Okay, fine. You said go ahead and post the rant, and since I can't make editing headway with it anyway, I'm going to.
I think it's time we talked about weight gain during pregnancy, but I want to be careful because there are few topics more danger-laden than weight. Furthermore, I could get a little crabby, because I have a mother-in-law story associated with the subject.
In fact, let's just get the mother-in-law thing out in the open. That way, if you sense a certain...tension to my tone, you'll know it's because I'm thinking of her, and not because I am mad at you. When my mother-in-law was pregnant with Paul, she gained only ten pounds. When she was pregnant with Paul's sister Beth, she LOST ten pounds, and she was thin to begin with. Beth was born with learning disabilities and birth defects, most of unknown origin (that is, it is not possible to say whether they are genetic or spontaneous).
My mother-in-law continues to brag about losing weight during that pregnancy. I think she's probably told me the story twenty times over the past ten years. Considering how many women wring themselves ragged with guilt over pregnancy problems and birth defects that had absolutely nothing to do with anything they did or didn't do, why wouldn't it at least cross my mother-in-law's mind to wonder if perhaps she should stop flapping her yap about how proud she is of her weight loss?
So you see, I am not going to do a very good job of being cool and objective on this topic. It does indeed piss me off when I hear women bragging about how little weight they've gained. When I found there were online groups devoted to women trying to gain as little weight as possible during pregnancy--and in fact, ideally to use pregnancy as an opportunity to lose weight--I felt like throwing up all over them.
Part of the reason it makes me so sick is that I can see the appeal. I don't like it that I can, but I can. I have even thought to myself how cool it would be to gain 0 pounds during a pregnancy, and then be automatically 25-35 pounds lower after the pregnancy was over--as if I am dumb enough to think that the amount of weight you're supposed to gain is a guaranteed loss afterwards, and might as well capitalize on it. I gag when I think it, but I do think it.
Furthermore, I've acted on those thoughts. I was upset that during my first pregnancy, I gained over 40 pounds. My OB didn't say anything about it, but I considered myself overweight to begin with, and all the literature says that overweight women don't usually gain as much. After the baby was born, I lost the weight without trying. So when I was pregnant with William, I came up with a theory. My theory was that if I didn't gain any weight with that pregnancy, I'd be down 40 pounds afterwards. I'm feeling gross just typing that out. Gross and dumb.
For the first two trimesters of that pregnancy, I didn't gain any weight, and in fact I lost some weight. I did it by eating a lot of salads, and I don't mean the nutritious kinds with lots of vegetables and dark leafy greens, I mean the kind with iceberg lettuce and fat-free dressing. I ate canned vegetable soup, the kind where the vegetables have the nutritional content of the label on the can, but the calories are about the same as eating the label, too. I am glad to be able to say that I also drank a lot of skim milk, and I ate eggs and yogurt, and I ate carrots and cantaloupe and oranges and Grape-Nuts and wheat germ, so I was not as stupid as I could have been. Part of my brain was being stupid, but another part of my brain was trying to keep the baby healthy and safe, and apparently succeeded.
In the last eight weeks or so, I couldn't do it anymore, and I ate and ate and ate. I gained fourteen pounds over my starting weight during that pregnancy, and it was all in those last eight weeks. I wish I'd eaten sooner, because after the baby was born, do you know how many pounds I lost? Fourteen. Not forty as I'd fantasized. I could have gone right ahead and let my body gain forty the way it so dearly wanted to.
Here is what pisses me off so, so much. My OB praised me during those first two trimesters, and so did his nurse. They praised me and praised me. They told me I was doing so great with my weight. Those stupid idiots. It is right and natural to gain weight during pregnancy. They should have been kicking my ass up and down the office hallway. At the minimum, they should have been questioning me about why I wasn't gaining weight: was I eating well but just didn't happen to be gaining? or was I eating iceberg lettuce and soup can labels? At one point the nurse noticed that I'd gained 40 pounds with my first pregnancy. Instead of wondering to herself why I was breaking the pattern this time, she said knowingly, "There's a learning curve!" As if the first time around, I'd thought I could eat the entire earth because I was pregnant, but now I knew better, what a smart girl!
My theory--not exactly a ground-breaking one--about pregnancy weight gain is that any one particular woman gains based on a combination of two factors: (1) her own body's genetic tendencies, and (2) her eating habits during the pregnancy--but mostly number 1. Here are my body's genetic tendencies: I gain more than the average amount of weight during each pregnancy, and it comes off automatically afterwards; I lose ten additional pounds while breastfeeding, but I don't get too familiar with that situation because I always get them back when I wean. That's my pattern. I can change it, but only through extreme measures in my diet, as with my second pregnancy. Other women gain less weight, but then have to work hard to lose it; or they don't lose their last 10 pounds until they wean; or they gain more weight and never lose it; or they gain much more weight and do lose it--whatever their own patterns are, that's what happens to them.
When I was pregnant with the twins, I gained 55 pounds. My OB (a different OB) never said anything about my weight gain one way or the other. His nurse commented at every single visit. "Oooh," she'd say, breathing in through her teeth. "Looks like another six." I should have said something, something like, "I don't know if they covered this in your nurse training, but it is normal to gain weight during pregnancy." I am not assertive enough to do that. What I did instead, every single time she gave me what she clearly considered to be "the bad news," is I said, "Oh, good!"--in a really happy tone of voice.
I think it is difficult and crappy to gain weight during pregnancy. I think women are pressured all the time not to gain weight, and in fact to lose weight, and I think that kind of pressure is hard to shake off even when we know it should be shaken off. I think it's even hard for OBs to shake off. I think some of them have started thinking it's a good thing when a woman doesn't gain much weight. I think that's crap.
I think no one should make a pregnant woman feel even slightly bad about gaining weight, because I think we feel bad enough about it already. It's hard for us to change our bodies like that, and there isn't much support for it. Some of us have people in our lives who say, "Oh my god, you are getting so fat!" or "Look how HUGE you're getting!" or "Do you really think you should be eating that?" or "Eating for two, huh?" It takes focus and dedication to allow those numbers to go up so steadily and so relentlessly. I think OBs need to shut about about it unless they are talking about how the woman needs to gain MORE. I've had more trouble from the nurses, so I'd like to decree that they need to shut up about it completely, unless the OB has specifically asked them to talk to the patient about her weight, which I'm guessing never ever happens. Romantic partners will keep their lips zipped unless they want to lose a vital body part of the pregnant woman's choice.
There is one more category of people who need to shut the hell up, and I'm afraid that category is made up of a subset of other pregnant women and other women who have been pregnant. Sometimes pregnant women don't gain much weight because they are stupid and vain and put their own figures ahead of the health of their babies. Sometimes pregnant women don't gain much weight because that happens to be their own particular pattern: they're eating healthily and plenty and they're not being stupid, but they just don't gain very much weight. Whatever the reason for it, those women are hereby mandated to keep their mouths shut about it, during the pregnancy and in all future conversations about pregnancy-related weight gain. Those of us who gain more, we know how good it must feel to gain less. But that's not how our bodies work, and you are hurting us and pissing us off when you shrug and lower your eyes and say you can't believe you're 30 weeks and have only gained 5 pounds. We can hear the pleasure in your voices. Anyone who pretends to be happy for you is actually picturing the damage she could do to your shrugging shoulders with a well-placed fork.
Furthermore, considering the mental and physical hurdle that must be leapt for a woman to make herself gain the healthy weight she needs to gain, everyone around her should in fact be encouraging her to gain. Romantic partners, I am speaking especially to you. BRING FOOD. Encourage eating. Don't do That Look when you see her eating something, like you think maybe she shouldn't eat it. That makes us want to kill you where you stand, and we have the hormonal chops to pull it off so don't push us.
Anyway. With this pregnancy, I will tell you, I have gained almost 25 pounds so far. I am 26 weeks pregnant, soon to enter the trimester when it is expected that you will gain one pound per week--which is what I've already been doing. It looks like I'm headed for another 40-pound gain. And I will TAKE IT.
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