True Life: My OB and Sonogram Tech Called Me Fat
Hi! I'm Shay. I had my first baby at 25, and I weighed close to 225 lbs when I got pregnant. 225 may not sound too bad to some...but on my 5'3" frame, it's not "ideal" in many situations - including pregnancy (and to some providers, especially pregnancy).
I was told from the day I had my first appointment how much harder pregnancy and eventually childbirth would be for me because I was obese. It was drilled into my head that I really shouldn't gain more than 15 lbs during my pregnancy - or else I would have to get a Cesarean. Well...of course it scared the living hell out of me. What's worse is that it completely obliterated the happiness I'd found since I had just lost 40 lbs before getting pregnant and made me feel like I was doing myself and my baby a disservice by even being pregnant in the first place. The sonogram technician told me, "Sometimes it's hard to see the baby under lots of fat. Let's do a vaginal ultrasound." Already barely existent self-esteem? Smashed.
So let's talk about it: does being obese really affect pregnancy and delivery? Short answer: yes. Just like a host of other things - being extremely overweight or obese can come with its own set of issues during pregnancy and even during childbirth. But - just like everything else - being extremely overweight or obese doesn't mean that you cannot have a normal, healthy pregnancy and delivery. It may take monitoring and you should incorporate a diet change and an approved physical activity regimen, but it's 100% possible.
While obese women are said to have longer labors, larger babies, and are more likely to undergo inductions - this is not true of all cases...and it doesn't mean that it'll happen to you. I have given birth twice, both vaginal deliveries and both producing healthy and beautiful babies. I had zero complications either pregnancy, and both my deliveries were less than 6 hours from start (induction with baby #1 and spontaneous rupture of membranes -- my water broke on its own, lol -- with baby #2) to finish.
My own person birth experiences were part of the reason I became a doula. Doulas are your own designated support system, someone to support you through your most vulnerable time in life. I see pregnant bodies of all shapes and sizes, just like the L&D staff. Unlike the L&D staff though, who may be running in and out and focusing on multiple birthers at the same time, I am there and focused solely on you. My main goal, from start to finish, is to support you. I knew from the start of this journey that I wanted to support bodies that looked like mine - bodies that may not have a "figure 8" shape, bodies that have a little extra fluffin' to love on, bodies that are not seen as perfect - but, in fact, they are.
Physical support. Having experienced pregnancy twice as a plus-size body means that I know that as a plus-size diva, things can get a little more difficult during pregnancy. As baby grows, breathing may be a little harder and movement may be a little more difficult. Throughout the pregnancy, I am able to help you incorporate simple movements that are good for both you and baby, ones that can help open up spaces for more comfort and ones that can that help you be more comfortable in general. I can provide tips on stretches, sleeping positions, and more. Further into the pregnancy, I provide hands-on help with naturally repositioning the baby, relieving physical pain and discomfort, and working with your chosen birth partner on how to help when I am not around.
Emotional support. I know that pregnancy may not always make you feel as beautiful as people say pregnant persons are. I know that some souls in plus-size bodies lack the confidence and self-esteem that you so rightly deserve. I've been there, I'm still there. Sometimes it's a little harder to look in the mirror and love what you see. So I support you through the emotional ebbs and flows of pregnancy, labor, and childbirth. I stand in your corner when hormones make you feel less like "you" and encourage you to affirm yourself, your body, and your baby. Because baby, whether you feel and know it or not, you are beautiful.
Educational support. It's no lie that being a plus-sized pregnant person come with its own set of issues. We are more at-risk for a lot of things. That doesn't mean they have to happen. I provide you with the education necessary to have as healthy a pregnancy as possible. We discuss diet and nutrition, potential risks associated with being a plus-sized birther, potential risks for the baby, managing weight during pregnancy and postpartum, and any special tests and screenings you may be offered. We discuss positions for labor and I answer any questions you may have. I educate you on your rights as a pregnant person and as a birther.
There are, unfortunately, some providers who may be shitty (for lack of a better term) when it comes to you and your plus-sized body during pregnancy. You may constantly be reminded of how unhealthy it is and how much being overweight or obese can affect your pregnancy, your delivery, and your baby. There are providers who may make you feel belittled and may be less than helpful in giving you the tools and knowledge you need to progress through your pregnancy safely and without undue worry for your baby. They may constantly remind you that your body isn't "ideal" for pregnancy, and may do more harm than good with their word choice, body language, tone, and actions. You do not have to stick with a provider who makes you feel as if your body, your pregnancy, and your baby are a burden to them. In short, tell that provider who isn't supportive of you and your body during pregnancy to go to hell, disrespectfully. ❤️
Shay Stancil, size-friendly full-spectrum doula at your cervix.