I have had weight issues most of my life and have struggled with eating disorders since high school. After years of gaining, losing, and regaining weight, I have only recently realized that my self worth isn’t correlated to a number on the scale. I am overweight and almost 6-ft tall. I have been bigger and taller my entire life.
As a first-time mom, I was worried about my nutrition and making sure I was taking care of myself and my growing baby. As a plus-sized woman, I was concerned about the increased statistics for a complicated pregnancy. I was worried about what special instructions the doctor would have or if I’d ever feel the baby move. It’s not news to anyone that pregnancy does a number on the body. I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t thought about what their body will go through and what she’ll look like after the baby is born. So how worse off would I be for being larger to begin with?
Dealing With the Plus Size Pregnancy Stigma
My appointments all started out fine. My doctors didn’t even mention my weight, but I still had that overweight pregnancy code at the top of my medical chart. The logical person in me knew it needed to be there, but it still stung each time I saw it. I had such bad morning sickness that I lost 15lbs in three weeks. If I wasn’t pregnant, I’d be thrilled – what a great diet. My doctor wasn’t concerned and actually recommended that I gain that weight back. Little did I know what my third trimester had in store for me.
When I finally started sharing the news that I was pregnant, I caught so many people immediately looking at my stomach. I know this is a normal thing for people to do, but my sensitive self picked up on it instantly. Their quick glances down instilled a new form of self-consciousness. Could they tell I am pregnant? Would they ever be able to tell? My body and weight issues surged as I struggled to find plus size and tall maternity clothes to fit my ever-changing body and long legs.
Later in my pregnancy, when my baby was measuring large, every medical provider I saw asked if I had gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia. The shock on their face when I said “no complications” made me worry that something was actually wrong. I felt like I had all these expectations of a plus-sized pregnancy and had accepted that I was at risk for all these scenarios. But as long as my baby was healthy and I was healthy, that’s all that mattered, and that’s all that still does matter. I didn’t care how he came into the world, I just wanted him to be OK and I would do anything I could to make that happen.
I was so fixated on the number on the scale. I felt like a failure seeing a higher number each week when I have been trained to want a lower one. But the pounds I was gaining meant that my body and my baby were doing exactly what they needed to do.
We need to change our way of thinking about prenatal and postpartum bodies.
How many times have you heard “you’re all belly,” “you can’t even tell you’re pregnant,” “are you sure it’s not twins?” I’m happy to live in this era of body positivity and I know we are making progress on normalizing plus-size bodies. I think there is work to be done for new and expectant mothers – in more ways than just comments on her body.
One of the tricky things about pregnancy is that no two women, babies, and pregnancies are 100% the same. It impacts each person so differently and the same woman can have similar or completely different pregnancies. There is no way to predict how they’ll go. Yes, I am plus-sized, but I had an uncomplicated pregnancy with an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. To make it easier on my body and my recovery for my next pregnancy, I realize it would be recommended to lose some weight. I know that won’t be easy physically now will it be easy mentally. I know that focusing on my weight and my pant size may bring me back to an unhealthy mental space and I need to work on that.
Appreciating My Postpartum Body
I’m now 6 months postpartum and down 40lbs from the day I delivered, but my body does not feel lighter and my body is not back to normal. My body will likely never be the same as pre-pregnancy because it has experienced something incredible. My body is strong, my body is capable. I am still self-conscious about my arms and need to angle my face the right way in pictures. But what mom or woman for that matter doesn’t feel that way? Don’t we all have areas in our life that need a little improvement? Aren’t we all just a work in progress? Just as I need to work on my physical health, I need to focus on my mental health. I think that is something that unites us. That and the fact that no pregnant woman wants to hear how large their belly is.