This week, I went for my monthly prenatal appointment and I stepped on the dreaded scale. According to that evil instrument of torture, I had gained 8 pounds in a single month. I was completely flabbergasted. My mind raced back to every meal and snack I'd had over the month and I was totally baffled. My doctor raised an eyebrow at my weight gain, and said rather paternally, "Now I know it was the holidays and everybody has been coming in with the exact same problem, but eight pounds is on the very outside of the range we like to see." No doubt he imagined me sitting around in sweats, mainlining Krispy Kreme donuts and inhaling Christmas cookies.
I protested weakly, "I don't understand it, I take four Tae Kwon Do classes a week, I walk three miles twice a week, and I eat healthily. I don't know what more I can do!" Again with the paternal smile, "Well, pregnant women aren't as active as they think they are. You could be doing the same exercise routine but expend only half as much energy." he explained rather smugly. This was not the explanation I wanted to hear. After drinking 10 ounces of fizzy orange crap for a routine gestational diabetes test, in addition to feeling fat, I was now feeling queasy and cranky. It was all I could do to keep myself from delivering a flying sidekick to his head and letting him judge whether or not that was only a half-ass kick.
I waddled home feeling distinctly bovine and sulked the rest of the day. Worse yet, I hated myself for letting this bother me so much. One of my soapbox issues is how thinness is next to godliness in our society, especially in Hollywood. But most especially for women, who are held to a different standard of sylph-like slenderness, which is as much a form of patriarchal torture as corsets and Chinese foot binding. Personal trainers, protein diets and nicotine are the standard Hollywood regimen to achieve properly cadaverous results. Yet as much as I'd like to eschew this obsession, now that I'm pregnant, I feel how much a product of this society I really am. Pregnancy revolves around monitoring what you eat and how much weight you gain. Prior to pregnancy, I didn't even own a scale until I got married. Now I'm on that scale every week, anxiously checking the damage and giving careful consideration to what I eat.
During my pre-preggo days, my emphasis was on being fit rather than merely skinny. I exercised and ate whatever I wanted and this formula kept me at 108-110 lbs, a weight that felt just right for my 5-foot-3-on-a-good-day height. Thanks to my martial arts training, I could do full pushups on my knuckles as good as any man and full splits in all directions. I was in the shape of my life and in control over my body -- and then I got pregnant. So far, I've gained 21 pounds and I'm fully aware that it's still within the normal range of the 25 to 35 pounds I'm supposed to gain. But with the whole third trimester ahead of me, I'm dreading what's to come because it seems that no matter how much I exercise or what I eat, my body is on autopilot and has a preset destination in mind. Any sense of control has completely vanished and I'm just a passenger on this prenatal journey.
I feel like my body has turned into a Black Hole for fat molecules. For those of you who never had the pleasure of Astronomy 101, a black hole is a region in space where gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light can escape. The force of gravity on an object depends on just two things: the size of the object and the mass of the object. Any increase or decrease in an object's mass or size has the corresponding effect on the amount of gravitational force it generates. This simple theory totally explains why I'm getting fatter by the day. Forget hormones, its simple physics. The greater my mass, the greater the gravitational pull my spherical body now exerts on every single calorie and fat molecule I ingest. Yet oddly enough, even though calories and fat are trapped, copious amounts of noxious gasses still seem to escape into the atmosphere. Now that's an anomaly with no scientific explanation!
I realize that all this griping about weight is so superficial and I feel guilty about complaining, especially when I have so much to be thankful for. I've been blessed with a fairly easy second trimester after a hellish first trimester and I am eternally grateful. When I bemoan how fat I'm getting I'm forced to confront the Scarlett O'Hara in me. I'm a big fan of "Gone With The Wind" in both movie and book form and I'm convinced that there are two maternal archetypes that categorize all women: Scarlett O'Hara or Melanie Wilkes. Scarlett O'Hara is a classic Type-A personality and a character you hate but admire begrudgingly. She's headstrong, petty, shallow, scheming, ruthless and vain. She's a self-absorbed yet indifferent mother who frets over how children ruin the waistline. There's a scene where Scarlett is being laced into her corset and she is so devastated that she can't regain her former 17-inch wasp-waisted glory after giving birth, that she decides not to have any more children. "Fiddle-dee-dee, ah do declare, how children ruin a perfectly good waistline!"
In stark contrast, the gentle Melanie Wilkes is all goody-goody,
earth-mother with a beatific glow. She's a heroic, gentle,
nurturing, forgiving and only believes the best in others. As a
mother, she's willing to risk her life just to get pregnant
again. She's a character you alternately love; yet want to shake
until her teeth rattle in her head. Few women fall neatly into
one extreme or the other, most women fall somewhere in between.
Lately, I've had a sneaking suspicion that I fall closer to the
Scarlett side of the spectrum. Instead of crib shopping, I want
to go shoe shopping for myself. Instead of embracing maternity
wear, I stand outside of Bebe looking longingly at all the tiny
clothes. I sigh wistfully as all my jet-setting single
girlfriends plan their itineraries for vacations to Amsterdam,
Spain, Turkey or Italy this spring, trilling, "Awww, I wish you
could come, but you're pregnant." I complain about "how this
pregnancy thing is getting old already." In short, I must horrify
all the women on the other side of the spectrum who regard their
pregnancy as sacred and second only to the immaculate conception
and gush, "I love being pregnant, don't you?" with a completely
Apparently I still haven't successfully transitioned from the selfish, it's-all-about-me, Scarlett O'Hara, Holly Golightly, Joan Crawford phase in my life to a more mature Melanie Wilkes, June Cleaver, Carol Brady uber-mom phase. Maybe it's because this pregnancy was unplanned and came at a time before my biological alarm clock began ringing. Or maybe it's because the enormity of what's happening to me is so staggering and awe-inspiring that it's simply easier to fixate on the trivial things or else I'd be paralyzed with fear. Or maybe it's just more glamorous to imagine myself wearing a little black dress, platform shoes, and languidly holding a martini in one hand with an expression of ennui instead of the vision of myself in three months wearing gray sweats, fuzzy slippers and holding a screaming baby in my arms, with an expression of naked panic in my face. Yet despite these occasional Scarlett moments, when I'm least expecting it, Melanie will take over and I'll be filled with a simple, profound joy feeling my baby somersaulting around inside me. All the petty concerns fall away and I count the days until I can hold him.
Two days after my doctor's appointment, I stepped on my home
scale and found, to my enormous relief, that I had lost two and a
half pounds in water weight, bringing my weight gain and
gravitational pull for the month down to 5 and 1/2 pounds.
Scoreboard for the week: Scarlett: 5 points, Melanie: 1.