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Does this uterus make me look fat? Kate's Middle!

Is anyone else confused by the conversations about Kate's middle?

Let me be brutally honest. I am a skinny minnie mom. I've always been thin, and I have never put any effort into remaining thin; on the contrary, the only times I've ever made an effort to change my weight, the goal was in the positive direction. And it was hard, and it never really worked. I'm convinced that our bodies, through some calculus of genetics, development, and habits from birth, are hardwired to do everything possible remain at a constant baseline weight. That baseline is determined through a dance among DNA, diet, and environmental chemistry. Yes, a tiny minority of humans succeed at changing that baseline in a sort of permanent way, but that doesn't mean we all can. If you just change "diet," you may not lose weight. You may gain weight. You may get healthier or less healthy. And if you follow the exact same diet as someone else, you may get completely different, even opposite, results. Weight is a little bit (not completely, but a little bit) like sexual orientation. I didn't choose to be straight, I didn't choose to be thin, and so I can't logically assume anyone else chose their body type either, or even did something to make it the way it is.

I've intentionally done a lot of self-education on fat shaming and how to be a good friend and not a judgmental jerk to the majority of people I know, who weigh more than me. I'm so on board with feminism, body acceptance, and respect for all people regardless of body shape, size, or fitness. I do not think it is fair to judge people based on how they look just because how they look is not in fashion or corresponds to a health issue--I do not assume people look unfashionable or have health problems on purpose, or that they just aren't trying hard enough to be Gwyneth Paltrow. Duh.

So I completely understand why lots of articles are being written about why we shouldn't judge Princess Kate for being fat a day after she gave birth. Except...

Kate is not fat!

This is not even a matter of opinion. Postpartum fat Kate is a mythological creature. She does not exist. Her "baby fat" does not exist. We are such a body dysmorphic society that I'm pretty sure if Kate had walked out of the hospital with a third noodle-skinny arm sprouting from her forehead, people around the world would have commented, "What is all that extra flesh? Girl needs to lose that baby weight!"

Whaaaaat? Now, I realize that Western, computer-literate people have an extremely low birth rate. The half of us that are women give birth maybe a couple times in our lives, after we get our careers started. Many of us have never even had a pregnant friend or relative. And when we do have babies, we tend to hide in seclusion and refrain from posting selfies for a couple months postpartum. Completely understandable. But it's kind of remarkable how much we are not accustomed to what childbearing looks like. If you are not in the know, let me tell you an apparent secret.

Kate's uterus has not contracted yet.

She looks like she's still pregnant (not like she's fat) because her body has not completely stopped being pregnant yet. This is perfectly normal; every woman and birth are different, but on average, a woman the day after childbirth looks exactly like she did at six months of pregnancy. I certainly did. And like Kate, though my body stored a subtle amount of healthy mama additional fat (just a few pounds, not even enough to exit the "slender" category), the round postpartum belly is not made of fat. It's a uterus that has grown to the size of a baby cradle, which takes weeks to shrink back to its pre-pregnancy size, plus surrounding tissues that have stretched, swollen, and retained water during pregnancy. For most women, deflation of those tissues takes weeks or months. The healing process can be helped along by wearing a postpartum wrap. It cannot be hastened by diet and exercise because it is not fat.

Take another look at the press photos of glowing, happy Kate with her baby outside the hospital. When I first saw those photos, I thought, "Wow, she's standing up and looks so fresh!" After I gave birth, I couldn't walk unassisted for about three days, and I looked like a zombie who'd been run over by a garbage truck. After many women give birth, they have, in addition to their still-swollen baby bumps, a lot more additional fat than my body took on. If that's you, it's not because you made bad choices or because you didn't try hard enough to "keep your figure" during pregnancy. Pregnancy and childbirth are wild rides in which you can do many things to optimize your health and comfort and stack the odds in your favor, but ultimately your body is even more out of your control than usual.

I have an acquaintance who developed a 40-pound tumor on her ovary. Forty pounds! It's pretty amazing, and luckily she was able to have it removed without complication. But I can imagine how frustrated she must have been if she had tried to lose weight via fat reduction before discovering the cause. Even if this lady had succeeding at losing 40 pounds of fat, would she have had a trim and tiny waist? Heck no. Because the trouble with her middle was not fatness.

And neither is Kate's. The conversations her appearance has sparked about how harshly mothers are judged about their bodies are valuable conversations. But I think another conversation is needed too, an education gap about how the maternal body works and how a childbearing uterus is not a fat gut.

Fat shaming and confusing healthy body processes with fatness are severely harmful to mothers and to their children. If you are a pregnant mom, a postpartum mom, or trying to conceive, please do make efforts to be healthy, strong, and comfortable throughout the childbearing process. And at the same time, please do yourself a favor and take a detoxing break from tabloids, gossip sites, and trash TV during this special time. "Thinspiration," "fitspiration," and crowdsourced, body dysmorphic shame-a-thons are never helpful to the woman creating new life with her body.

You have more important things to do than trying to cram your physical self into a sick and nonsensical mold, like a toeless and bloody foot into a tacky, transparent shoe. Your uterus is not made of fat and failure. You're not an ugly stepsister; if anything, you are the ugly duckling facing the moronic quacking of a deranged flock of self-loathing neurotics. As you become a mother, break free from the cycles of self-punishment and conformity to hostile standards. Let yourself transform, body and spirit. Let yourself see and be valued as the swanning glory you are, the creator of new life and of infinitely fresh opportunities for healing and joy.

My wish for Kate is that she will have the strength and support to set an example of doing just that. And more importantly, I wish for all mothers who are not famous, rich, fashionable, and thin, that they, too, can find peace and joy in motherhood. I wish that every mother, regardless of how she looks, may proudly emerge into the light of day with a newly born child in her arms.

Middle Path Mother posts continue on the first Friday Monday of each month.


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