Interestingly, no matter how many challenges I remark upon in my recent/current life, people latch onto one: weight gain and pregnancy.
The overwhelming majority of opinions that I get shoved at me say the same thing: Don’t worry about how much you gain, you’re doing what your body needs to do, and you can lose any extra later. Yay babies!
I know — truly know — that those wishes come from a place of concern and affection and belief. And if my main concern were that I “look fat” now or later, I’d take them to heart. That’s not my concern. Let me be bluntly open about this.
I spent the last four years working to control chronic pain, muscle fatigue, muscle spasm, and joint problems caused by a combination of my hypermobility, my weight, and my approach to physical activity. I spent the last four years weaning myself off of daily painkillers, twice weekly physical therapy, and weekly therapeutic massages. I spent the last four years dreading the moment when I accidentally let my physical symptoms get out of control and I’d end up in bed for 36 hours, drugging myself to sleep and crying through a trigger point migraine brought on by muscles spasming in my back and neck. I spent the last four years figuring out what my maximum possible weight was in order to allow me to be as active as I must be in order to control that pain, figuring out what kind of core strength I needed in order to have the stability my joints require, and figuring out how to live so that I don’t live in pain. I spent the last four years playing with the #mightyifitkillsme tag on my posts and tweets not because I want to look great, but because I need to be healthy and functional.
Coupled with appropriate diagnosis and treatment for long-un-realized asthma, it’s been a goddamn triumph. Those four years of learning, trying, working, and pain paid off. I don’t hoard the occasionally-granted scrip for Vicodin anymore. I don’t need muscle relaxers anymore. I don’t take anti-inflammatories daily. I actually started *running* for the first time, ever.
And now I’m pregnant, which is another triumph. If you’ve talked to me, you know I’m thrilled. We’re thrilled. But the problem is that I’m gaining weight, and exercising is harder, and my core muscles are being abused by the changes my body is undergoing. And my truth is that controlling my weight and committing to exercise and establishing and maintaining core strength are a key part of my ability to control my pain.
So my pain is coming back. Plain and simple. I don’t want it to be true, but it is, and I can’t ignore it anymore or I’m going to be a wreck by February. Today I have a screaming headache, my shoulder hurts and is rolling forward, and I can feel the pinch in my traps that I immediately recognize is the precursor to something worse. Why? Because I’m heavier, and so my muscles and joints have to work harder to carry around my mass. Because I’ve been exercising less, because I’m so damn tired all the time, and so I’m losing muscle tone. Because my abs are stretching and opening for the baby, as they should, and so I’m losing core stability.
All of that is hard on me. And none of that is about “looking fat”.
I can control parts of it. I really can. I need to give up some of my hobby and relaxation activities so that I can exercise more despite my need to sleep more. Exercise can’t be the part that gives, unfortunately for my desire to finish watching Elementary with Justin. And I can eat better; in my generalized physical discomfort of the first and early second trimester, I was eating whatever sounded edible, because really, I needed to eat something, and if I could manage to eat it, great. Let’s do that. And I truly was craving simple carbs and fat. So I switched off my protein-and-veg diet and made a bunch of batches of cheesy potatoes and mac and cheese, and loved every bite. And as my body does with calories it doesn’t actually need, it turned them into fat, and I’m gaining weight. And I can feel every pound when I walk. In my toes, my ankles, my knees, my hips, my shoulders, and my neck. I can identify every arthritic spot in my body today.
And it hurts. Physically.
So I know that you’re all telling me that weight gain is okay, it’s a natural part of pregnancy, and I’ll be fine. And in the long run, you’re totally right. I will gain weight, as I should, and it will be okay. But when you offer me those platitudes, they feel empty. Because they don’t acknowledge that while yes, I’ll be okay, I’m healthy, and the baby’s healthy, I’m also causing myself pain and suffering right now, and in the near future. I’m causing it because I could do this differently. I need to do this differently. And it’s not about whether or not I “feel fat”. It’s about my health. It’s about pain. It’s about me, and my needs, and the fact that those matter, too.