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A Pregnant Woman’s Body Is Not Her Own
And it’s not yours, either
Since I found out I was pregnant, I’ve had doctors’ appointments every month. Plus half a dozen trips to the lab to have blood drawn. Plus trips to the hospital where I’ll deliver, because that’s where the ultrasounds happen. I’m in my third trimester now, so my doctors’ appointments are every two weeks. In the final four weeks, I’ll have to go every week, and since at age 37 I’m what’s considered a “geriatric” mother, I’ll likely have more frequent ultrasounds as well.
This is my third child in five years. I’ve had a dozen strangers’ hands inside my cervix (though, mercifully, not all at the same time). I’ve given birth vaginally and via C-section, had a specialist wield a cervical ultrasound wand like a vaginal joystick while two other doctors and a tech stood around and commented on what they saw, and had my water break in the middle of a cervical check, after which I grinned and bore it by alternating apologizing with “lol ain’t life strange” quips as I gushed onto the floor and the nurses ran in with paper towels. I’ve worn adult diapers and popped my breasts out in public so my child could feast.
And I’ve been weighed, over and over and over again. For me, that is truly the worst part. Motherhood means losing autonomy over your body — your fetal offspring sucks up all the good stuff inside you so it can, you know, make a brain or whatever, and meanwhile your teeth weaken and your hair turns gray and you get skin tags and you suddenly start calling yourself “cow nips,” which makes you and your husband laugh but is also an alarmingly accurate nickname for your massive areolae and nipples. Then the baby is born, and your body has to heal from the insane trauma it just went through after a whole human tore through it in a smash-and-grab that others choose to call a miracle of life. And if you choose, you have to manufacture liquid gold that you’ll then shoot out of your cow nips and into your shrieking child, which can lead to all sorts of malnourishment in the mother if she isn’t careful. Your teeth can fall out. Your skin turns sallow. You forget what you just walked into this room for. Your boobs expand and contract like flesh balloons. Your face is a mask of exhaustion and bewilderment. And still, you are weighed.
With this third pregnancy, I’ve been gaining weight like I’m pregnant with four Clydesdales and not a fetus that is currently the size of a cabbage. I am at 30 weeks, and I’ve gained 51 pounds so far. That’s roughly 1.7 pounds per week. At the start, a brusque nurse reminded me that I am to gain 25 pounds during the span of my pregnancy. Any more and I could develop gestational diabetes, or my baby could be too big to birth vaginally, or my baby could be at risk for being overweight at some point in her life. Dutifully, at every appointment thus far, I’ve commented on my rapid weight gain, and I’ve been assured that every woman is different, and that as long as I’m remaining active, all is fine.
Today, I decided not to bring it up. I just want to get through these last weeks, is my current vibe, and I’m tired of beating myself up for getting fat while doing so. I’m so, so tired of worrying about being fat. I had anorexia in high school and college — at one point I survived three weeks on green tea and the occasional slice of American cheese — and then, in my late twenties, I gained a ton of weight due to an increase in stress and a decrease in activity (that is, I had an office job). Then I had my boys, and my weight plateaued at around 180. I’m 5'8" tall. I started noticing how reluctant I was to run after my oldest, how heavy I felt both physically and mentally, and I began working on getting healthier. The right way. I exercised and ate well, snore, but it worked. I was 148 and muscular when I got pregnant again. Immediately, I gained 10 pounds. My body has continued to take on water (literally and figuratively), and the fact that I’m once again losing control over my weight is a constant simmering fury under every moment of my day. Sometimes it boils over, as it did today when the doctor came in and told me my weight gain is a concern. She is a wonderful, nice, thin lady, and I know she’s right. But I also know that it left me feeling like screaming.
Pregnant women are on display. Suddenly, you are someone different. Something different. There’s a strange, infantilizing obsession that others get with a pregnant woman’s shape, her “bump.” It lures people in, invites them to touch and caress and rub, despite the look on the pregnant woman’s face as she is being fondled by a stranger. I hear “How are you feeling?” and “Well, you look great!” a million times a day.
I feel done. I look done. Please, everyone, stop assessing me. Just let me get through this.
I make jokes, even to myself, about what a wide load I am, and it’s my way of signaling to others that I AM AWARE. It’s okay, folks, this lady’s in touch with reality. But the minute I stop doing so — like today, when I decided I wouldn’t mention my weight as a concern — that’s when it becomes a concern for my doctor. My blood pressure is great, my glucose test came back normal, I do 40 minutes of cardio at the gym four times a week—and yet. I have gotten too big. My body is beyond me. That’s what I’ve been trying to say all along, I want to yell.
I have an IUD, yet still I became pregnant. To say this baby wasn’t planned is an understatement. Once again, I am not in control of my body’s destiny. When I am weighed, when I have to then discuss my weight in a rational way, it feels like I’m in the back seat and someone next to me is asking why the car is out of control. I’m not driving, I want to say. I’m back here and the brakes are way up there. But I’m too busy screaming to say any of that.