Size Matters

Gavin and I are expecting our first baby in about 6 weeks – I’m due somewhere around 17th September (give or take a few days). We already know that it’s going to be a little boy so we have been busy picking names and room colours for the last few months.

When we found out I was pregnant, in January, I’m guessing our mix of emotions were similar to many other peoples’ in this situation; shock, uncertainty, excitement, fear, anticipation, huge expectations and lots and lots of questions! For me, however, there was an overwhelming emotion or fear I had to battle right from day one  –

“How on earth am I going to cope with all the weight that I am going to gain?”. 

I have questioned whether to write about it on my blog (especially since it’s my first post in so long) but the more I have read about pregnancy and the issues around this, the more determined I was that it’s something I should begin to speak about. Those of you who know me very well will know the issue of food/weight is one I have struggled and battled with for many years.  There are times when it’s been harder to deal with than others, but over the last couple of years I believe that I have learned how to manage and overcome some of my deepest fears and insecurities. One of the biggest blessings in my life has been Gavin (for many, many reasons) but especially where food is concerned – he has introduced me to lots of new things I would never dream of letting past my lips, while always trying to understand and accept by deep-seated issues of control.

‘Control’ is what holds me where food is concerned – I HAVE to be the master of food and not it of me. I have vast amounts of self-control about what I eat, which at times has been very dangerous and has caused me countless problems. My desire to be in control of food has meant the usual issue with pregnancy cravings, that many women experience, is something I was absolutely determined to master. I can count on one hand the number of times I have ‘given in’ and eaten something that I really wanted (healthy or unhealthy). On those rare occasions, when I have succumbed, I have only allowed myself a small amount – half or quarter portion – of what I fancied. Like I said, I was determined that I would be in control of food and it would not beat me. Sad, I know. The reality is  – the odd bag of crisps, chocolate bar or McDonalds McFlurry (that I didn’t force Gavin to share with me) would have done me very little harm, but being ‘strong’ and ‘in control’ always makes me feel much better about myself than any little treat could!

This struggle has been part of me for so many years that it’s like a friend (or enemy) I know too well. I have come to the point of accepting that I will always have to manage my ‘issue’ with food and control. Finding out I was pregnant was immediately over shadowed by my absolute terror at the prospect of ‘getting fat’ and having ‘no control’ over what my body did, not matter how much or little I ate! Gavin was faced with constant tears and fears in the first few months and I was never off the scales, shamefully proud of myself when I managed to lose a pound rather than put one on. (I have banned myself from the scales since about 4 months in – the signs of obsession were, once again, becoming too evident.)

As life would have it, it turns out my fears where not to be realised in the way I had first thought – instead of putting on lots of weight or developing a nice round baby bump, my experience has been quite the opposite. My ‘bump’ (loose term compared to what I’d expected) is, and has been, very small. In fact, it measures far too small and I have spent the last 10 weeks at the hospital for countless scans/tests and emergency appointments as there are concerns over my size and the size/health of our baby. It has been, and still continues to be, pretty stressful. We hope and pray that all will be well with our baby boy and that he’ll arrive with us healthy and strong.

(I want to be very clear that the issue with my bump size is not linked to what I have or haven’t eaten during pregnancy, it’s not caused by my food issues, the Doctors are certain of that –  there are other issues at play.)

One of the hardest things to cope with in the middle of all of this has been what other people have had to say. For anyone who has issues with food, weight or body image, the idea of people remarking on how you look fills you with absolute dread. These last fews months for me have been no different, except now people feel they have a legitimate reason to comment. I have been amazed at how open strangers are to pass judgement about my lack of pregnancy growth. Over the past 3 or 4 months, most days I have heard some comment of this nature:

  • “No! You’re not pregnant – are you really sure?”
  • “When exactly is your baby due – you must have made a mistake with your dates!”
  • “I’d be concerned about the health of a baby, with a bump like that.”
  • “It seems your baby has stopped growing”
  • “Oh dear, looks like your baby has shrunk” (that was from a Health Care Professional!!)
  • “So come on then, where is this so called ‘baby’?”
  • “Oh, I thought I heard you were pregnant – has something happened?”
  • “Really! 7 weeks to go – I have NEVER seen someone like you, you’re the smallest I have ever come across.” (last weekend, in a well known baby store, as the sales assistant called to another to “come and have a look at this”!)

And the list could go on. I have stopped telling people I am pregnant, as I just can’t face the questions or helpful suggestions about why I look like I do and how I can solve it. (And no, eating more calories will NOT solve it!! GRRR!!). I have no pictures and I have de-tagged anything others have put on Facebook, again to save having to face anymore comments. I know that people are not trying to make me panic, feel inadequate or even more anxious – in fact most are trying to be positive – but that’s the outcome. When I’m standing in front of them trying to smile politely and look for a quick way out of the conversation instead I am burning with anger thinking, “Really… do you think that I’m just THIS FAT for no good reason.” 

My battle with not measuring up size-wise pregnant is a very visible one. I worry about how or why our baby might not be ‘growing’ or ‘showing’ in the way everyone expects, I feel ‘on show’ constantly as I try to hide my lack of sizeable pregnancy bump but very clear loss of pre-pregnancy figure, all the while trying to manage what everyone else might think or feel about the situation, concurrently battling my own weight/food/control demons in the process. This, on top of being pregnant, is all very exhausting!

I have often wondered how I would have responded if the situation had turned out as I expected (‘normal’ size pregnancy bump/weight gain). Deep down I know I would still be in a battle, it would just be a different one.

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of all of this is the little money I have had to spend on maternity clothes! Much of my summer wardrobe from previous years still fits and I have just bought a few new tops and another elasticated skirt one size up from normal. So my bank balance is bigger than my bump!!

This is the first week when I have looked at myself in the mirror and finally thought I look pregnant – granted not as far on as the number of weeks I am currently at. So with all I have said, you would imagine when I put on a summer dress I have worn for many years only to find that it doesn’t fit comfortably anymore, I would be pleased.  Not quite! Part of my brain says  – “This is good, you’re finally growing, this is great for the baby and for you.” Unfortunately the overriding message I hear is “You’re clothes don’t fit you anymore…you’re getting FAT…and you have no control over it at all”. Ahhh!

Size matters. I guess it matters to most of us, whether it’s a constant battle or a mild frustration, when we gain or lose a pound or two. For me being pregnant has been an eye opener to another side of the battle or issue that I was not prepared for.

The other comment I’ve heard over the last couple of months, as frequently as the rest, is:

“Oh lucky you, you’re so small now –  you’ll have so little to lose once the baby arrives.”

I know the logic in that must be true, but I struggle to compute it because all my mind hears  with that statement is –  “You’re going to have to lose weight after you give birth”.  Depending on the day I can panic and think “Help! I am going to be fat forever” or, celebrate internally with “Great! I LOVE the challenge of managing food and being in control”. Neither, I’m sure you would agree, are healthy responses.

There’s been lots in the media and on the internet about the birth of the Royal Baby. Perhaps the one article that seems to have caused the most controversy and criticism is found in OK! Magazine, which headlines with “Kate’s post baby weight loss regime”… only ONE DAY after giving birth.  A simple Google search shows just how much backlash there was to this from ordinary mums, celebrities and a Cabinet Minister (Jo Swinson, MP) – so much so that OK! have issued an apology.

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I understand people’s anger and frustration and it’s right and totally justified. But when it comes to aligning that with how I feel I need to behave post-pregnancy, I can’t get the two to measure up. The honest truth is, no matter how big my bump is or isn’t now, part of me can’t wait to ‘be back in control’ of my body post-pregnancy. Deep down I know it will be a major battle to healthy handle regaining my figure, while struggling with my food issues. In some ways, I feel I am just swapping one set of worries for another.

Size matters. It matters in our media (rightly or wrongly), it matters to me and I guess it probably matters to you. To what degree it matters probably depends from person to person.

For some of you who are reading this, you’ll think I am mad and wonder why on earth I just can’t ‘get over myself’. But I wonder if there are others who understand or have walked a path similar to mine? I have searched the internet to find what others have to say surrounding this, sometimes I feel supported, most others I end up feeling guilty, shallow and incredibly selfish.

Size matters – it’s a battle I am willing to fight but one I fear I am currently losing.

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