Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Goodbye Again

I'm twenty weeks pregnant. Twenty and a half, actually. Which means I'm halfway through. (OMG! pause for a moment of WTF?! Ahhhhh!!!!) I'm just starting to have a belly--still looks kind of like a beer gut but definitely looking more like someone's living in there. I've been enjoying it. I feel good, have energy, am eating well, my hair is thick and shiny......And yes, I've gained weight. That's what's supposed to happen, and it's happening.

However, I want to share my experience of weight and weighing with you should you find yourself pregnant and faced with the decision each and every time you go to your midwife or doctor: to look at the number on the scale or not.

I didn't weigh myself for YEARS. I have a history of not-so-great behavior with food and body, and numbers have always been a trigger for me. Forget if I feel good or not; I would decide there's a certain number I should be and I would do whatever it took to be there, and it was never low enough. I went through a period a couple of years ago where I decided I could sanely handle weighing myself, and that ended with me walking my scale out to the garbage can and giving it a funeral. Some of you might remember that day.

For some reason, I decided it would be fine to chart my weight while pregnant. It'll be fun to see the number go up! And I'm SURE I'll be the girl who gains the normal amount at exactly the rate the book tells you to. First trimester I gained quite a bit at first (little freaky), then nothing at the end (ahh relief) ; 2 midwife visits ago everything seemed fine and on track (guess I'm an average statistic!).

Then last week I went for my 20-week appointment, stood on the scale, and honestly, the world crashed. The number that showed was so above and beyond anything I thought it could or should have been in any galaxy in any universe, and I freaked out. I was completely traumatized, and I don't use that word lightly. The rest of the appointment I couldn't focus on what my midwife was telling me, could barely talk to Sky who had come with me since we were getting our ultrasound (baby is perfect, and I was more focused on the scale than that), and proceeded to sob for about 4 hours when I left the office. I felt ashamed, I felt like I'd done something deeply wrong, I felt hideous, and I felt like an unfit mother. Seriously.

So here's the deal: I am not looking at the number anymore. Because here's what I learned when I called some of my mom friends in hysterics: the books that tell you you'll gain 3/4 to 1 lb a week for the second half of your pregnancy can go F themselves. Nobody does it the same way. One of my friends has 4 kids, and for one of them she gained slow and steady the whole time, for another one she gained 30 lbs by 20 weeks and 1 lb the rest of the pregnancy, and she didn't do anything differently in the latter half of that pregnancy. That's just how her body made that baby. For each of her 4 kids she gained exactly the same amount of weight, and ate totally differently for each one. She didn't look at the scale while pregnant, only after would she find out. One of my friends gained 16 lbs in 6 weeks and barely anything at the end; another was barely showing at 7 months and then 28 lbs came on. Another friend who has 3 kids and also doesn't ever look at the scale found out after her third child was born that she had gained the exact same 33 lbs for each baby. There is no formulaic way our bodies are going to grow a human, and as long as we're not doing anything extreme in any direction, it seems like our bodies have a place they like to get to while pregnant. And that's not in our control. I refuse to be miserable in my pregnancy trying to fit myself into a book's formula and feeling like a better person and a better MOTHER if I stick to that model.

That said, you may be someone that can handle it with no sweat. I think that's great, and look at the number if it sates your curiosity and it's not going to give you a window into unhappiness. I know that suddenly my pregnancy felt about how I was going to control my body at a time that it is completely under new management and control is the farthest thing from realistic without potentially harming the baby. If I were eating a pint of ice cream or 3 pieces of cake everyday, sure, I could consider changing my food. But I haven't been. Yes, I indulge at times (hello San Francisco trip), but for the most part I eat 5 or 6 times a day in super-moderate portions. It's definitely more than I ate pre-pregnancy, but it's not a diet that should cause me fear extreme weight gain.

So that's my experience. I'll turn my back on the scale, let me midwife know I'd prefer not to know, and as long as I don't have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, whatever that number is shouldn't be cause for concern. At the end of my pregnancy maybe I'll find out what that final number was. And maybe not.


  1. Melanie, I'm glad you through out the scale. I'm not pregnant and I've thought about getting rid of mine recently. It messes with my mood.

    I've gained weight since working at a studio because I'm sitting on my ass all day and it sucks. I exercise and eat well, so it's been a real struggle. One that includes not liking myself because of a number. Lame.

    BTW, you are a great Mom and no number is going to change that. I have no doubt that you are taking excellent care of that hummingbird and part of that is taking care of Melanie. I'm not a parent, but it's a lesson that I have had to learn a million times.

  2. i think this was a really brave & wonderful post. definitely am going to keep in mind as we start a family & think it will prove to be such crucial wisdom! you're a wonderful writer & mom to be -- thanks for taking the time & courage to write this!