I was recently involved in a very friendly and supportive debate on Twitter, after posting a question about supportive/ shaping underwear in pregnancy. I had NO idea that so many would be so against it. I was genuinely surprised that out of everyone on my timeline, only one lady had worn them in a previous pregnancy, and one expressed an interest in trying them. The whole conversation boiled down to one thing for me: body image.
I have spent years of being ‘The Fat One’. I was bullied at school. I was put on diets as a child, and told that I couldn’t eat the same things as my sisters. I was teased and I was ridiculed on a daily basis. Imagine my delight when I discovered the power that could be had by with-holding food from my body! Of course, its not that simple, but in a nutshell I have spent years of my life being on a diet. Worrying about my weight. Wanting to be different. Wanting a different shell to carry myself around in. One that fitted in with this society’s view of an acceptable looking person. One that did not fill me with shame and disgust. I have reached some low points in this battle, but pregnancy has to have been the absolute tipping point for me, in so many ways.
During my first pregnancy, I took the ‘eating for two’ sentiment straight to heart and indulged in the lack of morning sickness (Oh! How I envy that pregnant girl now!). I gained weight, but was happy. Until the remarks began again. This time at work, and not at school. Even still, I knew that the baby I was growing was important enough to brush my feelings aside, and luckily the weight fell off after she was born. Subsequent pregnancies have not been as calorie laden and my weight gain has not really bothered me. Having children has meant that my own issues surrounding weight have been pushed to one side and as a result of not thinking about them much I’ve managed to maintain a weight I am generally happy with.
I usually have a body that I can dress fairly well to hide the bits I don’t like. Little touches like a cardigan to cover the bit at the back that I’d like to change but know by now never will.
A belt to pull in the dress to change it’s shape so that certain little bumps are hidden for the night. Yes, supportive underwear to hoist me up a little, just for the evening. You learn to dress your shape, feel happy in what you wear and confident in yourself a little more. So that if you catch sight of yourself in a mirror, or someone takes a photograph of you the result is not as horrifying as you might have imagined. We all like to feel nice and good about ourselves, right?
And then along comes pregnancy. Your body is no longer your own. Your lumps and bumps expand. Quite rightly so. Often what you eat and how much you exercise will only delay the inevitable. In the end, you will waddle and you will feel enormous. So what does that do to body image?
You buy maternity clothes that are designed to support your growing bump. To hold it close. To protect it. To allow for it to grow even more. To show it off. To hide it. Whatever you feel like doing with your bump. But what about everywhere else? Women put on weight all over their bodies, not just on their bellies. We can’t all wear skinny jeans with a bump band. We expand. We puff up. We are human. We may not like it, either. What then? Is there where support underwear for pregnancy comes in?
I would say yes. I wear such garments in ‘real life’, so why not in pregnancy? I know that my view is not shared widely amongst pregnant ladies, and that there is a view we should let it all hang out, embrace our new curves and delight in the changes our bodies are presenting us with. But I can’t. I don’t want to. And I don’t have to.
So this week, I received some Mama Spanx. The focus of our debate over on Twitter. And I have to admit that I really only bought them (partially) to prove that there is nothing wrong with support underwear in pregnancy. Ladies, they are not as scary as you might think! They are in NO WAY as supportive as normal everyday Spanx. They are a lot softer and stretchier. The belly panel is as thin as a normal pair of tights (with less support than a pair of maternity tights from H&M that I own). The sides are slightly thicker but, again, nowhere near as thick as normal Spanx. They do hold you in a little, but only like a pair of tights would. The legs do NOT cut off circulation. They are the same thickness as the sides and there is no hem at the ends so they fit smoothly on the leg and they do not dig in.
Mama Spanx are a little like wearing granny knickers. They offer a little more support than cotton briefs but they are no wonder pants when you are used to normal Spanx. But guess what? They smooth you down a little. They do that job I like, which is hiding bumps and lumps. With the right dress, I can wear these Mama Spanx and I can feel a little more in control of my uncontrollable body. My growing bump is in no way effected. They are less restrictive than my maternity jeggings. My verdict?
I will wear what is comfortable, yes. But I will also wear what makes me feel good about myself too. At a time where my body is not my own, and the changes are so rapid and so visible, I want to feel nice sometimes. Yes, I will slob out in pyjamas too, but sometimes I want to step outside feeling like a million dollars too.