Monday, May 30, 2011

Honoring Our Bellies Month: Healing Through Belly Art

As May ends, it's time for some final thoughts on "Honoring Our Bellies" month. 

My thanks to all the wonderful women who have been willing to share their thoughts and their pictures with the rest of us.  You may never know what a service you have done for future women of size contemplating pregnancy, and perhaps even in helping non plus-sized folks see the beauty and the wonder of pregnancy in women of size too. 

As we end this month, let's discuss a few final thoughts; a few more ways to honor our bellies, our selves, and our journey; and let's feature a few more pictures of pregnant bellies and related belly art.

Document Your Journey

First, if you are pregnant, please please please take the time and effort to document your pregnancy and your motherhood in pictures. 

 Too many fat women are missing in action from their family's photo albums because they are self-conscious or too embarrassed to be photographed much. What a tragedy this is!

The truth is that our pregnant bodies are beautiful. And they deserve to be seen in all their glory.

No one cares if you are not stick-thin with a bump; certainly your children don't care.  They only know that you are that most beloved of people ─ mommy ─ and if mommy isn't in the pictures of their childhood very much, what does that say to them?  Be present in your children's lives, both in the moment and in their archives.

If you don't get pictures of yourself pregnant, you will be losing such a wonderful memory.  Every pregnant woman is beautiful, and we all deserve to have our pregnancies documented in pictures. 

Sweet moments like these are so incredibly precious later on.  If you miss the chance to document it, that opportunity is gone forever.  Remember, you can always throw away or delete the really terrible shots, but you can't go back and get pictures you never took. 

Don't be the gaping black hole in your child's baby album.  Take pictures of yourself both in pregnancy and as a mother, and make sure your existence is documented, both for your child and for yourself. 

You deserve it.

Honor The Normality of Ambivalent Feelings

Remember, it's normal to feel some ambivalence about the changes happening to your body.

The truth is that your body will never be quite the same again...but that's okay. Life is change, and change is hard sometimes.  Often, we want everything to stay the same, forever, but that just doesn't happen.  Change is the norm in life, but it's not always easy. It's okay to acknowledge that.

And when that change is reflected on the body, it's normal to mourn those changes, whether they happen because of pregnancy or accidents or just plain time.  You're not a "bad" fat-acceptance person for having smidgens of dissatisfaction or body ambivalence.  It's just a normal part of dealing with changes in your body.

And few changes are bigger or more fast-acting than those wrought by pregnancy! So it's very normal to have mixed feelings about changes in your body around pregnancy. 

Just don't stay in that place of ambivalence.  Recognize its normality, recognize the challenge to your sense of self-confidence and worth, and actively find ways to work through it. 

Don't stay stuck in negativity. Do the work you need to do to get back to a place of self-acceptance and self-love.

Find a Way To Honor Your Body

Even as you process normal feelings of ambivalence about these changes, it's important to  honor your belly for all the amazing work it's doing in pregnancy, and one way to do that is through belly art.

There are many types of belly art you can do to honor your body in pregnancy.  Look around online and see which type calls to you.

[No, not all the images below are of women of size; but some are.  Others are presented just for ideas. Links to sources of some of these pictures are presented near the end.]

 We've already discussed belly henna, temporary tattoos using henna, which starts as a dark paste on your belly (like above)......

................and then turns to a reddish-brown hue like this when it rubs off, lasting for about 2 weeks or so.

Another beautiful and fun thing to do is belly bump painting.  This can run the gamut in quality and subject matter (depending on who your artist is!), from toddleresque to whimsical to seriously artistic.  It all depends on what you want.

A lot of people enjoy doing silly baby bump painting.  And what better Halloween costume can there be than a pumpkin baby bump? I've also seen baby bump paintings of watermelons, basketballs, and even a beachball!  It certainly doesn't have to be fancy.

You don't have to be a skilled artist to create some of these.  I am very artistically-challenged, but even I could probably manage a basic pumpkin or ladybug like the ones above. 

For those slightly more skilled, relatively easy themes might be butterflies or flowers.

There are a lot of whimsical ideas for belly painting, from turtles to speed bumps to Hello Kitty to the "She's Got The Whole World In Her Hands" riff above.

One of my favorites for sheer creative simplicity is this snowman.  Not very hard to do, yet it certainly brought a smile to my face!

And hey, who says you can't have fun with belly art, even if you can't paint?  Wouldn't this picture be a great conversation piece in a photo album in years to come?

Or you can have someone document your baby's position for you, late in pregnancy, with belly mapping.  This can be educational as well as fun, as you discover how fetal position can influence labor.   You can learn more about this at (this picture is from their site), or buy their book about it here

Or ditch your artistic and educational pretenses entirely and just let your kids go wild.  As I shared before, it can be a lot of fun to have your older children paint your belly, whether or not it turns out pretty or artistic.  My kids and I had a grand old time bonding over painting my belly, and it was a nice way to distract myself at the end of pregnancy number four.  If you are artistically challenged, just do it as a fun kid activity, not to turn yourself into a modern Renoir painting.

On the other hand, if you are the more artistic type, you can aspire to something more lofty. You can even hire someone well-versed in fine art to paint your belly for you.  Isn't this an amazing work?

There are a lot of fun examples out on the internet of different images women have painted onto their bellies, like some of these that I've pulled for us.  Some artists even specialize in this art form, or offer tips on how to do it.  There are even blog sites and flickr accounts to dig through for ideas. 

The possibilities for beauty and whimsy are endless. Let your imagination and your creativity run wild!

Create a Lasting Keepsake

Another way to honor your pregnancy belly is to create lasting keepsakes of it.

You can do this in many ways.  Photography is one of the best. 

Having professional or high-quality photographs of your pregnancy or family is one of the most beautiful keepsakes ever.  Almost without fail, women who have done this are glad that they did.  If you can't afford to have professional work done, try it yourself at home. Don't be afraid to experiment with it and try different things.

Pictures that use black-and-white tones, sepia tones, or that use lighting in an artful way can be some of the most striking pictures. Give that a try.

Then, be creative with your images.  Artsy them up with photoshop and see how they turn out.

Or focus on whimsical, fun shots.  Do whatever makes you happy.  The trick is to just do it. 

Remember, you are not obligated to keep every shot.  Take lots of shots so you are more likely to get a good one among them, and then discard the others.

Another fun idea is belly casting.  In this, you make a plaster cast of your belly in the latter stages of pregnancy.  This takes your memory of pregnancy from 2-D photos into 3-D sculpture. How cool is that?

This is a photo of someone having a belly cast done. You slather your belly with lubricant (like Vaseline, olive oil, or Crisco), then use quick-setting plaster strips (like Rigid Wrap), available at most big craft stores. You just wet them down in a pan of water and apply. There are kits available to buy online, or you can gather your own supplies fairly cheaply. 

You can do as much or as little of your body as you want.  You can do belly only, part of the belly, belly and breasts, or even the whole torso and upper legs.  Furthermore, you can be as demure or not as you prefer.  If you don't want your nipples to show, just wear an old bra under the casting, cover them with Saran Wrap, or put an arm over your breasts.  If you don't want any belly sags to show, don't cast that part of your belly.  It's completely up to you and there are no "right" or "wrong" ways of doing it.

When done, your belly cast can be left in its plaster state, like this one....

.......or finished and polished, but still with a plaster-like look, like this one from Molded Moments............

.....or it can be finished and painted for hanging on your wall, such as this one by artist Bethany Farrell....

......or personalized, like this one by artist Tina Killackey..........

........or decorated with added pieces, like this one from artist Nic Hohn.......

.......or given elaborate designs, like this one from my friend Amy Swagman of The Mandala Journey........

........or this beautiful but simpler one from Massage-ology.

You can even take a picture of your newborn nestled in the inside of the bellycast, just like they were positioned in the womb, which makes a wonderful piece of memorabilia for baby albums.  Or put paint on your baby's feet and do footprints on the inside (or outside) of the cast, to commemorate all that fetal kicking!  Or write a letter to the baby and tape it to the inside of the cast, to be given to them when they are older.

It can be as detailed or basic as you prefer ─ the possibilities are endless ─ but what a lovely keepsake to have forever.

There are any number of websites available that discuss how to make a bellycast, how to finish and display them, and which offer many images and ideas to choose from for decorating them. 

I personally did not have the nerve to do a bellycast in my first 3 pregnancies, but decided to do one in my last pregnancy. I really had to challenge myself to go through with it ─ but now I'm very glad I did. Alas, I've never found the time to actually have the cast finished ─ maybe by the time she graduates high school! ─ but what we did was sort of like the picture below. 

My husband put his hands on my belly, then I put my hands atop his.  It was difficult to differentiate between his hands and mine with plaster strips, but you can see it if you look for it.  Then later, after the cast dried a bit, we added a cast of my other children's hands too.  Doing them one at a time, later on, helped us make this work, since my kids would never have had the patience to do it otherwise.  Eventually, we will paint each person's hand a different (but complementary) color, and then finish the whole thing with beautiful uniting color and perhaps the outlines of my daughter's feet in the middle.

For now, my belly cast sits in its unfinished-but-still-inspiring-state in my office, looking down at me as I work, giving me inspiration as I write.  Even though it's not finished, I still treasure it and am immensely glad I took a chance on trying it.  I would always have regretted it had I let body self-consciousness get in the way of making this one-of-a-kind gift to myself.  Now, even if it's never formally finished, it's still a treasured memento of a very special time in my life, and of a very special child of my heart.


It's really not unusual for women of all sizes to experience body image issues during and after pregnancy.  There are huge changes happening to the body, and any pre-existing image issues can get magnified in uncomfortable ways as a result.

But while it's very normal to experience body ambivalence, that doesn't mean we have to stay in that murky place.  Rather, see it as an opportunity to work through and heal yourself in new and deeper ways.

One great way to work on healing pregnancy body ambivalence is through belly art. Photography, belly painting, henna, belly casts....all of these and more are good ways to honor ourselves, our bodies, and our babies.

It doesn't really matter which form you pick, but do find some way to document the experience.  It is only a brief moment out of your life, but it is such an important and memorable one.  It (and you) deserve to be honored in a special and unique way.

Don't let your size or body image keep you from memorializing this so-special moment in time in some way.  You will treasure it later, trust me!

*For more ideas and images of belly casts, belly painting, and henna tattoos, click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Nutrient Deficits in People of Size

A number of studies have found that many "obese" people have significant nutrient deficits.  As we've discussed before, contrary to the popular medical perception that fat people are overnourished, many are actually undernourished.

As one author put it:
Though commonly considered a state of “overnutrition”, obesity has increasingly been recognized as a risk factor for several nutrient deficiencies, including lower levels of antioxidants and certain fat-soluble vitamins.
Ironically, this fact went undiscovered until fat people who had had a gastric bypass started having severe nutritional deficits afterwards.  To further track the problem (and to try to blame something other than the surgery for these deficits), bariatric surgeons began documenting the nutritional status of weight loss surgery (WLS) candidates before the surgery. 

What they discovered was that many people of size actually have significant nutrient deficits, even before surgery.  

Let's be clear ─ the surgery indeed does make these deficits far worse, but many are not starting on an equal playing field before surgery even has an effect.

The $64,000 question is WHY many people of size have nutritional deficits. 

There are three main possibilities bandied about in the research to explain these deficits:
  • Nutrutional deficits are caused by years of junk food, unbalanced intake, and not enough fruits and vegetables
  • Nutritional deficits are the cumulative effect of years of dieting and limited intake common among many fat people
  • Nutritional deficits more common in people of size because they may not absorb nutrients as efficiently as others

Bad Habits?

Of course, the weight loss surgery studies usually blame junk food and a poor diet for the nutritional deficits among "obese" people.   Here's what one author (Xanthakos 2009) wrote about it:
The presence of nutritional deficiencies in overweight and obesity may seem paradoxical in light of excess caloric intake, but several micronutrient deficiencies appear to be higher in prevalence in overweight and obese adults and children. Causes are multifactorial and include decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables, increased intake of high-calorie, but nutritionally poor-quality foods, and increased adiposity, which may influence the storage and availability of some nutrients.
Weight loss surgeons like this Too-Much-Junk-Food explanation because it gives them an easy out by blaming the victim for the problem. 

And certainly there could be some truth to this possibility for some fat people.....some fat folk really do have poor nutrition, are binge eaters, and/or mostly eat junk/highly processed food, and that could certainly depress their nutritional reserves.

However, this explanation is simply too facile and convenient.  Yes, some fat people have terrible habits and this can have effects on their nutritional reserves ─ but some have normal habits and yet still have nutritional deficits. 

I hope the researchers look further than these "easy out" conclusions.  They need to dig a little deeper with the research and stop making assumptions about how "all fat people" eat and live.

Years of Dieting?

The second possibility ─ nutritional deficits are caused by years of dieting and limited calories ─ certainly seems logical.  Even the healthiest "lifestyle change" diets have difficulty providing sufficient amounts of nutrients if the caloric intake drops too far.  Given that many fat folk have been on 1200 calorie (and less) diets, are our bodies able to extract enough nutrients from that amount of calories? 

And what about those of us who have been on Very Low Calorie Diets (VLCDs); how much does that steal from our nutrient stores?

[Most of my dieting years were spent on moderate, "healthy" diets, usually 1200-1500 calories, with balanced intake of all the nutrient groups.  However, my last big dieting attempt involved a medically-supervised VLCD of about 500 calories per day.  I spent six months on that stupid VLCD; what do you think that did to my nutrient stores?]

Inadequate Nutrient Absorption?

To me the most intriguing possibility is that perhaps fat people simply do not absorb nutrients from their food as efficiently as others.  Unfortunately, this is the possibility with the least amount of research, just tantalizing mentions of this possibility in studies that I've read, but without providing documentation or proof that this does indeed occur. 

Certainly it is thought by some doctors that adipose stores can sequester fat-soluble vitamins (like vitamin D) and that this is why fat people tend to have very low Vitamin D levels.

But I've also seen some passing references in research of the possibility that fat people's gut and/or intestinal flora do not absorb certain nutrients (like folate) properly.  Some have speculated that this may be why we have lower levels of folate (and thus more birth defects) than thinner people, despite research showing no difference in folate intakes between groups.

I think this is an incredibly intriguing thought, and one that intuitively seems quite possible to me.  Now we just need research to actually really examine this question thoroughly, instead of making passing referece to the possibility without really documenting what study has been done on it.

Concluding Thoughts

It is clear that many "obese" people, rather than being overnourished, are actually undernourished instead.  They often have nutrient deficits of varying degrees of severity.

Nobody quite knows why this is; there is lots of speculation in the research about it, with many assumptions about how fat people "must" be eating (with little actual proof of these assumptions).  It may be bad habits, it may be deficits from years of dieting, or it may be decreased ability to absorb nutrients from food.  Perhaps it is a synergistic combination of some or all of these ─ or perhaps it is something else entirely.

What's needed is further study ─ study not just documenting the existence of nutrient deficits, but seeking the causes of these deficits, without making assumptions along the way. 

Compare the "obese" people with significant nutrient deficits to those without significant nutrient deficits, for example, and see if that comes up with any meaningful clues about nutrient intake, hormonal interference, or other issues.  Or compare the efficacy of nutrient absorption in the guts of average-sized people and the guts of "obese" people and see if there are any differences.

There are many ways to start investigating this finding further; it's time to create some more meaningful research on the topic, research that might actually lead to some breakthroughs in fixing the problem.

The ironic and maddening thing to me is that the undernourished status of so many fat people would have gone largely undiscovered had it not been for weight loss surgery (WLS).  This is important knowledge to have, but how terrible that it comes at such a price.

Not that I hate people who have had WLS or anything; it's their body and they get to choose what they do with it.  If they make an educated choice for it, who am I to begrudge them that?  I understand what drives them to that choice; I have several dear friends who have had WLS, and while I don't agree with all their reasons, I wish them well. 

But my gripe with research and publicity about WLS is that its long-term benefits are being oversold by selective reporting, complications are being hidden and minimized, and long-term risks are really greatly underemphasized. 

There are a lot of people out there who are sick from side effects of WLS, and that story is conveniently not making the news.  Only the stories of people in the "honeymoon" period of the first few years after WLS are being reported, not the nightmare stories of those who develop long-term problems from the procedure.  That's not fair and balanced reporting.

And how frustrating it is that doctors only start to notice and care about the nourishment status of very fat people in order to explain away the complications associated with their risky weight-loss interventions. 

Why was this undernourishment only discovered when doctors were trying to explain away the severity of nutrient deficits in fat people who had had WLS?  Why didn't doctors notice, test for, or care about these nutrient deficits in fat people before?  Why was it only important when it affected their bottom line?

In addition, it's important to remind health professionals that nutrient deficits in people who have had WLS are made far worse by the surgeries, even among many who are fully "compliant" with their vitamins.  The fact that many have nutrient deficits before the surgery certainly adds to the problem, but surgeries that worsen their intestinal tracts' abilities to absorb nutrients definitely worsen the problem to levels far beyond what it was in the first place.  Don't blame it all on pre-surgery status or lack of vitamin compliance; the surgery definitely is part of the problem.

It's time for doctors and researchers to stop stereotyping and blaming, and it's time for them to start examining WHY people of size tend to have higher rates of nutrient deficits, what causes these deficits, and how they can be treated effectively.


Aasheim ET, Hofsø D, Hjelmesaeth J, Birkeland KI, Bøhmer T.  Vitamin status in morbidly obese patients: a cross-sectional study.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Feb;87(2):362-9. PMID: 18258626
Study from Norway that prospectively examined 110 consecutive "morbidly obese" patients and 58 healthy controls not taking multivitamin supplements. The fat patients had "significantly lower concentrations of vitamin B-6, vitamin C, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, and lipid-standardized vitamin E than did the healthy controls...The status of these vitamins was inadequate in a substantial proportion of the patients (11-38%)."
Carlin AM, Rao DS, Meslemani AM, Genaw JA, Parikh NJ, Levy S, Bhan A, Talpos GB. Prevalence of vitamin D depletion among morbidly obese patients seeking gastric bypass surgery. Surg Obes Relat Dis. 2006 Mar-Apr;2(2):98-103.  PMID: 16925330
Prospectively studied vitamin D levels before surgery in 279 "morbidly obese" patients in Michigan seeking gastric bypass surgery. Vitamin D depletion, defined as serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level less than or= 20 ng/mL, was found in 166 patients (60%)...Vitamin D depletion was significantly more prevalent in the African-American patients than in the white patients (91% vs 48%; P less than .001)...Before gastric bypass surgery, a majority of morbidly obese patients have vitamin D depletion and secondary hyperparathyroidism. Studies evaluating the effects of gastric bypass on vitamin D metabolism must consider preoperative vitamin D nutritional status.
Xanthakos SA. Nutritional deficiencies in obesity and after bariatric surgery.  Pediatr Clin North Am. 2009 Oct;56(5):1105-21.  PMID: 19931066
"The presence of nutritional deficiencies in overweight and obesity may seem paradoxical in light of excess caloric intake, but several micronutrient deficiencies appear to be higher in prevalence in overweight and obese adults and children. Causes are multifactorial and include decreased consumption of fruits and vegetables, increased intake of high-calorie, but nutritionally poor-quality foods, and increased adiposity, which may influence the storage and availability of some nutrients. As the obesity epidemic continues unabated and the popularity of bariatric surgery rises for severely obese adults and adolescents, medical practitioners must be aware of pre-existing nutritional deficiencies in overweight and obese patients and appropriately recognize and treat common and rare nutritional deficiencies that may arise or worsen following bariatric surgery. This article reviews current knowledge of nutritional deficits in obese and overweight individuals and those that commonly present after bariatric surgery and summarizes current recommendations for screening and supplementation."
Ammor N, Berthoud L, Gerber A, Giusti V. [Nutritional deficiencies in candidates for bariatric surgery] Rev Med Suisse. 2009 Mar 25;5(196):676-9. PMID: 19462611
[Article in French]

"98% of patients who have undergone a gastric bypass for treating severe obesity develop multiple micronutrient deficits. However, prior to surgery, it isn't rare to find nutrient deficiencies. Indeed, the dietary intakes of surgery candidates are often unbalanced, lacking in variety especially in high vitamin and mineral nutrients. We present the preliminary results concerning the qualitative and quantitative analysis in a group of patients waiting for a gastric bypass. The recommended daily amounts in vitamin B9, vitamin D and iron are insufficient in the majority of the patients. The correction of nutritional intakes is advisable, even before the surgery, in order to reduce the risks of developing biological deficiencies."
Kaidar-Person O, Rosenthal RJ. Malnutrition in morbidly obese patients: fact or fiction?  Minerva Chir. 2009 Jun;64(3):297-302.  PMID: 19536055

"Reports of nutritional deficiencies after Bariatric surgery have lead investigators to inquire about the preoperative nutritional status of morbidly obese patients. Interestingly, numerous reports demonstrated a pattern of low levels of various micronutrients among overweight and obese patients, even in comparison with normal weight population. In this article we reviewed the literature for micronutrient deficiencies in obese patients prior to weight reduction surgery."
Kaidar-Person O, Person B, Szomstein S, Rosenthal RJ. Nutritional deficiencies in morbidly obese patients: a new form of malnutrition? Part A: vitamins. Obes Surg. 2008 Jul;18(7):870-6. PMID: 18465178   See also: Kaidar-Person O, Person B, Szomstein S, Rosenthal RJ. Nutritional deficiencies in morbidly obese patients: a new form of malnutrition? Part B: minerals. Obes Surg. 2008 Aug;18(8):1028-34. PMID: 18461424
"It is a common belief that clinical vitamin or mineral deficiencies are rare in Western countries because of the low cost and unlimited diversity of food supply. However, many people consume food that is either unhealthy or of poor nutritional value that lacks proteins, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. In this, article we reviewed the literature and highlighted the vitamin deficiencies in obese patients before bariatric surgery. Deficiency of dietary minerals is described in the accompanying manuscript. The prevalence of vitamin deficiencies in the morbidly obese population prior to bariatric surgery is higher and more significant than previously believed."
Schweiger C, Weiss R, Berry E, Keidar A. Nutritional deficiencies in bariatric surgery candidates. Obes Surg. 2010 Feb;20(2):193-7.  PMID: 19876694
"Preoperative blood tests of 114 patients (83 women and 31 men) were collected...The prevalence of pre-operative nutritional deficiencies were: 35% for iron, 24% for folic acid, 24% for ferritin, 3.6% for vitamin B12, 2% for phosphorous, and 0.9% for calcium, Hb and MCV level was low in 19%. High levels of PTH were found among 39% of the patients...Patients with BMI greater than or = 50 kg/m(2) were at greater risk for low folic acid (OR = 14.57, 95% CI:1.4-151.34). Patients with high income were less likely to have iron deficiency (OR = 0.19, 95% CI:0.038-0.971). A high prevalence of nutritional deficiencies was found amongst bariatric surgery candidates suffering from morbid obesity."

Friday, May 20, 2011

Welcome, Maceo: Newborn Video

In our last post, we shared pictures of pregnant women of size to show the diversity of bodies and belly shapes for Honoring Our Bellies Month and for our Plus-Sized Pregnancy Photo Gallery

I'm happy to report that one of those women who shared belly pictures, Theresa, gave birth exactly one week ago to her son, Maceo.  She sent us a video of Maceo's first moments in the world, just after he was born.

The video is about 3 minutes long, doesn't have any graphic birth footage, and is mostly just sweet sweet pictures of baby Maceo with his mommy and daddy.

Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Theresa.

Here is an abbreviated version of her birth story.  To me, it illustrates the importance of maternal mobility in labor as a way to deal with the pain without drugs, and probably as a way to help correct any position issues with the baby (in this case, possibly a hand by the baby's head). 

Can you imagine how hard it would have been for her to deal with the pain if she was tied down to a bed, flat on her back, not permitted to move around much, like most women (and especially women of size) are in hospitals?  This is why the epidural rate is so high in hospitals, even among women who want to go without drugs.  Such restricted movement just makes it incredibly hard to deal with the pain; free range of motion and unlimited mobility makes it at least doable for many.

Notice how much Theresa moves around in her birth story, and notice how many positions she uses for labor and pushing.  Notice also how she switches positions at the last minute.  This frequent movement and re-positioning was probably very important in helping the baby out, yet it's something that's rare in many hospitals.  How many problems could be avoided if women were just encouraged to have free range of motion like this?

Here, then, is Theresa's birth story.

"Suddenly instead of five people in our bedroom, there were six."

Okay, so Thursday I started having what I can only describe as gas pains..It wasn't painful, more like the kind of sensation that makes you want to wrinkle up your nose. Also I noticed when I was in the "library" that I had started to let go of the mucus plug.  I had an appointment to go see the midwives that morning and luckily I had asked [my husband] Moonie to start his leave a few days early because I didn't want to drive to the midwife's by myself (good thing, too!)

Everyone agreed my gas was likely early labor but it could be really early and start and stop or maybe it WAS just gas. Anywho, the appointment went well, my BP was great, my urine was fine and about an hour later the sensations subsided.  [I took] an afternoon nap (good thing, too). 

Moonie made us some dinner about 6pm and we watched a movie and my "gas pains" started to return.  I finished eating and felt like I really needed to go take a leak and Moonie helped me up off the sofa and followed me to the "library" but I was to do no reading here for a while!  As soon as I got in I got an EARTH SHATTERING contraction that made me grab the over toilet towel rack and moan, "Ohhhhhh AHHHHHHH"   We had been discussing that maybe I wasn't in labor and we didn't want to go getting excited over nothing especially since first labors are usually long.  Moonie just said, "Yeah, kid I think you really are in labor!"  and called the midwives to put them on alert and I tried to go back to watching the movie but all you moms probably can figure how well THAT worked out! 

By 8pm I was seriously in first stage. The midwifery student came over an hour later and I was just dealing with each contraction as it came. [I was] sitting on the exercise ball, using the sock warmers (socks filled with rice and warmed in the microwave), and Moonie was timing my contractions as we played my "Relaxing" playlist on iTunes and tried to veg out to the visualizer. 

Soon after the student came she started inflating the baby pool and I could no longer sit and deal with contractions I was walking around moaning and chanting OM while doing belly dance moves and pelvic stretches.  Walking it off was really the only way I could deal with these harder contractions, the thought of laying down was uncomfortable. I did try to lay down through one and it felt all wrong so I scrapped that idea.  

For me the contractions weren't painful per se, they were more like the most intensely uncomfortable sensations ever mostly because I couldn't lay down, I couldn't sit and standing and walking all felt crappy.  Then one thing that only one mom ever mentioned to me was the flu-like sick feeling you can get. Boy did I EVER get it!  I threw up that dinner like nobody's business and I felt like was gonna hurl up everything I had eaten since I was 2 years old. I felt really sick to my stomach between contractions and that continued until the end pretty much.

Later that night...the midwives came.  The midwifery student had been helping me through the contractions because the sensations were so STRONG that they scared me at first and I would [think], "Oh another one! What do I do???" I couldn't believe how close they were and she just hugged me and let me lean on her and reminded me to breathe and helped me through it.

I tried to sit in the pool which was filled by a hose hooked up to the shower head.  The water seemed too hot and there wasn't enough of it. Also it was on my hard living room floor so kneeling in the pool sucked. I couldn't SIT for love or money and leaning on the side just made it sink down and overflow.  I tried a second time during the labor but it just felt wrong and so I scrapped it. 

We all ended up in the bedroom and to be honest, I'm surprised my neighbors didn't call the police. I was told that I wasn't so very loud because I was moaning instead of screaming.  I was on all fours on our bed and it seemed like forever! I was getting these MASSIVE pushing contractions one at a time and felt sick as dog in between along with the front of my hips hurting like Satan was cracking my bones so in between loud moans I just yelled "SICK SICK! I'm not gonna be sick I FEEL sick!" and "DAMN IT MY HIPS HURT LIKE HELL!"

My midwife wanted me lay on my back to try and examine me but there was no WAY I could lay on my back!  I just instinctively knew that would make everything worse. She thinks Maceo's hand was up by his head because I had been pushing for a bit and the head would come out and go back. So she did a clear of my cervix which I  was told I complained about loudly (I have no memory of this) and then switched positions.  They suggested I try the birth stool. I got up off the bed and then another massive contraction came (they were now two or three pushing urges in a row then a break), and I just grabbed my rickety bedside table and got into a squat and yelled. I got into the birth stool and pushed there for a bit. Got back on the bed and pushed there, yelling about how my hips hurt in between while they kept repeating, "Push it out and it'll all be over!"  I remember being covered in sweat and seeing Moonie's face and holding his hand and crying.

"This is taking so long!!!" I yelled and they said something and I remember saying, " I just want to get the baby OUT!!!" I slid off the bed to the birth stool and  had the most massive contractions ever and pushed with all my might with every ounce of strength I had in my entire being and the midwife said, "It's coming!" and Moonie dove to the floor to help her catch baby and he said "I see the head, baby! I can see it, it's almost here!" I said "You do?!" and then pushed Maceo out into the world and suddenly instead of five people in our bedroom there were six.  The midwife and Moonie both caught baby.

"Is it a girl?" I asked and she said, "It's a boy!"  and I said "Oh it's Maceo!" and I just repeated his name over and over again.  The cord was around his neck but she just slipped it off and handed him up to me.  We waited what seemed to me like five seconds but was an hour we clamped the cord and the student cut it. 

Then we waited for the placenta to come out but it had stage fright I guess. I tried coughing and pushing but to no avail. I took a few doses of Angelica tincture  and still nothing. The midwife suggested we move to the toilet because it might come out easier. I sat there and sat there and nothing and finally the midwife said, "You know if you can't get it out we'll have to go someplace where they can take it out."  Then before I could even say "Oh" I had another contraction and this was actually a little painful or maybe it was just that it was stronger than I expected and it was over before I even knew what happened and out it came.  I looked at it when they put it in a specimen bowl and was like "uh-huh" and thought about how tired I was.

I went back to the bedroom and Maceo was in his Poppi's arms and the student took some photos. Then I had him again and we took some more photos.  Then the midwives started cleaning everything up and sump pumping the pool and deflating it, loudly.  Finally that crap was over and we had quiet time. I just laid in bed with Maceo and Moonie was totally enraptured with us both.

Our midwives examined me and I had  no rips but something called a skidmark which is like a little scrape on the taint and they were all so happy (so the hell was I).

I think I just laid in bed and dozed with Maceo and Moonie just laid diagonally at the foot of the bed, completely dressed with glasses and everything and slept for the next four hours until his parents got there and brought us breakfast.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Honoring Our Bellies: Pregnant Belly Diversity

May is Honoring Our Bellies Month at Well-Rounded Mama.  We had a Belly Blog Carnival where we shared blog entries from various moms of size, talking about their feelings about their bellies during and after pregnancy.  We've shown pictures of Belly Henna and how it can be used to honor your belly during pregnancy.  Now it's time for some more pictures!

One frequent anxiety about fatness and pregnancy for many women of size is wondering what their pregnant bellies will look like. 

And the truth varies.  Fat bodies do not all look alike, so fat pregnant bodies won't all look alike either.  Some women just get much more apple-shaped, some look pear-shaped with a small bump, some get a really big belly, some hardly look pregnant at all, some get a double-roll belly, some look like the classic basketball just never know what your body will look like until you actually ARE pregnant. 

Here are some pictures sent into me for the Belly Blog Carnival.  They represent some of the diversity possible among pregnant women of size.  I've re-used a couple of pictures, but most are new.  For the sake of privacy, I identified some of them only with an initial (and even that may have been changed). Others contain first names. All were used with permission.

Please note that the copyright of these pictures belongs to the mothers and this post; do NOT copy them and use them elsewhere.

I've included here the ones submitted to me that identified exactly how far along they were.  All pictures are of women of size, but of varying sizes of large. I've put them in order by gestational dates. Since most people take more pictures at the end of pregnancy than the beginning, late baby bumps are far more represented than early baby bumps.  Finally, I ended with a couple of pictures of labor, newborns, and nursing, just for a sense of closure.


This is "L" at 6 months pregnant.

This is "Sh" at 28 weeks pregnant (about 7 months).

This is "J" at almost 8 months pregnant.

This is Arwen at 8 months.

This is Issa at 33 weeks.

This is "T" at 35 weeks.

This is Angela at 37 weeks.

This is "A" at 37-38 weeks.

This is Cassandra at 38 weeks.

This is Lexi, at approximately 38 weeks.

This is "A" at 40 weeks, 1 day.

"E" at 41 weeks, 3 days.

"Ch" during pushing phase in labor.

"M" pushing during labor, baby starting to crown.

"E", skin-to-skin, after birth.

"J" nursing, 8 months post-partum.

Thank you to all the moms of size who so generously shared their pictures.  You rock!  You totally look beautiful, and you have done a real service for future moms of size who wonder if fat women really do get pregnant, and oh-my-goodness-what-am-I-going-to-look-like-if-I-do?

Yes, Virginia, fat women really do get pregnant, we do have baby bellies, our baby bellies vary as much as our pre-pregnancy bodies do, but whatever unique shape and size we end up having, we are beautiful. 

*This is the second publishing of this post.  Blogger went down shortly after it posted originally and all recent posts were deleted.  So we're putting it back up to make sure everyone has the opportunity to see it, and so that it stays in our archives.  Apologies if you are seeing it a second time on a feed or newsreader.