As of 2016, more than 40% of women in the United States are obese. The average age of women giving birth for the first time was 26 as of 2013 which means that most women who are pregnant and either giving birth or are about to give birth are overweight or obese. I happen to be one of these obese women. I’ve already had a hard-enough time living under the vegan label as an overweight woman because of the assumption that all vegans are thin and fit but now that I’m pregnant with my third child, I’m struggling even more.
When you’re fat and pregnant you have your own internal struggles and a lot of those struggles are about your physical appearance. For myself, I have belly-hate. By the time this post is up I will be in the beginning of my second trimester. This is the point in pregnancy when most women start to get noticeable baby bumps. I just happen to look bloated. One of my co-workers is due one day after I am, and she has an adorable bump and gets compliments on how darling she looks. I, on the other hand, was told by someone that if I don’t stop eating my baby will be fat. I’ve often wished that my body was different, even if only when pregnant, so that I could have the adorable bump. I’d love to feel comfortable enough in my own skin to take belly pictures, to paint my belly, and be able to show off my bump every week. The fact of the matter is that I can’t so those things. I can’t take maternity belly pictures because I just look fat. I can’t paint my belly because I don’t have a typical bump. I can’t take bump pictures every week until I get closer to the third trimester because I probably won’t be obviously pregnant until I’m almost ready to pop. Now, I know these seem like silly reasons not to do all the cute pregnancy things that we all know and love but when your mental health depends a lot on how you view yourself physical, it becomes a big deal.
Now, when I tell you that I am fat, I’m not saying fat like it is a bad word or something to be ashamed of because I don’t think that is the case. I’m fairly confident in my body because I’m lucky enough to have a husband who loves me from head to toe for who I am, fat and all. As a pregnant woman, however, that body positive attitude tends to get muddled. I’m proud of my body. It has grown two strong boys and is currently growing my little girl, been through a c-section and a VBAC, and has proven to be incredibly strong. I see my stretch marks as tiger stripes. They are my war paint, my battle scars. There are many things about my body that many people will find unattractive or gross, but I don’t see it that way. That is until I get pregnant. Once I’m pregnant my butt is too big, my boobs are too saggy, my belly is disgusting. You name it, I hate it and I get angry with myself for hating this body.
Psychologically, the struggles of being pregnant while fat tend to revolve around what other people think of me. “Are the judging me because of how big I am?” “Are they disgusted with me because I didn’t lose more weight before I got pregnant?” “Do they even think I’m pregnant or just obese?”
These thoughts are constant and nagging, especially at my office. The women I work with have seen me pregnant before and knew I was pregnant from early on because I was hit by a drunk driver when I was 9 weeks pregnant and ended up telling my boss in a panicked moment. This is my second pregnancy while working for this company and I can see everyone looking at me and wondering if my belly is a baby or is just fat.
The biggest thing keeping me grounded through this pregnancy have been my midwives. The group I’m being seen by – Treasure Valley Midwives – is an amazing collection of women and one of the first things I was told was not to put too much thought into my weight. According to my midwives, I’m an average weight and there’s no reason to think that my baby will be harmed by the number I see on the scale. There are risks, of course, to obese women and their babies but those risks are relatively rare and typically occur in women who are heavier than I happen to be. My midwives have tested my hemoglobin A1c to see if I tended towards gestational diabetes (I don’t so wooooo!) because my youngest son was 10lbs at birth. Larger babies tend to be a sign of gestational diabetes or can end up having diabetes themselves so testing my A1c was a high priority and I do plan on going through with the glucose test a few weeks from now. My midwives are also very supportive of my lifestyle and have told me there’s no reason to think that my baby won’t be perfectly healthy while I continue to eat and live as a vegan.
The judgements that others pass onto me are the fault of the people judging, not mine, but because I’m in this position as an overweight pregnant woman I make everything my fault. The biggest challenge for me this pregnancy is going to be pushing past the judgements of others and just trusting that my body and my midwives are going to ensure that I have a healthy baby. At the end of the day, the struggles that myself and other fat, pregnant women face won’t simply disappear because there are others in the world who will judge us regardless but what we can do is not put pressure on ourselves. Just enjoy life, ladies, and don’t let the ignorance of others makes you feel bad about your beautiful selves!