37 Weeks: linea nigra, underbelly, celebrity reproduction

One week until our mandatory ultrasound: I’m feeling grumpy about it.  I know, most people are dying to get that first glimpse of the kid-in-utero, but…  I’m just not excited. I didn’t want an ultrasound. I don’t think one is needed. I know it’s just to cover the doctora’s arse if we have to transfer to a clinic. And I’m fairly certain from the baby’s typical reaction to doppler that it’ll make the baby really, really uncomfortable. Plus, it’ll mean hanging out in a waiting room full of other pregnant ladies, which I find oddly intimidating.

I now have a body part that I’ve never had before: an underbelly. I can’t see it. It’s a subject of intense curiosity to me. I pulled the bathroom mirror down from the wall to have a look at it and — wonder of wonders!– I actually have a linea nigra! I didn’t know!  It’s very faint, but it’s definitely there: a thin tannish line that goes up to my belly button.

Rumor has it that at this point, the baby keeps getting bigger, but the amount of amniotic fluid gets smaller, so my belly may not be growing any further. I hope that’s true– I have miraculously avoided stretch marks so far, and if I don’t get any bigger than this, I’m home free, right?

I’ve lately noticed something strange. I don’t have a television, and I avoid keeping up with pop culture or the celebrity milieu, but a side effect of keeping my thumb on the pregnancy blog feeds is that some of it leaks through anyway. Namely, the tremendous amount of commentary on the pregnancy of a music star named Beyonce, and a reality-TV character named Michelle Duggar.  The amount of interest the public seems to have in the pregnancies of some random strangers they’ve never met… is astonishing.

A single fold in a dress for Beyonce suddenly had hundreds, perhaps thousands of people speculating that she was faking a pregnancy. I’m guessing these people have never, ever had to wear maternity clothes, because I’ve puzzled over the pictures they cite, and… that seriously happens to me every time I wear really high-waisted leggings or pants, which is all the time since my belly started protruding. They don’t make slips for that, so any time I move, my shirt/dress gets hung up on my waistband in weird ways. Oh, the indignity. And yet, nobody has suggested that I am faking my pregnancy and using a surrogate.

Mrs. Duggar is apparently the matriarch of a large evangelical family with 19 kids already. She recently announced that she was pregnant again, and then shortly thereafter had to announce that she had miscarried. A miscarriage is sad enough without having to send out a press release about it. But somehow, massive numbers of people feel the need to make incredibly snarky comments about it. Given her age, the odds of miscarrying were pretty high. I can’t imagine that makes it any less traumatic.

So here’s what I want to know: What is it about pregnancy, or perhaps celebrity pregnancy, that negates the usual rules about basic civility and manners?  No thinking person would make such comments about a pregnancy that had resulted in a live child, would they? I mean… you don’t see anywhere near as much celebrity gossip about celebrities’ already-born children. I’m sure it exists to some extent, but I think people feel much more constrained once they can actually see the child in question. It’s hard to say something mean about a cute curly-haired baby, but it’s apparently really easy to say something mean about a baby nobody has seen yet, who is still just a treasured kick and squirm in his mother’s belly. If one of Mrs. Duggar’s older children had died, hardly anyone would have had the horrific bad taste to say the sorts of things they felt free to say about the child she miscarried. Why is that? What is the difference that makes it ok to write off the gestating child (and the pregnant woman!) as a person, but not ok to do the same to the child who has made a successful exit into the world?

I think the same phenomenon exists, albeit in a subtler form, for non-celebrity pregnancy and childbearing. We feel a certain liberty to speculate about pregnant ladies, but not about mothers with visible children. Or maybe mothers with visible children are just less interesting– the mystery is gone!  As long as a woman is still pregnant, the gossip still goes around– was it planned or unplanned? What was she thinking getting pregnant again! Who is that kid’s daddy? How are they going to afford a kid? So irresponsible, for someone with her health problems to get pregnant! And yet… most of the time, once the kid is actually born, the OMG CUTE!! instinct kicks in, and it’s no longer acceptable to speculate about whether the kid was the result of a birth control accident, etc. And that’s because it obviously doesn’t matter. It never mattered. Why did it take the sight of the child’s beautiful little fingers to shut you up?

 

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