The battle royale over how much weight you are or are not allowed to gain during pregnancy rages on: In one corner of the Internet, a "stick-thin" mom says having a baby is just an excuse to get fat. In another, a woman argues that no woman has ever said the best thing about pregnancy is getting fat. They are both wrong.
If you are pregnant or ever plan on being, here is just your 4,789th reminder that like literally everything about pregnancy ever, the precise amount of weight you gain down to the ounce is a subject that has been and will be hotly contested forever. But rather than allow yourself to be co-opted by either side of the aisle as a symbol of Correct Pregnancy Weight Gain, I suggest we just keep our heads down and go about our business. Because pregnancy weight gain manages to combine all the worst aspects of how we think about women's bodies and their ultimate role as caregivers into one big fat mass hysteria.
Up first: Sadie Nicholas at the Daily Mail be trollin' in this master class of hackle-raising. Nicholas writes:
Sitting in the waiting room of the antenatal clinic I was aghast at the sight of the women around me. To my left, a lady awaiting a 20-week scan munched her way through an enormous bag of crisps. It was barely 10am.
Another woman had spread a napkin over her expansive thighs and was devouring an oversized 'breakfast muffin'. These, as any self-respecting woman knows, are just calorie-laden cakes masquerading as a healthy meal. This is a ruse that only ever seems to fool the overweight.
All around me I spotted arms, chins, thighs and bottoms. Dimpled, corpulent flesh was everywhere. If it weren't for the pregnancy bumps, this easily could be mistaken for a slimming club meeting. Only at a slimming club, there is a sense of shame, or responsibility and desire to change.
It gets even more vicious!
'When are you due?' a woman asked me. 'Four weeks,' I replied proudly. Her eyes dropped immediately to my compact bump, and I could see her mental processes working overtime.
Her initial incredulity rapidly morphed into anger at me and pity for my unborn child. 'Anorexic,' I could tell she was thinking. 'Obsessive. Narcissistic. Putting her own vanity before the health of her baby.'
In a word, she was seized by jealousy - the green-eyed monster that seems to turn the most sensible and intelligent of women into bile-spitting harpies when faced with something they wish they had.
In another word, the author was so upset by how much she was shamed while being too thin during her pregnancy that rather than acknowledge that body shaming cuts both types of salami, she instead turned the friendly fire right back where it came from, and has now decided to attack women for gaining too much, all while attractively attributing it to jealousy.
In other words: Oh yeah? I'm too skinny? Well you're too fat!
If, by now, as a woman on earth, you haven't realized that there are a lot of different body types and a lot of different responses to pregnancy, and that every woman's body does not look the same, or take pregnancy the same, or look the same afterward, or take the same amount of time to return or not return to whatever existed before, as if whatever existed before can ever truly exist again, than you need to read more books. About bodies. With pictures. And learn about the astonishingly wide range of ways bodies can be that all amount to normal. And even then, please shut up. Forever.
Kasey Edwards over at Essential Baby correctly fired back to the Daily Mail mouth-foaming, reminding Nicholas that we must stop shaming pregnant women's weight gain. Edwards writes:
Nicholas doesn't seem to understand that criticising fat pregnant women does nothing to prevent the criticism of thin pregnant women. It is the criticism, not the content of the criticism, that is the real issue here.
No matter how much weight a woman gains during pregnancy or how quickly she loses it, we are all victims of unwarranted body scrutiny.
While I agree with Edwards wholeheartedly, something in the first line of her piece struck me:
"Getting fat was the best thing about being pregnant," said no woman ever.
Um, I said it. Because to me, as I've written, getting fat WAS the best thing about being pregnant. OK, second to the crazy streak of insane horniness in the second trimester (anyone? Got me?). And I'm here to reiterate that however you feel about your pregnant body, whether it fits a cultural narrative of how you are "supposed" to feel, is your business! It's your prerogative! I never even thought of becoming pregnant, gaining weight, and adjusting to the new normal for 9 months as "letting go" but rather "being pregnant," and everything that goes with it for me, in my body, with my particular shit to deal with. Why is that no longer an option? Since when did that become some kind of crime?
This reminds me of a piece former Jezebel vet Tracie Egan Morrissey wrote asking "Remember When Pregnant Women Were Allowed to Be Fat?" She wrote:
Some women do use pregnancy as an excuse for "letting go," but that's mostly because we've been desperately holding it together for so fucking long. I'm telling you, those maternity jeans are so fucking liberating that I started wearing them at eight weeks into my own pregnancy. I had tried everything—crash diets and amphetamines and cleanses and Weight Watchers and The Zone and laxatives and cocaine—in order to control my weight and/or suppress my appetite for like 20 fucking years. For the first time since I was about 13 I was able to eat without any guilt or voices in my head telling me how gross I was. That kind of emancipation was nothing short of amazing. And, I'm no doctor, but I would recommend it to anyone because it really helps to undo a lot of the bullshit beauty standards that is instilled in our heads at such an early age. I gained 80 lbs. I didn't have gestational dia-bee-dus and my baby—although born "fiercely real" at over 11 lbs—was perfect.
Pregnancy gave me the space, much needed at the time, to eat what I needed and wanted to get through it, to, in fact, feel ALL the things, too — gross, horny, tired, emotional, wrecked, happy, exuberant, depressed, and to have a reason that wasn't going to be so openly disputed (unlike when I had mono). And that felt great. So I leaned in. Hard. Literally harder because I gained like 60 pounds. (Ba dum tss.) I also wore my maternity jeans for nearly three years after having my baby. And loved it. Pregnancy is not one way or two ways — it's not only Jessica Simpson or Fit Mom, ok? It's everything in between and sometimes all of it at once, and that's just how it goes. You can be a healthy pregnant woman who cares a lot about what you are putting into your body and also realize you need to eat some fucking cheesecake. The solution is then to do what you need to do, and then rather than frame a narrative around that and expect other women to follow it, how about let's give all the pregnant ladies plenty of space — literal or figurative — to do the same.
Image via Shutterstock.