I'd like to start a new series on addressing people's fears and questions about pregnancy and parenting at larger sizes.
However, first let me get some feedback from you. And please, I'd like to hear from as many of you as possible, regardless of your kid status. I want to hear from you whether you've already had kids or not, and whether or not you even plan to have kids.
When you think about the possibility of having a baby (or parenting) at your size, what are your biggest worries, your deepest concerns? What would you most like to see me address here on this blog? What information do you most need?
Let Me Hear From You, Regardless of Child Status
Obviously, readers on my site tend to fall into several categories.
Some haven't had kids yet and are reading here to get more information about "obesity" and pregnancy and parenting. These folks are the primary ones this series would be aimed at, but I don't want to limit it to just them.
I also want to hear from those of you who have had kids, to share what you were most afraid of beforehand, what you think is most important to pass on to those who haven't had kids yet, and to share your continuing struggles with parenting and childbearing and all that entails.
And I want to hear from those who are undecided about having kids, and even those who are sure they are not going to have kids. Your perceptions about pregnancy and parenting are valuable too. Even if you never put this information into practice for yourself, it's still important to hear your own assumptions and concerns so I know what to write about, and to make sure you get accurate information too, even if you personally don't use it.
I also have readers of average size who are involved in the birth world in some way, as birth workers (midwives, doctors, doulas, lactation consultants, childbirth educators, birth advocates) or as parents. Part of the mission of this site is to address the concerns of these folks too.
So here's what I'd ask each one of these groups.
If you haven't had a baby yet:
What worries you most about the thought of pregnancy, birth, parenting? Medical complications, social complications, raising a child in a fat-phobic world, what?
Where does the concern come from....media hyperbole about the risks of "obesity," scare tactics from your doctors, internalized fat hatred, worry and guilt-mongering from your family, knowledge of someone who did have complications.....what are the sources for your concerns? What has you the most concerned and why do you think that is?
What could we do here to most alleviate your fears? What do you most want me to address on this blog?
If you already have children:
What were your biggest concerns, looking back? Were your concerns about pregnancy, about birth, about parenting? Why did you have those concerns?
How realistic were those concerns in the end? What concerns turned out to be no big deal? What blindsided you that you really didn't have on your radar? What are your continuing concerns as you parent your children now?
What would you most like to tell the women thinking about having kids but who haven't yet? What's your top parenting tip having to do with size/weight issues? What do you most want to see me cover on this blog?
If you aren't sure you're going to have children (or even if you're totally sure you're not):
What do you know (and what don't you know) about pregnancy and birth? What would be your fears if you were to go through this as a person of size? What would you most want to know to tell a beloved fat friend or relative about pregnancy, birth, adoption, or parenting?
Remember, you never know for sure whether you're going to have to deal with these issues. About half of all pregnancies are not planned. Surprises happen. Or there's a death in the family and you suddenly need to take in your sister's kids. Or you fall in love with someone who has kids and suddenly you are a step-parent. Or you have the opportunity to do some size-positive mentoring of someone else's kids....nieces, cousins, god-children, friends of the family, whatever.
Life happens, and plans change sometimes. It's important to have this information even if you don't really know if you personally are going to need it.
And even if you are positive you won't/can't/aren't going to have children, discussing the fears and concerns that you would have had is helpful to me to know what sort of things people worry about the most, the kinds of things that most need to be addressed on this blog.
Also, discrimination against women of size in pregnancy, birth, and parenting is an important issue for everyone, regardless of their own plans. Even if this discrimination doesn't personally affect you, you should still care about it, be informed about it, and work against it.
If you are a person of average size and involved in the birth world:
What concerns would you have for a woman of size in pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding? What worries or concerns do you have for them in parenting? What would you most like your co-workers in the birth field to understand about women of size?
What would you most like to see addressed about "obesity" issues in this blog to benefit other birth workers and advocates?
What I Am Looking For
I particularly want to hear about fears and worries that are particular to people of size.
Everyone out there worries about the usual concerns.....will the baby be healthy, will I be a good parent, how do I combine a career and children, how will this impact my marriage, how will I afford children, etc. etc. Those are definitely important worries too, but certainly not unique to people of size.
What I particularly want to hear about are the specific concerns you might have about pregnancy and parenting as a person of size.
These might include fertility concerns, worries about birth defects, worries about complications in pregnancy, worries about birthing in a larger body, worries about size bias from healthcare workers, worries about parenting children in a fat-phobic world, worries about keeping up with your kids, worries about your kids being embarrassed by your size, worries about your kids being fat too, worries about finding the right balance between promoting health for your kids but not pushing eating-disordered behavior, worries about dealing with "obesity" bias from other parents, teachers or doctors......things like that.
Of all those things (and any others that occur to you), what is most on your mind as you consider the possibility of having kids, whether or not you actually end up having them? What kind of information on addressing fears and questions about pregnancy, adoption, and parenting would you most like to see on this blog?
Hearing from you will help guide me in knowing what is most on people's minds, on what I most need to address, and perhaps in what order I should consider writing this stuff.
Before I start this series, I do have to add a few caveats.
Remember, I'm a busy mom of four who wears a number of other hats besides parenting. I have a lot of demands on my time and can't always devote the hours I'd like to my writing. Also, I prefer to cite research whenever possible to back up what I'm saying, and that kind of writing takes quite a bit of prep time.
Therefore, this will be a periodic series, not a sequential one. I'll do a couple of posts on some common concerns, then take a break and talk about other things. Then in a while, I'll do another one on common worries, then take another break, etc. I'll get to all your needs, sooner or later, as best I can.....but sometimes it may be later than sooner. Don't expect all the answers tomorrow, okay?
Also, obviously I can't promise to have all the answers either. I'm not a medical professional or a parenting guru, and I'm still learning and formulating my own answers. Frankly, I still struggle with some of these worries and questions too, especially the parenting ones.
But I think it's important to open up a dialogue and talk about these issues more, and not just with people who already have parenting down to a science. Maybe we can figure out some of this stuff together.
One thing I've learned in my own journeys is that the first step to working through fears and worries is to name them, talk about them, and share them with others.
Doing so takes away some of the power of the fear or worry, some of the stigma around it, makes it more approachable. Name it and why it worries you and you can develop a proactive plan to deal with it.
Examine your pre-conceptions and assumptions and see what they have to teach you and where you can still do some learning.
Then reach out for new information, review where you were right and wrong, and develop a proactive plan to deal with your concerns. Continue to question everything as you move along your journey. Stay flexible so you can meet each new challenge with grace and creativity.
Share your learning and your process with others, to help them on their journeys too.
Remember, sometimes there may not be easy answers to every question. Sometimes we just have to figure things out as we go.
But let's start a dialogue as a first step in that process.
I look forward to hearing from you.
*Please feel free to comment anonymously if you prefer, or even privately by email. Sometimes it's easier to name your darkest or "silliest" fears if you do it anonymously. All your fears deserve hearing; feel free to do it anonymously if that helps.