This is going to be a more serious blog than usual. I want to talk about something that’s hard for many people to talk about, but I’m going to do my best.
Also, please note I’ll be calling people capable of getting pregnant “women” and use female pronouns just because it is a bit less cumbersome, but I fully acknowledge that not all people capable of getting pregnant call themselves women or use female pronouns. I personally hated being called a woman when I was pregnant (as weird as that may sound to some.), “pregnant person” felt better to me.
Okay, here goes.
As I’m sure you all know, there is tremendous pressure for women to stay thin. They diet, exercise, undergo surgery, fat shame themselves and others. And even though this problem is not exclusive to women, I think we could all agree that the pressure is much higher for women to be thin, in large part because thin = beautiful, and beautiful = value and self-worth, etc etc etc. I think we can all agree that’s a load of shit, but that’s what a lot of people internalize.
So, pregnancy. A time in a woman’s life where she needs to gain weight for her baby. She’s expected to gain weight, and there is a level of ridicule around the expectation that a woman is going to gain too much weight when she’s pregnant, heaven forbid.
The worst part, of course, is that for many, it is very easy to gain weight. I gained “too much weight” for both of my children. 40 lbs for my son that I had 6 weeks premature, and 53 lbs for my daughter who was born on her due date.
And something weird and humiliating happens when you gain too much weight when pregnant.
First of all, people ask if you’re having twins CONSTANTLY. And every time it happens is a stab in the gut, because who on earth would assume such a thing, and why does no one understand what a pregnant body looks like?
Second, and more importantly, people make little comments about your eating habits, and it’s not just the “eating for two” joke. It’s stuff like, “giving in to those cravings?” and it all points to this assumption that a pregnant woman who gains too much weight has no self control, is making poor choices, or more subtly, should feel bad about herself.
Now, I ate too much. I’ll admit it. I ate way way way too much. But that was in part due to the “fuck it” attitude I quickly adopted—this may be the only part of my life where people expect me to eat too much, so I may as well have fun doing it.
BUT. A large part of weight gain is probably genetics, and a large part of whether or not people ask if you are having twins (when you’re NOT) is body shape. Yes I ate too much, but I also kept weightlifting 3x a week until I was 36 weeks along. So yeah, I gained a lot, but I was STRONG. I had an easy delivery and a shockingly quick recovery when compared to my much more sedentary first pregnancy.
Though, thanks to that full term pregnancy, I now have a mom-belly. Yes, they are a thing, and I have one, and I’m trying really hard not to hate it. Because now, those questioning people are winning, as I look in the mirror and ask myself, would my belly look this bad if I had tried harder to not gain so much weight? And I’ll be honest—probably not. But that doesn’t mean what I did was wrong. I kept myself comfortable and happy throughout the pregnancy by eating what I wanted, and I honestly think that was more important. Being pregnant is stressful enough . . . being pregnant and also caring for a toddler is really damn hard (though easy in comparison to taking care of an infant and toddler, but that’s another story.) and adding the worry of calorie counting would have been awful.
And for the record, I’ve lost a huge amount of the weight already. I have 17 more pounds to go, and baby girl is not even two months old. Getting time to start weightlifting again is nigh impossible right now, but once I get back to work it’ll be a lot easier (hooray gym at work!). And I’m itching to get back to it, because I know that getting strong will make the mom-belly not as bad. Maybe not physically, but psychologically I won’t feel as bad about it.
So, yeah. Next time you see a pregnant person, don’t jokingly ask if she’s having twins. Don’t make comments about her eating habits. And of course don’t touch her belly without asking first!
Thanks for reading—have any of the moms out there experienced what I’m talking about? Or some other kind of pregnant-shaming? Remember, you’re beautiful, mom-belly and all.