For almost my entire life, barring the first moments of infancy and the brief stage between 6-8 when almost everybody is lean, I’ve been round. Chubby, pudgy, fat: however you want to phrase it. And in this body, I’ve spent plenty of time dealing with fatphobia: both the fatphobia of the world around me, and the internalized kind that creeps in when you aren’t watching and leads to a particularly pervasive kind of body hatred. The kind of body hatred that leads you to waste a great deal of time as a child and teenager wishing yourself into a different body, always to no avail.
But then I learned that fatphobia was both a word and a system, not a natural response to something bad. I met a lot of fantastic folks, who were not only fat but also activists radically embracing their fatness. I thought of the many fat people who I found attractive, and began to consider how that might also be applied to my own body. It occurred to me for the first time that I could be fat, that people could like me and– more importantly– that I could like myself. Which is how I moved into an adulthood of relative body acceptance: believing that I had conquered fatphobia.
But then, I had never grown out of my pants in the span of four months.
Of course I knew that pregnancy would change my body. Pre-pregnancy, I accepted this fact with vague interest and relative neutrality, assuming that clothing would be my biggest issue. But then things began to shift. My belly began to grow, not into the neat bump that 1000 strangers’ photos had assured me was a universal reality, but into a fatter version of what it already had been. My pants became snug, and then unbuttonable. My favourite t-shirts began to ride higher on my stomach. Now, items of clothing are reclassified as unwearable on almost a daily basis. This weekend I stepped on to a scale for the first time in six weeks and had to force myself not to sulk for the rest of the day. I’m bigger than ever before, and I’m uncomfortable with it. I feel too big.
At the same time, I feel like I’m not big enough. The neat bump still hasn’t appeared. With a hair elastic and loose fitting belt, I can still wear my regular pants. My weight gain is, according to at least one of my hundred pregnancy iPhone apps, on the low end of normal. I’m 19 weeks pregnant, and nobody– friend, stranger, coworker– has asked when I’m due. On one hand, I’m a fairly private person. I appreciate being able to decide when, or if, to tell people about Bingo. I also appreciate being able to avoid the unwanted touch and invasive questions that, I’ve heard, strangers offer when you’re pregnant. On the other hand, this invisibility also feels like a lack of recognition. Like I am somehow less legitimate a pregnant person than the pregnant person who looks like they swallowed a basketball. This is less about external recognition– which I’m still not sure I want– and more about a physical validation of the big things that are apparently happening in my body. Having this pregnancy not follow the physical route that I had imagined makes me feel as if I’m not really pregnant. I feel too small.
I brought this latter concern to Diet Coke (DC) the midwife at our last visit. As she felt for my uterus and measured its position, she smiled and assured me that I was fine. That she hears this question all of the time. That everybody is either “too big or too small”.
At the time, I just thought, “Well, I’m both”. But writing about it now, I’m thinking more. I’m thinking about how sad it is that so many people spend this rare fraction of their lives feeling like their bodies aren’t enough. I’m thinking about how pregnancy forums are used more as a tool of comparison than as a space for celebration. And I’m thinking about how to cultivate body acceptance/celebration that will work for a lifetime: not only for the body I currently have.