I have a hard time gaining weight. I don’t mean physically, of course – my running obsession has its roots in what was a heartbreaking late-twenties metabolic shift that made putting on weight about as easy as opening the refrigerator door. I mean I have a hard time gaining weight mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and in all the other ways available that might make my fattening up process of the past few months as unpleasant as it possibly could be.
I’ve written here before about my obsession with weight and with appearance (and about my butt, and about my thighs – when I say obsession, I mean obsession), and the best part about being pregnant the first time was the big fat hall pass I was given to live in freedom from those insecurities for nine months of my life. I ate whatever I wanted to eat and skipped out on exercise in favor of sleep, bought oversized maternity gear and extra large underpants. I paraded my belly with pride. And after my daughter’s birth it took eighteen months for that proud belly to finally fade away.
I swore that the next time it would be different, and I’ve stuck to that plan. I made note of the recommended gain goals, made note of the skinny moms in the prenatal office waiting room. I made note of how small the baby is at any given time when compared to the al pastor burritos and chili cheese burgers that were the foundation of my first pregnancy and that tempt me cruelly now at every turn (this is still Los Angeles, after all, world capital of eating disorders, taco trucks, and haute cuisine hamburgers). I kept up some semblance of a running routine until my hips and knees would support no more. I’ve since cut back to just two pregnancy appropriate workouts a week, but have worked to balance out the change through multi-step mathematical equations, calculating how many additional calories I needed as a result of the pregnancy (plus 200) versus how many calories I was no longer burning as a result of the exercise decrease (minus 350) – obviously I needed to reduce rather than raise my caloric intake, which I’ve done.
And yet still I am gaining weight. Gaining and gaining and gaining. And of course I understand that this is a part of pregnancy, but I also understand that an extra layer of arm fat worn along my triceps will not, actually, do anything to help the half-pound child growing in a totally different, totally disconnected part of my body.
Which brings me to the other main difference between my first pregnancy and my second – my belly is no longer my friend. This time around, nobody seems to think it’s cute. Nobody seems to find it endearing. Once you’re a mom, there’s no special treatment waiting in the wings as reward for getting yourself knocked up again. You’re just another slow-moving heavyset woman in a fast-paced appearance obsessed world.
I know it’s crazy. Of course I know it’s crazy. My job as a mother is to grow this child inside of me, and in order for the child to grow, I need to grow. Obviously. But there’s growing, and then there’s overboard.
Case in point: The other day when introduced to a friend of a friend of a friend, the first thing she said to me was, “ooooh, baby’s due soon!” Easy mistake made by someone who clearly doesn’t know a thing about pregnancy, you say? That’s what I thought too, until I found out she was a nurse.
Nurses know what pregnant women look like. Clearly I’ve gone overboard.
The horrible irony is that as I’m writing this, I’m sitting here at my desk eating a bowl of ice cream. The second (maybe, maybe the third) of my pregnancy and far and away the most absolutely delicious bowl of ice cream I have ever eaten, and yet I am racked, riddled, writhing with guilt. After a week of Halloween, of being surrounded with sugar at all moments and not partaking of even one little bite. A week of shuttling empty and full moving boxes from one room to another, into the car and out of the car, out of one house and into another. A week of ever increasing stress at work and ever decreasing time for stress relief. And a week, of course, of my pregnant belly seeming to double yet again every time I turn around.
It doesn’t matter how many times I hear how great I look, or how many accurate guesses there are as to how far along I am. It doesn’t matter that I can still fit into a not insignificant portion of my non-pregnancy clothes. Until I can head out for a ten mile run, or maybe even just skip lunch because I don’t feel like I really need it, until I feel like I’ve regained some tiny bit of control back over my body, all I will hear is that off-duty nurse telling me how clearly just about due I am, or the receptionist at work tittering over how big my belly’s gotten all of a sudden.
Pregnant and proud, pregnant and proud, pregnant and proud. I know I will lose this weight again. I know I will find a balance between maintaining my good health and ensuring proper alimentation of my barely budding child. I know I will remember at some point that I’m a feminist and will start responding to comments about my weight with the universally simple gesture of raising one not so slender middle finger.
But in the meantime, could someone please come here and hide this ice cream?