I’m a fat person. Always have been and always will be. The first time I ever told a care provider I wanted to be a mom, they told me (at age 14) that I’d have to lose weight first. It’s a complicated birth story, but the short version is that I myself, was premature. This caused some developmental issues with my reproductive organs and my fallopian tubes we’re actually attached incorrectly. I required emergency surgery to fix this and allow me to begin my cycle. Because of this, I saw gynecologists a lot younger than many and had a lot more procedures, exams, and surgeries… and a lot more fat phobia too.
Although I didn’t recognize it as such, I was shamed for my weight by care providers from that very first appointment until I found my midwife who helped me bring my daughter into this world.
Where is this going? Why is this relevant to my birth story? Because of these experiences, my whole life I believed that being a mom was predicated on thinness, would take forever, and would be made more difficult by size.
For 15 years I tried to be skinnier (for a lot of reasons engrained by diet culture) but mostly because I wanted to be a mom and I was scared out of my mind that if I couldn’t shrink myself, I would never achieve that desire.
In case you find any similarities in your story, I’m here to tell you this:
IT WAS BULLSHIT.
The Beginning of Rewriting This Birth Story
Weighing 255 lbs and ending my pregnancy around 300, I conceived (in 2 months) carried, and birthed a beautifully healthy baby girl with zero labor interventions, vaginally and unmedicated in a birthing tub in my bedroom- exactly how I wanted to.
The fear of being fat and pregnant influenced so many decisions around birth; the timeline, my worthiness of becoming a mom, and the disaster trains of thought about how my labor and delivery would go.
About three years prior to becoming pregnant, I’d started exploring diet culture, body positivity, listening to a few podcasts and changing the way I thought about the once dreaded F word. I had come to accept my larger body enough and gave her some props, some of the time.
I stumbled across the HAES movement and started reading things by Lindo Bacon and slowly over time I started to hate my body a little less each day and instead I thanked her for what she’d gotten me through thus far. I wouldn’t say I loved my body then, nor do I fully love her now, but I embrace her.
Fast forward to when my husband and I decided that we wanted to start trying to conceive, and even though I was more on the body acceptance train, I was still convinced that labor would be horrible and painful and pregnancy long and awful, mostly, because I was fat.
My fat body did get some credit because I got pregnant so quickly, something the doctors told me would take at least a year. But at this point, I had not experienced any change in my beliefs about my ability to actually birth a baby. I was still terrified of that event.
Still fearful my body would fail me, and I’d have another trauma to add to my list. I still held the deep belief that my big fat body couldn’t possibly see me through birth. That joyful positive pregnancies and births were experiences reserved only for skinny people.
While I can’t tell you I had a clear A-HA moment where everything changed, there was definite a point early in my pregnancy when I was in a spiral of negative thoughts about all these wild pregnancy scenarios, where I heard a little voice say “It doesn’t have to be this way”.
And, for the first time in a long time, I listened. I chose to believe that my story would be different. I started furiously trying to find other stories about fat pregnant people who had positive births, I started researching about BMI and pregnancy, I enfolded fat friendly language into my daily life, and I interviewed my would be care providers about their practices to try and sniff out any fat shaming.
I decided that I would do everything I could to trust my body, listen to her, thank her and experience the whole damn thing just as I was supposed to. I decided that my pregnancy and birth would be for me and not anyone else.
And so, for the next 8 months I continued therapy, journaled, listened to meditations, researched, read, listened to podcasts, posted affirmations around the house, and I hired a doula who was very familiar with fat bodies and served clients of all shapes. This self-work was the preparation that changed not only my labor and delivery but how I continue to show up to this day for myself and my daughter.
One of the true testaments to the belief in my strength occurred around 36 weeks when baby was still breech. The OB who reviewed my ultrasound told me that meant I needed to schedule a c-section.
Due to a lot of reasons, this was a very undesired option for me. I took the information back to my midwife and asked what my options were, she confirmed it was a c-section unless baby turned by themselves or we had a successful external cephalic version. A ECV, which for as advanced a medical system as we have, is a pretty archaic processes where the doctor manually turns the baby from the outside of your body in attempts to alter babies position.
The goal is to keep baby head down and avoid a c-section or breech birth (feet first). It works about 60% of the time and was possibly one of the most intense and painful things I experienced my whole pregnancy, including labor. Luckily for us, it worked and was worth it.
Labor, positions, privilege and what happened next
Now, the nitty gritty… I was lucky to be able to use vacation time and I took about a week off prior to my actual due date. I didn’t want to be commuting to work and I wanted to relax, especially after the copious nesting that took place.
About three days before my due date I started having mild contractions, they felt like small stomach cramps at first and over time progressed growing in intensity and length. After about 48 hours with very little sleep, no water breaking, lots of calls to my midwife asking her if it was time, things started to get really intense. My doula arrived first and helped us set up the birthing tub and labor in different positions.
Once the midwives arrived and set up, they asked to check how far along I was. Much to their surprise, I was almost 7cm dilated. At this point, my cervix wasn’t fully effaced and baby girl was not 100% in the right position, so we did some laboring with side lunges and leg on the stool to try and get her and my cervix fully ready.
And my oh my, did that work! All I remember is this shift to insane pressure. I felt like I needed to poop and like my whole vagina was going to explode. That sounds graphic, but it’s the best way I can describe it. It wasn’t painful like when you hurt yourself, but just a whole lot of pressure where I’d never felt pressure before.
The contractions picked up to a quick pace with only about 20-30 seconds in between. It was difficult to find breath and composure at times, but your mind really does go someplace else- they talk about labor land and I had definitely arrived.
I was back in the pool at this point and the primal noises came in full force. I found a rhythm that I focused so intently on that I literally can’t tell you what happened or how long it was like that. I used positive affirmations and counting my breath silently in my head, while my husband and doula were supporting me physically.
Were there moments where I thought I couldn’t keep going? Hell yes, I was so tired of the pressure, it was so strong and strange and I was just plan tired after 3 days of some form of laboring. (We later discussed that this pressure was probably because my water never broke- my daughter was born en caul, inside the amniotic sac, – so the full pressure of her and the waters were on my pelvis).
At around 11:55 I looked at the clock and thought one more time, “How am I going to keep going? I have no idea how much longer this is going to be!” I remember blurting out some less sophisticated version of this thought in a breathy more panicked… “I can’t do this if it gets any harder! Please tell me it’s not going to be harder!!” The whole team reassured me that my body was doing what it was supposed to and that it wasn’t going to get harder, it was going to change. Somehow that was reassuring and I returned to labor land, albeit briefly.
For at almost exactly at that point, the sensation of the pressure changed 180 degrees and it the vanished. It was replaced with this sensation of a deep feeling and she was definitely ready to come earth side. The timeline I kept running through my head was 30 minutes to an hour, 30 minutes to an hour, and then I’d meet my baby.
Not quite, I had 7 minutes. I felt the pushing sensation 3 times, one of which I exclaimed “I’m pushing”, the second “She’s coming!” and the third, “She’s here!” The midwives were scrambling around as I don’t think anyone thought she would come so fast. They barely had time to put on their gloves and catch her in the pool. Her head came out and they told me not to push again, but there was no controlling that pushing- out she came!
The rest of the day was a magical blur, we got to do skin to skin, deliver the placenta, move into our cozy bed, feed, and then do the newborn exam. We then took a huge nap as a family and woke up start the adventure of raising our daughter Remy Mei.
When I look back at this experience this process was a transformation. Moving from a place of so much fear surrounding a baby that I was so terrified would exist to a place of liberation from that fear and awe of my body that made, grew, and brought her into this world. Birthing while fat, enduring a version, and lots of other questions along the way did not stop me from this transformative positive birthing experience, and it shouldn’t stop you either.
Much love to you on this journey,