I’m fat.

So lately I’ve been super inspired by fat girls. And I don’t mean the word fat in the negative typical way that you all are thinking. I’m talking about girls who are fat. Ok, I know that doesn’t sound any better to you, but honestly fat just describes them. It’s an adjective, it’s a word that I use to describe myself, not negatively, not postitively, just a descriptive word. There is no quantifying fat in my mind. There is no fat that is good and fat that is bad. There is just fat. Period. Because if we make it good and bad then that messes with a fat girls head and their image of themselves. And that’s already been fucked with enough. Right?

These girls that I’m talking about can be found hidden behind hashtags, posting in their fashion blogs, and on communities on tumblr and Instagram. They are claiming themselves fat, using hashtags like #fatshion and #fatspiration. They are using the word fat, simply as a way as identifying themselves within the community. The community of women on the internet that are unapologetically taking FULL BODY selfies in their bathroom mirrors and posting them on the whole internet! And I can’t even tell you how happy it makes me.

Growing up my mom was fat, she still is fat. My dad is fat and my two older brothers are fat. My dad’s mom was fat and his dad was fat. His sister was fat and so was my mom’s dad. So is her sister and brother. My Gram (who was never fat) was very critical of fat. She called my mom fat and with held food from her. When I was about 10 my mom went on the Optifast diet and didn’t eat for 3 months. She lost a lot of weight. She gained it all back as soon as she started eating food again. When I got fat I felt badly about my body. I pulled at my stomach in the mirror with tears in my eyes, hoping that I’d magically pull it away. I took diet pills and worked out. I slept with lots of people hoping that was the way to acceptance and love of myself (it wasn’t).

My mom had to shop at Ames because they carried a tiny plus line and also Fashion Bug. Those were her choices in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania aka the middle of nowhere. She could’t get bras in her size, or bathing suits. The clothes were really fucking ugly. It upset her. She wanted to look good! My mother is a beautiful woman. The plus section was always almost hidden in the store it was in some corner somewhere feeling shameful. What does that tell you? That you aren’t important and that your body isn’t worthy of the clothing that is front and center as soon as you walk in.

So what does all of this tell you? If you are fat you should be ashamed, and that being the opposite of fat will make you happy. Well that’s bullshit. I’ve heard this word acceptance a few times and I’ve tossed it around occasionally, but to be honest I didn’t really know how to accept my body until two things happened.

First I had a baby. This post is not about having a baby (that’s another amazing story altogether), but going through the changes of pregnancy and delivering a baby taught me to respect my body in a completely different way.

Second, I saw thousands of women, fat women, looking gorgeous, smiling and enjoying their lives while wearing clothing that suited them and fit their bodies. They posted listings of what they were wearing and where they bought it. Suddenly I had choices and many of them. Recently I decided that I was going to look as good as I could everyday. I put a little more effort into my outfit and makeup. Not a ton, just a little. I started posting photos of my outfits on the internet. I got a bunch of likes, from other fat girls. I joined the community.

I used to rebel against the idea of acceptance of myself coming from the outside of myself but it turns out that just doesn’t work. For me acceptance isn’t telling my reflection that I’m beautiful (although that may work for some people). It’s learning from other fat women who are doing what they want with their lives and looking beautiful all at the same time. It turns out that I was doing that all along but just need some help recognizing it.

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We’re having a baby

Jason and I are expecting our first baby any day now. We’ve been doing a lot of reading, taking a lot of classes, and putting together a lot of IKEA furniture. For the most part, we’ve avoided any type of scary stories, fear based warnings, and hospitals. All of my care is being handled at the amazing Midwife Center here in Pittsburgh. We’ve taken all of our classes (Infant Care, Confident Birthing, Breastfeeding, and Prenatal Yoga) at Shining Light Prenatal Education with the fabulous Deena Blumenfeld who is a wealth of knowledge and a great support. We hired an incredible doula. We wrote a birth plan. I’ve taken great care to educate myself, only reading the most positive and informative books (EVERYTHING by Ina May Gaskin). And to do as much spiritually and emotionally that I can to prepare for birth and beyond.

There have been exceptions of course, I had an 18 week ultrasound in the hospital (they don’t do those at The Midwife Center). I wanted to make sure all of the organs were intact and functioning and just to make sure the baby was on track. We did however opt out of any genetic testing or further ultrasounds. We knew we would keep the baby if it had a genetic abnormality, and it seems as though the tests are incredibly inaccurate, producing false negatives and spiraling parents into a tornado of worry. A worry that results in further tests that are (although much more accurate) more invasive/risky. We had three “medical experiences” for lack of a better term. We went to the hospital for the ultrasound, we toured the labor and delivery unit of Mercy Hospital (in case we should be transferred from TMC) and we “interviewed” two pediatricians. With such little exposure to the “normal” experience of prenatal care and education, these three little exceptions were in stark contrast to the information that we have been filling our brains with over these 9 long months.

The ultrasound was whatever. It felt cold and sterile, the nurse seemed annoyed with us and the machine. And the part of the machine that recording a portion of it to a souvenir dvd was broken. Bummer. I felt like I needed to be quiet and follow instructions which is generally how I feel anytime I’m at the hospital. She asked me what the date of my last period was, and although I couldn’t remember, I did know my date of conception(ish) because I had used the Fertility Awareness Method. She glazed over my response with a “OK, are you sure you don’t know the date of your last period”, and I just dropped it. I left feeling happy that my little person was ok and doing well, and annoyed at that girl. It was then that I began to realize how special the care at TMC really is.

About a week ago we had made an appointment to tour Mercy Hospital. TMC had warned us to take the tour with a grain of salt, and that our only goal was to see what the unit looked like, should I need to be transferred. Our tour guide was a Lactation Consultant in her 60’s who was very informative about how everything happens at the hospital. She gave us good information about how to get into the hospital and where to park. She shuffled all 10 or 12 of us into a hospital room where women have their babies and explained that once the baby is born the nurse or doctor would take it to a warming table, clean it off, weigh and measure it, wrap it in a blanket and give it to mom. In the meantime mom would be getting any necessary stitches and delivering the placenta. From what I have learned this is old procedure. There is evidence that immediate skin to skin contact and the uninterrupted breast crawl have many health benefits and promote successful breastfeeding. So I raised my hand and asked her what would happen if I wanted to have the baby placed on my abdomen immediately after birth. Her response was that it would be too hard. “Too hard?”, I asked. She smiled through her teeth, pissed that I had challenged her at all, and said it would be too hard to deliver the placenta with the baby on my body. She then asked me if this was my first baby and dismissed my opinion for newcomer naivete. And although the midwives, nurses, and my doula would all be there, would have all read my birth plan, and would do everything that they could to ensure that it was followed the best way that it could given the circumstance of being transferred to the hospital, I felt powerless. I felt powerless and like what I thought or knew didn’t matter. The same way I felt when the ultrasound tech asked me about my conception date.

Lastly, this week Jason and I spoke with two pediatricians in hopes of finding one that would jive with us and our little one. We were recommended to two specifically, Dr.David Wolfson and Dr.Steven Levine. I was armed with four hot topic questions: How do you feel about vaccinations, circumcision, breastfeeding, and do you have any experience with the Midwife Center? Dr.Wolfson, although he was a little distracted and forgot that I wasn’t having a hospital birth, handled my questions well and had a gentle manner. He was very pro breastfeeding and had experience with TMC. He was neutral with the hot button topics and was professional with his opinions. The next day we met with Dr.Levine and although very informative and funny, he wasn’t so neutral in his leanings toward circumcision, didn’t have experience with TMC and went as far as to say that he thought that women who gave birth in a hospital had an easier time with breastfeeding. And also that breastfeeding/breast milk doesn’t always work and that formula is needed in cases where the mom isn’t enjoying the experience. As we were leaving Jason pointed out that on the back of the measly pamphlet that was hilariously titled Infant Care Handbook, was an advertisement for Enfamil formula. I’m not anti formula, I think it’s useful in certain cases, however I do think that breast milk is by far the BEST thing you can give your baby and if breastfeeding just doesn’t work for you, that breast milk in a bottle (instead of formula) should be the next step that doctors encourage, NOT formula.

Call me overreactive, inexperienced, tell me to calm down, say that I’m too micromanaging or radical, or say that I’m being too EMOTIONAL. But I believe these experiences in the hospital and with doctors in comparison to just trusting myself and my body create fear, doubt, uncertainty, and when labor time comes, physical obstacles (see Gaskin’s Sphincter Law) about having a baby. I do not believe it is the healthcare professional’s job to encourage the attitude that women don’t know anything about something that comes very naturally to us. I believe in education that is encouraging and supportive, not judgmental and pious. I think it is the mark of true wisdom and knowledge to trust what women already know about themselves and to help us learn supportively. I don’t think it helps anyone to use fear or superiority as a tool. Women have to wade through a sea of conflicting information when it comes to anything concerning their reproductive health. Information about abortion and birth control is riddled with loads of false facts and fears and pregnancy and birth just might be the mother (no pun intended) of them all. It is hard, it is discouraging, and without support and self confidence, it can be impossible for some women to get good care that has their health at the top of the list. When you don’t have a family that is enough support for your health as a woman in all stages, who do you turn to? We have to be able to sort the bad information from the good. I am so thankful that there are people out there specifically ones that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting (see my first paragraph) that truly have women and babies health at the top of their priorities. Thank you.


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