Pregnancy in Italy: a weighty issue, part 2

I had a disheartening second visit with my gynecologist today. Pointedly eyeing my outer thighs as I lay spread-eagle in stirrups, she told me primly: You’ve got to be careful not to get too fat. She then proceeded to weigh me, which led to more tut-tutting. I’ve gained 6 kilos (13 lbs). (How is it that my home scale is a full 2 kilos less than hers? I double-checked this once I got home, to make sure I hadn’t actually gained all this weight since I last weighed myself. And why does it seem like this is always the way with doctors’ scales??). She told me in no uncertain terms: no sugar or sweets, no animal fats. This made me giggle. What is it? She asked. I explained that not only have I had a voracious appetite since I’ve been pregnant, but I have been particularly drawn to sweets, which never did all that much for me before. I told her that I was under the impression that I should be following my body’s cravings, listening to my body. She said, no no, tapping the side of her head. You have to listen to your head right now, not your body. If the next time I see you I find that you have continued to gain weight at this pace, I’m going to send you to a special doctor who will put you on a diet.

I must fully disclose, however, that we also discussed the fact that my dad was a diabetic. So I (very grudgingly) agree that limiting sweets is actually pretty important for me.

I called Andrea as I walked out of the office, practically in tears. Ok, I was being a bit of a baby, but frankly it was so disappointing to face the fact that I can’t keep having the fun with food that I’ve been allowing myself for the past few months. It has been so glorious to just let myself go a little and it seems like food has been tasting especially delicious, particularly when I give in to specific cravings (don’t get me started on the heavenly peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich I had the other day). Plus, having to limit caffeine and cut out alcohol have made the treats I thought I was still allowed all that more special. Instead, I have to eat “lots and lots of cooked vegetables”. Yippee.

By some crazy timing, just a couple hours later I came across this article by Kim Brooks in It’s downright eerie how closely she describes my own experience (just replace Chicago with Florence):

“…quite simply, I love food. Before my pregnancy, I stayed healthy (never skinny) by exercising regularly, eating tons of fruits and vegetables all summer and not getting too down on myself if I plumped up a little, hibernation-style, in the winter. It was a delicate equilibrium that took years to achieve and only a few months to unravel, specifically the first few months of my pregnancy, a dark, cold winter in Chicago when, elated by the knowledge that I was nurturing a little life and relieved by the fact that I could keep nausea at bay with the continuous ingestion of egg bagels, plain pasta, white rice, baked potatoes and every other starchy goodness known to woman, I dispensed with moderation.”

On the surface, the central argument of her article seems so retrograde, so anti-feminist, so Italian. According to Brooks, the trend in recent years to ease up on pregnant women and new moms about their extra pounds, encouraging them instead to love their baby fat as a badge of honor or a heroic war wound, is misguided. We should be pressured to keep our weight down pre- and post-pregnancy, she argues, because letting yourself go down the same slippery slope I’ve been sliding is like taking the fast train to nightmarish experiences in front of 3-way mirrors or humiliations like being asked when you’re due six months after your baby is born.

Is it all hopelessly shallow? Maybe. It’s an issue I’ve long struggled with mightily. But the fact is that when I weigh less, I feel great about myself. Not to mention all the various health benefits associated with what it takes to get there. So maybe I’m lucky to be getting all this old-fashioned, Italian-style pressure after all. Even if I feel like throwing a tantrum about it. Uffa.