Evening Standard - ES Magazine
In the final, er, stretch of her pregnancy, Susie Lau dissects the stream of gratuitous body chat targeted at her ever-swelling bulbous belly
‘Look — watermelon! Looks like your belly!’ When the woman, who is ringing up your feta cheese and oregano crisps in the Aphrodite supermarket in Corfu is pointing out how outrageously big your third trimester pregnancy bump is, there comes a point when you just have to smile weakly and meekly agree. The watermelon is indeed oval, pointy and even in its sun-drenched, juicy, ripe state probably not quite equivalent to the weight I’ve put on. She means well though. Her daughter apparently just gave birth a week ago. She knows the end is nigh, hence why likening bellies to giant fruit becomes fair game. Incidentally, hacking into the watermelon is now giving me nightmarish visions of C-section surgery. I can’t bring myself to eat it.
Throughout this entire second pregnancy, due to it showing far earlier than my first (which was to be expected) and that technically yes, the shape is more bulbous and pronounced this time round, it has invited a whole host of commentary that while harmless in its intention, cumulatively wears me down.
‘What are you having?! Twins?!? Are you sure you’re not having twins???’ ‘I don’t envy you at all…’ (said with a petrified glance). ‘You’re not due until October?!? Good luck…’
And they’re delivered by complete strangers. In the strangest of circumstances. Like the time I was checking out my new neighbourhood and attempting to enjoy the novelty of having a pond nearby, with actual rowing boats for hire. Neither my partner nor I are especially adept at rowing but that’s not the point when you’re up for gentle local jaunts. That is until the man looking after the ageing boats (yours for £10 for half an hour’s worth of pathetic rowing) audibly gasped with guffawing shock when I told him I was ‘only’ six months pregnant. ‘What have you been feeding it?’ he shrieked. ‘Ten Big Macs a day,’ I wanted to say. But instead I just shuffled off, waddled on to the pontoon and gingerly lowered myself into said unstable boat to row away in abject embarrassment. In a small, pitiful voice, I asked that one question that should really be locked in the said-out-loud sin bin: ‘Am I really that big?’ to which my partner obviously auto-replied with an emphatic, ‘No.’ Even Nico, my daughter, had a stab at comforting me. ‘You’re not that big.’ It’s quite worrying when a five-year-old is already making societal cue judgement calls on how to handle body insecurities.
There are other remarks that are given with the slightly unhelpful nuggets of old wives tales that seem to contradict each other. And another tiny portion of comments also manifests from our secret internal stream of judgement. When a body balloons so prominently with 5kg of amniotic fluid, placenta and baby, for the average onlooker that stream of judgement gets to break free, flimsily disguised as jovial advice and hearty congratulations.
To be fair, I may have invited all the gratuitous body chat with my decision to house the bump in form-fitting stretch mesh Louisa Ballou dresses and volume-augmenting Simone Rocha (the line from the press notes of her SS22 collection, ‘baby teeth and a lack of sleep’, is firmly lodged inside my head). I’m not wall-flowering my way to labour. And I am giving my belly a pat and a rub every so often because that’s just what you do when you’re growing this taut, bulbous… yes, watermelon. Come at me with a more original body analogy and maybe that will perk me up.
“Hacking into the watermelon is giving me nightmarish visions of C-section surgery. I can’t bring myself to eat it”