Pregnancy is a wondrous and magical time. It’s that serene chapter when our bodies miraculously morph into an amazing human-growing machine. We embrace our swollen bellies and delight in our expanding bust. Or do we?
This was absolutely not the case for me; pregnancy was a dark and scary time that couldn’t end soon enough.
If you love being pregnant, I applaud you. A friend of mine enjoyed being “with child” because, while working in a high-powered finance job, her maternity power suit was symbolic of “having it all”. Other women have suggested “expecting” was like taking a holiday from their business-as-usual bodies. Pregnancy allowed them the freedom to enjoy a world exempt from counting calories and obsessing over weight. Some of my friends were so taken by the miracle of life, they posed for professional portraits, baring their rotund bellies, while their husbands or other children, adoringly stroked the Buddha.
Sadly, I have never fallen into this “Celebrate Gestation” camp. I regret to admit I struggled through pregnancy, obsessing over just how large I was becoming. My body was unrecognisable to me, changing more rapidly by the day. This was a highly alarming prospect for me. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotional havoc procreating had on me.
Because pregnancy severely impacted my ability to exercise, I struggled with understanding how to safely exercise for two. I was conflicted with maintaining as much fitness as possible, without compromising the baby. It rapidly became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to workout at the same lactic threshold. I grew to accept this, but I agonised over everything, from which workouts to choose, to just how much to elevate my heart rate.
I felt helplessly huge, insecure about my body, and unsure of my husband’s attraction toward me. This made for a miserable not-quite-nine months; I was induced early after developing Pregnancy Induced Hypertension. To be diagnosed with a pregnancy-related medical malady tipped the scales for me. I went from obsessing over weight gain to obsessing over systolic and diastolic numbers each week. It was terrifying.
How can we combat the negative body image issues some of us face when our bodies are expanding to accommodate baby? Here is some feedback I have received from women who related to my disenchanted position.
1. Eat healthfully and keep active. You will feel better, both emotionally and physically, if you eat well and stay within the recommended guidelines of weight gain, while continuing to exercise. Ask your doctor for further counsel with regard to both.
2. Seek positive feedback from your partner. My husband would continuously tell me I looked beautiful through gestation, and while it was difficult to believe, it was nice to hear. When nothing in the wardrobe fit anymore and I felt completely defeated, I would ask him to tell me again how much he loved my changing body.
3. Revisit your achievements. If you are feeling depressed, seek reinforcement through past pictures, awards or affirming events. I would sift through old race medals to remind myself of the physical accomplishments my body had achieved. This reassured me I would get fit again and continue racing postnatal. Pregnancy, in essence, became another training event that required dedication to the cause.
4. Remember you are the essential vessel. Expanding your family could not happen without the lease of your body. It might be helpful to remember it really is a privilege women have the power to produce another human. What does a number on the scale mean when the end result is a beautiful life?
5. Pregnancy is the dress rehearsal. Realise that pregnancy is only the first step in parenthood that teaches us how to yield and adapt. Forget varicose veins, stretch marks and expanding thighs; we get nine months to practice being out of control of the details, while learning selflessness and clemency. This is only the tip of the iceberg before kids come along.
More on pregnancy bodies:
- 9 disgusting pregnancy symptoms that came as a total shock
- 3 pregnancy workout moves that don’t require equipment
- Pregnancy carpal tunnel is driving me crazy