Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Afraid of Getting Fat

I follow a couple of tokophobia and childfree threads in forums. Occasionally, someone comes in and acts like an asshat, for whatever reason. As such I do, and will, have occasional reason to rant here about what is said. And something one of these asshats said has annoyed me. It annoys me not just for my own sake but for the sake of pregnant women.

"You need to grow up. You're just afraid of getting fat."

Pregnant women are. Not. Fat.

This isn't something people actually think, is it? That that distended belly is fat? I mean sure, a woman might put on some weight when she's pregnant (and she is entitled to do so), and some women were overweight to begin with, but that belly? not fat. It is in fact caused by a foetus growing within her uterus and so causing the muscles and skin and so forth to distend outwards.

For many people with tokophobia, this is what is disturbing. Not the prospect of being fat, but of their body being swollen out of shape by pressure from within.

To be criticised for something like a fear of gaining fat is maddening. As if there weren't a variety of ways in which pregnancy and childbirth change the body - sometimes forever.
The vaginal wall often tears - sometimes it doesn't, and should, so the physician cuts it. Then you get stitches. In your vagina.
The pelvic floor is weakened, increasing tendency for a prolapsed bladder, rectum or uterus. Don't know what a prolapse is? No one tells you, because it is so very gross.
Postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis.
Sexual dysfunction in the first year, resulting from reduced libido, vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse. Can also be related to that torn vaginal flesh I mentioned earlier.
The coccyx, or tailbone, can be broken. Yes. Pregnancy can be that violent.
Incontinence. Urinary AND fecal. It's that weakened pelvic floor causing trouble again. You don't even need to give birth vaginally to get this one.
Puerperal sepsis.
Hemorrage during childbirth.
Those abdominal muscles stay stretched out for quite some time. You really have to work at it to get it back to normal again.
Breasts inflate two cup sizes, and then deflate, becoming longer and flatter. They're also painful and leaky.
You bleed after pregnancy. For weeks.
Your internal organs shift to make room for the baby. Your colon goes up into your chest cavity. Your heart turns to the side. This is both gross and unnerving.
Not to mention the shuddering horror of having something living inside you, feeding off your organs.

Tokophobia, like all phobias, is irrational. For me, the warping of my body out of its proper shape and the idea of having something inside me are the most disturbing aspects, and what keep me from considering pregnancy anything but some sort of eldritch horror, like Azathoth or a Dalek without the rubbish bin. Everything else is just the icing on the cake, the logical and legitimate reasons why pregnancy is something to be avoided, and not a magical special miracle that is wonderful and shiny and not at all gross.

I mean, given all the down-sides, I honestly don't understand why people actually try to become pregnant. Especially given that you can circumvent the pregnancy issue by going out and adopting a kid. You can avoid the hideously boring first six months of life, too.

All that is even without mentioning what actually happens duing childbirth - including pooping as you push, and the fact that you don't just hug your baby straight after and everyone is happy. You have to pass the placenta as well. A big flabby organ, ejected through your vagina. It's disgusting.

......And then there's the exhaustion, the nausea, the hormones, the aches and pains that make daily life during pregnancy oh so much fun......

So no. It's not that I'm afraid of getting fat. (Well, I wouldn't like it, but it's not like if I don't get pregnant I'll never get fat. I do have to exercise and eat sensibly like everyone else.) There's a fair number of changes that happen to a woman's body during pregnancy, and some of those don't go away. There's not all that much in the way of fat involved. If you think pregnancy is "just getting fat", there are a lot of pregnant women out there just itching to beat you about the head with their copies of "Up the Duff".

It's a phobia. Phobia. As in, irrational fear. Your criticism is ridiculous. Reasoning away a phobia doesn't work. And if I wanted it, there's a long list of symptoms I can use to rationalise that fear.

More information:
Robert Winston: Human Body, Every Miracle
Warning! This video includes people without clothes on. If you have some sort of freakish problem with humans as they naturally are, or if you aren't able to separate things like breasts or penises from the context of sex, you may be offended. If you are, I suggest you take all your clothes off and stand in front of a mirror, and tell yourself you're beautiful until you believe it. Seriously. There's nothing wrong with the naked human form.

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