Our bodies do miraculous things for us. The ability to walk and run, as well as grow and birth a child, are a few things among the many that I never want to take for granted.
Pregnancy, however, was a time that my body felt foreign to me. I forgot all the things that our bodies allow us to do, and instead focused on the number on the scale, how nothing fit, and how I felt betrayed by the rapid, unexpected body changes.
The American Pregnancy Association reports the recommended pregnancy weight gain to be within 25-35 pounds. I have heard of friends gaining anywhere from 15-50, and was definitely hoping I’d be on the smaller side. (A handful of them were back in their pre-pregnancy jeans just days after giving birth, which, spoiler alert, is not common and I was not one of those people.)
By some stroke of luck, I never really struggled with my weight before. Then I got pregnant, and was immediately starving on an unrecognizable level. I would even out-eat my 6′ 3″ athletic husband! I was mostly eating nutrient-dense, healthy foods like quinoa, free-range eggs, spinach, and organic meats, but it was a lot.
I gained and gained and gained. Five pounds here, 10 pounds there. I hit 35 sometime in my third trimester, which I knew was the “maximum recommended amount.” After that, I asked to not be told the number at my doctor’s appointments. I was glad that my healthcare team never saw it as a problem. I passed my glucose test with flying colors and the baby was measuring right on schedule.
But despite the fact that I was pregnant with a healthy baby, I couldn’t get past the emotions that came with feeling huge. Even my maternity jeans were starting to feel too tight, and I felt a sense of betrayal from my own body. I knew the situation was dire when I started to get the well-meaning but awkward “You’re so big!” comments. (Which, let’s be honest, who considers that a compliment? And how do you respond to that graciously? Thank you?) For the first time in my life, I felt truly “fat.”
I knew that I was pregnant, which meant that my body was growing a child and I should be thankful for the miracle instead of upset at my body for the extreme weight gain. But it’s so hard to remember that in those moments. I felt shocked, betrayed, and like I had done something wrong.
I delivered my very average-sized baby, and was eventually able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans. That’s when I felt like myself again. I was finally ready to hear the total number of pounds I had gained. I called my doctor’s office and asked for the cold truth. The official report: 45 pounds.
I still don’t know how I gained that much weight eating quinoa and kale. And I sure didn’t think that those pre-pregnancy jeans would ever fit. I have my body back, and I feel healthy, active, and confident. But whether or not it goes back with subsequent pregnancies no longer matters as much to me. I have unending respect for my body after having experienced a complication-free, full-term pregnancy and childbirth. This collection of bones and organs and muscles grew my son, and I can think of no greater gift. My happy, giggly baby is a constant reminder that our bodies are incredible because of what they can do, not because of what they look like.