I was on the verge of turning 30 when I found out I was pregnant. At my surprise 30th-birthday party, I was only 8 weeks along and I already felt like a blimp. I was wearing a big T-shirt, flat sandals, and a frumpy skirt with an elastic waist. I used to pride myself on dressing in sexy fitted tops and pants. But when I looked around the room at my skinny girlfriends in their clingy outfits, I felt anything but sexy. It was a lovely party, and so sweet of my husband to throw it for me. Yet part of me felt like I did back in college...ike a fat girl.
I'd been about 30 pounds overweight when I graduated from college. It took me four years and a lot of sweat and discipline to lose it, but by the time I met my husband, when I was 26, I was in good shape. At 5'7", I weighed 150 pounds, within my healthy weight range. When we wed two years later, I was down to 138 pounds (thanks to pre-wedding jitters that gave me diarrhea for two weeks!).
I gained back those 12 pounds within the first few months of marriage, but I still felt like a dishy newlywed. Not for long. After a few more months, I was up to 160.
To motivate my quest for weight loss, I decided to train for a half-marathon. By race time, I had dropped 10 pounds. It was a freakin' hot day to run 13 miles, but I sucked it up, just grateful that I was healthy enough to do it. Two months after the race, my husband and I decided we were ready for a baby. Now that my weight was under control, and I was strong and healthy, it felt like the right time. We got pregnant right away.
Outgrowing my "fat pants"
At my first ob-gyn visit, I had to jump on the scale. It read 163 and I thought, I'm only 6 weeks pregnant. How fat am I going to get?? Not exactly the warm and fuzzy thoughts of motherhood.
I left the office committed to eating healthier than ever. That pledge lasted about a week before nausea kicked in. For the next two months, the only foods I could keep down were mac and cheese, PB&J, and cereal. I grew out of my fat pants pretty quickly; they got so tight that I was getting vagina cleavage -- not a good look.
I went to one of my best friends' weddings when I was about 12 weeks. I remember looking at her slim figure with envy. She was in a tight-fitting Vera Wang, and I was in a no-name, empire-waisted, size-14 dress. I told a few of my good friends that I was pregnant that day, just so they wouldn't think I'd let myself go.
Pop goes the belly When I reached my second trimester, my maternity clothes came out of the closet. I was glad to get beyond the nausea and be eating healthier fare. But when I worked late (I was a magazine editor) or was super stressed, it was really hard to keep my hand out of the Halloween candy jars on my coworkers' desks. Sometimes, I'd sneak over to the vending machines to buy peanut M&M's, praying that nobody would catch me. By the first week of December, after stuffing myself like a turkey at Thanksgiving, I was up to 175 pounds.
Near the end of my second trimester, people started asking me how much weight I'd gained so far. I never responded with a number (which was about 30 pounds), only a smart-ass comeback. I was thrilled, of course, that my baby was thriving inside my belly, but I also was terrified that I'd never fit into my favorite clothes again.
My body as a guessing game
Somewhere in the midst of my third trimester, my body became an object of speculation. My favorite was when people would ask me if I knew the gender of my baby. When I'd say no, they'd check out how fat my butt was getting and say, "It's probably a girl." I'd reply, "I dunno. I've always had a large ass." I was much nicer to people who thought I was having a boy. "Really? You think?" I'd respond, glad they didn't see me as a giant marshmallow.
One day, I was flagging a cab on the street when a woman came up and asked when my twins were due. "I'm just having one baby," I replied. "I'm large and in charge. Have a nice day!" I wanted to slap her. I wanted to cry.
I wish I could say that my weight issues disappeared once I was in the delivery room. But soon after I was in the hospital bed, a nurse came in and asked my weight. I made my husband leave the room because I didn't want him to know I was 205 pounds. I probably weighed more than he did, and he's a big 6'2" guy. But pain soon dulled the embarrassment. As I watched my contractions on the monitor, my size was the last thing on my mind. I was having a baby and it was miraculous.
As soon as my daughter was in my hands I was worried so much less about me and so much more about her. Was she okay? Was she warm? I had already learned the first lesson of motherhood: There's no time for self-absorption.
Almost three years after she was born, I gave birth to twins. If only that lady on the street could have seen how big I was before I had them! I was around 230. The twins are almost 18 months old now, and I still have 20 pounds I'd like to lose. And as much as I want to shed the weight to wear the latest fashions, I have a better motivation: to be as healthy as possible for my precious kids.
I recently asked my husband what it was like for him to see his wife's body change so much. He said that he was in awe of what I was able to do -- grow and deliver our beautiful babies, and even nourish them with my milk. And you know what? I honestly feel the same way.
Christina Boyle is a Babytalk contributing editor.