As soon as you fall pregnant, suddenly everyone is an expert extolling advice, whether you want it or not. Whole bookstore shelves are jam packed with “manuals” telling you what to do and what not to do when you’re expecting. One such “commandment” recommends a 25-35lbs weight gain during pregnancy, regardless of your starting weight and general body shape. Unfortunately, like most one-size-fits-all guides, this approach fails to consider the individual woman. And even more unfortunately, it encourages pregnant women to obsess about the numbers on the scale at a time when they should be focusing on being healthy and happy.
As someone who has always had something of an issue with weight, I knew pregnancy was going to pose a challenge for me. In fact, most of the teasing I endured in the playground stayed there; it was my own family who carried the torch, relentlessly commenting on how fat this or that person was, and quietly monitoring everything that did — or didn’t — cross my lips. A stark reminder that you can pick your friends, but not your family. Although I never had an eating disorder per se, I came perilously close one summer, close enough to scare myself back into eating well.
However, just when I thought I’d put those demons to rest, and mortised the cellar door, back they came the minute I fell pregnant. Even the most innocuous maternity fashion depicts a six-foot-something model with twigs for arms, bean sprouts for legs, and the most infinitesimal bump (more kumquat than watermelon). Far from being in proportion, she hasn’t gained an ounce of flab elsewhere on her body the way real-life pregnant women do. In short, she looks as alien as the average catwalk model does in correlation to the average non-pregnant woman. Fortunately I take this media ploy for what it is, savvy and grateful that I am no longer quite so impressionable. But insecurities die hard. Having my mother recently delight at the width of my rear end, and repeatedly remind me to make sure the midwife checks on my weight, well, I snapped.
The truth of the matter is, my midwife has never taken any interest whatsoever in my weight gain. In fact, not once has she made me set foot on a scale. Rightly so, I think, provided she has no bona fide medical cause for concern. As long as I am eating healthily, and not consuming an excessive amount of Häagen Dazs, as long as I feel well (or, as well as a woman in her final trimester can), let the scale gather dust! My aunt gained a whopping 80lbs with each of her pregnancies, and then lost the weight. Not that I’m advocating an all-out binge fest, but surely pregnancy is the one time we as women can, and should relax in our (stretching) skin.
For the first time in my life, ironically, I love my shape and feel confident enough to parade around in a bikini. I believe my husband when he tells me I look beautiful, because I really do feel beautiful. The female form is amazingly resilient. Through the transformative powers of pregnancy, I am developing a new found respect and admiration for my body – even the extra 50lbs of it. My eyes no longer appraise it as harshly as they once did. With any luck, some of that esteem will linger into the years beyond my child’s birth, when no doubt I’ll have more important things to worry about, like loving my son …