A model mom at peace with her body.
Fit Pregnancy cover model Kate Dillon (February/March 2011) said flexibility came in handy as she approached her due date (Dec. 14, 2010). "I'm going for as natural a delivery as possible," Dillon said in an interview during her 37th week. "My doctor and I have a pact that if my labor is progressing well, she won't give me an epidural, even if I ask for one. But if it's taking a long time, she will-and I'm thinking I'll be fine either way. I'm not emotionally invested in what happens."
Dillon, 36, may be best known as a highly successful plus-size Ford Model; she appeared on an episode in season three of America's Next Top Model to talk to the contestants about body image. Did pregnancy have any effect—positive or negative—on her own body image? "It's funny, I feel really good. I've gained plenty of weight, 37 pounds, but I'm fine with it," she says. "I've kept very active, which I think has helped a lot.
"And I've loved feeling curvier," Dillon adds. "I didn't gain weight until about 15 weeks, but my hips got wider, which made my waist look smaller. On the other hand, yesterday I noticed cellulite on the front of my thighs! The front!"
In addition to speaking out about body image, Dillon is passionate about women's and girls' empowerment issues. A year ago, she co-founded The Komera Project, which provides scholarships for seventh- to 12th-grade girls in a tiny Rwandan village. "We started small," she says, "just enough to engage the community in the value of educating these girls, who in turn become engines for social and economic gains."
Here's the entire interview: Fit Pregnancy: How are you feeling?
Kate Dillon: I feel really huge! But I actually have felt so great, until just recently. It's hard to just put on a pair of shoes—if I could only bend over! I am full of baby.
And looking back I can say I was lucky, I got pregnant easily and didn't have any complications with getting pregnant. But I was sick the first trimester and bedridden for six weeks; the second was marginally better; and then I started to feel like myself again at around 28 weeks. I could eat, I wasn't so tired, I could cook for my husband again. So 28 weeks to 37 weeks were fabulous.
FP: Do you like being pregnant?
Dillon: I think if I'm being totally honest, it's really challenging for me. I don't consider myself a weak person, but I have such renewed respect for women all over the world who do [this] without a fraction of the support I had. It is a heroic thing to do gracefully, I have not been so graceful. But now it's really exciting.
FP: What kind of birth are you planning?
Dillon: I'll be in hospital, but I'm going for as natural a delivery as possible, hoping I won't have to be induced, but if I go past 41 weeks, my doctor says she will induce. Seems reasonable for my first time. And I'm open. My doctor and I have a pact that if my labor is progressing well, she won't give me an epidural, even if I ask for one. But if it's taking a long time, she will—and I'm thinking I'll be fine either way, even if I get a C-section. I'm not emotionally invested in what happens.
I did not hire a doula, and now I'm totally regretting it. But my husband, Gabe [Levin], was adamant that it just be him and me in the delivery room. He's really nurturing.
FP: Are you nervous?
Dillon: You know, I figure it's gonna be somewhere between 12 and 36 hours of my life. Then I will have this little creature I've been lugging around. More than anything I feel the sense of a lifetime of worrying and caring for him. The actual labor time, as charged as it feels right now, is not that significant in the scheme of things.
FP: What's been the best thing about pregnancy for you?
Dillon: It has to be the times I felt him moving—I really wish Gabe could have experienced that. It feels so magical.
FP: Some women struggle with body image when they get pregnant, especially in the beginning. Have you?
Dillon: Yeah, it's funny, I feel really good. The first few weeks, I wanted that T-shirt that says: "I'm not fat, I'm pregnant!" I've gained plenty of weight, 37 pounds, but I'm fine with it. I never felt fat until today … my boobs just feel really big now. But really, it took up till now, and I haven't struggled [with body image].
I've kept very active during the pregnancy, which I think has helped a lot. I feel healthy and I exercised.
FP: What kind of exercise have you been doing?
Dillon: At the beginning I didn't want to do anything, just prenatal yoga once a week. I'm 36 and I was just thinking, "You can exercise later" But then at 13 weeks, I started back with the elliptical, swimming, my old yoga routine. Some weeks I just felt like walking. I just love walking now. And swimming; this summer I traveled and kayaked, hiked and swam outside.
And I've loved feeling curvier. I didn't gain weight until about 15 weeks, but my hips got wider, which made my waist look smaller. On the other hand, yesterday I noticed cellulite on the front of my thighs! The front!
FP: What kind of mother do you think you will be?
Dillon: I have no idea really, but I do know what kind I want to be. I hope that I am someone who is not overly protective, not concerned about every little germ, etc. I have a nice balance in my life of being conscious of what I eat: whole grains, vegetables, healthy food, but also ice cream and cookies. That said, I think I am already feeling overwhelmed with the love, and I'm already worried about him going out into the world.
I think I will be pretty strict, and Gabe will be the good guy. I feel very strongly about good behavior and boundaries, manners and rules. My goal is to raise a child who's kind. I want people to walk away and say, "He's a person I can trust." I will do my best.
FP: And what about Gabe?
Dillon: He's awesome, a top tier human and a great normal real estate investment guy. We live in New York's East Harlem in a really great apartment with a lot of space, but not that much kid-friendly stuff. I'd love to be downtown, where I see a bunch of other women and babies, it would be nice to have that support around me.
FP: Tell us about your charity work in Rwanda.
Dillon: About a year ago, I co-founded, The Komera Project, which provided scholarships for seventh- to 12th-grade girls in a small community in Rwanda. There are 30 in the program now, and we will add five to 10 more next year. We work within that community on women's and girls' empowerment issues. We also do community fun runs, where the girls show up and run (last run we had 400 girls). Of course, the idea is to help the girls create their own programs. My partner just got back and 23 girls had already started to organize themselves. They formed a group to start raising money to help other girls.
We started small, just enough to engage the community in the value of educating these girls, who in turn become engines for social and economic gains. For some families it's a challenge to let them go since they do so much work for the household.
Kate and Gabe welcomed their first child, son Lucas Dillon Levin, on Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 in New York City.