The Skinny on Being Fat and Pregnant

Most of you know that I’m pregnant by now. I have been dying to talk about this subject for awhile but wanted to solidify round two into parenthood with a fully formed placenta and a baby bigger than an apricot. So here we are.

You probably already know that I’m also “plus size.” I air quote the word because, to many women, the variations by which they see and understand plus size differs greatly. For some it’s based solely on how someone looks in comparison to what we’ve become accustomed to on television, the internet, even from books. For others it’s personal preference and yet for parts of the medical community it’s where your body mass index settles according to what they have found is the healthiest BMI. However, the problem with BMI is that it maxes out at a point so someone that weighs 250 will be lumped in with someone weighing 600 lbs.

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Here I am as a size 16, the national average, at the end of this last summer. Undoubtedly I’m heavier than these beautiful friends but I’m also shorter. Combined this gives me a BMI that is “extremely obese.” I am not extremely obese but according to the body mass index calculator, I am.

A recent study has shown that the average woman is actually a size “16” as opposed to the previously quoted size “14.” We don’t know if it’s because of the obesity epidemic or because evolution has gained a bit of momentum and our children are not only heavier but taller than their parents and grandparents but we’re armed with this knowledge and doing nothing about it. Instead we continue to support media that promotes unattainable standards of height and weight, for both men and women. It starts at a very young age and it’s poisoning our children on how they define beauty and on how they accept others.

Here’s where my pregnancy comes in. Some of you know that I’m actually a gym junkie. I love working out, I love taking classes, I am pretty obsessed with yoga and teaching Jack about yoga. I don’t eat well and I admit that. Years of eating what my parents were told was nutritious and healthy has now been refuted as diets that are incredibly unhealthy and that foods with the words “lite, sugar-free, diet” are actually causing other negatives to our bodies that eating whole, fresh foods counteract. I didn’t find this out until about 10 years ago and even having ten years of this information under my belt has not reduced my addiction to sugar and saturated fats. I fight it as often as possible and we try and teach Jack to eat whole foods but I won’t deny that I love pasta and icecream. The only good thing we’ve done for ourselves is that we’ve stopped drinking soda and eating fast food.

With both of these admissions I’m also completely aware that you can’t outrun bad eating habits. Before I got pregnant with Jack I was taking yoga classes daily as well as 30 minutes of cardio. I lost very little weight despite being on a strict diet of cutting out refined sugar and foods high in carbohydrates. Visiting our family doctor only frustrated me more as he felt I was doing well in my journey for health and fitness. Despite the frustration I felt good about myself  at a size 14 and weighed 238 lbs. This will matter later in the article. When I became pregnant I was so sick that I didn’t gain any weight and by the time I felt better it was time to take a test to check for gestational diabetes. I failed. Miserably. I began a specialized diet and kept on working out when I could. I gained 8 lbs during the entire pregnancy and finally delivered Jack at St. David’s North after 4 days of induction!

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36 weeks pregnant with Jack and 8 lbs gained. I find it hard to believe that a baby can not be found in this belly. 🙂

After Jack I wasn’t as strict at regulating diet or exercise. I focused on Jack and on my life as a stay at home mom. As he got older I tried gyms that watched him while I worked out but he never lasted longer than 15 minutes and by a year I gave up frustrated. At 2 years he started at a little home daycare and I got back to working out twice a week. I was a size 18. The work out wasn’t enough but it was something. Finally at 2 and a half I got back into it and I started working out 4 times a week while Jack was in school. I lost weight and at a size 16 weighed in at 240. So I was one size larger but only weighed 2 lbs more than before I had gotten pregnant with Jack. Somewhere along the way I had lost muscle. My body had obviously changed but I wanted to do something that helped me with strength and stamina. I started vigorously attending body pump and combat classes and surprisingly I gained weight but lost inches. It didn’t matter though because I started feeling more energized and content and for me, this was enough. So at a size 16, the national average, I weighed 252 lbs. I had gained 12 lbs of muscle and I was proud of it. My body was changing shape and I was fitting into my old clothes.

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Early summer. Size 16/18.

In September I decided to get pregnant again. I was healthy, eating right, working out and generally happy. Things were falling into place inside my body and it happened to be the perfect mix for a new baby. I continued to work out and attend weight lifting classes and at 6 weeks called a prominent Austin area birthing center. I wanted a birth center experience so much and I had worked so hard with my first birth that I felt I could do again outside of a hospital. They sent me forms to fill out and in only 2 days I was devastated. After filling out their form and with no prior visit I was told that my stomach was too big to be able to hear a heartbeat. I was shocked that educated women would base their decision on my body mass index, a system proven to be flawed! I thought, surely, once they met me and spoke to me and saw that while I weighed a lot I actually wasn’t what they pictured.  I started thinking, “What did they picture?” For someone to assume that I had so much belly fat that a baby would not and could not be found, well… I won’t go into where my mind went with this but it was not positive, nor was it healthy. I wasn’t morbidly obese and I wasn’t in bed and immobile weighing 600 pounds! In one phone call, I went from feeling great about myself, feeling healthy and happy to feeling like a smear campaign against pretty and thin girls everything. I say pretty and thin because they go hand in hand in our society.

I spent weeks feeling horrible about myself and looking down at my body and picturing this baby drowning inside rolls of fat. You know the one thing that would have completely changed my experience? Had this birth center invited me in for a visit and assessed the situation in person instead of a heartless and cruel email followed by a cold phone call after I complained. How can you tell someone, “I’m sorry but you’re so fat that we’ll never hear a heartbeat,” when you’ve never even seen me or know what I look like!!?

The thing that hurt me the most wasn’t the insult it was the loss of camaraderie that only this birth center offers. It’s the prenatal and post natal yoga class. It’s the natural water birth and taking charge of how my story would end. They took all of that from me and boy did it hurt… but…

I wasn’t going to let them ruin me. I wasn’t going to allow their ignorance and what they felt was the “perfect” pregnant woman void my happy feelings and my strength. I’m a feminist and I’m raising feminists and women like that only hurt what I’m trying to teach my sons. I want Jack to know that women come in so many different shapes and sizes and that we’re all beautiful because we’re all strong, passionate, and intelligent in our own right. I want to change my story and make it better. I want to make it better for all the other “plus size” women out there that have been fat shamed and basically told they were too fat to have babies.

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10 weeks pregnant.

My story has changed paths and it has its challenges but The Dad, Jack, and I are taking it in stride and we’re going to continue to fight for what we believe and for what we want. This new little guy is going to arrive punching and kicking in a political climate that is already quite sexist and racist. We don’t need people like this birth center to add to that. This specific birth center might work for some women that fit within the box they require. I’m not one of them and that’s okay. We have found our home at OBGYN North and I’m happy that we have. The first thing one of the midwives said to me when I asked if my weight was a problem was, “Why would it be? If you can get pregnant, than you can have a baby. The rest shouldn’t matter.” I loved her.

This is a hard subject to admit to. It’s hard to talk about because weight can be something so personal and something so challenging. It shouldn’t be; weight is just a number and it will never define how I feel or what I think of myself. If I feel happy and I’m healthy while I work out, that’s all I need. I will remember that and teach that to my children. I will teach them to love themselves but as a friend once said, “I eat to live, not live to eat.” I need to teach that too. Providing our boys with a healthy outlet for emotional challenges, loving them, and showing them that both girls and boys can be so different, can wear different clothes, and can look so different, is only part of the parenting puzzle. Only then will we have a chance against obesity and against “ideal beauty” standards.

This year I will continue to fight the good fight. I will give birth to a baby boy and I will do what I can to live life as best as I can. 2017 is full of promise despite some of what 2016 brought with it but with that promise I’ll make my own best story ever told. Happy New Year.

6 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness. I feel like we need to meet up for coffee and swap birth center stories sometime. I ended up delivering my son with them, but before I was begrudgingly accepted into the fold I was put through an emotional ringer over my weight (and another stigma-heavy disorder totally unrelated to pregnancy) and put on a very strict diet so that I would lose weight every week till my third trimester. (For reference, I was a size 12 and 190 lbs) I felt humiliated, but was so desperate for the whole birth center experience that I put up with being put down (the midwife who interviewed me was not kind about her concerns) and tried to connect with other midwives there and just move on. To make a long story short, I had my son there and he was ok, but over a year later I lost a pregnancy and had a really awful experience with how they handled that. That loss led me to a specialist and some medical discoveries that ended up explaining a lot of mis-diagnosed complications that had occurred during my son’s pregnancy. Surprise! None of them had to do with my less than perfect BMI. In hindsight, it became clear that my son’s pregnancy was a pretty high risk situation (though Boone knew it st the time) and it was only through sheer grace and luck that it ended well. I’m now “risked out” from the birthing center, but I don’t think I would use them again even if I weren’t. Giving birth on a bed surrounded by quilts and art and midwives was a really great experience. Most of the midwives there were kind and helpful too, and I did love the prenatal education and yoga, but I look back and feel like I didn’t realize what I was really giving up to have those things. Frankly, it’s shitty that women should have to choose between having those things and having comprehensive medical care. If all goes well, I will be delivering a baby in the hospital this summer, so I guess I will soon find out how different the two experiences can be! I’m truly happy for all the moms who have great experiences at the birth center, but sometimes it’s not a good fit and mamas shouldn’t be made to feel that they are unworthy or less-than when that’s the case.

    1. Oh god that’s horrible! I’m so sorry this happened to you. I think that it was meant to happen that way and I’m okay with the outcome. I want my birth to go as easy and with little medical intervention as possible (I’m also due this summer) but once I’m done mourning this I’ll have a new baby and that in itself is exciting. Thank you for reaching out. I’m finding more and more women have a shared experience. I’d be very happy to meet up with you whenever you’d like!

  2. This is a amazing story!! I love every word of it! You go girl! 🙂 You’re such a strong and intelligent women. Jack is a very lucky boy to have you as his mommy. Your stories are very inspirational and I love them!

  3. I’m so glad you found a place! I would likely have had pretty much the same issue with the same place. Answered a few brief questions on the phone, I was told my “advanced maternal age” (41 at the time, 42 when baby was born) meant I’d first have to meet with the staff OBGYN and agree to all of the DNA testing stuff before they’d “agree” to take me. Forget that.

    I ended up at a place that dismissed my age the same way yours dismissed weight, that also told me the only reason I weighed every visit was to see if I lost or gained weight alarmingly so they could look for anything going on, and that didn’t flinch as I went weeks post my due date.

    Glad you found a soft place to land, and hope your pregnancy and birth are peaceful! Blessings to your family.

    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate you reading the post. I didn’t realize how many people this would help.

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