'I Was Pregnant. People Who Violated My Boundaries Thought it Was Nice'

When my husband and I had been married for a year, we began talking about having children.

Towards the beginning of 2017, my dog began following me around the house more than usual. I also became very emotional over trivial things. On one particular day, I was doing a TED Talk and I began sweating and shaking on stage. I was used to speaking in front of large crowds, so I didn't understand why I had become very nervous.

That same day, I accidentally broke a glass bottle, which shattered on the floor, and I began crying hysterically. My husband knew that something was different, so he suggested that I take a pregnancy test. That's when I found out that I was six weeks pregnant. We were both really shocked and happy.

Alexandra Was Pregnant in 2017
Alexandra Bond Burnett (pictured) became pregnant with her son in 2017. Alexandra Bond Burnett

My Pregnancy Journey

My pregnancy wasn't smooth sailing. I'm hypermobile, which means that I have very flexible joints and ligaments. I was told early on by my doctor that I would experience hip and back pain for the duration of my pregnancy, as well as dislocation and injury.

During the first two months of my pregnancy, I also became quite sick. I felt faint and I constantly became drained; my skin color turned pale. I ate more so that I could have more energy for the day ahead.

But I gained a lot of weight to the point where my belly began showing. I remember, at a family gathering, somebody congratulated me for being pregnant when I was just 11 weeks into my pregnancy.

My husband and I were not telling anyone that I was pregnant. I also felt very bad about myself, and self-conscious. It highlighted to me that I had gained a lot of weight, considering that, typically, one's belly doesn't show before 12 weeks.

I definitely had a negative point of view because I subconsciously compared myself to other people who almost go throughout their whole pregnancies barely showing.

My son was quite a big baby. I had to have several scans because doctors had to keep an eye on him. But at that point, the extra weight that I had gained had also caused issues with my joints and blood vessels because of my condition.

I was very stressed, to the point where I began having vasovagal syncope, which is a condition where one faints due to their heart rate and blood pressure dropping significantly. This was happening to me almost every day.

Seven months into my pregnancy journey, I was unable to go for walks because of the joint pain that I had, which lead to me putting on even more weight. At that point, I was using crutches to walk. I felt helpless.

In one instance, I remember fainting while in traffic on my way to the hospital for a scan. I had collapsed in my car, but I was able to put on the hazard lights and turn off the engine as I felt my blood pressure dropping. But because that happened, I was told by a medical professional that I wasn't able to drive.

So, I became very reliant on my husband and, because I couldn't properly walk, I gained 56 lbs; I felt really vulnerable and powerless, and like I had to ask everyone for everything. I became very self-conscious of my body.

Alexandra Was Pregnant in 2017
Alexandra Bond Burnett (pictured) gained 56 lbs after her pregnancy. Alexandra Bond Burnett

Receiving comments about my pregnant body

In May of 2017, when I was seven months pregnant, I attended a lovely, local festival with my husband in our small town in the U.K.

My husband was pushing me up the hill because I was unable to walk properly. As soon as we reached the high road, we saw many people that we knew, and they all began putting their hands on my stomach, which made me feel very uncomfortable.

I know that generally, people don't mean ill harm by doing this, but I felt like my boundaries were violated.

Instantly after that, as I was walking to the festival, some people began asking me if I was due any day. I told them that I had two months left of my pregnancy. Others even asked me if I was having twins.

I was so irritated. It was a mortifying experience. I appreciate that they didn't mean to be offensive in asking me those questions. But it reinforced how big I was, and how self-conscious I felt. I was already uncomfortable about getting even bigger, so it made me worry more.

Life after giving birth to my son

After giving birth to my son in July 2017, I spent two weeks at home recovering, and I still couldn't drive. I began feeling very insecure about my postpartum body. As a child, I had put on a lot of weight and in my early twenties, I lost 63 lbs.

So, gaining a lot of weight was triggering for me because I thought: People have always told me that I would gain weight again, is this what is happening? Is it a part of who I am? I became so judgmental of myself.

During the first week of August, I was invited to a friend's wedding and I didn't have anything to wear. Thankfully, my aunt found a lovely summer dress that was four times the size of my weight before pregnancy.

A few weeks after giving birth to my son, I went on a healthy diet and began working part-time, as I run my own business. Being on a diet allowed me to put better habits in place.

I created an anonymous Instagram account and documented my postpartum weight loss journey. It was encouraging because at first, I could only fit into my maternity clothes, but over time, my old clothes slowly began to fit.

Week by week, I noticed that my confidence began to improve. Other mothers connected with me on Instagram and opened up to me about their postpartum weight loss journies. I felt like there was a real sense of community and that we were all in it together.

Alexandra Was Pregnant in 2017
A before and after picture of Alexandra Bond Burnett's postpartum weight loss. Alexandra Bond Burnett

In hindsight, I knew that the people who commented on my weight when I was pregnant were just trying to be supportive. But it was very intrusive. I would advise others to be wary when commenting on a woman's weight.

After watching Rihanna's Super Bowl halftime show, I saw many comments online. People were trying to figure out whether she was pregnant again, or whether it was her postpartum weight. Some people began comparing her to other pop stars and looking down on her for not doing big dance numbers in her performance, while she was pregnant.

I think it was brave of her to perform while pregnant because pregnancy is an incredible process and your body is constantly changing. To see Rihanna out there on the stage floating in the air is inspiring.

If I wore her outfit for just a few minutes while pregnant, I would have been sweating and overheating. Even when I was pregnant, I had to sleep with ice on my feet because I was constantly very hot. So, for her to perform while her body is going through something humans can't possibly understand is inspirational.

Women's bodies naturally suffer during pregnancy and biologically, it sets us back. Rihanna's job is to get up and perform; it's her career. I believe that her performing when pregnant was her way of saying that she can be pregnant and do her job at the same time.

I believe that women are magic. There is no way I could have done anything like a Superbowl performance while being pregnant. She's a warrior.

Alexandra Bond Burnett is a personal branding consultant, speaker, and podcast host.

All views expressed in this article are the author's own.

As told to Newsweek associate editor, Carine Harb.

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