I gained fifty pounds when I was pregnant. Fifty. 5-0. Half of a century, if a century weighed a hundred pounds.
When my mother was pregnant, she was a svelte little thing. At most, she might have weighed an extra twenty-five pounds right before delivery. Because I have a similar build to her and am only an inch taller, I also assumed that I would be a svelte little thing during my pregnancy too.
Somehow, I had managed to double her pregnancy weight. And every time I went to the OB-GYN, I would be reminded of this as I huffed onto the scale for those embarrassing obligatory weight checks. Although I made sure to wear my lightest clothing, take off my shoes, and schedule my appointments first thing in the morning (before I ate breakfast), it soon became clear that my pregnancy weight gain was substantially above the recommended amount.
I know some OB-GYNs give their patients a hard time about a healthy weight gain, but mine was beyond understanding. She assured me that this was 100 percent normal and that I “looked great!” In contrast to my obsession with my weight gain, she had zero concerns. So why was I freaking out? Was it all just vanity? As my pregnancy continued I became more and more aware of what my body meant to me and how it was being impacted by this little life.
Apart from my fixation on my weight, on the whole I felt more zen than ever in my life. My anxious feelings about having a baby were dissipating. The anticipation of meeting our little boy was filling our home with a cozy electricity. This warm energy invigorated everything in our lives: our home, our habits, our plans. Some days, I even felt like a bit of a superhero. In addition to my demanding day job, my body was taking on some pretty incredible accomplishments: a tiny human was flourishing, and it was because of me.
I could hear the epic movie voiceover-man in my head: Building a company by day, and a baby by night.
Yet, in the back of my mind, that growing number on the scale continued to weigh on me (pun intended). While this worry perplexed me, a confidante of mine nailed it on the head. “Honestly," she said, "how could weight not be an issue? We have been trained to associate weight with worth our entire lives.”
Truth. In fact, studies have reported a significant change in the weight and size of female and male models portrayed throughout the media in western society and the concept of the ‘perfect or ideal body’. Over time the cultural ideal for women’s body size and shape has become considerably thinner and leaner.
Worrying about that number became my m.o., a sadistic hobby I couldn’t stop. Like a boomerang—the further I tried to throw those concerns out of my head, the more intense they would come back to me and, sometimes, with a vengeance. On those days, I became anxious that I would never lose the extra weight, that my body would never be the same again.
In the earlier months, I could forget or laugh about it—but, when my stretchy pregnancy jeans would no longer slip up my thighs; when, during the last month, my wardrobe was reduced to a rotation of three huge maxi dresses; or when my husband chuckled because I couldn’t get out of the bath; I would sink pretty low and start to wonder if a beached whale was my real spirit animal. The boomerang was in full-force—resignation was my final emotion.
More ice cream, please.
Then our baby was born. My little happy dude suddenly took center stage (a location he is intent on keeping). His existence threw me into a strange world that I had never fathomed, a world where my whole focus became keeping this 6-pound, 3-ounce child alive and thriving. My world transformed into a place where I—and everything else—came second.
In this strange, new, postpartum world, I no longer gave a damn about my weight. In a culture obsessed with being thin and melting off the "baby fat" soon after delivery, we may forget that women's bodies tend to store up fat to nourish our babies both during the pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Indeed, I'm convinced that it's time to forget the idea that we should "get back" our pre-baby bodies.
For me, there wasn’t one “aha” moment. In fact, there wasn’t a stunning epiphany that I can remember. There was a baby followed by a simple understanding that my body didn’t just accomplish something, it created someone.
Some might say that this “someone” was so loud and needy that I couldn’t hear all the negative voices telling me how fat I had become. And maybe that's partly true (he is quite loud). But as the weeks passed, and the extra weight slowly—and completely—shed off, the understanding that my body is powerful, nurturing, and capable of so much more than just maintaining a svelte figure has grown on me in its place.
Photo Credit: Amy Frances Photography