Size-Friendliness: A Message To Providers

How To Treat a Pregnant Woman - Regardless of Her Body Size

By Dawn Mantas

Understand that I know, better than anyone else in the world, what my body size is and how it affects me, my health, and my baby.  Listen to me.  Respect my intuitions about my body and my baby.  Praise me when I’ve gained a pound, five pounds---“Good, that baby’s growing!"

Touch me gently, with respect and consideration.  Talk to me as an equal.  Respect my intelligence.  See my body as human, not ugly or abhorrent.  Pay attention to me.  Watch my belly grow and comment on it when you measure, tell me how beautifully I’m growing a healthy baby. 

If my baby’s heartbeat is hard to find, blame it on the machine or that active little one, not on my belly.  Don’t blame me.  Don’t shame me.  Don’t patronize me or sneer when I step on a scale.  Know that your eyes and your face say as much as your mouth.

Be aware of your own biases and prejudices.  Acknowledge your humanness as well as my own.  Give me personal attention.  Educate me, and let me educate you.  Be open to new ideas, even if they seem foreign to you.  Don’t handle me or speak to me roughly.  Anger isn’t going to help you or me.

Understand that I am unique.  I am not like “every other fat woman” you’ve ever treated.  Please don’t treat me as a national average.  If my body size makes you assume things about me and how my body is going to react to pregnancy, try to remember that I am not a statistic.  Do not make pregnancy complications a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Give me a chance to grow a healthy baby.  Know that I love my body and I love this life growing inside of me as much as any other mother you have ever seen. 

Do not stand apart and judge me.  Instead, enter into a relationship with me.  I am not foreign, I am not “other,” I am human, I am just like you.  Do not treat me like a child and talk down to me. 

There are some things you CAN assume:  Assume that I already know or have heard at some point that I would lose weight if I would “just decrease my caloric intake and increase my exercise.”  Assume that I have had 'the talk' about my “weight issues.”  Assume, too, that someone at some point has suggested that I seek counseling or therapy for my “emotional eating.”  

I am not entering into this relationship with you in order to solve the problem of my body size.  I am entering into this relationship because I love my baby and want him or her to be born healthy and whole.  I am who I am, right now, this minute, and the next nine months aren’t going to create a magical overnight change in my body size or my psyche when it comes to my weight.  Don’t pressure me to be something or someone I am not. 

Try to see me as human, and as beautiful, as everything human can be.  Share the joys with me, the heartbeat, the movements.  Sympathize with the discomforts, the heavy belly, the aching ligaments, the morning sickness---without judgments, please.  My aches and pains, my joys and sorrows, are the same AND different than any other woman in the world, regardless of her body size.  Give me your support.  Give me your hand.  Look into my eyes.  Smile.  We are in this together, and we want the same exact things.

Copyright © 2001-2009 Dawn Mantas. All rights reserved.  This essay may be reproduced for non-commercial use as long as it is properly attributed and the copyright notice preserved.  No portion of this work may be reproduced for sale, either by itself or as part of a larger work, without the express written permission of the author; this restriction covers all publication media, electrical, chemical, mechanical or other such as may arise over time.

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