23 October 2006

Why all the fuss about bumps?

This blog is based upon a subject, which for many women compromises one of the most significant periods of their lives. Pregnancy is not only something that most women will experience at least once during their lifetime but also a prominent topic of discussion in our everyday lives. Whilst our popular culture is currently saturated with images of celebrity pregnant bodies, thin postpartum bodies and images of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ motherhood, such an intensive focus on the pregnant body is only a recent phenomenon. Not only has pregnancy become culturally fetishised but it has also engendered the creation of a term to symbolise its popular representation, ‘baby bump’ or the ‘visible manifestation’ of a pregnancy.

In 1953 when Lucille Ball appeared on television pregnant, the word ‘pregnant’ was rarely uttered publicly given the implication that pregnant women are sexed bodies, they have sex, and their ‘baby bumps’ are only a reminder. Demi Moore created controversy with her nude, pregnant photograph on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine in 1991. Dripping in diamonds, Moore’s photograph evidenced that the pregnant body is a body to be looked at and not hidden beneath infantalising maternity frocks. With this knowledge, I realised that as pregnancy becomes increasingly visible and technologised, this has opened the door to thinking about the fetus as ‘person’ in public culture and particularly, the focus on ‘baby bumps’ in visibly pregnant bodies constructs the fetus as public property.

A term that has only been used in the last two years, ‘baby bump’ is increasingly becoming the defining feature of a pregnant woman’s body. First entering the Western cultural lexicon in 1987 in a British style article in The Guardian, a passing reference to maternity wear not looking as good ‘after the bump has disappeared’ seemed innocuous at the time. As celebrity pregnancy is celebrated in a global tabloid culture, it seems as though there is no other word to describe a growing belly other than ‘bump’. Not only does the ‘bump’ recognise a pregnancy but it also symbolises a growing fetus that is thought of as a separate person or ‘baby’ even before the birth. The ‘bump’ particularly takes on a life of its own in the media, almost to the point where popular culture forgets about the existence of the woman.

The Baby Bump Project is devoted to telling your stories of pregnancy, how you coped with a changing body, the beautiful bits of pregnancy and motherhood (and the not-so beautiful bits) and sharing your 'bump' photos from pregnancy and even the 'bumps' postpartum.

How to share your story

If you would like to share your own experiences of having a 'bump' with other mums-to-be and mums-already, email your story to me on babybumpproject@yahoo.com.au and I will post your message for others mums to read and learn. Feel free to include any handy hints for coping with the pressure (body or otherwise).

Make sure to include images of your bump or your body during pregnancy or postpartum so we can all share in how everyday mums look and feel. If you have a Flickr account, join our group The Baby Bump Project and post yourself in the Bump Gallery (otherwise send me your images and I can post them for you).

Share in the backlash. Talk about the bump.

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The Baby Bump Project by Meredith Nash is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.