Below is the first essay in a series I plan to publish about news, pop culture and current events from the point of view of a Mama. Don’t worry, it’s still me, The Runaway Mama, and I promise to always keep you up-to-date with stories about me and my crazy (and lovable) kids. I will only periodically subject you to my hard-hitting investigative journalism. (That was me being funny). The new series, tentatively called A Mama’s Point of View, is part of an assignment I created with my Life Coach, Lauree from Simply Leap, to stretch my writing skills, increase readership, and become a bigger puppet. (I’ll explain the puppet thing another time.)
Let me know what you think in the comments section, and please feel free to share the link with friends and family.
As always, thanks for reading.
The Runaway Mama
A Mama’s Point of View: Thick Skin
“A mommy with a baby in her belly is a fat mama.”
My five-year-old son said this not too long ago, and when he did, I immediately did two things. First, I taught him one of life’s most important lessons – never, ever call a pregnant woman fat. Second, I wrote down what he said word for word hoping someday I’d get the chance to use it in my writing. And here we are…
Did you hear the news? Jessica Simpson is fat. She’s also nine months pregnant, which, per my introduction above, means I need to take “The Runaway Mama’s Most Important Life Lessons” workshop on the road. For those unfamiliar with the baby-making process, that means Simpson is making a human life inside her body. From scratch. She’s been sharing blood, fluid, food, and her entire pelvic region with a brand new human being for nearly 40 weeks. Amazingly, rather than revering the miracle of reproduction, people are calling her fat.
With the ice caps melting, our military fighting an unpopular war in Afghanistan, a Presidential election looming, and “Fifty Shades of Grey” getting made into a movie, it’s bothersome to see so much time and energy wasted picking on a pregnant woman who admits she enjoys buttered pop tarts. I enjoyed butter as well when I was pregnant, but I liked to spread it on waffles. I was also quite fond of Cold Stone Creamery chocolate chip ice cream mixed with M&M’s and hot wings. Lots and lots of hot wings. But I digress.
According to the American Pregnancy Association, for women who are a normal weight before pregnancy, the recommended weight gain is 25-35 pounds. Underweight women should gain 28-40 pounds, and overweight women may need to gain only 15-25 pounds. These are pretty standard guidelines, however there is nothing standard about pregnancy.
With my first son, I learned that weight gain is sometimes beyond a woman’s control. I began the pregnancy at a healthy weight of about 120, and by the time I gave birth to my aforementioned “Fat Mama” son, I gained 60 pounds. Sixty. 6-0. I ate my way through first trimester nausea and craved bar food over bananas, but I also had preeclampsia, which is marked by excessive swelling and weight gain. At 37 weeks, I my blood pressure shot through the roof, there was protein in my urine, and I was sent straight to the hospital for an emergency c-section. My second son taught me that pregnancy and snowflakes have something in common – no two are alike. I gained only 40 pounds and had no preeclampsia, and instead of excessive swelling, I received the gift of crippling sciatica and varicose veins. But I digress again.
Interestingly, a study done by researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that women who have a history of dieting are more likely to experience excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Remember Simpson’s role of Daisy Duke in the remake of the “Dukes of Hazzard”? A quick Google search brings up dozens of articles about her intense diet and workout regime for that movie. Suffice it to say, most women in Hollywood are perpetually on a diet (or worse).
There’s also been an onslaught of research recently about the consequences of excessive weight gain during pregnancy (it should be noted that obesity prior to pregnancy is where much of this risk lies), including a rise in c-sections and an increased risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, premature birth, birth defects, autism and childhood obesity. These are real concerns, especially considering the epidemic of obesity and obesity-related diseases in our country, and women should absolutely listen to their doctors and make healthy prenatal choices. The assumption in the media, however, seems to be that women who gain more weight than the suggested guidelines, like Simpson, are irresponsible. Here’s some of what’s been said about Simpson in the news:
“Remember the time that Jessica Simpson was criticized because she didn’t know the difference between chicken and tuna? That kind of thing is more fun to criticize than the fact that the girl is fat.”
– Joy Behar
“No one should ever look like Jessica Simpson. She’s an absolute porker… I cannot believe how heavy she is.”
– Dr. Tara Solomon, OB/GYN, Fort Lauderdale
“If she is exceeding medical guidelines by gaining 50 pounds rather than the recommended 25 pounds, she is clearly not a role model for pregnant women.”
– Dr. Francine Shapiro, author of “Getting Past Your Past”
“Maternal Obesity, Diabetes Linked To Autism; Is Jessica Simpson Putting Her Baby At Risk?”
Why are we giving Simpson such a hard time about her weight and not other celebrities like Jessica Alba, who revealed that she gained more than 55 pounds during one of her pregnancies, or Jenny McCarthy, who admits she reached 211 pounds when she was pregnant with her son? Maybe it’s because Jessica’s been the epitome of “pregnant in heels” (although I hear she’s finally ditched the stilettos) or that she’s going to get paid a fortune by Weight Watchers to take off the weight (I did Weight Watchers after both pregnancies and was paid nothing). Maybe it’s because she looks so happy and radiant as she awaits the birth of her precious first child. Maybe it’s because we like to knock people down any chance we get.
What irks me the most about this utter condemnation – besides our culture’s obsession with thinness (and during pregnancy no less!) – is the implication that if this is how Simpson behaves during pregnancy, imagine the poor choices she’ll make as a mother. (The vilification of celebrity moms like Brittney Spears, Kate Gosselin, and Katie Holmes comes to mind.)
The choices women and mothers make have, unfortunately, always been other people’s business. Reproductive rights have long been disputed in our country, and interestingly, this year’s Presidential election has catapulted motherhood of all things to the forefront of political debate. Thanks to Hilary Rosen’s unfortunate and, I believe, misinterpreted comments last week about Ann Romney never working a day in her life, women’s “work” is clogging the news. Even though the resulting dialogue is helping shed light on the complexities of the issue, it’s also highlighted the judgment women feel about the choices they make (if they have a choice in the first place).
Celebrity scrutiny – especially for women – is vicious, and the comments aimed at Simpson’s weight and the choices she’s made during her pregnancy are just plain nasty. Simpson, a soon-to-be working mother, seems to be taking it all in stride having touted on more than one occasion how comfortable and beautiful she feels in her pregnant skin. (Although I’m sure it was heavily airbrushed, her naked Elle spread was lovely.) She appears to have a thick skin – one that has nothing to do with her weight – and that’s a good thing, because motherhood is tough regardless of where you work, how much you weighed when you were pregnant, and whether you’re Jessica Simpson or not.