I stared, crest-fallen, at the blood lab receptionist, who was shocked I was there for a gestational glucose tolerance test.
“Yes. 28 weeks,” I responded. I wasn’t just pregnant. I was very pregnant. Two-thirds done pregnant.
“Wow. You don’t look pregnant at all,” the lab receptionist told me. I’m not sure if it was meant as a compliment or just a simple observation, but it stung. And it wasn’t an isolated incident.
I’d dreamed of being pregnant since I was a little girl. I couldn’t wait for the day I was grown up and walking around, sporting a beautiful baby bump. I anxiously awaited the “when are you due?” questions. I wanted the annoyance at having strangers want to touch my growing belly. I had dreamed that people would look at me with the same quiet reverence that I gazed at expectant moms who crossed my path.
Baby Bellies are magical, and pregnant women glow.
But when it was my turn, no one knew. I just looked fat, as usual. There was a bump there, I could see it and I could feel it, but when I excitedly went to visit friends, they joyfully told me I “didn’t look pregnant at all,” as though that would be flattering or a compliment. It wasn’t. I wanted to look pregnant. Because I was.
It was no better with my second baby. I worked at a daycare until I was full term, but unless I told the parents, none of them realized I was, again, pregnant until the day I wore a particularly revealing dress at nine months into my pregnancy. My boss commented that, for the first time, I actually looked pregnant, even though I was about to give birth. I had doubled in size by then, but when you start out big, apparently no one notices when you get even bigger. Even with a growing baby.
One day, the maintenance worker I conversed with every morning noticed I was missing and asked my co-worker where I was. Apparently, his jaw dropped when he heard I was on maternity leave.
My lovely baby bump I had dreamed of since childhood was B-shaped. I didn’t even look pregnant to myself much of the time, though I thought about it all the time.
Being overweight put a cloud over both my pregnancies in more ways than aesthetics. From the moment the second line appeared, I was aware I was at a higher risk of losing this baby. The scene in ‘This is Us’ (Spoiler Alert!) where Kate tells Toby she is pregnant, “But don’t get too excited” because her weight put the pregnancy in jeopardy. That definitely resonated with me. It was the same speech I gave my parents when I announced my happy news to them.
My weight was used as a qualifier at every appointment, even though I had very body-positive OB, and midwives. I would need extra glucose tolerance tests, I’d have to be very careful about gaining weight, I’d be at a higher risk for all pregnancy complications.
My midwives were required to have me do a consult with an OB because of my high BMI. This OB was much less body positive. He foretold a horrific birth for me because of my increased mass, and told me I absolutely needed to have an OB deliver my baby. I was heartbroken.
I counted down to the 20-week ultrasound so I could share the coveted profile of my beautiful baby, but the extra layers of my weight made a crisp picture impossible. My baby looked like a blurry Wolfman.
But here is the thing: despite all the doom and gloom that accompanied being pregnant and obese, I had two of the easiest pregnancies imaginable. I did not get gestational diabetes (though some of my skinny friends did) My blood pressure was never even slightly elevated, nor were any of my other tests ever askew. My midwives eventually let me know they thought the OB I had been to for a consult was full of s**t, and there was no reason I couldn’t deliver with a midwife. I went on to have a short, easy, uncomplicated birth.
Still, it’s a harsh reality to be pregnant when no one noticed my bump. But I did. I watched it grow, and I felt every movement of the baby within it. Looking back, it was so magical to me, whether strangers stopped me or not. I wish that I hadn’t been so emotional about the fact no one noticed or got excited about my pregnancy. But I’m human. Plus, I got my fill of being stopped by strangers, once my beautiful baby was on the outside.
If you are reading this while overweight and pregnant, and are being bombarded with negativity, listen to me closely: Heed the warnings, and listen to your doctors or midwives, but compartmentalize it with the rest of the prenatal care, like avoiding soft cheese.
And, yes, take the belly photos. Wear the maternity shirts. Show off your bump, even if no one else notices. It’s as beautiful as any other bump, and there is magic inside it.
Your body is good. You are stunning. Congratulations.