No, no, no, not me! But I received an email from my friend Jennifer, who is 36 weeks pregnant, and she graciously said I could reprint her words here. I found her thoughts about pregnancy as a plus-sized woman really fascinating, and I hope you will, too! She covers topics including maternity wear, the ups and downs of not “looking” pregnant, and loving her body. (Bolding is, as per usual, mine.)
Speaking of pregnancy, I’d love to see BFD someday address the weird sub-genre of being plus-sized and pregnant. It’s a whole new world that I never really thought about until eight months ago, but man, has it been an eye-opening experience for me. I mean, you have the usual body issues that pretty much every woman deals with these days, but then those are compounded by the extra challenges that larger women face, compounded by the “holy crap, now I really am HUGE” part that inevitably comes with expecting.
There are so many facets of being larger and pregnant that I could’ve never anticipated, both good and bad. For example: can I just tell you how hellish it is to find plus-sized maternity wear? All those cute shops like Mimi Maternity, Pea in the Pod, etc. — none of them carry above a size 12. That was frustrating, but not wholly unsurprising. What *was* a shock was what I observed at the more ubiquitous department stores like Macy’s, JC Penny, Sears, and Target: if they carry maternity wear at all, they don’t carry extended sizes. The only brick-and-mortar place that I could find that carried my size was Motherhood Maternity, and even then only certain stores have them. There are exactly three MM stores within a 25-mile radius of my home that stock plus sizes, and I live in the ‘burbs of Philadelphia. If I still lived in my hometown in Mississippi, I’d have to drive close to 100 miles to get to a store that had clothes to fit me.
Even if a woman is fortunate enough to have a MM within driving distance that keeps plus sizes in stock, the selection is pretty lame. In the store closest to my home, they carried maybe a half dozen different pairs of pants, two different pairs of shorts, about 20 different tops, and no activewear or dresses. The clothes themselves are hit-or-miss; I found a nice pair of slacks that work well in an office environment, and I really love the pair of jeans I found there, but the tops were pretty hideous all around, and the khakis were coarse and scratchy. In the end, I picked up a few pairs of pants, but ended up getting all my tops from Lane Bryant. I found I could just go a size up and focused on the shirts that had a babydoll cut or empire waist to them. So that part, at least, worked out quite well!
So in the end, many women end up having to order online. Online has the obvious advantage of having a much broader selection of styles, as well as retailers and smaller boutiques who carry extended sizes, but it also means taking on the risks associated with online clothing orders (wrong fit, returns hassles, paying shipping costs, etc.).
Another thing I didn’t anticipate? Not *looking* pregnant until the very end. I don’t have a very large non-pregnant belly, but man, did that extra fat conceal the fabled bump for months and months. If I pressed down on the area just below my navel, I could feel a new firmness there as my uterus grew, but it’s been weird to realize that I don’t look like how other pregnant women look (whether on the street or in the pregnancy books I bought) for most of the phases I’ve gone through. It’s kind of sad, in a way, because you hear so much about how the world treats pregnant ladies better — people give up their seats on trains, folks hold the door for you, etc. — and I haven’t gotten to experience any of that. It’s also kind of awkward for the people you encounter who aren’t sure whether or not you’re pregnant. And I feel for them, definitely, because most folks are essentially
kind, and they don’t want to take a risk humiliating you and embarrassing themselves in case you’re not pregnant, so they don’t ask about how far along you are or when’s your due date or whatever.
So those are the major negatives that have proven to be challenging. But there is good stuff, too, I swear! First of all, the super-awesome upside of not quite looking pregnant is that I have yet to have some stranger try to touch my belly, ask invasive questions, give me unsolicited advice, or regale me with pregnancy horror stories, so that is a pretty significant plus. While I am open and friendly with the folks I know, I can be awkward and withdrawn with people I don’t know well or at all, so honestly, it’s been really nice not to have people feel like they can strike up a conversation with me just because I’m pregnant.
Secondly, even though finding plus-sized maternity wear was grueling and painful, I didn’t have to do so until I was well into my seventh month. So while the clothes at MM were occasionally hideous and unpleasant to wear, I, unlike skinnier moms-to-be, only had to deal with [maternity wear] for a short eight weeks. Hooray! And as a side note: God bless the ladies of Ingrid & Isabel, the geniuses behind the Bella Band! If you’re not familiar with it, the Bella Band is a stretchy piece of fabric that you can use to hold up your pants when they start to get too tight to button. You can wear your regular non-mat pants with the top undone, but the Bella Band holds them in place. Layered under a shirt, it looks just like the bottom of a camisole. That thing is BRILLIANT, and I have worn it almost every day. Also, I&I are one of the few retailers that acknowledges that there are, in fact, plus-sized mommies out there, so most of their stuff is available in a wide range of sizes.
Thirdly and most significantly: I have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that pregnancy has caused me to love my body more, not less. I cannot overstate how fundamentally shocked I am by this development. One of the biggest things that has kept me from wanting to get pregnant before now is outright (but understandable) vanity — I dreaded getting any larger than I already was. I feared seeing the numbers on the scale climb steadily upward, knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. But the crazy thing is that once I got pregnant, I really didn’t care. I mean, I will readily acknowledge that part of this is probably due to the fact that I didn’t get the pleasure and annoyances of a hugely swollen belly, but I think most of it is that I’ve been able to be at peace with getting bigger. It’s not a big deal because it’s what’s supposed to happen, and hey, isn’t it kind of amazing that I am in the process of creating a whole new person!
I’m not yet at the awesome zen of “beautiful at any size”, but I am way, way more forgiving of myself and my weird, non-traditional pregnant shape than I could’ve ever guessed. And that’s been the most delightful discovery of all.
More on this issue: We talked about shopping for maternity clothes in this post, and Well-Rounded Mama has put together a (NSFW) photo gallery of fat women who are pregnant or giving birth. I would love to hear thoughts from you on the issues that women face when they are fat and pregnant.
Thanks for kick-starting the conversation, Jennifer, and best wishes for your new arrival. May you enjoy a labor that lasts 30 minutes or less!
Posted by mo pie