The weight kept jolting further and further to the right. Higher and higher. My anxiety raised in parallel unison with the climb of the scale’s number.
(Oh, you thought I was immune from scales because I smash them for a living? Not so much.)
The nurse silently wrote down a number and I followed her into a room. My heart and thoughts started racing…
‘How did I gain so much in such a short time period? This never happened with my son. I’m in trouble. The doctor is going to tell me my weight is out of control and that I’m a bad mother.’
I quickly put the brakes on my catastrophic thinking and checked in with reality:
- I am pregnant, weight gain happens.
- This is baby two. The second pregnancy is bound to be different from number one.
- I have done nothing different in diet or exercise. I have taken care of myself just as I did throughout my first pregnancy and just as I always do.
- I should Google this.
No, no, no. Put. The. Google. Down.
A light knock on the door broke me out of my erratic thinking. The kind nurse reentered the room asking your typical baby doctor questions. I rolled up my shirt and she placed the Doppler on my belly. Within an instant my weighty worries vanished, replaced with the sweet sound of my baby’s strong and healthy heartbeat. Exhale. I am okay.
You may wonder why I faced the scale head on. I have done this for some time now because it (usually) has zero effect on me. In fact, I am usually too busy chatting with the nurse to even care what the number is. It is just a number. But maybe I need to rethink my plan going into my next visit, as well as look at the catalyst for such an emotional reaction to my inevitable weight gain.
Most of us download a plethora of pregnancy apps on our phone the minute we get that EPT plus sign. The apps serve a wonderful purpose of telling you daily facts and also comparing your fetus to various fruit sizes that you can then share on Facebook (because all of your Facebook friends are dying to know that your baby is the size of a Kumquat). The apps also gives information and provides charts for you to track your weight, including a shaded range projecting your ‘healthy’ weight gain path. I tracked my weight with my first son for a hot minute and suddenly realized I was playing with hot, hot fire. The minute my little weight ball was outside my shaded range my mind went to the above catastrophic scenario. The weight was quickly deleted and I gave myself permission to enjoy my pregnancy and ignore the flashing number on the scale.
This second pregnancy has been so different in a variety of ways. The chaos of our recent move and chasing a busy two-year old make it difficult to even reminder that I am pregnant, much less stay up to date on the fruit size of my fetus. The main difference has come in exhaustion and belly size. In the last month I have noticed how quickly my belly has ‘popped’. It happened much sooner than with baby one and to be quite honest this was a hard notion to digest. The comparison gremlins quickly crept in – and by crept in I mean came POUNDING into my head.
I was comparing my pregnancies, body sizes and even worse – sibling comparison. Yes, my older sister is pregnant and eleven weeks ahead of me. The first thing she said when she saw me last month was, “Your belly is as big as mine!” (And yes, I wanted to punch her like I did when we were kids). As we sat side by side, my round belly looked huge next to her first-time teeny tiny baby belly. Rather than being in my confident adult self, my mind shifted back to my 11-year old self who constantly compared her self worth to her older sister.
Then last weekend, I met my family at the beach for a wonderful mini-vacation. My emotions were still pretty raw from my recent doctor’s appointment so when my family started commenting and comparing bellies, it hurt. However, I can’t put all the blame on my family because they were simply following my lead. I, like so many of us, often put myself down in humor before anyone else can hurt me. A tough exterior, defense mechanism and armor I’ve worn most my life and something that rears its ugly head when I am back in the 11-year old mindset. Recovery has helped me recognize this armor and given me tools in how to combat these self-deprecating habits. I always say that the greatest gift of recovery is not a magic cure, but awareness. I noticed how I was back in that armor and in that 11-year old comparison mindset and decided to do something about it.
With my heart tender and my confidence shaken, I went back to my body basics. I shifted my thinking back into my adult self, put on a bikini and went for a walk on the beach, the exact same beach that gave me one of my favorite recovery memories to date. Shoulders back and belly proudly out, I stood strong and told my mom how difficult it is to be pregnant these days. All of the comparison, unsolicited advice and those damn apps that tell you what you should weigh as if pregnancy is some standardized test. It is COMPLETELY unrealistic to think that you will gain the perfect 1.4 pounds per week or whatever crazy number it is. And if you do, bravo! That’s YOUR body. Not mine. We put so much pressure on ourselves to look perfect that you would think you’d get a break during pregnancy. Nope. The comments, horror stories and advice from friends, family and yes, even strangers is absurd.
While I can’t stop a stranger from rubbing my belly in the checkout line (eww) or stop comments on the size of my belly, I can alter my reaction to their comments. We all can. The choice is ours. We can either choose to follow the rigid shaded space of weight graphs and what we think we ‘should’ weigh or look like or we can live freely and give our babies and bodies permission to grow, taking care of ourselves along the way. This is not a ticket to binge, but rather be mindful of what our bodies need and want during this precious time. SMASH what the apps say. SMASH what the Google machine says. And by all means SMASH what the scale says. Listen to your body – and if you have trouble with that, listen to your baby. He or she will tell you just what they need, you just have to shut off the apps, shut out noise and listen.