When you become pregnant, you are no doubt going to experience some body changes. Some of them you can expect, while others definitely come as a surprise (like surprise, you can pee your pants just by sneezing! Woohoo!).
In all seriousness though, watching your body change so rapidly is really quite amazing. But what I wasn’t prepared for was how it would affect my self-image and my confidence.
Being pregnant comes with a lot of outside comments on your body and your weight. Now I expected to hear these comments from people because I post pictures of my growing belly online, but what I did not expect was how these comments would actually affect my body image.
In today’s society, it’s not common practice for people to openly comment on your weight, but for some reason, once you become pregnant people seem to have a free pass at it.
So when people started commenting on my weight, I was kind of like, WTF? Why is this ok? Even though I was expecting it, it still didn’t sit quite right with me…
You see, as I recovered from Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, I had gained a lot of tools to help me overcome my own inner critic. But I didn’t have to fight off outside voices, it was my own voice that was louder and more critical than anyone else’s. So my tool box wasn’t quite equipped for when I got comments about my body from other people.
I worked really hard to convince myself that I looked better after gaining weight and that I truly was healthier. It took me reminding myself everyday and surrounding myself with positive role models to begin accepting the changes happening in my body, and it’s something I still have to work at every single day.
I think maybe because I was already particularly sensitive to body image issues and body dysmorphia, that these genuinely well-intended comments affected me more than the average person.
However, I’m fortunate that I had started healing my relationship with food and my body before I became pregnant, because I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to watch my body change so rapidly and hear those comments with my old mindset. I can see it now: obsessing about the weight gain each week – is it high enough to be healthy but low enough that I’m not in the “high range”?; Am I only gaining weight in my belly and nowhere else?; I need to make sure I only eat 300 extra calories/day; I still have to maintain my strict workout regiment so I can bounce my body back quickly after the baby; I have to gain the least amount of weight that is still considered healthy, etc., etc.
It’s not to say these things don’t cross my mind from time to time, but I am definitely not preoccupied with them.
There are still days that I struggle when I see my new reflection in the mirror, my new cellulite and love handles and my ever-growing belly. I struggle with the fact that I might be getting too big too fast or that I’m eating too much or not exercising enough. I’m not sure if these thoughts would be in my mind if I didn’t get comments from people like:
“Oh wow, you got really big really fast!”
“Are you sure you’re not pregnant with twins?”
“You’re only 6 months, wow you are big for 6 months!”
“You’re going to have a big baby”
“I saw a girl your size today who was 9 months pregnant with twins!”
And the list goes on…
Hearing these comments about my body started bringing back all of the insecurities I was fighting so badly to keep away. I began to compare my body to others who were the same number of weeks as me to make sure I wasn’t getting too big. Although I am truly trying to enjoy the process of being pregnant and all the beautiful changes that come along with it, hearing these things about my body make me feel like I am doing something wrong.
Why is it ok to comment on a person’s weight when they are pregnant, but not any other time?
I’ll admit, I used to do it all the time before I got pregnant. Now that I am, I realize how impactful it can really be.
Obviously, positive comments like:
“You look great!”
“You are all belly, it’s beautiful!”
“You should be pregnant all the time, it looks great on you!”
are always welcome and really make you feel great, but my mind naturally overlooks the positives and tunnel-visions the negative – something I am still working hard at overcoming.
So where am I going with this post?
Well, I think I just wanted to share my struggle with my self-image in pregnancy. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, and gaining weight never feels good no matter what the reason.
What we need most while our body is changing is support from our partners, our family and friends and social media.
Being honest about how I feel in pregnancy will hopefully help others like me feel like they are not alone, that weight gain in pregnancy is hard and it’s normal.
Part of me feels selfish or like I’m being ungrateful for writing a post about the nuisances of being pregnant when so many women would give anything to be pregnant and gladly welcome these struggles. Don’t get me wrong, I would never trade the drawbacks of pregnancy for anything, no matter how hard some days can be. I have never been more grateful for anything in my life.
I simply want to let you know that it’s ok to have these feelings, but know that you are simply doing your best and that’s all that matters.
Instead of focusing on our appearance and our weight in pregnancy, let’s shift the focus to how great we are doing instead. Let’s start sharing comments like:
“You are doing a great job!”
“You are doing your best.”
“You are enough.”
“You are perfect just the way you are.”
“You are going to be a great mom!”
“I am here for you.”
All of these things are true whether you are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or not in that space at all. Focusing on taking care of ourselves from the inside is our first priority and will only shine through on the outside once our inner needs have been met.
Please join me in changing the way we appreciate and honour others by shifting from external remarks like appearances, to more internal remarks like how much hard work we are putting in.
When we shift our focus to internal rewards, we can begin to remove the external factors influencing our decisions and our actions. We can choose to eat healthy because it’s good for the baby or our health rather than because we will look smaller and people will acknowledge and congratulate us on it.
It’s time we started taking up more space as women (physically and practically) and started to really make a positive impact on the world in terms of body image and positivity.
The only way to do that is to take our focus off of our appearance and weight (pregnant or not) and shift our attention to our true strengths; our power and our intelligence.
I hope this message helped you feel better about your body. Together, we can change the way we view ourselves both internally and externally.