A few years ago, before pregnancy was even a consideration of mine, I lost a lot of weight by counting calories and exercising. Looking back, I accidentally took my diet and exercise regimen a bit too far. I became addicted to the control aspect of logging the calories of every single food that touched my lips (including breath mints — I’m not even kidding.) I also became addicted to the fact that everyone was telling me how “great” I looked, even when I should have really stopped losing so much weight.
Around the time I started getting some pretty serious comments from my friends and family about being “too skinny,” I stopped counting calories, and allowed myself to eat and exercise normally. I put some weight back on, and I was able to achieve an optimal healthy weight for my height. I was feeling great, and then BOOM! I accidentally got pregnant.
As I expected, all of my anxieties about eating, weight gain, and nutrition came flooding back — this time with more of an emphasis on doing the “right thing” for my baby. How much weight is “normal” to gain in each trimester? How do I know if I’m eating enough of the right kinds of foods to nourish my baby? How do I know if I’m not gaining enough weight? Can I still exercise, if so, how much?
When your body becomes commentary
One of the worst parts of being pregnant is that your body becomes a conversation piece.
I always imagined being pregnant and “eating for two” would be glorious, but I’m finding myself obsessed and worried about the amount and quality of food that I’m eating. After several conversations with my doctors, opinions from three different highly respected pregnancy books, and a whole lot of Googling, I have settled on eating about 500-600 MORE calories than I used to be eating, which is actually much harder than I expected it would be. I’m also desperately trying NOT to make a habit of counting my calories, except when I feel like I haven’t eaten enough in a day.
One of the worst parts of being pregnant is that your body becomes a conversation piece. It has been hard enough to deal with the lack of control of my changing body, but it’s been difficult to field constant comments from people who want to talk about my how my body looks, to the point that I was actually dreading my own baby shower.
I am only four weeks from my due date, and most of the comments I have received recently, especially those from my well-intentioned friends and family are along the lines of, “Wow! You look SO small!” or “You hardly look pregnant!” Some of my friends who grew really large bellies during their pregnancies tell me that I should feel lucky I’m not huge. Others have told me that I will be so glad that I won’t have to shed as much weight after baby is born.
I purposely don’t post many pictures of my “baby bump” on Facebook, because after so many comments, I started to wonder if my baby was actually growing okay. I know in my heart that everyone means well, so I politely tell anyone who makes a comment about my size that that my doctors say baby is growing just fine.
And it’s true, my doctors appointments have been going really well. At each appointment, they have to constantly reassure me that baby is growing normally, and my stomach is measuring almost textbook perfectly. My loving husband has been trying to counteract all the “small” comments by telling me he thinks I look great. He’s the only one whose opinion actually matters to me, so I try to believe him.
Comments in the wild
In all reality, the worst offenders don’t come from my well-intentioned friends and family. They happen out in the world when I’m least expecting it…
In my workplace: A random client that I’ve never met before asked when I was due. When I told her my due date, she said “That can’t possibly be right! You don’t look that far along!” as if I was lying to her. She then proceeded to tell me about her pregnant friend who is “SO much bigger” than I am, and she isn’t due until a month after my due date.
On the street: I could write a whole separate post about the inappropriateness of this one, but some guy actually had the audacity to cat call, “Who knocked YOU up?!” as though he missed an opportunity to get to me first. Ew!
In the checkout line at the grocery store: A gentleman asked if I was pregnant. When I sheepishly told him that I am, he said (and I quote), “Phew! You never can tell these days… Y’know, with all these chunky women.”
I don’t want to discourage human connection for the sake of political correctness, especially because I know some women absolutely LOVE the way their pregnant body looks. I’m not sure there is a right answer for how to talk to a pregnant woman about her body, unless you fully understand your own relationship with that woman, or her own relationship with her changing body.
I can only speak from my own experience, but even before I was pregnant, I noticed how repeated similar comments about your body really do start to add up and can actually impact your self perception. One comment about someone’s size might not seem like a big deal, but the more people who tell me my belly is “small” have already made me doubt myself as a mother.
Maybe this is just preparation for the onslaught of comments I’ll get about the parenting decisions I’ll have to make. One step at a time.