As I waddled into the 7th month of pregnancy, one day at work a friend/co-worker/mother of three came up to chat. As she eyed my growing heft, she pulled me aside and lowered her voice. "So…" she began with a smirk, glancing around quickly to ensure we were speaking privately. "You gonna pull a deuce?" Um, say what?
"A deuce?" I asked, confused. "Is that like…dropping a deuce? Because remarkably I have not been constipated at all this whole— "
"No, are you gonna go over 200 pounds?" she asked.
"Ohhhhh," I said, enlightened. "Wait — that's, like, a thing?"
Apparently known only in some circles of pregnant women and the men and women who serve them (food), pulling a deuce means packing ‘em on while pregnant such that you reach a nice cement-like number that theretofore had not figured into your numerological inner narrative, much less your bathroom scale. Hit it or quit it — you just crossed over.
A normal and safe weight gain during pregnancy is 25 to 35 pounds (though if you are over 200 pounds when you get pregnant, you may in fact not gain a thing). This is a bit of sobering medical advice contrasted with the cultural pregnancy programming of buckets of ice cream, "eating for two" and "going apeshit on that buffet." I had gone apeshit, apparently, and blew past that "normal and safe" number. Funny — it turns out "eating for two" doesn't really mean two PEOPLE, but rather, eating for the appetite of a normal person plus one small, unhappy rodent.
Weight is, obviously, a relative thing; one woman's healthy number can be another woman's cross to bear. For me, with my resting pre-pregnancy weight was significantly below 200, this "deuce" seemed such a leap that I didn't even consider it. Until, of course, my 8th month of pregnancy rolled up on a bitch and the checkup revealed I was already at 195 pounds. With an entire month still to go. Guess what? You gain even more weight at the very end.
Like any rational being, I turned my wrath toward the Internet, where, per usual, my search for clear-eyed facts about what was happening to this no-longer-mine body yielded article after chirpy article admonishing that I shouldn't be eating more than 100 to 300 calories extra a day. As if that were actually within the realm of possibility. Those 100 calories was two insultingly measly cups of carrots, and that I could bet my expanded ass they wouldn't even be salted.
Nowhere did it report, for instance, the truth — that I'd been taken hostage by a food beast. That my hunger would, at times, make me cartoonishly ravenous.
It's not like I was eating everything in sight since the second I'd felt the queasy uncertainty of pregnancy take hold. And I actually ate overwhelmingly better — more well-rounded, nourishing meals — than I ever had. But I did go easy on myself on the portions, and added dessert whenever the urge struck me, which turned out to be pretty much all the time. I had two snacks throughout the day as well. It helped me keep my energy up at work, but the snacks were such a frequent high point in my day that I'd begun to imagine giving birth and my baby being composed entirely of pepperoni slices, pickled okra, cheddar cheese cubes and Triscuits.
By the final week of pregnancy, I was powerless to stop the pile-on. I dodged gestational diabetes, or any single pregnancy complication for that matter, in spite of my cavalier food forking. So I wasn't fazed when at my last checkup, I clocked in at 208. "Call off the dogs, already!" I cried out to the pregnancy weight-gain warlocks.
But hey — wasn't this supposed to be "my time" where I got whatever I wanted and ate whatever I craved and lived it up and everyone was beholden to my weirdest whims and desires? Or am I confusing pregnancy with a wedding day?
Then I realized that, for the first time, I got it. I truly understood the power food holds over anyone who's struggled with it. For me, the eating had felt so unimaginably good. It had felt like a warm blanket of comfort during 9 months of discomfort. It was what had kept me going as I deprived myself of every other vice that pregnancy refused me.
As I saw the nurse rubber stamp the Final Number in my chart, I imagined a long line of food service employees who'd helped me reach me get to where I was that day — the lady at the Burger King drive-in who tossed in that free piece of cheesecake when I told her I was having a girl. The line cook at the local meat-and-three who sympathetically added that second helping of mac-and-cheese every week. There was the friendly owner of the Ethiopian joint who piled on the lentils and goat; the Italian place who swore another helping of the spicy eggplant lasagna would kick-start my labor. And my husband, who'd brought me bag upon bag of pepperoni slices, even after I started getting wicked heartburn.
Google me this, Internet: Exactly how many calories make up the warm, fuzzy sense of comfort and community involved in funneling food directly to a pregnant woman's mouth, no questions asked?
So, pulling a deuce, you say? Well deuce it up, already — mama's coming home.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her pepperoni cheese-cube baby weighed 9 lbs and 1 oz.
Illustration by Steve Dressler.