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Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

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Kate Middleton and Me: Pregnancy in the Age of Celebrity Motherhood

Suddenly, I feel like I have something in common with the people in Us Weekly.

A friend of mine recently told me that when she was pregnant she often wore a t-shirt that read "Please respect my privacy at this difficult time." I don't think I would have gotten this joke before my own pregnancy but boy, now I do.

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No matter who you are or who dresses you, there's only so much you can do to mitigate against the inherent ridiculousness of being pregnant.

Pregnancy is both an unprecedentedly vulnerable and unprecedentedly public time for every woman who experiences it. People initiate conversations that range from pleasant to creepily invasive to starkly existential. Your uterus goes from being a fist-size internal organ to being visible through your clothes. Worse, this new feature of your body's landscape—disgustingly called the "baby bump"—becomes the occasional recipient of unwanted fondling from well-meaning but boundary-challenged strangers. If, like me, you've consumed a lot of celebrity gossip in the last decade, you might find that a previously specious-seeming slogan has begun to ring true.

Stars—in this one respect, and maybe this one alone—are just like us.

When I look at photos of Duchess Kate Middleton, who's due in a week (she's seven weeks ahead of me, a fact any literate carbon-based pregnant life form on earth would find it impossible not to know), I feel a newfound solidarity with someone who, it's safe to say, I have absolutely zero else in common. In this one essential and, temporarily, life-defining moment, we are in the same boat. True, she has fiscal and style-expert resources I lack, because her husband is second in line to the throne of England. But no matter who you are or who dresses you, there's only so much you can do to mitigate against the inherent ridiculousness of being pregnant.

Being in the public eye is literally Kate's job, and for the last few months she has had to do it with an extra measure of scrutiny aimed at her generative organs. Understanding how shitty that can feel is the only thing that's ever made me feel even a little bit guilty about my Us Weekly/Dlisted/ONTD consumption.

On the other hand, though, it's not like I've stopped looking at those photos of her. Or at photos of Jessica Biel (congratulations, Jessica! I think Silas is a perfectly fine name), or at Ashlee Simpson or Keira Knightley or Zooey Deschanel. In fact, they've become even more fascinating to me than usual.

Jessica Biel and Zooey Deschanel via Fame Flynet

After all, when else are we allowed to take as much time as we want to look at other women's pregnant bodies? Even in prenatal yoga class, you're not allowed to just sit there and stare, and it's very natural to want to, if only to confirm that you're not alone in whatever your particular source of self-consciousness might be.

In a way, it's cool (I guess?) that there are so many images of pregnant and postpartum and breastfeeding celebrities available, if you're good enough at compartmentalizing to mentally remove them from their often sexualized or weight-shaming context. It's nice to see all the different ways of being pregnant that different body types naturally settle into. And it's reassuring that even the thinnest and most image-controlled of famous women are subject to the same vagaries of water retention and innies that become outies that we ordinary mortals are.

I still feel like celebrities are complicit in their own objectification, and have signed on for it, and profit from it, and that this absolves us all from ever feeling too bad about subscribing to Us Weekly. But I do feel gross about ever having judged or joked about how pregnant famous women looked or dressed or acted when they were pregnant. Like when Jessica Simpson was pregnant and everyone joked that it seemed like she'd been pregnant for years. Now it's obvious to me that this was because Jessica Simpson is teensy tiny (5'1'' or something?) and probably started showing, especially the second time, when she was still in her first trimester, which must have sucked for her.

I also have a newfound appreciation for women who straight-up refuse to play the game, like Mila Kunis, who wore baggy sweats throughout her final trimester every time she left the house, a calculated refusal to give paps the photogenic "bump shot" they were looking for.

Pretty soon, I'm sure, I will go back to having zero feelings whatsoever, positive or negative, about Kate Middleton. But for the next few weeks, I will continue to feel that we are in this together, and to keep her in the back of my mind the same way I keep my other pregnant friends. Even though it's kind of insane, a tiny part of my brain will be hoping that everything goes well for her and sending some easy-labor good vibes her way. In exchange for her having to suffer the indignity of being pregnant and famous in these bizarre times we live in, it feels like the least I can do.


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