15th November 2017

On being pregnant but a bit fat anyway

Yes, says Isabel Mohan, I’m seven months pregnant; that isn’t just Hob Nobs.

1. People don’t say anything nice about your body

“You’re all bump!”, “What a lovely neat bump!”, “Wow, you look so great!” are three things I’ve overheard said to slim, pregnant friends. Not so much here. In fact, I’ve had “you don’t really look pregnant” a few times, which I think is meant as a compliment, but is the reason there is a Baby On Board badge permanently on my coat despite me driving to work most days. I want to look pregnant goddammit! I don’t even mind if you touch me!

2. In fact, people might not have even noticed your bump

All of the above is because, in most cases, if you’re kind of chub, it takes a while for you to look pregnant. If you’re all tits and arse (personally, I am primarily tits and arse, but also somewhat spilling over with thighs, arms, stomachs and chins. I have quite dainty ears though), the tipping point of possibly looking pregnant is when your stomach finally sticks out more than your boobs, which is about now (30 loooong weeks in) for me.

But it’s not foolproof – last time, I had two incidents at around 34 weeks where people made it very clear that they had no idea that I was pregnant. And one of them was a Facebook friend I bumped into, meaning that not only did I just look like I’d put on weight in a really concentrated way, but she’d also clearly blocked me and my tedious pregnancy updates from her feed. Quite the awkward double blow.

3. You are a “VIP”

Depending on where you live, if you have a high BMI, you may be referred to something called “Pregnancy Plus”, which means extra ante-natal appointments where a special midwife will break the bombshell news that eating fruit and veg is healthy. They may even refer to this as the “VIP treatment” to make you feel less like a depressing manifestation of the national obesity crisis.

I approached the “VIP treatment” with some hostility, especially because my BMI was actually higher in my last pregnancy, and nobody bothered then, and especially because this time I’d lost two stone on Slimming World directly before conceiving so was feeling quite sylph-like.

But my special midwife (big up Naz at Lewisham Hospital) is absolutely brilliant, and we have reached an agreement where she doesn’t say scaremongering stuff about emergency c-sections or lecture me about kale vs chips (guess what? I like both. I like pretty much all food. This is the problem) as long as I go to my appointments. It helps that I’ve hardly gained any weight in pregnancy due to absolutely crippling heartburn which curbs my appetite and makes me puke most days. Every cloud has a bright yellow acidic lining and all that.

4. You will feel smug about defying the odds

“More likely to get gestational diabetes,” they said. Nope, I had to do the tedious glucose tolerance test during both pregnancies, and got a skinny person’s result both times.

“More likely to have a massive baby,” they said. Nope, my first was 6lb on the nose. In fact, they were worried he was a bit small. Now, aged two and a half, he’s bang on the 50th centile for weight, despite you looking at me and assuming our household only serves KFC. So far, number two is looking exceedingly average according to the 3 million extra scans I’ve had on account of being HIGH RISK. I don’t mind the extra scans because I can keep checking she’s still a girl, plus the skin on my tummy is silky smooth from all that gel.

“More likely to have a long, complicated labour, with interventions and a higher chance of a c-section and all sorts of other grisly stuff that nobody wants to contemplate,” they (sort of) said. Nope. But look away now if you hate people who brag about their easy births: My first (induced) labour was approx six hours in total, with just a tens machine and then gas and air which I got really into. The really hurty bit (technical term) lasted only an hour or so, and the pushing bit took a grand total of two minutes. I fricking aced it*. Where’s my medal?

I’m not (just) saying the above to be smug, but to try and reassure anyone who is being scare-mongered about what might happen. Sure, if you’re overweight, you’re a bit more likely to run into issues, but women of lots of different shapes and sizes have straightforward births, and women of lots of different shapes and sizes have bloody awful births.

When it comes to giving birth, whether you’re skinny, fat or somewhere in between, blocking out the fear factor and approaching it positively, while still being informed, is hard, but is the best thing you can do (ideally by not paying attention to comments threads about someone who tore so badly that their clitoris had to be removed. I read it on a mum forum yesterday so it must be true).

*Obviously, though, my second might be a nightmare; I’ll try to remember to update you from the labour ward (not the birth centre, which I have been deemed too fat to use. Sigh…).

5. But you will feel sheepish about the odds you haven’t defied

I’ve got borderline high blood pressure, all the time, not just in pregnancy, but it seems to creep up to “officially high” when preg. First time round I was induced early for this. This time, I’ve been on drugs for it since 16 weeks. So far, they’re working, but they make me tired and give me a weird tingly scalp.

The thing is though, my sister also had high blood pressure in pregnancy and she’s a size 10 vegan. My dad and various other members of my family, of varying weights, are also prone to it. And when I lost loads of weight years ago, basically by not eating, my blood pressure stubbornly remained borderline high. So I don’t think it has much to do with my weight, possibly more to do with my slightly highly-strung personality and tendency to do everything (except exercise) at a zillion miles an hour. But it’s still annoying.

Anyway, I’ll sign off and eat some chocolate followed by a Gaviscon chaser now, but I hope the above has reassured anyone who’s in a similar position. And do share with any awkward chubby 16 year olds who are convinced nobody will ever have sex with them; I’ve done it at least twice!

@isabel_m_rene @mushmums

Mental Health Mum Life Pregnancy Sex & Relationships Style & Body Your Baby

Download Mush