My weight snuck up on me. It didn't come in the form of 4,000-calorie food binges – it was the handful of chocolate chips when my daughter finally went down for her nap, and the extra mocha I needed at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. It came without me realizing, because I couldn't bring myself to get on a scale and really assess what was going on.
I wore stretchy clothes. I took pictures from just the right angle. I didn't feel larger than average unless I was in an airline seat (not often) or tried to wear jeans (even less often).
I knew I was overweight, but it didn't really hit me until I was shifting in my seat, avoiding eye contact with my midwife as she read my weight and subsequent BMI during our first appointment for my third pregnancy. I couldn't blame the microscopic little life growing inside me for my oversized body. The extra weight was all me – with a little help from two prior pregnancies.
We were excited for this baby, but I had hoped to give my body more time to recover. My youngest had just turned a year old when we found out, and I'd just finished five months of physical therapy … I really just wasn't ready to share my body again.
I was floored when we got pregnant again so quickly (it had taken us nearly a year for each of our other two). I guess I had fallen prey to the idea that you can't get pregnant while nursing. Let me dispel that myth for you – you can.
I felt stretched between the needs of the baby on my lap and the baby in my belly. I found I couldn't keep nursing my second baby after I got pregnant. That made me feel guilty, like I was shortchanging her. I thought, if my body is so large, shouldn't it just be able to feed everyone?
By my second trimester, my body ached, my joints hurt, and I swear I was already waddling around. I knew if I went on a vacuuming/mopping rampage in our living room I'd be hurting the next day. I felt like I was walking a tightrope between keeping up with the needs of my family and keeping up with the needs of my body.
As my pregnancy progressed, my midwife kept a close eye on my weight. I'd get praise if all was well or reminders to improve if I gained more than a pound over what was allowable. I found myself being defensive either way.
I also realized that I wasn't taking as many belly pictures as I had during my previous pregnancies. I did take a few because I knew my daughter would of course at some point want to see what she had looked like while she was in my belly; for her sake, I braved the camera. But I look puffy, tired, and not nearly as excited as I do in photos from my previous pregnancies.
I am thankful for the LuLaRoe clothing craze that hit my town at just the right time, because it meant I didn't have to buy a bunch of maternity clothes. I could conceal my problem behind stretchy fabric and eye-catching prints that hid my love handles and thighs.
My midwife tried to get my attention by reminding me of the potential risks of an overweight pregnancy. I wasn't ready to hear it, even though she told me as kindly as she could. She talked about her own struggles with weight and how it had impacted her life and health. She wanted all good things for me, when all I wanted to do was hide the problem under my leggings.
Meanwhile, my blood-sugar levels were being closely monitored. I had to take three glucose tests during the course of my pregnancy. It felt like my midwife expected my body to turn on me at any point. Her close attention made me feel anxious during my appointments, like maybe I couldn't trust my body to get me through.
My stepsister was a healthy weight at the outset of her two pregnancies, but through no fault of her own, developed gestational diabetes during both. Still, I felt like if I developed gestational diabetes, it would be all my fault.
I actually gained less weight during this pregnancy than with my first two – about 18 pounds overall – but I felt way more guilty. Ultimately I gave birth to a perfect, healthy nearly eight-pound baby, just like her sisters.
If I had it to do again, I wouldn't let myself spiral emotionally about my weight during my pregnancy. I also wish I'd reached out and shared how I felt with someone. I felt alone in my worries, but I know I was one of many overweight pregnant women, like this woman having her best plus-size pregnancy.
You can still be living your best life while carrying a few extra pounds. I may not have appreciated my body then, but now I know it was healthy and strong enough to make three beautiful babies. And that's worthy of a lot of respect.
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