Pregnancy's a weighty issue

Pregnancy weight
Pregnancy weight 

Sitting in the waiting room of my obstetrician this week, I found myself disgracefully comparing my weight gain to the other pregnant women around me.

Peering up from Hello Magazine, I got a perverse sense of satisfaction as I scanned the room and realised I wasn’t the biggest Bertha there.

“Did you see her stomach?” I asked my nonplussed husband later, of a rather harassed looking woman with a gargantuan-sized bump. 

“She could set a table for four on that thing!” I said almost gleefully.

I am not a bitchy person, but pregnancy sure has messed with my sense of body image. In the last seven months, I have gained more than 20 kilograms – well over the meagre recommended 15kg. 

My doctor has long since read me the riot act, warning that I am at a greater risk of a 10 pounder and a C-section. Worse still, she said that most of the women that she sees who max out on their pregnancy weight rarely get their pre-baby bodies back. Quelle horreur!

This week, when I anxiously got on the scales, I found myself defending my latest 2-kg-acquisition to the nurse. 

“I swear I’m not eating badly, I’m exercising every day,” I said in a whiney, almost desperate voice. 

The wise, old nurse looked at me wearily and said something that almost seemed profound.

“You’re just pregnant dear.” 

As a person who enjoys working out and staying trim, the bodily contortions of pregnancy have undoubtedly been the hardest thing to deal with. 

Forget forgoing coffee and alcohol, the constipation and my cool new Justin Bieber moustache.

In our body-obsessed culture, embracing my newfound Dame Edna jowls has seemed an obscene proposition – countercultural even.

At first I tried self-deprecating humour, by calling myself ‘Big Bertha’ (which I incidentally found out was the name of a German howitzer gun that was used during WWII.) Other evenings, during teary, hormonal meltdowns, I’ve found myself promising my husband that one day, I will look like myself again.

And yet, what if I was among that tiny percentage of women who sail through pregnancy without gaining more than a wafer? 

I met one of these rare creatures after my aqua aerobics class just over a month ago. The colour must have drained from my face when she told me she was due one month after me. There was nothing (I repeat: nothing) to indicate this woman was pregnant. She was rail thin and had a wash-board stomach. 

The poor lady then conveyed her anxieties to me about her lack of weight gain. Was the baby healthy? Was her pregnancy ‘normal?’ She was so self-conscious about it, she didn’t feel entitled to join a pre-natal pilates class at our gym, worried that people wouldn’t believe she was pregnant. 

So where does that leave us, the vain and the pregnant? 

Aside from the twangs of self-loathing that I experience every morning when I look in the mirror, I am overjoyed about this little girl that I am carrying.

For all my whining, I get a thrill every time I feel her tumble-turn inside me.

Keeping her healthy is my priority right now. I’m swimming most days and eating salmon and walnut salads (and yes, sneaking in a little ice-cream on the side). But as far as I can tell, this weight gain is out of my hands.

And besides, perhaps the loss of control over my image is preparing me for the greater responsibilities of motherhood. It’s not all about ME anymore. My body is no longer just my own, I no longer have exclusive rights to any of it.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be hitting the gym as soon as I’m capable – although people tell me that I might have to wait six weeks before I’m ready to lift my raw heiny off the couch.

But the jowls are definitely worth it. Dame Edna, eat your heart out.

As a person who enjoys working out and staying trim, the bodily contortions of pregnancy have undoubtedly been the hardest thing to deal with.