You’re Supposed To Gain Weight While You’re Pregnant

5 Jun


When I saw that A Pea In The Pod Maternity is selling a shirt that says “Wake Me Up When I’m Skinny,” I pretty much lost my shit.

Wake me up when I’m skinny.

Like, are you kidding me?

First of all, thank you for contributing to fat-phobia and promoting the idea that women shouldn’t be seen or even awake unless they’re acceptably thin. But, you know, not too thin. Like the chair, the porridge and the bed in Goldilocks and the Three Bears, women must conform whatever size the male gaze has decided is juuuuust right. Spoiler alert: you will never achieve this size, because only fantasy women are ever the “right” size. If you’re a living, breathing, actual human woman, you will always somehow be the wrong size.

Second of all, you are a maternity store. Your job should be to create clothing that makes pregnant women feel better about their bodies, not worse. I mean, this shirt basically says, “I Feel Fat And I Hate It.” It’s not funny. It’s not cute. It’s gross and oppressive and sends so many damaging messages about women’s bodies.

Third of all, the Sleeping Beauty Diet is an actual thing and it’s gross. Apparently a favourite of Elvis Presley’s, the Sleeping Beauty Diet involved being sedated for several days at a time. It works on the rationale that if you aren’t awake, you can’t eat. GENIUS. Except, of course, it’s super unhealthy and it can cause brain damage and gah why do I live in a world where people think it’s a good idea to starve yourself while under sedation. In fact, that’s what the diet should be named – the old Sedate ‘n Starve. Like, let’s call a spade a spade here.

Fourth of all, can we stop pathologizing weight gain? Weight gain in general is not a disease, and in this specific case it is actually encouraged. You are supposed to gain weight when you’re pregnant. That’s how your body makes a healthy baby. It’s also how your body stays healthy during your pregnancy – because like it or not, your fetus actually acts as a parasite, and your body will prioritize its health over your own. If you are not taking in adequate baby-growing nutrition, your body will start depleting its own stores of calcium, iron, etc. in order to help the fetus grow.

In the 1950s, women were told to gain no more than 15 pounds while pregnant. In fact, my grandmother’s doctor told her that if she gained more than that, her husband might leave her because she was too fat. These days, it’s recommended that women gain between 25 and 35 pounds during pregnancy. I myself gained 45 pounds (and I gave birth a month early, too). At every doctor’s appointment my nurse would high five me after weighing me and tell me that I was doing a great job. I was a fucking rock star at gaining weight. I would hear other pregnant women echoing my grandmother, saying they only wanted to gain 15 or 20 pounds, and I was like, whatever, bring it on. Bring me all the butter and all the cheesecake and all the crème brûlée, because I’m about to gain all the weight.

And yet, after I gave birth, I felt super weird about my body. It was totally foreign – not the body I’d had before, and not my pregnant body, which had felt wonderfully voluptuous and life-giving. My body felt like an ugly deflated bag. Later that week, when I left my son at home with my mother while I went out to buy nursing bras, I started crying when the sales clerk told me that I should wait until I had the baby before figuring out what size I needed. Because I still looked pregnant, even though I wasn’t. And even though I knew that it was normal and healthy to look like that at a week postpartum, I was still ashamed of my body. As much as I wanted to own how real and perfect and fine my post-baby body was, I still struggled. I suspect that most women do.

There is so much pressure on women to lose their “baby weight” as soon as they give birth. I mean, the tabloids are always publishing pictures of so-and-so in a bikini only six weeks after giving birth, or what’s-her-name’s postpartum diet and exercise routine. As a society, we seem to care more about how quickly a woman’s body can snap back to what it was before pregnancy than we care about the actual product of that pregnancy – you know, the baby. And that is super fucked up.

Pregnancy is body-changing event; there’s just no getting around that. Your body will forever be altered after you grow a baby in it. Can we please start trying to embrace that fact, instead of holding women up to impossible standards? Can we start talking about how you might never lose the “baby weight” and that is totally fine and your body is wonderful no matter what size it is? Instead of fear-mongering about women’s postpartum bodies, can we start talking about how wonderful they are even after (especially after) they’ve been stretched out, widened and sometimes thickened by pregnancy? Because they are wonderful – you used that body to make a whole other human being. And like I don’t think that that’s the pinnacle of a woman’s existence or the best thing her body will ever do, but it’s still pretty fucking rad.

So hey, Pea In The Pod Maternity? How about you stop making women feel crappy about how they look? How about you start making clothing that celebrates how rad women’s bodies are? Because right now we really, really need that.



UPDATE: Pea In The Pod has apparently pulled the Wake Me Up When I’m Skinny t-shirt.




46 Responses to “You’re Supposed To Gain Weight While You’re Pregnant”

  1. lruthnum June 5, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

    Great post – well said. This shirt is just pathetic and a bit sick to be honest.

  2. Tempest Rose June 5, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

    A few hours after I had given birth, my son’s grandfather asked me if I was sure there wasn’t another one in there. He has three children and four OTHER grandchildren of his own, he knows how this works.

    Months after I gave birth, I had people congratulating me like crazy. On my post-baby bump, which they thought was a pregnancy-bump. I wore super flowy shirts, but there was no getting around it. Honestly, my son is almost three and I still think I look pregnant.

    However, I never, not once, thought I was “fat” when I was pregnant. I still don’t. And even if I was, who the frick cares?

  3. betternotbroken June 5, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    They really shouldn’t sell in in a large, right? And what about XXS?

  4. Elizabeth Hawksworth June 5, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

    This is in no way really related to your story and your experience, but it makes me feel really shitty that the only acceptable reason to gain weight in our society is if you’re pregnant. I may never be pregnant – there’s a good chance I can’t and probably won’t have children. And I’m fat. If I gain weight, it’s because I’m lazy and disgusting. Ugh. Ugh. It just makes it really hard to love yourself when you know that companies like this sell shirts like this. It’s so hard to love your body anyway.

  5. hessianwithteeth June 5, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    This is a great article. Why would any company think that that shirt was a good idea?

  6. Victo Dolore June 5, 2014 at 9:11 pm #


  7. Nida S. June 5, 2014 at 9:20 pm #

    The person behind the t-shirt probably has some serious issues in the head… Pregnancy is one time where weight gain is heartily welcomed. Messed up people seriously!

  8. kendra2877 June 5, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

    Ugh..what a lovely world this is to live in sometimes. Breeding, screwing, cleaning, cooking and being servants are STILL all women are valued for it feels like. SO glad I can’t have children. (sigh) I think company has some insensitive people working there for sure.

  9. LauraALord June 5, 2014 at 10:49 pm #

    This is disgusting. I can’t believe they made a product like this. What a terrible, hurtful message to women. Eh…I won’t buy from them again.

    • Sense of humor June 6, 2014 at 12:53 am #

      Really ? Obviously no sense of humor , over sensitive comes to mind ..Take a spoonful of cement and harden the hell up . It’s a funny shirt if you don’t like then don’t buy it simple as that …fucking worlds full of over reacting pussy’s

      • robinsetter June 6, 2014 at 1:21 am #


      • LauraALord June 6, 2014 at 10:01 am #

        Please use better spelling and grammar if you are going to attempt to troll me.

  10. jessicalangblog June 6, 2014 at 12:49 am #

    While I agree that the t-shirt is in poor taste and that gaining weight during pregnancy is perfectly natural, I always react to the not-real-fantasy-women comments. There are women who have perfectly sized bodies (according to beauty ideal), and loose their weight after giving birth without dieting or exercising. There are women who sit by their computer pretty much all day long while sipping wine or beer and still look like they live at the gym – well into their 40’s. All women are real, and within a certain range, different sizes are all natural.

    • bellejarblog June 6, 2014 at 1:06 am #

      My point was no matter what size you are, people will find something wrong with it. I’m one of those women who lost all their baby weight without trying, and I’m pretty tiny. The distinction I was trying to make was between real women and those who live in people’s fantasies.

      • Perdita June 9, 2014 at 3:13 pm #

        Yep. Sadly if you’re slight, there will be men (who often feel ‘righteous’ thanks to ‘real women have curves’ facebook glurge) and media articles who will attack you for just being your own body shape.
        …or assume you’re thick/spend your life trying to look that way to please them…

  11. robinsetter June 6, 2014 at 1:19 am #

    So well said! Thank-you for this! I, too, gained 45 lbs during my pregnancy and I, too, gave birth a month early via medically necessary cesarean. I loved how I felt like a miracle-worker during pregnancy, feeling my son’s little pokes and jabs, and didn’t worry about the gain at all. I was 100 lbs at the start or my pregnancy and as I got larger, women would tell me that I was finally looking like a normal women (which is of course problematic in itself…)
    Your description of feeling like an ugly, deflated bag is so incredibly accurate! On top of feeling like a part of me had mysteriously vanished, I was feeling massive insecurity about the fact that my breasts simply would not produce milk, and that I was unable to care for my child alone as I recovered.
    Where was I going with this? Your post was so descriptive that you pulled me back 16 months to how I felt post-partum. I still feel shame because I will never fit in my pre-pregnancy jeans due to the widening of my hips. And that is just plain wrong.

    • jmlindy422 June 6, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

      Oh, the guilt, insecurity and sadness over the not enough milk thing. Doesn’t help with others say, “Oh, it’ll happen.” Or, “I had an easy time of it!” Shame absolutely sucks and I’m sorry you had to feel it.

  12. shanonamommy June 6, 2014 at 1:20 am #

    Reblogged this on ShanonaMommy and commented:
    This is an amazing post.

  13. jgroeber June 6, 2014 at 2:52 am #

    My five-year-old daughter the other day said she hoped I didn’t get F-A-T. At least she spelled it. There’s that, right? And the week before she said she hated her arms because they’re “chubby.” I’m on the smallish side, neither skinny nor big, and we don’t talk weight (although we do talk sports and fitness and nutrition) and she doesn’t watch TV. So where did it come from? Her arts and earth, hippy dippy pre-school? Or is it in the air? Because I walk around saying that Mama looks great and strong and she looks great and strong but somehow she thinks there’s an appropriate weight and she’s not it? or I may not be it someday?
    You look gorgeous in the pic and I’d wager you looked gorgeous after.
    Must be the bend of your hair, the palm of your hand, the need for your care. Except for the “to the man, the fellows stand” part, Maya Angelou had it right. We’re just phenomenal women, no matter our size. Maybe Pea in the Pod should put that on a shirt…

  14. Travis June 6, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    I do not see that shirt listed on their site anymore, but there is one that says “I Miss My Waist” which is just as terrible.

  15. evelyneholingue June 6, 2014 at 5:26 am #

    The T-shirt I saw from that store reads: I Miss my Waist, which is not much better than the other one.
    Ridiculous and stupid, I agree 100%.

  16. Corryn Wilma June 6, 2014 at 6:05 am #

    I would buy that shirt in a heart beat! Why? Cause I am quite comfortable in having a bit of fun with my body and being a big girl before, during and currently still am, I dont see a problem between this shirt and ‘gym’ wear with similar messages! Or is it because its designed for pregnant women that you all seem to have an issue with?

    • avbofsteel June 6, 2014 at 4:18 pm #

      I think it’s the fact that it’s marketed to pregnant women. While it would be your choice to wear it when trying to lose weight or gym wear, I think it’s quite irresponsible to try to sell this product to pregnant women.

      It’s natural for them to gain weight during pregnancy and I believe this shirt promotes a very unhealthy mindset.

  17. Deborah Osborne June 6, 2014 at 6:21 am #

    I’m sgaring this post with my friend who is pregnant and was worried she was too fat. Seriously, she has a whole other perosn growing inside her!

  18. welliswan June 6, 2014 at 6:40 am #

    This post had me in tears, thank you.

  19. Becca June 6, 2014 at 10:38 am #

    Great post, and you’re spot on when you say that if you exist, you’re made to feel you are somehow the wrong size (whether you’re considered too big or too small). Whole industries ride on these insecurities, which they feed to us in the first place.

  20. Laura Agar Wilson (@lauraagarwilson) June 6, 2014 at 11:14 am #

    This is the best thing I’ve read all week and is extremely timely for me, thank you so so much, made my bloody day reading this!

  21. Lauren Keating June 6, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Such a powerful post! I can’t believe women in the 50s were told not to gain more than 15 pounds. You are right, women need to gain weight to have a healthy baby. I hate how so much pressure is put on women to be an ideal size and that they should lose their baby weight immediately after giving birth. It is so unrealistic and celebrity tabloids certainty don’t help. All women, every size are beautiful! Especially new mommies =)

  22. jmlindy422 June 6, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    Terrific post! When the dr. gave me the go ahead to exercise again after birth, I went to a Jazzercise class with my sister. One of the exercisers asked when my baby was due and I felt like dying. My sister jumped in with my baby’s age and the woman felt ridiculous, but it was too late. I wanted to leave and crawl under a rock.

  23. NaNcy KnOll June 6, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    All I can say is AMEN Sister! How amazing that as women we can carry another life inside us. It is a joyous time of celebration, not calorie counting. Now that being said, you do want to eat healthy. I am a voluptuous woman to begin with- I love my curves- but with each individual pregnancy I put on about 30 pounds. I found that between breastfeeding, and a daily run it melted off quite quickly. Proper weight is a bit harder the older we get, but it’s like that for both sexes I think. You have to embrace yourself at each stage of your life. Live, Laugh & Love!

  24. The mystic witch June 7, 2014 at 2:07 am #

    Reblogged this on openedoureyes's Blog.

  25. ourbeautifulsouls June 7, 2014 at 11:51 am #

    Reblogged this on Our Beautiful Souls.

  26. mackenziemarie55 June 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

    Reblogged this on Night Owl Press and commented:
    Please take the time to read this. It pertains to everyone and anyone.

  27. literalnut June 8, 2014 at 3:11 am #


  28. Penny Simpson June 9, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    Ideally, you should gain the full term baby’s birth weight, say 8 lbs, then the same again for the water and extra bits, and then about 12 pounds for yourself as strengthener and stress absorber, maximum ideal weight gain at full term is 28 lbs for the mum. The quickest and best way to lose it afterwards is to breast feed to keep your hormones on track, and to eat a properly balanced diet the whole time of course. If you already overweight and a bad eater even before getting pregnant, maybe it’s time to do a complete overhaul and eat and drink properly to save your own life and your baby’s.

    • Eden June 10, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

      “If you have diet and activity-related health issues that you wanted to address even before getting pregnant, maybe it’s time to do a complete overhaul and eat and drink properly to save your own life and your baby’s.”

      There, fixed that for you. Lots and lots of large-bodied people aren’t “bad eaters,” and lots of small-bodied people are (if your standard for “bad eater” is eating nutritionally deficient food in large quantities.) Having a kid is a great motivator for addressing that, because it’s a heck of a lot easier to parent when you feel physically good, but body size has nothing to do with it.

    • edenkaill June 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

      I forgot to mention that I gained 60lbs when pregnant, had an easy pregnancy and seamless birth, and my kid and I are both strong and healthy 6 years later. I know andecdata isn’t worth much, but I also don’t think my experience is anomalous.

  29. Jen Donohue June 29, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. Some doctors STILL give out advice like this (gain no more than 15 pounds) which is alarming and dangerous and other disapproving words I can’t think of right now.

  30. sera August 28, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Amen. And thank you.

  31. Victoria M May 6, 2015 at 4:48 am #

    You are not only fantastic, but also well-spoken and lovely and intelligent. And, above all, accurate. Thank you.


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