“Sure, it’s magical and your hair looks great, but your nipples are leaking and you may have hemorrhoids, and we need to make it okay to talk openly about these things, too.”
So you’re pregnant. If you’re wondering whether all the glowing, moms-to-be on Instagram are depicting the full breadth of the pregnant experience, think again.
Meet Los Angeles-based woman Caitlin Benson who recently birthed a baby girl named Elliott. Like so many of us current-or-formerly-pregnant humans, Benson dealt with a lot of inconvenient growing pains, rude remarks, hormonal outbursts and other trials during pregnancy. But unlike most of us, she was actually honest about it on social media, documenting her experience using the hashtag #LetsBeHonestaboutPregnancy on her Instagram account @cait.not.kate.
Even from the beginning, Benson’s glowing photos were complimented by her adorably self-depracating captions.
Pre-party conversations: Scott: why are you grabbing a razor? You can’t shave your legs right now. We need to leave. Me: oh, I’m not shaving my legs. This dress has a slit up one side so I’m shaving one strip of one leg. Scott:🤔🙄 I don’t know if this is a new high or a new low. *I’m crushing this pregnancy thing*🙌🏻 #Iwastootired #letsbehonestaboutpregnancy
And this was just the start. For nine months Caitlin regaled us with humorous quips about her changing body, including her… pooping habits.
“I think there’s a level of honesty and openness missing from pregnancy especially in the age of social media. It’s not all glory pictures in flower crowns gazing lovingly at a burgeoning bump,” says Benson. “Sure, it’s magical and your hair looks great, but your nipples are leaking and you may have hemorrhoids, and we need to make it okay to talk openly about these things, too.”
17 weeks pregnant. Baby is the size of a 17 week fetus….or some fruit or vegetable I don't really care about. Exciting changes include: peeing a little when I sneeze, a weird fondness for broccoli, and finally being able to poop thanks to Metamucil. #pregnancyfacts #17weekspregnant #letsbehonestaboutpregnancy
“I think there’s a level of honesty and openness missing from pregnancy especially in the age of social media. It’s not all glory pictures in flower crowns gazing lovingly at a burgeoning bump.”
Sure, Benson’s frankness might seem crass or, dare we say, unladylike to some, but we find her cavalier attitude refreshing and helpful in a culture that doesn’t encourage open conversation about the real emotional and physical changes that come with pregnancy.
“Self-care in pregnancy and postpartum shouldn’t be whispered about in hallways at work,” says Benson. “It’s time we just had very frank discussions about our bodies and all the good and the bad/weird that we go through during this journey. I figured posting videos and images to Instagram was a lighthearted way of addressing these things.”
Other highlights from Benson’s feed included play-by-play recaps of the unsolicited advice and uninvited touching she experienced as a pregnant woman.
“Pregnancy is a very outwardly-showing ‘condition’ and people always felt like they had the right to rub my belly. Yes, people touched me. Mostly co-workers, but I had a couple strangers at the grocery store and one man on the street who felt entitled to rub my belly because he was expecting a grandchild soon so he ‘understood’ what I was going through,” she says.
Couldn't stop laughing @fscscott this morning. #20weekspregnant. Pros: maternity clothes help you look visibly pregnant which means strangers will now approach you and touch/ talk to your belly. The best way to discourage this? When a stranger rubs your belly, rub theirs right back! They'll jump back and be all "What the hell?" And you'll nod and say "Exactly!" #letsbehonestaboutpregnancy
Yesterday a coworker asked if I had any cravings. I said that I just really loved fruits right now. Watermelon. Blueberries. Whatever. She said "Oh, you should have jicama instead of watermelon. There's too much sugar in watermelon." And that would be a good suggestion if I asked for advice, were diabetic, or loved jicama. But I didn't, I'm not, and I don't. So today I'm eating this donut and hoping she walks by my office. And last night I ate a whole mango over the sink with the same wild ferocity that Khaleesi ate that horse heart in season one of game of thrones. And I don't care what anyone thinks. #letsbehonestaboutpregnancy
Any formerly pregnant woman can attest to the never-ending stream of advice to which you’re subject. And no topic is off the table. People weigh in on all aspects of your life, and your unborn child’s life, too.
“I got advice about everything from what to eat and how to induce labor, to what type of drugs I should ask for at the hospital,” says Benson. “When you do your own thing during pregnancy people will act like you are genuinely insane if you don’t follow their advice. It’s like they’ve been through it and know what’s best for you. My thoughts though? Good for you, not for me.”
Other #LetsBeHonestaboutPregnancy posts took a more serious tone. For example, this one which touched on the unspoken rules and “teams” that pregnant women and mothers are expected to take.
If one more person asks me if I'm going to be a "latched mama" or a "baby wearer" or an "anti vaxxer," I'm going to lose my mind. Putting women in these boxes is so unnecessary. You know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna have a baby and raise it. I don't need a label. Also, let's stop acting like these concepts were invented by some hip white woman. Native Americans and slaves working in the fields have been wearing babies on their bodies just to be able to work. And PS- putting babies in boxes to sleep isn't new either. Poor people have been doing that for ages because they had no other options. Not because it was a hip trend in Finland. These labels are oppressive. You do you. Have a baby. Raise your baby how you like. Be whatever kind of mom you like. 🖕🏻to the haters. #letsbehonestaboutpregnancy
As can be expected, other #LetsBeHonestaboutPregnancy posts were focused on Benson’s changing body.
Despite the challenges, Benson insists that she loved pregnancy.
“I felt really connected to my body even if we were going through uncharted territory together. I just embraced it all– the 29 pounds I gained, the great hair and nails, the endless farting and constipation,” she says. “You take the good and bad together and once you accept it and can laugh at yourself, the easier it makes everything.”
The view from above. My pants no longer fit so that means that dumb hair tie trick and belly band turns every bathroom visit into the most embarrassing production. Also, my face is not in this pic because I have hormonal acne like woah right now. Exciting updates include finally being able to distinguish baby kicks and movement from gas. 👍🏻☺ #letsbehonestaboutpregnancy #babygirlbenson #babybenson
For some people, pregnancy is documented by taking a smiling photo, caressing one’s bump and holding a chalkboard sign that depicts which fruit best represents the size of your fetus. More power to them!
These images don’t capture the pain, discomfort and exhaustion of pregnancy, though. Where is the morning sickness and fear, the apprehension and confusion, the frustration and insecurity? For the most part, the discomfort and full experience of pregnancy has been edited out in exchange for picture-perfect, basketball-shaped bellies and captions that talk about how very #blessed we are.
All except for Benson’s, that is.
We're in the third trimester and I'm just a girl…standing in front of a pizza…asking it to love me. I have heartburn like woah. 🍕😭 I'm also peeing nearly every hour because I continue essentially water boarding myself. AND I might go into debt if I go into Target one more time because tiny baby girl clothes are so cute it kills me. 😩#letsbehonestaboutpregnancy #babybenson
“There were people who told me I was over-sharing– to be more discreet about my body. But that just fueled my fire even more to speak openly about everything,” she says. “Pregnancy shouldn’t be this time where our body is a complete mystery and you feel like you need to Google your symptoms to ensure you’re not the only weirdo on the planet who is constipated at 20 weeks pregnant.”
Benson’s parting advice for pregnant women?
“Do your own thing. Find your tribe and ask for help when you need it. Everything else? Ignore it,” she says.
For the record, we’re all looking forward to Benson’s inevitable #LetsBeHonestaboutMotherhood posts featuring sweet baby Elliott. Keep up with Benson at @cait.not.kate on Instagram.
"We shall not cease from exploration; and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time."-T.S. Eliot. So this is the beginning of my story with Elliott. Chapter one of the greatest book that has yet to be written. Looking forward to all of our exploring, Ellie. #elliottrosamund #365daysofelliott #dearelliott
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