by Cat Dunlop
I was told I might have problems getting pregnant, due to my BMI.
In fact, I fell pregnant the first month of trying.
So then came the next barrage of warnings and with them anxiety: miscarriage; gestational diabetes; blood clots; preeclampsia; still birth; cerebral palsy; post partum hemorrhage: the list went on and on.
And the guilt, for putting my baby at risk. And for the additional costs to the NHS. And for those slim women out there staring sadly at one line on the stick every month. And for those just a stone or two overweight who are denied IVF until they loose weight. Why am I more deserving than them?
At every step my joy was measured and tempered. Risks and warnings everywhere. Extra tests and scans; consultant lead care; specialist midwives; personalised growth charts; anaesthesiologists appointments (for when I inevitably “failed” in labour). The words ‘bariatric … high risk …’ appearing everywhere.
I had to smile pleasantly and try and make it as unawkward as possible when people asked if I wanted a water birth or a home birth explaining I didn’t have choices like that. I needed continual monitoring and possible intervention. Because of my weight.
The midwife whispering to the student “Don’t worry if you can’t find the heartbeat at first or you need help”, the ultrasound technician asking me four times “Are you sure you’ve been checked for gestational diabetes?”, the scan notes that said “poor image due to maternal BMI”. When I lost 10kg due to pregnancy sickness I was praised without anyone really asking if I was ok in myself and in my mind.
I didn’t mind. I felt grateful for the extra care. Care which was offered professionally and for the most part compassionately but that continually found me treating the fine line between informed preparation and abject terror.
And I also felt sad. I didn’t have a bump. No cute photoshoot for me. No grannies patting my belly and telling me I look lovely. I had to tell people I was pregnant. No one could tell. And even if they did, no one will risk asking the fat lady if she’s expecting.
The ladies in my aqua-natal class didn’t believe me when I told them I was 36 weeks.
I started to panic that when I had my inevitable still birth that no one would even believe I was pregnant in the first place because it all seemed so implausible.
It became imperative to me to be as healthy as possible, to prove the stats wrong. If my blood pressure raised a mere two points I would start to panic. I must doing everything right, not a foot wrong, exercise every day, no refined sugar, eat your greens.
I must have a vaginal birth; I must breast feed; I must baby lead wean. These things will protect my baby against obesity, won’t they. Won’t they? (Does it matter I had all these factors in my favour).
And here I am, two healthy pregnancies, two uncomplicated births and two perfect babies later. I realise now that I should have trusted my body because whilst it is fat, it is strong and it is healthy. I still worry and feel guilty (what mum doesn’t?) but I am here in solidarity with all those ladies out there worrying about their fertility and worrying about their maternal health and feeling ashamed and guilty that your pregnancy journey isn’t like other peoples but feeling like you can’t voice that because it’s just too embarrassing.
Of course the road might be tough, but it also might be smooth plain sailing. Either way, you are not alone. You have every right to enjoy your pregnancy and every right to the joy of motherhood.