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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, “Let 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.