I entered the midwives office excited and hopeful. At almost 24 weeks pregnant, with a very active baby boy inside of me, I was getting excited for the later parts of pregnancy and for preparing for birth. After some trial and error, I had even found an old sundress that still fit over my expanded boobs and belly. I felt happy.
The visit went seamlessly – we discussed birth options, upcoming screening tests, the few symptoms I was having (being tired, mostly). I felt at ease. I climbed up on the table and lay down, where my fundal height (the height of my uterus above my pelvic bone) was measured. It was right on track. We listened with a doppler for his heart beat. It was strong and steady. My blood pressure was perfect.
And then I got on the scale.
“Is that number seem okay?” my midwife asked.
“I’m not sure,” I said, “I’m letting you keep track.”
She recorded the number in the computer, and I asked where I was – how much I had gained.
“Twenty-two pounds,” she said.
My insides froze. “Isn’t that high?” I asked.
She shrugged, “It’s on the higher end.”
“Do I need to change anything or be worried?”
She shook her head and looked me in the eye. She knew this was a triggering subject for me. “Are you eating regular portions of nourishing food?” I nodded. I was actually eating less than normal because I simply didn’t have the space for it. “Are you moving your body?” I nodded. I was taking two prenatal bootcamp classes a week, kickboxing once, and walking or paddle boarding on the other days. I’d been a bit more tired lately, maybe missing a workout here and there, but nothing major. I was always getting movement.
“Then you’re fine,” she said. “Your body is doing what it needs to do. Don’t change what you’re doing. If anything, as we’ve discussed, you need more rest to keep the migraines at bay.”
I heard her words. And even as I heard them, the tears started to come. I pushed them in, smiled, thanked her and left.
When I got to the street, the tears couldn’t be held back and I sobbed into my husband’s clean T-shirt. Shame was hitting me in waves. I felt so ashamed that I had gained so much weight, even while I simultaneously knew that it was fine. Even while every sensation in my body was that I was doing great. Even though all those things were true, the shame kept coming.
You see, we all have our shit. We all have those deeply programmed lies that jump out at us as the slightest provocation, no matter how much we’ve worked and how much we believe otherwise. Sometimes, our stuff is buried deep.
I learned at a young age to be concerned about my weight. The way my father talks about fat people is like how most people talk about a slug crawling out of a salad – gross, disgusting, something to be avoided or eradicated. Definitely not something to be. The messages about women’s beauty didn’t help at all, either. Be thin, but not too thin, and sexy, but virgin-like. When I was 17, I started a downward spiral of a 40 pound weight loss. You can read more about that and my recovery here, where I spell out how important it is to see more of women’s bodies naturally – not stripped of fat and wrinkles and stretch marks, but basking in all their jiggling beauty.
I have learned to love my body. It’s an incredible information system. I’ve nursed it through injury, introduced it to new activities, swam in sensual pleasure and learned to work with it rather than against it. I stopped fighting with food, and learned how to eat when I was hungry and stop just before I’m full. I’ve done this work. I love my body.
In fact, I absolutely adore my pregnant body. I’ve never felt so sexy and beautiful.
Which is why it was such a shock to still have these feelings of worthlessness and shame come up around a number. A number! Not health – my health is great. Not feeling – I feel great. A tiny, fucking, two-digit number.
Great, so now I was angry at my shame.
Here’s the thing – we all have our shit. We all have these parts of us that are so ingrained that we may never completely eradicate them. In fact, the goal isn’t necessarily to war with them, to kill them from the psyche, but to identify them, detach from them, notice how they come with an emotion and a story attached and see if you can etch out the difference between the two.
Today, I saw how my story of shame is tied to numbers on a scale. To numbers on a scale and feeling out of control – that I was doing everything I knew to do in order to stay healthy and my body was deceiving me. My shame comes with a fear that projects itself as sadness; a feeling of failure.
So I take things one part at a time – I see the sadness and I have it. I cry. I let it out. I snot all over my husband’s T-shirt, and the coffee house napkin, and the hem of my sundress. I let out the sadness. The sadness will not hurt me.
And then I investigate the story and compare it with current evidence. The story says that if I am fat, then I can’t control my weight. And if I can’t control my weight, then I am worthless and I will not be loved. The evidence is that I am not fat; I am pregnant. The evidence is that my body is doing what it needs to do to support a new life. The evidence is that I was a lean person to begin with, and pregnancy requires a certain amount of weight gain that is different for each woman. The evidence is that I’m eating healthy and exercising. The evidence is that I have a husband who loves me and thinks I’m beautiful, no matter what the scale says.
So I discredit the story, but I have the emotion. The story is what hurts me. Feeling the emotion sets me free. The emotion moves through my body, and the story disintegrates in my mind.
And to my tiny son, who is feeling all of this today because I am his environment, I tell him, “Mommy is feeling sad today, but it’s not about you. You are doing exactly what you need to be doing. Keep kicking, keep resting, keep growing. Mommy is feeling sad because of old, ancient stories her body is holding. It’s okay for Mom to be sad; sometimes we are just sad. But know it’s not about you, my little fox. Let me sing you a song and you can take rest, now.”
Perhaps I’ll give the same talk to myself. Mommy is sad, because of stories she’s holding. They say nothing about her character, only relate the lessons she learned and is still working to un-learn. She’s doing a good job. She’s sad today, but it will pass. And she will be stronger. So let’s sing a song, and rest, and keep dismantling the stories that keep us in shame.