In 10 weeks or less, I’m going to be the mother of a son. I always assumed the likelihood of that phrase as a reality of my life was statistically the same as “I just bought an island.” But here we are. Though my pregnancy has been textbook perfect from a physical standpoint, I’ve certainly experienced some of the abnormalities of being a fat pregnant lady:
1. Thin Privilege
Thanks to some rubber band improvisation, I was able to stay in my regular pants for about six months. Then I hit up Motherhood Maternity for a few items to get me through winter. It’s a store of typical size for a strip mall. Looks something like this:
But this view is deceiving. This is the view for straight sizes. The actual plus size section for my store consists of a measly two sections of pants, and bland shirts that take up one rack and three shelves. Thankfully, I was able to buy two pairs of jeans and can still fit in a straight size XL for shirts, but I did wonder how ladies bigger than me fare when trying to find maternity clothing. Pre-preggo, I was pretty well an in between fatty. Sometimes I could fit into straight size 18 pants if the cut was right. But now I’m unequivocally plus size. Target, my first choice for affordable clothing, does not carry plus size maternity wear nor do any other of my “go to” straight size stores. Lane Bryant doesn’t carry a maternity line. Rock, meet hard place.
2. Assumptions at the OB’s Office
Last week, I crossed into the “deathfat” weight category. You know what I mean – the threshold that prompts most people to capitalize Fat. Keel over and die Fat. Disgrace to humanity Fat. Hyperbole Fat. I’ve only gained about 30 lbs, which I’m told is “average,” but that means I was fat when this pregnancy started. During my first five OB appointments, each nurse that took my weight and blood pressure made mention of being surprised by my low blood pressure but cautioned me about gestational diabetes. “I hope you’re going to breastfeed,” one said. “It makes the weight come right off.” Sigh. They don’t say anything about my weight anymore and must have been put at ease by my consistently low BP and negative diabetes test. But most pregnant women don’t have to “prove” they’re capable of a healthy pregnancy in that way.
3. Fear and Loathing in Life Insurance
I’m sure that most mothers experience some fear about their child’s life and all the potential perils of living in a big, scary world. That’s why my husband and I applied for life insurance. Just in case. After the underwriting team made their decision, I was told I classify as “high risk” due to my pre-pregnancy weight. Penalty for that comes with a 50 percent premium increase my family cannot afford.
How am I supposed to explain to my son that according to actuarial experts, I’m 25 percent more likely to die than other moms at the playground? I won’t even have to use those words. He’ll find out he has a fat mom soon enough.
My son might even be fat. In fact, he’s likely to be due to his genetic make-up. How do I explain that people will hate him for that? How can I tell him that people will look at him and make judgements about his health, hobbies, life span, and general worth as a human being for being fat? Will I have to tell him that whenever he hears something about the “childhood obesity epidemic,” they’re talking about him? And to be clear, I’m not going to do anything to “make sure” my son isn’t fat. The best I can do is help him develop a compassionate, shame-free attitude about his body and the bodies of others. Even if he’s not a fat kid, with a name like Duncan (Donuts) Browne (Brownie) he’s sure to experience some food-based teasing. I’ll just keep reminding him we chose his name because he’s so sweet, and that haters gonna hate.
4. Extra-Scary Internet Research
I have first time mom questions in the middle of the night that are quickly answered by the internet before I can call my OB to confirm. I didn’t realize how many myths about pregnant fat ladies exist. Of course I heard the one about fat women not being able to get pregnant due to being generally unfuckable and then having fertility problems. I don’t know anything about that because my pregnancy was unplanned. But there are so many more! There’s an idea that fat pregnant ladies can’t feel fetal movement. Don’t forget all the scary risks for fat pregnant ladies. At this stage of pregnancy I’m worried about childbirth myths such as the Fat Vagina theory. Even The Baby Books have scary messages about too much weight gain for pregnant fat ladies and constantly refer to gaining pregnancy weight pejoratively. Thankfully, I like my OB and she’s never said anything to me about weight being a complicating factor in my pregnancy, but I’m so angry for the women who have to deal with this fat bias personally.
5. No Friendly Pregnant Talk From Strangers
Now that I’m almost eight months pregnant, my body is pretty clearly marked as pregnant. This is the only bright spot I’ve found in being fat and pregnant: strangers do not touch my belly. In a perplexing mix of fat stigma and politeness, it seems people do not assume I am pregnant and do not want to offend someone who might very well just be really, really fat, so no one has engaged me in unsolicited pregnancy talk. I’m fine with this. It’s very confusing to be a woman who has been taught to be ashamed of her body in public (belly in particular) then suddenly be prompted to “show it off” for joyous, pregnant virtue.
Originally published on Kate Browne Blogs. Reprinted with permission.
(photo: nushuz; originally published on: Aug 23, 2013)