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BODY WATCH : Sizing Up Motherhood : Pregnancy: Women expect to put on weight--but just how much? We asked an expectant mom to chronicle her gain pound by compounding pound.

June 20, 1995

W eight gain during pregnancy has shocked many a new mother into asking, "Doc, what do you mean my baby weighs eight pounds? What about the other 27 pounds?!" As writer Layne Steinhelper is discovering these days while pregnant with her first child, Gregory, increased poundage is inevitable. Here, she details how she evolved into a Twinkies-eating mountain range in just nine short months. Six weeks postpartum, she'll chronicle how the voyage to her former self is going. WEEK 6: 196 1/2 pounds: I meet with my doctor's consulting nutritionist. We bond the moment she utters the magic words, "You don't look like you weigh that much." (Under the very best of circumstances, I am what you'd have to call statuesque. ) Even when I concede that my portion control leaves something to be desired, this dietary angel dubs my triple helpings merely "hearty."

Not wanting to burst her bubble, when she asks what I typically eat in a day, I find it's a lot easier to remember the bagel and fat-free cheese than the double-chocolate-chip brownies. As a result, even I have to marvel at the apparent wholesomeness of my diet. And even though she recommends I put on only 15 to 25 pregnancy pounds--about 10 less than normal--it's exhilarating to be on a sanctioned program of weight gain for the first time in my life.

WEEK 10: 198 1/2 pounds: Two pounds up. Given the only visible manifestation of pregnancy so far, that seems about right: one pound per breast. It means I'm going to have to go lingerie shopping--a disconcerting prospect.

But even real cleavage isn't enough to make up for the mind-numbing exhaustion that accompanies it.

Two months ago, I was walking at least five miles a day; now it's an effort just to make it to the track--an effort I'm not equal to most days. I put my weariness down to the demands of a developing embryo. Or can it actually be this tiring to support the bosom of an exotic dancer?

WEEK 14: 199 1/4 pounds: I'm still wading through quicksand, but there's some consolation in the fact that I haven't yet hit the 200-pound mark.

WEEK 18: 202 pounds: The new nurse seems genuinely surprised when she has to move the marker to the 200 notch. I give her reaction an optimistic read: She doesn't think I look nearly that big. (As opposed to: She thinks only linebackers weigh that much.)

WEEK 22: 206 pounds: I've finally found the energy to walk regularly again, but three miles is my new limit--at about two-thirds speed. Meanwhile, I can't help wondering if strangers realize I'm pregnant, and I find that no checkout-line conversation is too casual to work in my due date. Let there be no doubt that my waist is disappearing under a layer of baby, not flab.

WEEK 25: 213 pounds: It's time for the glucose tolerance test for gestational diabetes. As much as I want everything to be fine, there would be a certain comfort in knowing that circumstances beyond my control account for this gain of seven pounds in three short weeks.

WEEK 26: 215 pounds: No such luck. Test results suggest that my accelerating weight gain comes compliments of Hostess and Haagen-Dazs, not aberrant physiology.

WEEK 28: 217 pounds: I've now put on the 20 pounds I'd hoped would be my total weight gain. While my doctor assures me that it's rare for anyone to gain less than that and she'll be happy if I can keep it under 25, it's still a blow. I have to wonder how likely I am to gain less than five pounds through an entire trimester when I've gained that much in just the past month.

I've also noticed that not all the new poundage is around my middle. The technical explanation for this phenomenon is that a pregnant woman's body seizes the hormonal imperative to lay in "auxiliary food stores." From a more personal perspective, my butt is getting bigger.

WEEK 29: 218 pounds: My brother-in-law calls to announce a friend's delivery and to share with me the fact that she gained only 12 pounds through her whole pregnancy. Lucky for him it's impossible to maim a person long-distance.

WEEK 31: 219 1/2 pounds: I suddenly realize I've grown into my hips and thighs! For the first time in my life--and I'm going all the way back to toddlerdom here--they are actually proportional to the rest of my torso. True, it took a belly quintupled in girth to accomplish this feat, but it's fascinating all the same.

And while you wouldn't think one could overlook bulk of this magnitude, I sometimes manage to do just that. Like when, through the force of habit, I try to squeeze sideways down a crowded grocery aisle only to find my belly sweeping a gross of Shake 'n Bake from the shelf.

WEEK 33: 220 1/2 pounds: The constant internal voice that nags me to pull in my stomach has apparently been defeated by the enormity of the situation. I feel unexpectedly free to revel in my primal fertility goddess status. Of course, if the lighting is off, my silhouette bears a striking resemblance to that of an enceinte mountain gorilla. Could be I've seen too many National Geographic specials.

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