A couple of weeks ago, I read a viral Facebook post about a pregnant woman who’d been fat shamed after posting a series of photos online that she’d had taken of her and her bump. The story was then picked up by the Huffington Post after the woman was asked to take part in “The Honest Body Project”, a photo series which gives an honest look at women’s bodies.
The whole story was something which really resonated with me. Brittany Dykstra, the woman in the photos said “I’m 35 weeks pregnant and just last week I had maternity pictures taken to celebrate this horrible, but beautiful pregnancy. For the first time in about 35 weeks I felt beautiful, and was so excited to share this moment with my friends and family.”
She goes on to say “Later that day we got the sneak peak pictures back and I posted them on Facebook thinking my friends and family would think I was beautiful and would love them, however that wasn’t the case. All I received were negative comments about how huge I am, about how unhealthy I am, and about how they think my baby is going to be a 10 to 12 pound baby by the looks of how much I weigh. I literally went in the bathroom and cried for hours. It’s so hard being plus size, pregnant, sick, and getting negative comments about the way I look. If I’m happy and accepting of my body, why can’t everyone else just be happy for me?!”
Before I fell pregnant with Sausage, I wasn’t huge, probably around 12st, so a little overweight for my 5’4″ height, but not horrendously so as I have a large frame and huge boobs which tends to mean even at a ‘healthy’ body shape, I’m a little over what BMI charts say I should be. I gained a lot of weight during that pregnancy; for the first 4 months, I could barely eat anything at all and actually lost weight because of hyperemesis gravidarum. Then I developed gestational diabetes and despite trying to eat a low GI diet, the weight piled on. Once I’d given birth, I was in a cycle of depression and PTSD which meant that I never lost the baby weight and by the time I fell pregnant with Burrito Baby 5 years later, I was pushing 14 and a half stone.
I’d had every intention of losing the weight BEFORE getting pregnant again, especially as I was already diabetic, but I fell pregnant a lot quicker than I thought I would after having my implant removed, which meant dealing with pregnancy with a much higher starting weight than I would have liked. Like Brittany, once I reached a certain point in my pregnancy, I also felt a little more body-confident; my shape was suddenly defined by the life growing inside of me, not the amount of biscuits I ate, and while I wasn’t about to post photos of myself in lingerie on Facebook, I totally understand whet she meant about feeling beautiful for the first time in a long time.
According to the story, Dykstra started receiving abuse from family and friends regarding her weight, although no examples are given and I can’t help but wonder how much of this “abuse” was unwanted but well-meaning concern for her obvious weight problem. Because, while I am against the idea of ‘fat-shaming’ (lets face it, us fatties do tend to KNOW we’re fat, we don’t need to be constantly reminded), I do think it’s deluded to think that being overweight doesn’t cause health problems, especially during pregnancy. Being “happy” with your body is one thing, but being aware of health ramifications is also hugely important.
On a medical level, obesity during pregnancy can increase the risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, infection, problems during labour, increased birth weight, birth defects, babies with a high birth weight and even miscarriage. This isn’t about ‘fat shaming’ or ‘thin privilege’ – these are REAL risks, caused by being overweight.
On a personal level, I definitely found that being overweight during pregnancy adversely affected me. Hauling around a giant bump AND a giant body was genuinely exhausting and I honestly think my SPD and mobility would have been slightly better had I not been putting so much pressure on my pelvis with my excess weight (although and friend of mine, who is very slim, also had SPD, probably worse than my own, so I’m not saying obesity is a cause or necessarily means I suffered more, just that I don’t think it helped at all).
I’m not saying that Brittany Dykstra deserved to be abused for being overweight, nor am I saying that she deserved to feel any less beautiful than other pregnant women who enjoy the glow of carrying a child, but tip-toeing around the issue of obesity isn’t right either. Lots of women get pregnant at a less than ideal time of their lives and I’m sure that, given the choice, women would always choose to be in peak health when conceiving but it doesn’t always happen that way.
The thing is, weight is such a hot-button issue for most people. I know I’ve taken offense, even from medical professionals who’ve tried to talk to me about being overweight. It’s one of those things that people are hugely sensitive about because it’s so closely tied to their self-esteem, so choosing a moment where a mother-to-be is feeling good about herself to give her a lecture isn’t the best timing, not to mention the fact that she probably already KNOWS the issues AND has a team of health professionals telling her the same thing, but that doesn’t alter the fact that being fat and pregnant can be a problem, so it’s not simply a case of whether a person is happy with their weight.
What do you think? Are people overstepping the mark by expressing concern for her? Have you experienced pregnancy as an overweight person? I’d love to hear your opinions and experiences because this whole story has obviously struck a chord with me.