"I had heard of birth being traumatic, I wasn’t prepared for pregnancy to be traumatic"

December 14, 2021
by Alex Barr
"I had heard of birth being traumatic, I wasn’t prepared for pregnancy to be traumatic"

My Pregnancy Story

***TW: I talk a lot about being treated poorly for my size, fatphobia, and mention disordered eating***

This is something I’ve thought about sharing a hundred times and each time I walked away from the idea because in the two years since I gave birth and the almost three years since I found out I was pregnant I’ve struggled to heal fully. Each retelling of this story brings a tightness in my chest and tears welling up in my eyes.

But now I feel ready, now I feel like it’s time to let it go.

I never thought I wanted to be a parent. I actually spent a lot of time in adolescence detesting children, adulthood, and parenthood. (In true angsty teenage fashion spent a lot of time detesting everything) Through the fog of manic depression and puberty and drinking through my early 20’s I couldn’t picture a future where having a child would be a good thing.

I guess you could say that I had some shit to deal with.

At 25 I sit down in a therapist’s office and start working through my shit and healing my inner child, at this point I was already in love with a beautiful man and we had started dreaming and talking about a life with babies in it. The feeling of sitting in therapy and healing from my childhood while growing what would become my child was beautiful, trippy, and scary as fuck.

When I found out I was pregnant I was ready. I was excited. I was happy. Turns out because I am fat I shouldn’t have been any of those things.

I go into my first appointment with an OB and she says

“I don’t recommend women of your size get pregnant.”

My heart sank as she talked about how I was more likely to get gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and my increased risk of still birth.

I’m able to ask “Okay, what can I do to prevent those things?”
Her answer was simply: “Not much.”

I go for a genetic screening my OB didn’t tell me was optional, the tech does an internal ultrasound and can’t get the reading she needs so after a too long appointment I am leaving in physical pain and no results.

I go for an anatomy scan the doctor makes jokes about how our baby will be big because he has giant parents. The tech pushes and prods on my growing belly making disapproving sounds because she’s unable to get the pictures she needs. The doctor returns to tell us to come back in a few weeks when baby is bigger and easier to see.

I decide enough is enough there has to be better treatment out there, I was tired of feeling like a risk factor, instead of an entire person. I do some research and I see other plus size people talking about their experiences with midwives and the midwifery model of care and how they felt actually seen and cared for by their midwives.

I thought I found the solution! I’m excited and ready for someone to act like my pregnancy is a good thing to be celebrated. I start looking at birth centers. Turns out a lot of birth centers have BMI limits. I call some of the birth centers in our area and ask them all if they have limits and find two who do not.

I tour both, I pick my favorite. At the tour I ask for the second time if they have a BMI limit they tell me no again. I’m excited, I call my insurance, I make my appointment.
I can’t believe I stood up for myself, I can’t believe I’m gonna find someone to affirm my pregnancy in my fat body. I’m so proud of myself.

I go to my first appointment and the midwife asks me why I choose to switch to a birth center I explain how I’m tired of being treated as a risk factor and I want to be treated as a whole person. We have a chat, she steps out and comes back to explain that because of my BMI they can’t allow me to give birth there.

I break down, at this point I am so tired, so stressed, and honestly so shocked. I did my research, I asked my questions, I’ve seen the evidence. I know that being fat doesn't mean you’re unhealthy I know I’m also the healthiest I’ve ever been. I know that I spent the year prior to getting pregnant getting my physical and emotional body into shape for this.

I pay for the appointment and I leave. I cry all the way home.
The midwife I met with sends me a sweet message apologizing for the miscommunication and laying out my options to me. I decide to stay under their care for the pregnancy and know that I will go to the nearby hospital for birth. I figure it has to be better than the OB I had been seeing.

At this point I just want pregnancy to be over. I felt like an idiot for thinking my pregnant body would be celebrated. Because I will always be fat first. I've grown to love my body but I had forgotten most people would never learn to love mine.

I go in for an appointment where I’m told I shouldn’t gain more than 10lbs for the entire pregnancy. I go to an appointment where they tell me the 18 hours of working in a restaurant isn’t enough exercise. I go an appointment where they try to recommend me to a dietician even after I explain my history of disordered eating. I go to an appointment where they ask me how much I’m exercising. I go to another appointment where they ask me again how much I’m exercising.

I don’t know how much of this is standard, how much of this advice is given to all of their clients, I don’t know if this is extra advice given to me for being fat.
But every time it felt like a knife digging further and further into me.
Every time it felt personal.  

I decline any further ultrasounds, so that they can’t tell me my baby is too big. (this was a personal decision and not a blanket recommendation!)

I’m almost 39 weeks and I’m at what will be my last appointment, the midwife is telling me she talked to the OB I will be seeing when I give birth in the hospital and although I have never met him he is recommending I be induced at 39 weeks, which is just a few days away. At this point I know better, I decline. I’m getting good at declining things.
She tells me by declining I’m acknowledging my increased risks for still birth, baby being too big and shoulder dystocia.

I acknowledge those things. I cry all the way home.

The next night my water breaks at home on its own and labor begins.

I had heard of birth being traumatic I wasn’t prepared for pregnancy to be traumatic. And sitting here three years later I can say I’m healed from my birth but still feeling like I need more time to heal from my pregnancy.
For now I’m happy I’m brave enough to share this and let you know that your pregnant body is worthy of love and respect regardless of size, or any other risk factor.