Skinny Pregnancy?

Sharon Body Image 8 Comments

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Now that I am well into my second trimester, I am loving life! No more nausea, no more fatigue, and I am reveling in the euphoria of post-sickness health–you know that feeling when you’ve been sick for awhile so you appreciate health with a new ecstatic gratitude? That’s how I feel.

Since the first trimester ended, pregnancy has really been awesome. Except in one way, that is.

The weight gain.

Now I will be the first to admit that I haven’t gained an excessive amount of weight. At 21 weeks I’ve gained about 10 pounds (more or less), which is pretty normal and healthy. Even so, I am not loving it. I talk about my weight gain just about every day, and I constantly ask my husband if I look fat. Which, of course, is an unattractive behavior in and of itself.

As much as I hate to say it, I have thought about my body weight more in the last 4 months than any other time in my life. It is constantly on my mind. And this has concerned me. It has tested my previously held convictions about the beauty of the female body and bearing children.

What is going on with me?

As I’ve mulled over my preoccupation with weight, I read an article by my colleague Rachel Stone. She addressed a recent piece in Vogue that seemed to advocate shaming children into healthy eating. In her article Rachel made this statement about her own struggle with body image:

“When I became pregnant for the first time, I was terrified of gaining weight, a fear I now regard as a failure of hospitality that still embarrasses me.”

Hospitality? What did she mean by that?

I thought it was an interesting way of thinking about pregnancy weight gain so I asked her to elaborate. She sent me a link to her personal blog in which she elaborated on the idea further. Grappling with the notion of “skinny pregnancy” (yes, that’s apparently a thing) she describes the under-appreciated reality that our bodies are ” capable of making room for, carrying, and bringing new life forth.”

Now before my husband and I got married, we decided to use Natural Family Planning instead of more common forms of birth control. This decision was made, in part, as a result of an ethics class I took in seminary. I distinctly remember my professor framing the birth control discussion in terms of hospitality: Is your womb a hostile environment or a hospitable one? As I thought about my posture toward my unborn children, that imagery really stuck with me and it’s one of the reasons we chose to practice NFP.

With that background in mind, it’s funny that I haven’t given much thought to my body as a site of hospitality since then. Especially since hospitality is such an obvious category for thinking about pregnancy. When else do we welcome a stranger into our lives in such an intimate and sacrificial way?

God’s timing is so good, because this simple reminder about pregnancy is just what I needed as I think about weight gain during pregnancy. Aside from the fact that pregnancy weight gain is necessary in order to have a healthy pregnancy, it is also an act of hospitality. Excessive and unhealthy eating aside, nourishing my body is about nourishing my baby and creating a welcoming, life-giving environment for him. And weight gain is an important part of that loving action.

All of that to say, I am working on re-conceiving the way I process these bodily changes. I’ve already written about the Christ-like action of suffering to bring new life into the world, and this is an additional way that I can mirror my savior through pregnancy. Just consider Matthew 19:14, where Jesus rebukes his disciples for preventing small children from entering into his presence, saying, β€œLet the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Some women have skinny pregnancies because of their genes. But for the average woman, skinny pregnancy should never be her aim. If I am to welcome children into my heart and life and not “hinder them” the way Jesus instructs, then I am required to exercise a hospitality that puts my personal preferences behind love for the other. Even if that means gaining weight.

So from here on out I will make that my goal. I resolve to stop complaining about my weight–hold me accountable to this people!–and start celebrating the beauty of my changing body. I’m sure it will be hard, but pregnancy really is beautiful and it’s time I start celebrating it the way I should.

Comments 8

  1. Charis

    I am the QF mother of 8 living children. I attempted NFP but that just ensured female children (ie I was not successful avoiding pregnancy. I just got pregnant further away from ovulation= girl child) Your imagery of a “hospitable womb” is affirming compared to the judgment I have heard elsewhere.

    On weight gain, the reality is that I gained as much as 55 lb esp with later pregnancies. When a new baby comes along every two years, it is very hard to loose the baby weight in between. But (I think) you will be glad to know that the total over bridal weight never exceeded 25 lb and it was fairly easy to recover once I stopped giving birth. I look like this now: photo

    I just wanted to add that your husband can have a HUGE impact in this area. Rejection when one doesn’t resemble a porn star is painful. Hopefully he is a good and sensitive husband who maintains a pure mind.

  2. AnneB

    It’s a good resolution to stop complaining about your weight, since yes, it is necessary to gain weight during pregnancy! On the same token, some women use pregnancy to “gorge” and they proudly or happily admit it – well, might as well eat whatever I want, I’ve heard friends say on one occasion or another. This also, should not be the attitude during pregnancy.

    I have three children – I had skinny pregnancies with all of them and even though I was concerned about getting my body back and looking nice, I don’t think I ever worried too much or obsessed over the weight issue.

    If anything, what I need now is a little motivation in taking time for myself πŸ™‚ The free time that I have I prefer sitting on the couch and reading instead of painting my nails or hitting the gym….not a good thing. There is a time for everything, including time for ourselves without being selfish about it!

  3. Christina

    I definitely fall in the category of non-skinny pregnancy. I love healthy foods most of the time and try to steer away from processed carbs, but once that mid first trimester hits, it seems that the things that satisfy and calm my tummy are the pastas, crackers, and rice products I usually have no trouble avoiding. I was less concerned with weight gain during my first two pregnancies, and gained 60 and 50 lbs respectively. By the time I became pregnant the 3rd time this past fall, I had lost 52 lbs in the previous 6 months, and was more fit than I had been for either of the first 2 pregnancies. Unfortunately, I lost that baby early on, but am now expecting our 4th! I am trying not to over-indulge in the area of sugar and am trying to eat as moderately as possible, not to prevent weight gain, but to gain like I should. Because weight gain due to eating 2 pb&i’s and a package of lemon sandwich cookies each day for lunch is just as inhospitable as not enough weight gain! πŸ™‚

  4. Bonnie

    Part of the beauty of the female body is its capacity for bearing children and doing the hard work of raising them. This does demand much of us and our bodies, and take its toll, but that is part of the beauty. I’ve always been thin, even during pregnancy, but my abdomen will never again be bikini-appropriate, shall we say. It can be a struggle to think of it as beautiful because of worldly standards of physical beauty, rather than what it represents: my body has borne three beautiful children. As I age, also, my skin and other things are losing their youthful attractiveness. The truth is that, in time, for all of us, outward physical beauty will fade. But the value (beauty) of what our bodies produced will not.

  5. Laura M

    Also, remember that the day of the birth, you lose around 10-15 that one day, due to the baby’s weight, placenta and lots of liquid. And, although you still have to eat more calories when you’re nursing, the act of nursing also helps your body shed pounds more easily than just exercise alone.

    Not to be discouraging, even if you get back down to your pre-baby weight, your body will be a different shape than before, so you still may not be able to wear the clothes that you used to wear. I heard once that Jillian Michaels said that she never wants to be pregnant because of the permanent change she’s seen in other women’s bodies. I consider it a small sacrifice to be able to have the joy of children in our lives!

  6. Sarah

    I like your insight about hospitality in the womb. I also found myself excessively worried about weight gain during my pregnancy, an attitude that was not normal for me and which contradicted my perception of weight gain in other pregnant women. The hospitality imagery would have helped me at that time. As it was, though, I found balance in my approach to diet and weight during pregnancy. I learned to accept the weight gain and trust that it was helpful to the baby (my husband was wonderful in reminding me of this point), but I also learned not to let pregnancy be an excuse for gluttony. Other people would often try to push foods on me that were unhealthy (and I was already eating too much junk food on my own initiative) and would encourage me not to worry about what I ate or how much because I was “eating for two.” The response I learned to repeat often was that I want to eat as much as the baby needs, but I’m fairly certain that she does not need more chocolate. Fitting that into the hospitality image, no one would provide nothing but junk food to their guests. There is a proper balance in how you eat, exercise and gain weight during pregnancy, and I think that hospitality imagery helps capture that balance.

  7. Tim

    Welcome to the Golden Trimester, Sharon, and congratulations on a healthy pregnacy! And as for weight gain, as long as you and your doctor know you’re healthy then your weight should go up however much (or however little) it goes, right?

    Congrats again,
    Tim

    P.S. Should Ike read my article on expectant husbands? (http://theradicaljourney.com/2012/03/28/advice-for-those-married-to-a-pregnant-person/
    If nothing else, he’s sure to look good in comparison to me. I mean really, how did I convince my wife to stay with me after that first labor and delivery?

  8. Tim

    P.P.S. I think that as long as you can fit into those awesome boots you have nothing to worry about in the weight department during pregnancy!

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