Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Huge with Child

Here's my advice to all you gestating women of size out there in cyberspace: don't ever, ever agree to appear on camera in your third trimester of your third pregnancy in roughly three years.


I'm filming some Catholic content for a forthcoming project spearheaded by a major Christian media company, and while I'm flattered (and deeply, deeply confused) to have been tapped to speak on parenting, I'm now reeling from the approximately 6.5 minutes I just spent reviewing unedited footage of myself talking about discipline and sleep deprivation while looking absolutely huge. Huger than I imagined myself in my wildest nightmares and certainly much, much bigger than those floor to ceiling mirrors at the gym are willing to admit. Oh holy hell, only 7 weeks to go, how much bigger can I get?

At least I'm in the good 'ol USA where perhaps a handful of other women can relate to my significant swelling in stature. Roman mammas would have run screaming from me in the piazzas, I presume, stilettos clicking hastily away down cobblestoned alleys, errant cigarette butts tossed aside, still smoldering, while clutching their petite pregnant bellies in horror. Bellies which more closely resembled  a taut, youth league basketball stuffed under a thin veneer of cashmere.

I love these little people so much, but they have destroyed my body. Not just altered it, but absolutely destroyed it. I just have to believe that I am being remade, stretch mark by stretch mark and dimple by wrinkle, into someone more beautiful and more worthy of the immense dignity of this vocation. But no wonder, no wonder motherhood is so denigrated by our society: it's appalling. Not on everyone, certainly, and not at all times, but when it comes down to it, it's basically biological war being waged on a woman's physique. And what mothers - what I - choose to do in response reveals the deepest held beliefs about the worthiness and the nature of the call. Do I really, really believe there is some higher purpose to what I'm doing here, aside from propagating the gene pool and ticking the next box on my life-long to-do list?

After looking at myself looking like that, I sure as hell better believe it. Because otherwise why, why, oh why would anyone undergo this kind of searing, soul-scarring transformation, this death and dying to self and to the world and to one's image in the mirror...all for love of another? And then possibly another. And another. 

I hope this is not coming across as some bizarre mashup of piety and self-loathing. I'm honestly stunned by my own appearance, and stunned by my reaction to it all the more so. I might hate what I'm seeing, but I have the emotional and spiritual distance for the first time in all my life to realize that she isn't fully me, that I'm more than the sum of the camera angles or the reflections tipping my own image back to me. So is it horrifying? Decidedly so. But there's a degree of detachment that I haven't experienced before, and that's pretty surprising. In a good way.

So here I lounge, debating between a long, hot bath in the semi-clean tub only recently vacated by two pair of toddler buns clutching melting Klondike bars in their grubby fists versus a nice hour in bed with my current dystopian young adult fiction addiction of the moment (Allegiant, the final book in the Divergent trilogy, FYI), and while my larger-than-life image will be forever burned into my retinas, I don't think I'll lose sleep over it tonight. At least not as much sleep as will be claimed by sciatica and heartburn.

And so to all you other big, pregnant mamas out there: I salute you. It's not easy being stuffed full of life in a culture that gluts itself on slender death, and it's certainly not always easy to look yourself squarely (roundly?) in the swollen face and say, bring it on, I got this, I was made for this. But you're doing it. We're doing it. 

Motherhood: it's not for the faint of heart (or for the small of pants.)  


  1. My mother-in-law told me in July that I was "huge." JULY. More than a whole trimester ago. I was mad at the time because I knew it wasn't true (I mean, I looked *pregnant*, but second trimester pregnant), but moreso because I knew how true it was going to be by the end.

    I was pretty spoiled by my first pregnancy--no stretch marks, quick and easy weight loss, etc. (And because of breastfeeding I even had "better" boobs than before, ha!) This pregnancy is a whole different beast ... and I keep hearing about things like "twin skin" and other postpartum bodily disasters ... I've been thinking (and meaning to write) about the body and motherhood for a while, so this post hit home! Thank you for sharing your insight.

  2. I get these HUGE comments all the time, every day from my 70+coworkers. It's terrible and disheartening and depressing. The only acceptable thing to say to a pregnant woman while looking at her pro-life shape is "You look wonderful!" Because even if a small part of us knows we look the opposite of wonderful, it still makes us smile and feel like a human for a moment. So, Jenny, you look WONDERFUL! And go you with your bad self still working out at the gym, it's only going to make losing it after that much easier. Big pregnant women unite!!

  3. Haven't European women ever heard of stretch pants... And going outside... At the same time! Nope, it's just skinny jeans and skinny shirts and high heeled boots and tights with cute sweaters. I'm not huge, yet, but I already felt like a huge American frump here. (Cashmere?! I have 4 small children... that's 150 bucks ruined in 10 min.), pregnancy makes me feel like a fat huge American frump. BUT, that means I will have 10 little arms waiting for me when I get home from another day of shopping to try to fit in, to give me sticky hugs, and remind me that it doesn't really matter what I look like. They think I'm beautiful, and they are the only ones who count. (also, the 6 months post partum are the worst for me, self esteem wise. fat but no pregnancy, hair nasty and falling out, skin all blotchy, no sleep, nothing fits right, boobs leaking, man... ;) BUT ...NEW BABIES!!!

    1. Dude, that should say "SWEAT pants" ( they love stretch pants here)

  4. At only 17 weeks pregnant, I am loathing myself just a little. I hate to say it but I don't like what I see in the mirror. My husband keeps telling me I'm beautiful (and I am trying to believe him) and that a baby is worth it all. Easy for him to say, he's not the one that will be 44 and dealing with losing 50 pounds of ass!

    I like your perspective and it has definitely given me something to think about while munching on all that Halloween candy. :)

  5. This is probably terrible, but I feel like the weight gain is the hardest part of pregnancy for me. And, not so much the weight gain during pregnancy, but the weight that hangs around afterwards. I was never one of those moms who lost everything right away...in fact it pretty much takes me 9-12 months to lose all the weight I gain. WHich is hard.

    Although, I'm sure you look wonderful!

  6. Jenny, I am sure you looked beautiful!!! being pregnant makes everyone (or at least me) feel so self-critical and un-objective about their appearance. I promise, everyone else thinks you look adorable : )

  7. I have giant, 9-lb babies and I also get HUGE when I'm pregnant. The "forever" effects are slightly saggy breasts, some stretch marks and a little, permanent belly pooch. However, 8 years past my last pregnancy and I'm happy to reports that all these things can be nicely camouflaged by a good bra, good underwear and cute clothes that flatter the figure. My hips will never be the same again, but I'm still in my "normal" size - just choosing different styles. Which is fine since I'm not 20 anymore either. I'm still astounded when I see pictures of myself, pregnant. But I'm also astounded regularly when I look at these beautiful souls that I created with my husband and how wonderful they are!

  8. THIS is why I love your blog. You just spit wisdom out out your teeth on a regular basis and you make it easy to digest and fun to read. I know EXATLY why they picked you for their project.

    And you're exactly right. At eight months postpartum I was just looking at my pudgy belly in the mirror this morning and kind of mourning the loss of the body I thought I would always have. If you would have told me in high school that I would someday loose my amazing abs and flat stomach I wouldn't have believed you. I thought I was invincible, even with future pregnancies. But I'm not. And the pudge seems as if it's here to stay. And that's OK. I may have to tell myself this over and over and over again, but it IS OK!

  9. Awesome, Jenny. You're so right.
    I've been so frustrated after each pregnancy with how much my body has changed- going from size to size, slooowly losing ounces at a time, and having to give away a lot of things I know I'll never fit into again. But it truly is a higher calling, not just something to check of your life list, like you said. We're not made for this world but I forget that a heck of a lot. :)

  10. Yes. Yes. Yes. With my 5th pregnancy (2nd baby born to this world), everyone kept saying "Wow, any day now, huh?" I would reply..."Nope, not due for 3 more months." I was enormous. Bigger than enormous.

    I feel just as big this time around and am horrified when I see pictures of myself; the scale doesn't lie either. I am just as heavy as I was last time...but for some reason, my clothes fit me better. Pfft! Who cares?!? They are all size XL sweater dresses over non-maternity stretch leggings. Sweating to death at my parents' house a couple weeks ago at dinner, my brother said, "Why don't you just take off your sweater?" Ummm, because this tank top peaking out here near where my cleavage once was doesn't begin to cover the purple striped beach ball under my sweater...and my leggings - well, let's just say that the non-stretchy, non-maternity top of these suckers is drenched in sweat from being trapped below said beach ball.

  11. Praying for some of that same detachment! 8 months post partum, with most of the weight off, I'm still not a fan of the funny, pudgy, extra squishy half muffin-top that is mine - thank you skin that is stretch-tastic and body that retains water like non-other (yes, I'm blessed with *those* fun genes). Prayers for your last trimester!

  12. Hi there! While I am not pregnant, I am a young adult Catholic woman struggling with hormonal imbalances that have caused a lot of weight gain, stretch marks, and alterations in my body in the past year. Exercise and diet modifications have not helped. It has been difficult to look in the mirror and no longer feel or look like myself. And at times it is discouraging when my efforts to lose weight are continually fruitless. I really like your post because even we single, non-pregnant women like myself struggle with weight gain and body changes due to hormones that are out of our control. At least when you are pregnant the body changes are worth it because you are knitting together another human life.

    Anyways, all I can really do is try to surrender to God and trust that He loves me as I am. And being as big as I am, I suppose there is even more of me for Him to love. :) Thanks for your post!

  13. First--you're an amazing writer; I'm so glad I found your blog! "Slender death" is a terrific name for our culture's wish to accept nothing else than false photoshop perfection. Second, I bristle when people's response to seeing a picture of a pregnant mamma on Facebook is inevitably "You look so tiny!" or "You're so small, you look so GREAT!" Even if a woman does carry like those petite Roman goddesses, all taut and tiny, why must we reinforce that same "slender death" mindset during pregnancy? Thank you for being real about the sacrifices you make to give an unborn babe the room to grow, stretch and swim.


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