#Moms At Work

How Bare Bellies Are Liberating To-Be Mothers From Pregnancy Stigmas

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How many bare pregnant bellies have you seen on the streets, in families, around you? It’s a rarity in India to see women walk around with their stomachs freely on display, let alone when they are expecting. The irony of it is laughable. A girl’s journey to becoming a woman is jammed with expectations of ‘settling down,’ marriage, domesticity and eventual motherhood. Those who do reach that checkpoint, strangely enough, are told to keep their pregnancy hush-hush. Or at least only exhibit what’s “decent”.

‘It’s vulgar to see so much of your belly hanging out. Why don’t you cover it?’ ‘Drape your saree properly so too much tummy doesn’t show.’ ‘Is the baby doing well? Oh no no no, I didn’t want so much detail about what’s happening in your uterus, yuck.’

To-be mothers are exposed to this and so much other ridiculousness. More often than not, it comes from nosy relatives and elders who initially prodded them towards having children and enquired, ‘Good news kab de rahi ho?’ With the internet, even strangers feel entitled to intrude in the comments of a bare belly post, telling a happy mother such nudity is not becoming of her.

If motherhood is seen as something life-affirming, then why does the journey to it prompt aversion? Must women embracing their pregnancy in all its glory be shamed into concealing their happiness? Why should celebrations of motherhood be restricted behind closed doors?

Of course, bare pregnant bellies are not the only or absolute way to empower a woman on her motherhood journey. But should those who choose to recognise it this way be saddled with misogyny, stigma and sexist expectation?

Here are some celebrities who put their bare pregnant bellies out and proud on display: 

1. Aakriti Ahuja 

Aakriti Ahuja and Aparshakti Khurana are the latest Tinseltown couple to announce a new addition to their family. “Doing our bit to add to this Baby Boomer generation,” she wrote on Instagram on June 4 alongside a picture of Khurana kissing her belly as she stood looking on happily, dressed in underclothes and a shirt.

2. Lisa Haydon 

Haydon, who is pregnant a third time right now, has never been one to shy away from documenting motherhood in full. The highs, the lows, the curves, the emotions, she routinely gives fans a peek into her pregnant life. Her heavy belly, with her “little woman” inside, has been the star of several social media posts the past few months.

As for clothing during pregnancy, Haydon has previously said anything goes. Her mantra “If nothing fits don’t wear it” is one that if adopted would bring more women unabashed comfort those nine months.

3. Anushka Sharma 

Star mom Anushka Sharma, who earlier this year welcomed her first child Vamika with husband Virat Kohli, kept fans glued to her journey into motherhood with glimpses on Instagram from time to time, concluding with a maternity shoot for Vogue. They have been largely private about their daughter, asserting her agency and consent in being exposed to their public lives when she grows up will be supreme.

During her pregnancy, Sharma accompanied Kohli on his cricketing tours while other times he assisted her with pregnancy yoga. Here’s how they balanced work and love.

Anushka Sharma performs Shirshasana

Anushka Sharma performs Shirshasana

4. Kareena Kapoor 

Kapoor, mother to two boys, is another megastar who normalised maternity shoots in Bollywood. Despite the controversial mix of reactions she got both times, she embraced her body with joy and ever-present fitness enthusiasm. She has been vocal in the past about mainstreaming women’s experiences during pregnancy and choice of working during maternity breaks.

Why should a woman be embarrassed about her body when she’s pregnant? This is such a joyous experience; I’m loving the idea of sharing this pregnancy,” she had said at the time of Taimur’s birth. Take motherhood tips from her.

5. Kishwer Merchant 

Merchant broke several barriers first when she married a man younger than her and then got pregnant at 40. Where her ‘late pregnancy‘ announcement raised several eyebrows, she simply stated, “40 is the new 30.” Merchant’s choices have iterated that neither motherhood nor womanhood is defined by age, and she continues on that pregnancy path with spunk.

From maternity hacks to spending time around loved ones, Merchant is candidly talking about her journey – “emotional, dull .. mixed with nervousness, mood swings” – and we’re here for it.