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Journalist, Author, Columnist. My Twitter handle: @seemagoswami

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Does my baby make me look fat?

Pregnancy has become another style statement

I’m sure it has happened to all of us at one point or another. We congratulate a friend, colleague or neighbour on being pregnant only to be told that she is not – or that she’s already had the baby a few months ago. It’s happened to me on more occasions than I care to recount. So, these days I err on the side of caution even if someone appears on the verge of giving birth, preferring to wait until she mentions the p word herself.

But even so, I was surprised when a friend arrived at lunch the other day, looking svelte in black and silver, and announced that she was pregnant. Even as the rest of us were stammering our congratulations while sneaking a peak at her suspiciously slim figure, she went on: “I don’t know what to do, I’ve already put on 5 kilos. I don’t know how much I’m going to weigh by the time I’m ready to give birth.”

Of course, we did the only decent thing possible. We assured her that she didn’t look any fatter, that no one could even tell that she was pregnant, and that the post-baby weight would come off without any problem.

It was only afterwards that it struck me that the only pregnancy-related conversation we had indulged in had revolved around weight.

Could she go to the gym during her pregnancy; how many kilos was the absolute minimum she should put on; would a yoked kurta be more flattering or should she direct attention to her bump with a tight T-shirt; was it wise to stay off carbohydrates; was a skirt more flattering than boyfriend jeans; what should she do to get rid of all those extra tyres once the baby was born; did breast-feeding help in keeping the weight off; was Pilates a better post-baby regime than yoga; etc., etc.

The women around the table had their own weight-related pregnancy stories. And those who had never been pregnant, weighed in with their weight-control tips. But either way, the focus was on weight: how bad it was to put on too much; how great it would be to lose it in record time; and how best to camouflage it with some clever dressing.

Clearly, pregnancy has gone from being a time about babies and the joy they bring to becoming a time of worrying about the extra weight that comes with them. The time when women could eat for two with a clear conscience is gone. Now being pregnant is seen as no excuse for being fat.

You are allowed a nicely-rounded baby bump to put on proud display after about the sixth month. But just be sure that you have a tightly-toned ass and nicely-muscled biceps to go with it. Any other wobbly bits just show you up as a lazy so-and-so who can’t be bothered to keep in shape.

Part of this pressure is, of course, created by celebrity yummy-mummies who go around parading their near-perfect figures with obligatory bump stuck on, right up to until their waters break. Demi Moore kicked off the trend with her now-iconic cover of Vanity Fair, when she posed nude while heavily pregnant, her still-slim arms coyly covering her breasts. Since then, we have had a parade of stars, both Indian and international, proudly showing off their pregnancies with barely a sliver of cellulite in sight.

Ujjwala Raut – more recently in the news for her less-than-amicable split from her husband – sashayed down one Fashion Week ramp barely weeks after giving birth, looking as skinny as ever. Hrithik’s wife, Susanne, took next to no time to lose all that pregnancy flab once she had produced baby number two. Ditto Gauri Khan and Twinkle Khanna. And now Padma Lakshmi is doing her best to show up other pregnant women as greedy Gretels, who have no self-control when it comes to their food cravings. (And by the way, did you know she starts her day with a butter bath, so that she doesn’t develop any ugly stretch marks?)

But mostly, the pressure comes from our peers, all those women around us who look radiant while they are pregnant and even better once they’ve rid themselves of the bump. You know the kind, I’m sure. They float around in sexy chiffony numbers or tight little slip dresses, which make it clear that their bellies are the only things that have changed in size and shape. And then, to add insult to injury, they simply shrug off that post-pregnancy weight even as you’re struggling to get into your biggest-ever pair of pants.

Are you surprised then, that all pregnancy talk these days revolves around weight?

After all, what can you expect when women are more worried about not putting on too much weight rather than on achieving a healthy pregnancy? And when there is so much pressure to lose weight after the birth that young mothers are more focused on their bellies rather than their babies?

Honestly, it makes you long for a simpler time when being pregnant meant being able to eat all you wanted, sleeping in until late, getting no exercise at all, and slobbing around all day in a shapeless salwar kameez. A time when the phrase yummy mummy hadn’t been invented. And when pregnancies were about the baby rather than the baby weight.

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