5 Things I Encountered While Being Fat and Pregnant
In 10 weeks or less, I’m going to be the mother of a son. I always assumed the likelihood of that phrase as a reality of my life was statistically the same as “I just bought an island.” But here we are. Though my pregnancy has been textbook perfect from a physical standpoint, I’ve certainly experienced some of the abnormalities of being a fat pregnant lady:
1. Thin Privilege
Thanks to some rubber band improvisation, I was able to stay in my regular pants for about six months. Then I hit up Motherhood Maternity for a few items to get me through winter. It’s a store of typical size for a strip mall. Looks something like this:
But this view is deceiving. This is the view for straight sizes. The actual plus size section for my store consists of a measly two sections of pants, and bland shirts that take up one rack and three shelves. Thankfully, I was able to buy two pairs of jeans and can still fit in a straight size XL for shirts, but I did wonder how ladies bigger than me fare when trying to find maternity clothing. Pre-preggo, I was pretty well an in between fatty. Sometimes I could fit into straight size 18 pants if the cut was right. But now I’m unequivocally plus size. Target, my first choice for affordable clothing, does not carry plus size maternity wear nor do any other of my “go to” straight size stores. Lane Bryant doesn’t carry a maternity line. Rock, meet hard place.
2. Assumptions at the OB’s Office
Last week, I crossed into the “deathfat” weight category. You know what I mean – the threshold that prompts most people to capitalize Fat. Keel over and die Fat. Disgrace to humanity Fat. Hyperbole Fat. I’ve only gained about 30 lbs, which I’m told is “average,” but that means I was fat when this pregnancy started. During my first five OB appointments, each nurse that took my weight and blood pressure made mention of being surprised by my low blood pressure but cautioned me about gestational diabetes. “I hope you’re going to breastfeed,” one said. “It makes the weight come right off.” Sigh. They don’t say anything about my weight anymore and must have been put at ease by my consistently low BP and negative diabetes test. But most pregnant women don’t have to “prove” they’re capable of a healthy pregnancy in that way.
3. Fear and Loathing in Life Insurance
I’m sure that most mothers experience some fear about their child’s life and all the potential perils of living in a big, scary world. That’s why my husband and I applied for life insurance. Just in case. After the underwriting team made their decision, I was told I classify as “high risk” due to my pre-pregnancy weight. Penalty for that comes with a 50 percent premium increase my family cannot afford.
How am I supposed to explain to my son that according to actuarial experts, I’m 25 percent more likely to die than other moms at the playground? I won’t even have to use those words. He’ll find out he has a fat mom soon enough.
My son might even be fat. In fact, he’s likely to be due to his genetic make-up. How do I explain that people will hate him for that? How can I tell him that people will look at him and make judgements about his health, hobbies, life span, and general worth as a human being for being fat? Will I have to tell him that whenever he hears something about the “childhood obesity epidemic,” they’re talking about him? And to be clear, I’m not going to do anything to “make sure” my son isn’t fat. The best I can do is help him develop a compassionate, shame-free attitude about his body and the bodies of others. Even if he’s not a fat kid, with a name like Duncan (Donuts) Browne (Brownie) he’s sure to experience some food-based teasing. I’ll just keep reminding him we chose his name because he’s so sweet, and that haters gonna hate.
4. Extra-Scary Internet Research
I have first time mom questions in the middle of the night that are quickly answered by the internet before I can call my OB to confirm. I didn’t realize how many myths about pregnant fat ladies exist. Of course I heard the one about fat women not being able to get pregnant due to being generally unfuckable and then having fertility problems. I don’t know anything about that because my pregnancy was unplanned. But there are so many more! There’s an idea that fat pregnant ladies can’t feel fetal movement. Don’t forget all the scary risks for fat pregnant ladies. At this stage of pregnancy I’m worried about childbirth myths such as the Fat Vagina theory. Even The Baby Books have scary messages about too much weight gain for pregnant fat ladies and constantly refer to gaining pregnancy weight pejoratively. Thankfully, I like my OB and she’s never said anything to me about weight being a complicating factor in my pregnancy, but I’m so angry for the women who have to deal with this fat bias personally.
5. No Friendly Pregnant Talk From Strangers
Now that I’m almost eight months pregnant, my body is pretty clearly marked as pregnant. This is the only bright spot I’ve found in being fat and pregnant: strangers do not touch my belly. In a perplexing mix of fat stigma and politeness, it seems people do not assume I am pregnant and do not want to offend someone who might very well just be really, really fat, so no one has engaged me in unsolicited pregnancy talk. I’m fine with this. It’s very confusing to be a woman who has been taught to be ashamed of her body in public (belly in particular) then suddenly be prompted to “show it off” for joyous, pregnant virtue.
– Kate Browne (mommyish.com)
Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty Review
“Ladies be FEARLESS be BOLD be YOU! Never give up on your dreams and keep pushing yourself every day to be the best you can be! I never dreamed I’d be on this path, but here I am! Wake and kick ass! Curvy IS the MOVEMENT“
9 Body-Shaming Behaviors We All Need To Stop
The human body is one of the most precious tools we have. It’s an intricate, complex and reliable organism; it relentlessly serves us day and night, yet expects very little in return.
For many reasons, we’re often more willing to listen to our minds than to trust in our bodies. We follow our mind with little hesitation, spending time listening to its assumptions, its lies, and its criticisms. When it comes to thinking about our bodies, however, we easily let our minds dictate our perceptions. Our default settings make it easy for us to forget that our thoughts themselves are molded by our social structures and landscapes. The mind gobbles up unrealistic ideals and projects them onto the body.
Here are nine ways in which we inadvertently body-shame. Once these become easily identifiable, we can work toward stopping, questioning, and correcting those thoughts.
1. Focusing on dieting rather than nutrition.
Our body runs like an engine, which means it needs a steady flow of fuel to reach its full potential. One of the main sources of fuel is food. Because of this reality, nutritious diets should include variety and offer an array of vitamins, fiber, fat and even carbohydrates. When we give into dieting fads like calorie counting or cutting out carbs, we are acting on our desire to look a certain way, rather than focusing on supporting our body functioning in the way we need it too.
2. Refusing to indulge.
Cooking a good meal, sharing a glass (or bottle!) of wine, having a decadent dessert — these are all ways in which we can give our body a treat. Despite knowing the pleasure these choices can bring, we have internalized the idea that ‘indulging’ too much or too often is a bad thing. How many times have you heard, “You’re so wise to refuse dessert.” Or, “A moment on your lips, forever on your hips.”
It’s important to remember that there are healthful ways to have a treat (for instance, I like a few chocolate covered almonds after dinner). One aspect of being healthy is actually to allow ourselves these pleasures.
3. Idolizing body types as they are presented by the media.
According to The Renfrew Center Foundation for Eating Disorders, it’s estimated that only 5% of North Americans have body types similar to those portrayed in the media.
While it may seem cliché, stopping body-shaming starts with the realization that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and that few particular body types are overwhelmingly over represented in the media.
4. Shaming people who are ‘’too skinny.’’
Nature has created so many body types, it’s unrealistic to expect us all to look the same. It’s an often overlooked reality that thinner people also get shamed for being “too skinny,” “body obsessed,” “looking anorexic.” Just like everyone else, these people are entitled to be free from the judgment of others when it comes to how their body functions and what it needs.
5. Judging the variety of body types in the exercise room.
I once had a yoga teacher who had a fuller body, and every class she would reference this to make us aware of the pressure and judgment she was subjected to within the yoga community. Thoughts like, “If you’re bigger, you can’t do yoga.” Or, “You can’t be a good yoga teacher with a fuller body.” These thoughts stop us from seeing that fitness comes in many shapes and size and exercise has similar benefits, no matter the body type.
6. Judging others for conforming behaviors, despite understanding the pressures they face from society.
Pressure to conform to our society’s beauty standards infiltrates us, often in subtle ways. It becomes difficult to untangle what we do to live up to these standards from that which is authentic and will genuinely make us feel beautiful. Learning to accept and love your body can be a lifelong journey, not without its own hiccups.
When we judge someone for undergoing plastic surgery, or for wearing high heels, we are engaging in a form of body-shaming. Even when the judgment is meant to be a rejection of societal ideals, it can have the opposite effect, leading to a step back rather than a step forward.
7. Judging expressions of sexuality.
Sexuality can be expressed in the way we choose to reveal our bodies, through clothing or movement. Judging people on the way they do this, or denying certain people the right to express their sexuality based on their body type is a form of body-shaming. Expressing sexuality is a natural human need to which we are all entitled. We should be able to express our sexual identities in the ways that are most genuine to us without being judged for it.
8. Not knowing our own bodies.
If we want to know how deeply ingrained body-shaming has become, we can simply turn to the ways in which we interact with our own bodies. We have learned to fear the mirror or, sometimes, to feel discomfort when naked. We refrain from spending time exploring our body and consequently limit our understanding of ourselves.
9. Defining beauty as a look rather than a state of mind
When we realize that we’re more than just our bodies, we can begin to let go of some of the pressures we place on them. The body is a strong vehicle, but it is not the sole medium through which we experience life. Beauty also comes from attributes such as humor, compassion, selflessness, intelligence.