Hi, my name is Shannon. I am a blogger, stand-up comedian, wife, and the mother to a baby girl, and dog. Unfortunately, I am also a recovering eating disorder addict. I say recovering because even though I am not active in my disorder I still have lingering thoughts about how I should lose weight. I am an addict because despite years of therapy, I am not always successful in silencing the voice of the little girl who just wanted a waist line as small as the Disney Princess’ she grew up admiring.
From the second a woman gets pregnant her weight is scrutinized by everyone. People comment on whether you have a boy or girl belly; strangers touch your stomach without permission; people exclaim you’re ‘so big you must be due any day now’ when, actually, you only just hit your second trimester. Once your baby is delivered strangers offer advice on how to lose the baby weight, and offer congratulations if you lose it quickly. The same people make snide remarks if you do not. Unfortunately, newborn babies face the same scrutiny as their mothers, surrounding their weight. If we are lucky enough we get to be held in our mother’s arms for a couple of seconds before we are put on a scale and have our weight shouted across the delivery room like it’s a football game score. We can’t leave the hospital unless our weight is acceptable, and once we get home we are faced with a series of ‘well baby’ check-ups that defines our weight in percentiles. We aren’t just a baby. We’re a baby in the 50th percentile, 75th percentile, or 25th percentile. Mothers and children can’t hide from the judgment surrounding their baby weight.
Once my husband and I decided we wanted to have a baby I decided to go back into therapy, with the therapist who had helped me with my eating disorder. It was a good but costly decision considering health insurance companies in The United States cover little of the costs surrounding mental health. I was nervous about the financial burden of paying for weekly therapy sessions but the last thing I wanted was for my former illness to creep back into my life and harm my future child.
After I had begun therapy, I went to see my OB. She said I was completely healthy but if I wanted to get pregnant I would need to lose some weight. Well, she sure was wrong because 2 weeks after that appointment I found out I was expecting. I found a new OBGYN and started the overwhelming task of having a healthy pregnancy.
The word healthy has become confusing and gratuitous in today’s society. We hear how important it is to be healthy all the time but what does this really mean? My Body Mass Index has always put me in the overweight category. Even after living on a diet of 400 calories a day I was still considered fat by BMI standards. When I became pregnant I decided with the help of a doctor, therapist, and nutritionist that I would not focus on my weight gain but just try to work with feelings of hunger and fullness, and exercise moderately. We also decided that I would be blind weighed so that I could not become upset about the increasing number on a scale.
I craved yogurt for most of my pregnancy and if I did not eat enough I became dizzy. My pregnancy was not considered high risk so I was still able to walk my dog for 2 hours each day and practice yoga. I also have to walk everywhere because I live in New York City. I led a very active lifestyle and was able to laugh off comments about how I must be having a Christmas baby even though I wasn’t due till March. My OBGYN and the nurses working with him were very understanding about my issues and were good about the blind weigh ins so I had no idea how much I was gaining. All systems were go for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.
When I was 8 months pregnant I went for a routine check-up with my asthma doctor. I told the nurse I wanted to be blind weighed and explained to her what that meant and the reasons behind it. She said ok but then weighed me and told me my weight. I was crushed. I had gained well over twice as much as the 25-45 pounds women are told to gain in order to have a healthy pregnancy. I had done everything my OBGYN, therapist, and nutritionist said to do but decided that I must be unhealthy because that’s what the numbers equated to on the scale.
At my next prenatal check-up I was convinced something was horribly wrong with me or my baby. I couldn’t believe I had gained so much weight and felt like I was a bad mother, even though my baby wasn’t even born yet. I thought maybe I had preeclampsia or some other complication. I regretted my choice to not regularly weigh myself and felt like I should of counted calories so that I only consumed the extra 200 calories a day women are told they need to eat in order to have a healthy pregnancy. I had never wanted to be one of those thin Hollywood moms that gains barely any weight I’d only wanted a healthy baby. Where had I gone so horribly wrong? Consulting my OBGYN, he told me that I was completely healthy and so was my baby. I was shocked. I began to question him as though he were on trial. Finally, he shouted, “Keep doing what you are doing and I will tell you if and when your weight becomes a problem!”
I did my best to ignore the 80 plus pounds of baby weight I had gained and continued on my quest to have a healthy pregnancy. Not long after, I got my wish and experienced a labor and delivery free of complications, and gave birth to a full term, healthy, baby girl. It felt like a miracle considering the anxiety I had experienced at gaining the ‘unhealthy’ weight. I thought that my journey was finished but little did I know, it had only just begun and it was about to get way more complex.
I have used the word healthy many times in this article, in many different contexts. I tried to find a different word to use but came up empty handed. I truly wish there were another term to use in its place, in this context, because the word healthy is thrown around so much that it has lost it’s meaning. Interestingly, the primary definition for ‘healthy’ in the dictionary is ‘free of disease’.
I will not pretend to be an expert in medical or mental health. I am writing this from the depths of my heart and hope to share with you my experience so that you might learn something from my successes as well as my mistakes for my goal is as simple as it is complex. To raise a disease free daughter in a diseased world.
Janitor at Mom Blog PoopPeePuke.com
Lover of Funny at The World New York Comedy Club