I was recently searching through online news stories about fetal movement as part of my PhD research, and was interested to come across the comments beneath a video (shared on youtube, and reported in the press) that showed a baby flip over in the mum’s abdomen. This was off the back of a blog that I wrote for my university department about the picture-perfect ‘banner bump’ that accompanies nearly every article about pregnancy - http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/press/think-leicester/health-and-medicine/2017/pregnancy-in-landscape-2013-the-rise-of-the-banner-bump (media representations of bumps are becoming a bit of an obsession).
Here is a link to the article in the Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3570592/Mother-captures-moment-baby-rolls-womb-39-weeks.html
And here are the comments that featured below.
For the record, this bump does not strike me as being particularly ‘weird’. Leh astutely comments that the woman has ‘thousands of stretchmarks’. Well yes – so do many women. And the ‘thin’ skin, so ‘different to the norm’, is also something you see a fair bit as a midwife. Depending on how many babies a woman has had, her pre-pregnancy body shape, and the kind of sport she has done (or not), the muscles around the baby will be more or less developed, and the skin will be more or less stretched. Incidentally, abdomens like the one in the video are a joy to palpate when you are a student, because you can feel the baby so clearly!
The fact that the stretch marks stand out for Leh and Carly – to the extent that Carly questions whether the video is actually real – is likely due to the fact that most of the bump photos in the public eye are so bloody samey. All we ever see is small, blemish-free bumps (often airbrushed), so that 'real' images like this stand out.
You could say that this is no different from the images of perfect bodies that saturate every aspect of our lives. Why should pregnant women be exempt from the pressure to look perfect any more than the rest of us? Because they’re growing a blimmin’ baby, that’s why. And they’ve already got enough on their plates.
And it doesn’t stop at bumps. Very often, when I’m supporting women to breastfeed, our conversation starts with the woman apologising for her ‘weird’ (i.e. totally normal) breasts. I cannot say this enough: WEIRD BREASTS ARE NORMAL. ‘Normal’ breasts, i.e. small, perfectly symmetrical, pert, peaches and cream, hair-free, forward-focused boobs are just one variation of normal. Everyone else has boobs that loll capriciously a bit to the right, a bit to the left, up, down, under the armpit, with funny-coloured, often flat nipples, and it makes me weep to think that so many women have spent their whole lives thinking that their breasts were the odd ones.
I’m not sure what the solution is. I wish everyone could see a few hundred naked tummies and boobs before deciding whether or not theirs was weird - it’s a great moment when you realise THERE IS NO NORMAL. Maybe we just need more saunas, I don’t know. Answers on a postcard, please.