Belly Up!

When I was pregnant, I didn’t lovingly stroke my belly and my husband didn’t shower it with daily kisses. Back in the day, we also didn’t parade around in public with our extended bellies hanging out of our pants or bulging beneath skin- tight tee shirts. As a matter of fact, we generally masked our pregnancies with oversize dresses and maternity clothes made with stretch panels to accommodate our growing girth.

I never thought the physical state of pregnancy was especially attractive, especially when I was undressed. The more my belly grew, the more irritating it became. It prevented me from sleeping comfortably, it limited my wardrobe to a handful of garments that still fit, and it tired me out to be lugging around an extra 20 pounds–right smack in the center of my body. I constantly felt that I was going to topple over.

Today, the physical state of pregnancy is romanticized more than the characters in a Barbara Cartland novel. Young, and not so young, women are baring their bellies in public like never before, proudly crisscrossing major intersections in Manhattan and elsewhere for all the world to see their accomplishments.

Please don’t get me wrong. It’s great if a woman is thrilled and proud to be pregnant. Better yet if she feels sexy. And if she wants to have a professional photographer memorialize her husband caressing her big bare belly, I support her all the way. But when I’m passing the professional photographer’s studio on my way to the subway, do I really need to see a giant blow up of the photo in the window.

I had to hide my pregnancy in 1979 when I went on a job interview since potential employers worried that mothers would be less focused, able employees. That was nonsense, of course, and I’m thrilled that’s no longer the case (at least, I hope so!)

But this business of exposing, flaunting and parading around big bellies has gone too far. Keep the exhibitionism at home, ladies. Your big belly may be a thing of beauty to you, but it isn’t the Eiffel Tower to me.

40 Responses to “Belly Up!”

  1. sue says:

    Pregnancy bellies are beautiful and a turn on to many men,covered or bare.There’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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  2. Su says:

    This is all about society’s traditional paradigm of “hiding pregnancy”: telling children that babies come from “the stork” when they honestly ask, not letting an employer know until it’s physically obvious for fear of losing a well-loved/needed job, and wearing mostly unflattering clothes because that is the only thing that the manufacturers made and retailers sold.
    Why? Pregnancy is about creating LIFE. And life is beautiful and should be celebrated, by all! It is something natural. That traditional paradigm has been part of the steps toward male domination. Pregnancy IS ONE OF THE ONLY THINGS that the male species CAN NEVER ACCOMPLISH, and they cannot accept that. So, pregnancy was made to be “shameful”. {These are general statements toward “the establishment”, not any individual husbands/partners out there.}
    Well, thank goodness there are women who are stronger and smarter than that!
    A PREGNANT BODY IS A BEAUTIFUL BODY! And there is/should be nothing shameful in that.
    C’mon women! Embrace the fact that WOMEN CAN DO just about EVERYTHING a man can do AND MORE!
    We need to be honest with our children. Tell them where babies come from. SHOW them this part about where babies come from. Give them, and all of us, a healthy chance to honor, respect and enjoy life!
    I remember 20 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child, the OB-GYN I first saw actually approached Pregnancy as “a nine month condition”, almost like it was an “illness”. Believe me, that was the last appointment I had with him! I realized: how the heck can an Ob-Gyn possibly truly understand or honestly guide me through what is happening to me if they have never actually experienced the process them self? Text books can only teach so much.
    I LOVE seeing pregnant women embrace and flaunt their bellies in an honest way! I smile at every single one I see! 🙂 And yes, there are women that may “take it too far”. I believe it is because there is such a strong societal resistance in the opposite direction. If the society value was that “it’s a natural thing and no big deal”, then it wouldn’t be! Kind of like long ago when those who didn’t smoke suffered silently in offices, elevators and airplanes … until someone had the courage to begin changing the belief that n0n-smokers had a right to clean air!
    Change that belief that we have been taught – that pregnancy should be hidden and is shameful . That’s all it is. A belief. (And an emotionally degrading one at that.)

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  3. Marina Klima says:

    Geri,

    It is good that you are saying what is on many people’s mind. I think pregnancy is personal and it is something that we want to keep to ourselves. The above images are extreme and do not read well at all. Just my opinion.

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  4. Lisa Bayne says:

    Geri,

    There is a lot which people show which others don’t like, but we don’t ask them to stop, because this is a country of freedom. Some people don’t like gays. Some people don’t like people of color. Some people don’t like meat. Some people don’t like curly hair. Some people don’t like hot pink lipstick. But in this country we are allowed to be free to be ourselves, whether others like it or not. My parents hated my style of dress when I was a young adult. Perhaps it would be wise to recognise a generational shift and acceptance.

    Lisa

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  5. Maxine says:

    Like you I remember the clothes and the awkward feeling..but to me I think it shows more that women don’t have to hide being pregnant…and I feel our generation gave these new moms/women that freedom. Now if this country can grow up and not make it illegal for a nursing mom to nurse her baby in public..we will have come a long way as women.

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    • Marsha Calhoun says:

      Agreed.

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  6. Tracy says:

    I’m childless by choice, and thought my befuddlement regarding this trend and the lingo was just me — you know how could someone who hasn’t been pregnant, blah, blah, blah. I may be cranky and old school, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone on this one. Hopefully it’s a short lived fad….

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  7. Lanina says:

    I really think it’s a personal choice. I’m one of the said photographers who have beautiful pregnant portraits in the window. It works for some and not for all. But that’s the beauty of this country. As long as it’s legal you can express yourself any way you like. Big belly and all!

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  8. Jannine says:

    Phooey! So who cares if they show off their tummies? Let them enjoy their pregnancy however they see fit. They’re not showing their breasts or their butts or their vjj’s so what in the world is the harm? Lots of terrible things go on in the world, seeing a pregnant woman with her pregnant tummy showing is not one of them.

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  9. quilligan says:

    I am weary of people documenting every micro-moment of a pregnancy for all to see. Tired of weekly facebook/email/instipic photos in every imaginable position and state of undress because they believe we are all super excited to see every centimeter of belly growth and every ultrasound. Blah.. and the staged professional photos of men kissing and carressing bellies just makes me want to upchuck. Why don’t they wait until the baby is born to have an expensive photo shoot? It’s so over the top I want to scream! I also want to do awful things to the inventer of the camera phone…. In general, I am tired of knowing too much about people in this look at me world. I think I am cranky too. LOL

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    • Geri says:

      hi quilligan,

      isn’t is interesting how this subject has struck a cord with all of us? And generally, we all feel the same, with minor differences.

      Geri

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    • Geri says:

      hi quilligan,

      bravo!

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  10. Jewel Hopson says:

    I don’t want to see a bared baby bump any more than anyone wants to see me expose my pot belly.

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  11. Laura Borud says:

    I don’t want to see a pregnant belly or the new trend of wearing too tight tops over fat flab. No I am not thin and try to dress in a way that flatters me and doesn’t highlight what I want to hide. I also don’t like seeing a man shirtless in the store, restaurant, or other public place no matter how buff he is or thinks he is. I agree with Geri and Judy that this generation seems to think they’ve invented having babies and every little thing about it is new and thus the entire world should be fascinated by their discovery. Um sorry, been going on a little while now, get over yourselves. Sorry just a little cranky.

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  12. Judy L says:

    I don’t find it “offensive” but just annoying……Might as well be wearing a placard saying
    “I’ve had sex with someone, look at me……I’m the first woman who ever got pregnant….”
    WHO CARES ??? – Dressing classy and modestly says a whole lot more about a woman than flaunting her “baby bump” (another term I cannot stand – right up there with “We’re pregnant”). How could you and your husband/boyfriend/partner “both” be pregnant – THE WOMAN IS PREGNANT !!!!

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    • Geri says:

      Hi Judy,

      I, too, hate “baby bump.” So pretentious and cutesy. And “we’re pregnant” IS nauseating. What about ” mommy bloggers?” The generation of 30 somethings–OUR DAUGHTERS– think they invented motherhood. I was/am far from the perfect mom, but I never pretended I was.

      I’m proud that my 30-year-old daughter and her husband don’t talk or think like that. My daughter would no sooner blog about being a “mommy” than she would spend her day on Facebook telling other 30 somethings about her baby’s first bowel movement.

      G.

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      • Norma Byrd says:

        Geri, you gave me my giggle for the day. And I’m glad you brought this up because I now know I’m not just a crotchity old (fashioned) crone. Others agree that modesty is still an acceptable and sensible virtue. Thanks to all who commented!

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  13. Mary says:

    I find it hilarious that so many want to bare their pregnant bellies and then scream bloody, blue murder if someone asks to pat it!

    I wonder if those who bare their bellies have any concern for the feelings of the many women who are unable or having difficulty conceiving.

    Yes, I wore maternity clothes of the late 70’s and yes, I actually let people pat my stomach – I didn’t mind and took it as a compliment.

    I’m not a fan of the new fad.

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  14. Lori says:

    I think it’s a wonderful, healthy trend. If a woman wants to be discreet about her pregnancy, fine, but if she wants to celebrate it, insisting that she cover it up is the Western equivalent of the burqa–establishing the notion that women and womanliness must be hidden. Along with breastfeeding in public, it’s one of the last (ridiculous) taboos of Western Civilization. If you want to keep those things private, it is absolutely your prerogative, but if you feel that these things are healthy and enrich the culture, you should feel free to flaunt that adorable belly. This is a personal choice. Unlike smoking in public–which is still, unfathomably, legal–being visibly pregnant in public is not going to damage anyone around you.

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  15. Maci says:

    I thought I was adorable but I wanted my husband to think so, not the rest of the world! Lots of these girls need to learn that a little mystery is so much sexier.

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  16. Mary Dailey says:

    Did you ever notice how many smiles you got when you were pregnant? Yes, I was dressed appropriately and still cared about how I looked. Guess what! It’s very apparent when you are full-blown pregnant. You don’t have to show me your belly hanging out of the bottom of your shirt. We don’t want to see you in a bikini either. Pregnancy is beautiful, but it’s to be shared with you and your husband/boyfriend/fiance, whatever, not the whole world. I am still shocked when I see a woman with her belly hanging out and it’s not a pleasant shock.

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  17. nanci says:

    I don’t mind that they wear a tight top, as long as it’s not sheer, but I do not like a belly being bare. I find it a fascinating turn of events and maybe it started when Demi Moore did the cover on Vanity Fair and it took off from there. Now it’s everywhere. Odd how it’s all changed, but no one seems to be baring un-pregnant bellies but the pregnant ones are almost expected to be bared.

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  18. Blue Bear says:

    Sorry, I find it disgusting. You didn’t become pregnant on your own and it isn’t your “accomplishment” alone. It is a private thing between you and your partner, even if your partner is IVF. There isn’t a thing attractive about a bloated belly and pushing it out in front of the rest of us is narcissism in the extreme. We don’t CARE if you’re pregnant just as you didn’t care when we were! Cover it up already!

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  19. Jean Burkhardt says:

    I agree-cover it up ladies. There is nothing shameful or disgusting about a pregnant belly BUT we who do not know you-don’t need to see it. I had my children back in the 60’s and we had so many cute maternity clothes to wear. Call me old fashioned but that’s the way I think!!
    So ditto for the AMEN’s!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  20. Norma Byrd says:

    And the natives in Borneo walk around starkers, but that doesn’t mean it should be acceptable here. There are many sex-related customs in other parts of the world that are considered the norm (such as female mutilation, killing girl babies, forced sterilization, etc. ad infinitum, but we have our own social mores. Yes, they change with the times, but simple courtesy to your fellow man (and woman) should still prevail, and no matter what anyone wants to make of it, exposed bulging bellies ain’t pretty.

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  21. maxie says:

    Pregnant women are in my face everyday. I own a bagel business and lunch establishment. I loved being pregnant and I felt sexy during my pregnancies. However, the clothing was more discreet. The young woman that I encounter show it all. They are proud of their accomplishment and want the world to see. Some of them might as well bare all because you can see every bump and lump through their tight tee shirts and tank tops. Pregnancy is a miracle, but cover up just a wee bit more.

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  22. Marsha Calhoun says:

    Generally, I wish that people, of every size and shape and sex, would be a little more restrained in their displays of flesh – but I have to say that pregnant bellies in particular don’t bother me more than women in thong bikinis or very low-cut blouses or men in shorts. I think they are kind of cute – at least there is some reason for the temporary distortion. We certainly do respond to fleshly displays, don’t we, especially when they are “up close and personal.” But isn’t everyone on the beach up close and personal (that is, within sight)? What’s the alternative? How do we avoid body shame when we believe that parts of our bodies are too unattractive to display? How do we choose what we want to hide and what we are willing to show? Is the visual world to be restricted to the young, the firm, the unpregnant, the pretty? These are questions worth thinking about, and I thank you for evoking them.

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  23. cubie131 says:

    I personally am just tired of seeing scantily clad and inappropriately dressed people period-male, female, old, young, pregnant and not pregnant. I don’t want to see people’s underwear, pajamas, bellies, breasts, behinds-whatever. People need to have a little more self love and self respect and show the world that they care about themselves. And there are those who need to realize that showing all God gave them to the world isn’t sexy or appropriate either. Some days I just wonder- what happened?

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  24. charlene says:

    I don’t know how many times you can say “Amen” to this, but clearly three is not enough! Amen,Amen,Amen,Amen

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  25. Lydia says:

    I think you are making too much of this. In fact, I think you are behaving in exactly the way that young ‘stomach-barers’ are reacting to.

    When I was a brand-new teen (it was probably around 1970 or ’71), a friend told me about her uncle’s pregnant wife. She was from Argentina, I believe, and wore bikinis throughout her pregnancy. The Argentinian mother-to-be said that South Americans were proud of their pregnancies and saw their changing bodies as natural. Women with girth, women with leg dimples, women with sagging breast all wore bikinis in South America: why not pregnant women?

    I have to say, I’m too modest to do what some women are doing, flouting their ‘bumps.’ [we also never used that term during my pregnancies in the ’80s.] However, I believe that body acceptance during pregnancy, middle age, senior citizenhood, chemo, weight gain or whenever, is a healthy advancement in society.

    One other comment: I work with people who are facing problems with employment. Women are still facing discrimination for pregnancy, and not just in getting a new job.

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    • Geri says:

      Hi Lydia,

      I absolutely agree it’s important to accept our changing bodies. I am simply saying I don’t need to have their bellies up close and personal.

      Geri

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  26. Wendie says:

    This also bothers me, and not just with pregnant women. I was recently at the NJ shore, and 9 out of 10 overweight (some grossly) women (and we’re not talking teens here) were wearing bikinis. I don’t get it! Do they not own mirrors! I am overweight myself, and the thought of baring all that rippling flesh makes my hair stand on end. I’m not talking about the need to wear a burkah, but pleeeease! Show a little modesty and good taste! A tiny bikini is not enough coverage on a 200-plus-pound woman. It just looks wrong. I guess men don’t have the same issues…. but a giant man belly is not great to look at either.

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    • Judy L says:

      In total agreement with your sentiments. I once was at a hotel pool at a Thai resort. Most of the guests were European and of course were sunbathing topless. I was disgusted at the number of middle-age and even elderly women (late 60’s, early 70’s) who were topless and quite floppy while their husbands ogled all the younger European women (30’s, 40’s) who were also topless but firm. My two friends and I (all American) were humored by it all but really we didn’t care to look at these old, saggy women !!

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  27. BeckyIA says:

    Double Amen! I do NOT need to see a pregnant belly encased in a skin-tight t-shirt. Gee, that’s great that you’re pregnant, but I don’t want to share it, ‘k? And I totally agree with Ms. Anita: Einstein or serial killer…flip a coin, but please, please, PLEASE, cover up the belly!!!! And I agree with Ms. Sharon: where has modesty gone? I’m struggling with my own menopausal weight gain, which I would never consider exposing to the world, so why would I want to be subjected to another bulging belly?

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    • Geri says:

      Triple Amen! 🙂

      Geri

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    • Geri says:

      Becky,

      I like your Double Amen!

      Geri

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  28. Norma Byrd says:

    AMEN! I am totally disgusted to the point of nausea by all the photos of huge bare bellies. Yes, pregnancy is a wonderful thing and quite necessary for the continuation of humanity, but what happened to good taste? How about if everytime we passed a news stand or opened a magazine we had to look at multiple photos of the enormous breadbaskets of obese men? I mean, they must be proud of all that flesh or they wouldn’t be toting it around in front. Maybe those guys should insist on being photographed au natural too.

    As is the case with most “celebrities” they seem to think the whole world wants to know everything they do, including getting pregnant. This is simply an extension of their incredible egos and yet another example of attention-getting. They could all disappear and I’d never know (or care) that most had even been here.

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  29. Diane says:

    This is a split-decision reply. On one hand, I am happy that today’s women feel so very proud of their pregnant bodies. I was born several years before you, Geri, and I, too, wore those maternity tops that hid everything. I felt comfortable in them. I would never have been caught in a bikini. I took one of my bikini tops and sewed a long “skirt” on it to hide my ever growing belly. And I walked the beach each morning for exercise. Now days I am subjected to pregnant women in all sorts of dress and undress…………in person and in magazines and on the Internet. I personally am a bit weary of it. All the young movie stars in full make up and hair all done and with much airbrushing do not represent the typical pregnant woman. Times change……and I guess we must accept clothing changes along with it.

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  30. Anita Madsen says:

    You expressed quite diplomatically what I have been observing and feeling for several months. Pregnancy is an intimate and personal event between a man and a woman, not a public event to be flaunted as some sort of communal achievement. For all I know the little darling in that bulging belly could grow up to be the next Einstein or a serial killer.

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  31. Sharon Greenthal says:

    I have to laugh as I read this because there is right this minute a segment on Good Morning America about “birth papparazzi” who are hired to take official photos during the birth of a baby.

    I agree that there’s way too much “baby bump” hoopla. Of course every pregnancy is a miracle, but come on. I don’t care how great you look, modesty, especially at this time, is welcome!

    I blame this all on Demi Moore’s “Vanity Fair” cover back in 1991. I too was pregnant but NEVER could have been on the cover of, well, anything!

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