and the baby together weighed over a stone and a half.

I hated maternity clothes so I found dressing really hard. I just bought oversized boys’ stuff. I’m still wearing it now and I feel like I’m in limbo land because I don’t want to buy new clothes, I just want to fit into my old stuff.

John, my husband, liked my big belly. He called it jelly belly. Even now, he gets upset when he sees it going down. He liked that I was changing and showing. I liked having a little bump.

I felt quite confident during pregnancy but I really, really didn’t want stretch marks so I worked hard with moisturising and eating avocados for my skin. I didn’t feel any pressure to get back my old body but when I saw celebrity pages in magazines I would notice women who were pregnant one week and the next they’d be really skinny.

There’s a bit of excess skin on my belly, which I’d like to get rid of and until I have, I won’t be going out to the beach in a bikini. But because of my hormones during pregnancy I’ve become a lot more relaxed. All I care about is the health of my baby.

Kerry Surman, 27
At first I was really excited to see my tummy rise but when my bottom started to grow and my face looked swollen, new stretch marks appeared and my breasts looked like cows’ udders – I lost a bit of that excitement.

I love the magic of knowing my body can produce such a beautiful thing and I’m very proud of that. But women carry babies differently, some ‘glow’ and some just don’t. I’m the latter. My skin gets greasy and I carry extra fluid. As I’m quite a vain person, I put pressure on myself. But, ultimately, it’s out of your hands so you just have to surrender to nature and embrace it. In the end it’s all worth it. That doesn’t mean every time I catch my double chin and bulging body in the mirror I don’t let out a huge sigh.

I’ve never been a fitness or diet fanatic; although I did promise myself as soon as I found out I was expecting that I’d eat six different types of veg a day. I’m sure every woman wants to make sure she’s giving her unborn baby all the goodness and nutrients she can. But during the first three months that went all out the window – if I didn’t feel sick I was stuffing my face with carbs.

I find it really hard to dress, but mostly because I can’t find comfortable clothes and underwear. I don’t really feel uncomfortable around my partner but I don’t feel sexy any more. I feel less confident and less sexy.

I do worry about my post-pregnancy body – that my lady bits will look like road kill, I’ll have to tuck my belly in my knickers, the stretch marks will never fade and how much a breast lift will cost. Women put a lot of pressure on themselves.

My friends wouldn’t dare make derogatory comments about my pregnancy body, although one friend kept telling me I waddled when I walked. But who wouldn’t, carrying an extra two/three stone.

Maddie Knight, 31
I found the changes quite unnerving at first. I normally feel in control of my body and it felt very strange to suddenly find it changing even though I was keeping the same routines. But once I decided to mentally let go and enjoy it, I quite liked my changing body. It felt different to put on a bit of weight and I found it exciting to start to get a little bump.

I think there is pressure to look exactly the same as you normally do but with a bump, whereas in reality your body changes in millions of ways. Most of them not that obvious to anyone else, but you notice it yourself. I can’t say it has worried me too much. Although I do feel conscious of having put on a lot of weight.

It was really tough at first finding that one less item of clothing would fit each week and having to try on familiar clothes to check that I could get into them. Now that I’ve grown out of all my clothes and I’m only in maternity stuff I’m much less bothered and just wear the few things that fit me all the time without thinking about it.

I really don’t know what to expect of my post-pregnancy body. I imagine it will be a few months before I feel normal again and I suppose there’s some apprehension about the things that might be changed for good. I don’t especially feel any pressure to get my pre-pregnancy body back but I am wondering what I’m going to wear if my body keeps changing all the time.

Pregnant women should be less like a spectacle and more like a normal person; like everyone else. Also, I would like to see more respect for people’s privacy. Everyone has an opinion whether it’s that you’re surprisingly big or small. I think the privacy issue extends to comments on lifestyle. I know everyone is fascinated, but I do find it a bit invasive.

Cat Green, 31
In the early stages I found the changes to my body exciting, it was all happening for a reason. It was the start of my body changing to accommodate this life inside me.

Being someone who likes to look good and enjoys her clothes I felt an urge not to let it all go. I’d love those supermodel legs to compliment my bump – I genuinely feel it would be easier to dress everyday. But I don’t. So I’ve opted for loose hareem trousers most days whilst holding on to the fact that to date I’ve kept my slim upper body and arms, so tees and vests are all good. I need to get over it.

I think the new boobs have made me feel more womanly and I guess sexier. My other half is supportive and gets that the body will and has changed. It’s all for a reason and the relationship is stronger than ever. I’m lucky. He’s given me some jokey nicknames but only ever endearing ones.

To be truthful, I do feel less confident about my body and I often wish I hadn’t pigged out so much during the early months. But I did. However, the overarching fact that my body is carrying a little miracle outweighs it all.

My thoughts are that it may take some time for my body to get back to shape – but there is a small glimmer of determination to get back to myself in order to feel more confident about my body. And by this I mean my legs and bum primarily. I love my bump.

Pregnant women should be viewed as normal functioning women carrying a little miracle. We still have our same personalities, humours and zest for life – there’s just a huge change happening within our bodies and a life changing addition to our lives is on its way.

Jessamy Robinson, 36
When I first became pregnant I was worried. I’m 36 and wasn’t sure how my body would take it. Also, I’d got to a stage in my life where I was exercising lots and I didn’t want the pregnancy to stop me cycling as it’s a big part of my life and relationship. So I cycled through the first four months, commuting 26 miles a day, but then a car bumped into me and I got spooked. My protective nature took over. So I was disappointed that I hadn’t managed to maintain that.

But I embraced my changing body. I bought maternity work clothes that accentuated rather than hid my bump and I started to feel really womanly. I’m curvy so I liked the fit of maternity clothes, I felt good. Lots of pregnant women at work had worn clothes that exaggerated the bump and they were flattering so I followed this.

My swelling breasts were embraced in my relationship. Also, my body was sexually responsive in different ways. As the bump got bigger sex changed. There was a period where it was enhanced and then in the last trimester it got more difficult. There were times when I felt huge and didn’t feel good. There were times when I really enjoyed it. You can feel really sexy. I would walk down the street thinking: yeah! I feel like a woman. It didn’t freak Harry out, which it could have. But the third trimester requires a mental leap – it gets complicated.

My nipples going dark worried me. But they seem to be going back. I wasn’t expecting it – to see the areolas growing and darkening. It was just different to what I knew. You have an idea about your body and when it changes you have to adjust.

I didn’t get stretch marks, I was lucky. I’ve had them before so know how awful they can be. But also knew it would be fine if I did get them. My friend has amazing tiger stripes like the fire of hell on her belly.

My pregnancy ran the same way as my mum and sister’s. I anticipated that I’d snap back into shape, but after a c-section I feel more worried about whether this will happen. Once they’d sliced me open – I felt differently.

@annieridout

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