Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Neurotically Image-Obsessed Pregnancy

My god it's been busy at work this week. We're supposedly working at 88% of budget, but you'd never know it from as many quotes and questions as I've been fielding. I haven't taken a lunch break since Monday. (Which does not mean I haven't eaten. Believe me, I've eaten. It's still crackers, fruit, and toast for the most part, but I can't believe how heavy my bag is in the morning and how light it is by the time I go home.) We had a department meeting today and afterward I sat with Karen, one of my coworkers, for a few minutes to discuss a project we recently worked on, and felt both guilty and relieved for taking the break.

"How are you and your husband doing?" she said, trying to indicate what she meant with her hands without being obscene about it. I mentioned to her several months ago that we were trying. "About trying to have a baby?"

"Twelve weeks along," I said, and she squealed and said, "Really? That's so great! I'm so happy for you! That's really great. Let's see, that puts you in, what--"

"July 30," I supplied.

"July. And you're so skinny, you'll be all baby by then."

I thought that was pretty funny, since I'm not skinny unless compared with someone like, well, Karen. It reminded me of something that irritates me about our pregnancy book (the Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy), though. The book has a chapter on what to expect each month, and in the "Weeks 9-12" chapter it says, "In the early months of your pregnancy, you may be preoccupied with the physical changes occurring in your body. Given the emphasis our culture puts on being slim, you may be upset about these changes. Simply put, you may feel fat and unattractive." It goes on to say "You may feel less attractive in general and to your partner in particular. You may be especially bothered by body image concerns if this is your first pregnancy. If you have a negative body image, you may be having trouble enjoying or even wanting to have sex with your partner. You may not be able to imagine why your partner would even want to make love."

So, first, body image shouldn't even be an issue at this point, since according to them I should only have gained a couple of pounds at most anyway. (I've lost about four. Turns out crackers, fruit, and toast aren't as great for gaining weight as you might think. So much for the carbs-make-you-fat theory.) Second, way to assume all women are neurotic about their weight. I realize they're going with the worst case in order to address to those women who are actually having issues with this, but I'm still annoyed. Yes, our culture does put a huge emphasis on being slim. Why not say something comforting, like that emphasis on thinness is overrated and gaining weight is healthy and desirable at this point in your life, rather than affirming "You probably feel awful about this" and leaving it at that? The only comfort they offer after that passage is that women's interest in sex "may decrease a bit [during pregnancy]. This is normal." (They also recommend massage as an alternative or a stepping stone.)

I realize I probably will start to feel unhappy about gaining weight once I actually do, especially if I gain more than the recommended amount. (And if I have to spend a lot of money on new pants.) My weight is not my great strength and I know perfectly well that my metabolism isn't going to help me when it comes to taking it off again. But I do at least understand that I need to gain weight over the next six months, that L.E.O. needs it, that at least at this point in my life, getting heavier is exactly what I am supposed to do. Which makes it a good thing, a good choice, and not something to agonize over the way the book seems to suggest I should. It's a good book otherwise; I recommend it. Just don't let it tell you you're fat.

1 comment:

Angie said...

You are right about it being a time in your life for gaining weight and that you should be able to accept it. I will speak from experience, (not giving advice here) I tried to eat as healthy as possible, I never looked at pregancy as the time when I could eat whatever I wanted, I did give into my cravings but tried to do it in as much moderation as possible. I barely gained the recommended weight, but I knew I was healthy and overall that was the most important thing.