If you’ve ever considered becoming a solo mother by choice when you are fat (or if you prefer “plus size”), you know there will likely be hurdles because of your size.
For some, it can feel impossible with fertility clinics having BMI restrictions and care provider bias against people of size.
As a PhD candidate focusing on weight-based discrimination in healthcare, Kelsey didn’t allow bias to hold her back from her dream of becoming a mother!
“My pregnancy experience was unique. I’m a solo parent. I used fertility services and a sperm donor to get pregnant, and that was a fight! The first fertility clinic refused because the doctor said his role was to do no harm.”
During Kelsey’s story, you’ll learn about the importance of patient advocacy. As well as what someone who is plus size and becoming a solo mother might face.
People of all sizes and circumstances want to become parents and should be supported with compassion!
Solo Mother By Choice
Kelsey, a resident of Toronto, Canada, began her path to becoming a mother with a referral to an OB-GYN from her primary care physician.
During her visit with the OB-GYN, they reviewed possible complications with pregnancy in a larger body. This doctor didn’t seem too concerned and referred Kelsey to a fertility clinic.
It was January when she called to book an appointment, and June was the first opening at the fertility clinic. Aside from a few unique cases, you have to purchase sperm through a fertility clinic in Canada. Home insemination was not an option for Kelsey.
It had already been many months since she started her journey to solo motherhood. And as an impatient person, Kelsey was frustrated as she hoped to be pregnant by this point.
A friend recommended a different fertility clinic just outside of the city with sooner appointments available. So, Kelsey booked to see someone in a month but kept her other appointment as a safety net.
Getting Fertility Support When You Are Fat
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is having your eggs retrieved, fertilized, and then implanted into your uterus. IVF is the procedure most people think of first when talking about fertility treatments.
However, for a single woman wanting to be pregnant, the first step is Intrauterine insemination (IUI). This is when sperm is inseminated into your uterus with close monitoring of your cycle.
While IUI and IVF require multiple doctor visits, ultrasounds, medication, and procedures, IUI is far less invasive.
At 5’3″ and close to 350 lbs, Kelsey prepared for some pushback but knew how to advocate for herself. Due to BMI restrictions, she was also aware that IUI was her only path to pregnancy at her local fertility clinics.
During her first visit to the fertility clinic, the doctor kept calling her morbidly obese. As someone who self-identifies as fat and finds the word obese offensive, she asked her care provider to stop using that word.
Kelsey tried to express to her care provider that she understood her choice to become a solo mother by choice as a fat woman. And that she understood plus size pregnancy risks but knew her body and felt she’d be okay.
He disagreed with her and continued to review all the risks. He also ran multiple tests looking for health complications Kelsey didn’t have, from PCOS to diabetes.
And she’ll never forget when he said that his first job was to do no harm. Kelsey left that appointment completely frustrated. Yet, he kept making her feel like he might still be supportive. So, she stayed with him for a few more visits.
With more back-and-forth, she finally said, “I’m asking for your help. I’m not asking for your permission.” And since she still had her other fertility appointment in Toronto, she left that clinic.
The doctor at the Toronto clinic talked about risks, ordered many of the same tests, and wanted her to see a specialist who supports pregnancy with a high BMI. The difference was, this provider seemed to want to make sure of her health before moving forward.
While feeling resentful that she had to jump through many of the same hoops, Kelsey felt hopeful this time. And, to her great surprise, she loved the specialist her fertility doctor requested her to see.
The specialist said to her, “You’re a healthy twenty-eight-year-old. There’s no reason you can’t get pregnant.” She also told Kelsey that she could be her OB-GYN.
Her fertility doctor was now onboard! He even ensured he’d be on-call for her IUI so that someone else wouldn’t unexpectedly deny her because of her size.
To her great surprise, Kelsey got pregnant after her first IUI procedure! This is something uncommon for people of all sizes.
Plus Size Pregnancy As A Solo Mother
Kelsey went back to the specialist who provided the green light for her IUI. By doing so, her pregnancy became automatically labeled high-risk, but she didn’t mind all the extra visits and ultrasounds.
She felt respected at this doctor’s office. And to her delight, she was surrounded by other plus size women at this specialty clinic. It was such a unique experience to go through pregnancy seeing people her size.
Kelsey didn’t develop gestational diabetes, and her blood pressure was good – she had a healthy plus size pregnancy!
Nearing the end of her pregnancy, however, there were many discussions about how she would give birth.
Giving birth via cesarean wasn’t something Kelsey wanted. As a solo parent by choice, she would be this child’s primary caretaker. The idea of recovering from major surgery with a newborn sounded draughting.
And while her care provider listened to Kelsey’s concerns, she also told her that many women her size give birth this way. In addition, the hospital she’d be giving birth at had a special bariatric operating room.
Kelsey’s doctor did not want her to go beyond forty weeks, so they discussed her getting an induction. And this made Kelsey hopeful she’d be able to have a vaginal birth. The stipulation was that she would go into the induction on a Tuesday, but if she hadn’t given birth by Thursday, she would have a c-section.
On Tuesday, Kelsey went in, and she was dilated to three centimeters. She knew her care provider’s focus was avoiding an emergency c-section. So, there was pressure for Kelsey to consent to an epidural long before she wanted one. And an epidural can slow down labor progression.
By Wednesday night, she received the epidural and didn’t progress past three centimeters. On Thursday morning, she was upset and knew she’d be giving birth via cesarean that day. It wasn’t the outcome she wanted, but she was also excited to meet her baby!
With her mother by her side in the operating room, her dream to become a mother finally came true!
Two Tips For Becoming A Solo Mother When You Are Fat
Learn how to advocate for yourself.
Tap into helpful self-advocacy tips for people of size so you can feel prepared. It’s helpful to do some roleplaying for conversations that may unfold as it will help to build your confidence.
Build a support team of solo mothers by choice.
Beyond loved ones and friends who will support you in person, you’ll also want to build an online community.
When searching for groups online, size isn’t often brought up in single mothers by choice groups. So, you might also want to explore fat-positive groups from Facebook, Instagram, to Reddit. In these groups, you’ll quickly pick up on tips for how to navigate conversations about weight in a healthcare setting.
Listen below as Kelsey tells her whole story, and know you’re not alone in wanting to become a solo mother by choice when you are fat.
Recording & Show Notes: Plus Mommy Podcast Episode 153
Resources Mentioned On The Show:
- C-Section For Plus Size Women: Everything You Need To Know!
- What Is An Apron Belly? Practical Solutions And Comfort Tips!
Kelsey Ioannoni is a fat solo mom and a PhD candidate in Sociology in Toronto, Canada. Connect with her via Twitter at Kelsey_x