Though not to my face, a comment was made recently about my weight gain while pregnant. It wasn’t a nice comment either. When I heard about it, I initially brushed it off with a sense of disbelief, but as the day went on it started to eat at me. I got irritated, then I got angry. And I got my feelings hurt.

I am 27-weeks pregnant. I am not fat.

There’s a difference, you know.

Like most women before pregnancy, I was conscious of my weight, tried to exercise and eat well and maintain an attractive and healthy body weight. It’s fluctuated over the years (especially in college), but I’ve always been on the slender side. When I gain weight, my problem areas are obvious. My arms get big, my face gets round, my breast get big. I carry weight on my top half, and paired with my Russian bone structure and broad shoulders, it’s not easy to hide. While I’ve always been mostly confident in the way I look, I have of course wished X,Y and Z were thinner/smaller/stronger at some point. I am human — and a woman — after all.

It takes a mental shift to gain weight for a pregnancy. Suddenly you’re supposed to gain weight. You have to gain weight. Your baby requires it. All the “rules” disappear. Hell, they get harder to follow. Now, not only are you supposed to exercise and eat well, now you’re also supposed to gain anywhere from about 10 to 40-plus pounds, depending on what you weighed before pregnancy. And while I fully believe that pregnancy and the body change that comes with it is beautiful, I will admit that it’s a hard pill to swallow.

I was told at the start of my first pregnancy to gain about 35 pounds. I remember nodding my head as my OB talked, while smugly thinking on the inside, “YEAH RIGHT.” For the first 20 or so weeks the gain was slow. A pound here, a few more there. I would get on the scale every week and make note of what the number was. I felt a sick sense of pride that I wasn’t going to be one of “those” pregnant women who blow up like a balloon.

Around the six-month mark, the weight started to come on faster. I had a few appointments where I gained 7-8 pounds in just a month. Clothes fit differently and I started to get puffy. The hot flashes started too, so not only was my face round with an extra chin, but it was often bright pink without any warning. I remember standing in front of my closet trying to dress for something, and feeling like I was going to burst into tears any moment because I just didn’t know what to do with this foreign body.

Rationally, I knew that growing a human means your body is producing lots of extra blood and fluid, growing a placenta, and oh yeah, a BABY. All that stuff has WEIGHT. I also knew that sure, there’s some extra fat there, it happens. I was hungry. Having those rational thoughts in my head did not, however, soften the blow when a close friend remarked that she was surprised how disheveled I appeared at a party; how unlike me that was. I had finally found something to wear and was actually feeling cute, so I was so taken off guard that I mumbled something about not having anything that fit right, then went home and sobbed.

She didn’t mean it to be cruel, but her words stuck with me, even two years later. The comment itself wasn’t the worst part. What made it so hard was that the gain, the change in my body, was beyond my control. It wasn’t from too many late nights at the bar with a pitcher and a plate of wings. It was just what my body decided to do.

At last count before Owen was born, I gained 37 pounds. That washed the smug right out of me, I’ll tell ya. I left the hospital two days later about 20 pounds lighter and carrying the most beautiful 8 pound, 1 ounce baby boy. Four months later I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, and by the time he turned one I was 17 pounds below that, actually teetering the line of unhealthy from months and months of constant nursing, little sleep and not enough attention on keeping myself healthy. (Sadly, this was a time I was told by many that I’ve never looked better. But that’s just our society for you, I guess.)

Today I find myself right back in the same position as I was in two years ago. Six months pregnant, 24 pounds gained, mostly all belly, but recently seeing the effects in my arms, face and breasts. I’m right on track to gain just as much as I did the first time, despite chasing a toddler, exercising more and having little time to sit and be lazy. The only difference is, this time I was feeling pretty good about it, bolstered by the knowledge that my body will (mostly) return to normal and that whatever changes are happening to my body now are worth it for the reward at the end.

But that comment yesterday, well, it opened up an old wound and like the razor sharp edge of a paper cut, I think it’s going to take some time to heal.

For the record, no matter what you’re thinking, the only thing a pregnant woman wants to hear is YOU LOOK FANTASTIC! It doesn’t matter how secure she is — or appears to be. Just tell her she looks great. Because she does.

Arms, face, breasts…and a (blurry) happy mama.

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