When you're expecting, you hear a lot of unwanted advice from people. While I expected to hear some of the advice, like that old "sleep now 'cause you'll never sleep again" chestnut, I did not anticipate that so many people would be so focused on my weight gain. Often, I'd hear people suggest that I give into my cravings, or eat more to help ensure I was providing enough nutrients for my baby. Over time, however, I began to realize that I was basically being skinny shamed, which ultimately led me to stop talking publicly about my pregnancy weight gain.
Before I got pregnant, I frequently heard comments about my slim figure. But I didn't realize that my weight would be such a hot topic of discussion while I was pregnant. "I'm carrying a human inside me," I wanted to tell people. "Couldn't we just focus on baby names and cute baby clothes?" Apparently not.
The first few months of pregnancy were both exciting and overwhelming. I realized that not only was I responsible for caring for myself, but now I was also responsible for protecting the tiny human lounging in my stomach. I felt like I was in a constant state of panic: Was I eating too much? Was I eating too little? Will a cup of coffee really harm my daughter? Every part of my body was growing, and I felt extremely self-conscious. For once I had breasts and thighs and a little extra padding. But it still wasn’t enough for others. They wanted to see me more pregnant.
During the first trimester, I was gaining weight, but I was also extremely nauseous. For the first three months, I either had to eat constantly to keep from throwing up, or I ate very, very little. Crackers, lemon tea, and lots of fruit were my snacks of choice. Overall, though, I was healthy, and my doctor assured me my baby was OK.
"Your meals are too healthy," people would say, or, "Is that your second Caramel Macchiatto?"
For some reason, however, others were far more concerned about my pregnancy weight than I was. Some friends suggested I eat more snacks or pack a larger lunch to make sure I was eating more. Others recommended drinking healthy pregnancy smoothies or taking vitamins to ensure that I was being “healthy.” My workout regimen was questioned, as were the amount of caffeine I drank and my foods of choice.
"Your meals are too healthy," people would say, or "Is that your second Caramel Macchiatto?," or "You really shouldn't be working out because you can harm the baby." (For what it's worth, both exercise and caffeine consumption are OK during pregnancy, albeit in moderate amounts.)
Eventually, I got fed up. I stopped talking about my pregnancy weight during my third month of pregnancy, because I was tired of being told that I wasn't gaining enough weight. All of these critiques were cloaked in concern for myself and my baby, so it was hard for me to get defensive or tell people to back off. I couldn't tell if they were actually concerned about me and my baby, or if they were just being mean for the sake of being mean.
By the second trimester, my weight gain accelerated, and I was definitely packing on the baby weight. I had tons of cravings: I wanted everything from oily, fattening foods like burritos and Chinese food, to healthier items like grapefruit. By the end of my pregnancy, I had gained almost 30 pounds – a number that falls within the normal weight gain range during pregnancy, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
Nonetheless, people kept judging me for how I looked. They thought the amount of weight I gained was unhealthy, or somehow not enough. My baby bump was too small, my hips weren't wide enough, I wasn't doing the pregnancy waddle, and I was still able to fit into regular clothes. All of these things somehow added up to mean that I was not having a healthy pregnancy.
While I occasionally complained about gaining weight to my husband and my close friends, I would have loved to have talked openly about how uncomfortable I was in my pregnant body. But I felt like I just couldn’t talk about it. Even though I no longer felt like myself because I wasn't able to move around the way I was used to, I knew people would still tell me I was too thin or too small. So I kept my mouth shut.
People forget that even “skinny”women feel insecure and are not completely satisfied with their bodies. That applies doubly during pregnancy, when women are judged for every single choice they make. Being skinny-shamed and judged for the amount of weight I gained (or didn't gain) during pregnancy taught me about the importance of setting boundaries and how to deflect questions regarding my body. After all, it's nobody's business how much pregnant women weigh — all that matters is that we are healthy and doing the best we can, for ourselves and for our babies.