Earlier this year, an Instagram photo shared by Chontel Duncan — a 27-year-old fitness trainer from Bisbane, Australia — went viral. You may even remember it: In the photo, Duncan bumped her pregnant belly against the also pregnant belly of her friend Nat, to show just how differently women can carry their babies. Duncan was 21.5 weeks pregnant with her first child at the time, while her friend Nat was four weeks further along in her third pregnancy.
While many of Duncan’s followers applauded her for posting the photo, she also caught a fair amount of flack for it, and some even questioned whether she and her baby were healthy.
Now, several weeks after giving birth to a healthy son, Duncan and her friend are again showing the world that “healthy” looks different for everyone. On May 19, Duncan and her friend Nat recreated their now-infamous viral photo — this time, with a photo that showed their two healthy babies, cradled in each of their arms.
“Had a lovely surprise visit from Nat & baby Charlie,” the caption read. “Omg his baby blue eyes are so beautiful. Wish I could have cuddled & kissed him but I’m not 100% well yet (hence my rank face). Two healthy incredible pregnancies & now two healthy baby boys.”
Back in March, Duncan said she posted the photo because she wanted to show that every body is unique, and we shouldn’t judge each other based on appearance.
“I thought it’d be very obvious that we would carry differently,” Duncan, 27, told PEOPLE magazine in March. “I’m clearly extremely tall and hold a lot more muscle mass. Plus it was [my friend] Nat’s third pregnancy. It’s my first.”
The fact that Duncan had any explaining to do at all is sign of a bigger problem, however. It seems that as soon as a woman announces she’s pregnant, her body is instantly examined, assessed and, in many cases, judged. People ask questions they have no business asking about things like weight gain and whether or not you’ve lost your mucus plug (I mean, excuse me?!). And everyone has an opinion — and not necessarily about how the woman feels, but about how she looks. Either you aren’t showing enough, or you’re showing too much and people ask if you’re having twins. People tell you that you look tired. You look too thin. Your calves are too thick. The list goes on.
When I announced that I was pregnant with my second son, someone told me she suspected as much, because my “face looked full.” Ummm … thanks?
And the body assessments don’t stop after birth, either. People comment on how skinny/exhausted/pale/full/puffy you look. And then there is the ever-dreaded question of “are you pregnant?” after you’ve birthed the child. The first time someone asked me “when I was due” months after my son was born (yes, it happened more than once), I sobbed in my car for an hour. I have since gotten used to it.
As mothers, the health of our baby is always top of mind. ALWAYS. And there are so many other risks to a mother’s health than how she is carrying her baby, such as postpartum depression and other post-natal disorders. So maybe instead of examining and judging the size of a woman’s belly, we should instead take a closer look at what’s going on in her heart and mind. Honestly, would do us all a world of good.
But until that day comes, I’ll just say this: Congrats, Chontel and Nat on the birth of your healthy and beautiful babies — and for reminding us all of what really matters most.