Love it or hate it, pregnancy is an insanely special, unique (WEIRD), and magical experience. You are growing a life inside of you, a soul! It is definitely not lost on me how lucky I am to have gotten pregnant so easily; many of my dearest friends have struggled in this department, and it has been heartbreaking and frustrating to watch. I cannot wait to be a mother. For me, nurturing others (oftentimes much more effectively than I have nurtured myself) has always come naturally, and I just cannot WAIT to be a mom. To raise a GOOD PERSON–someone who fights for what they believe in, who eats their veggies with happiness, and who laughs easily like his parents do– and to see my sweet husband become an even sweeter father.
About 98% of the time I’ve been an exceptionally happy pregnant lady. My morning sickness was never out of control, I can count the notable/scary mood swings I’ve had on one hand (Matt might give you a slightly different number), and my energy level has been fine! I honestly cruised through the first 5 months or so of pregnancy, saying to myself, “Well dang, this ain’t half bad!”
My stomach “popped” really early on in pregnancy, like around week 12. I didn’t mind a bit! Nothing else changed; I just had constant, visible evidence of my baby boy on the way whenever I would look down. And the little preggo belly was really kind of cute! Matt bought me some super stylin’ maternity wear, and it was almost like a theme every day when I’d get dressed: “Woohoo! Let’s show off this bump!” My hair was full, my skin was clear, and honestly I was having a blast feeling like an uber-womanly, sacred vessel.
THEN, around the 5.5 month mark, I started noticing some slightly less adorable changes. Is that cellulite on my butt-meets-thigh area??? WHAT? Why?? But, being a rational person who is aware that changes might come with pregnancy, I shrugged it off. Same deal with my all-of-a-sudden very heavy breasts, which boasted all-of-a-sudden very much larger, darker nipples. I thought, WOW! Crazy! But again, shrugged it off. As I did with my slightly wider hips and thighs. Shortly thereafter, though, I began noticing in photos (it is an interesting thing, having job which entails weekly photoshoots while pregnant) that my face was appearing much more full than before. THIS was harder for me to ignore.
Some background you probably don’t know about me: I used to be a bit (ok, a lot) heavier back in college (2002-2006), and at that time I was riddled with some pretty substantial body image issues. I flirted with eating disorders, none of which ended up really “sticking,” thank goodness, and I just generally didn’t feel great about my appearance during this period of my life. I fluctuated a lot. It was sad. I don’t even want to get into all of that in this post.
Fast forward to about 2010: I seemed to have “figured it out.” Was eating mostly plant-based (although I didn’t go full-on vegan officially until a couple of years later), was active, happy… And, without it even being a conscious thing, my body just settled into a healthy, comfortable weight. Physically, I just felt good and healthy. And my head felt good and healthy. And things stayed that way, until about a month ago.
Now, my excitement and positivity is coupled with a nagging feeling of fear. Fear of “FAT.” And a sadness that I don’t feel quite like myself anymore. Insecurity at how my husband views me. And guilt that I dare to feel these things at all. Nervousness that people will judge me as being shallow or bratty for caring about my appearance while in the midst of something as consequential and miraculous as pregnancy. Confusion over whether my fears are simply symptomatic of PTSD from my past struggles, or something entirely new. The thing is, when you’re pregnant and feeling sad, people very much tend to have the attitude that “its just not about you, anymore.” They may or may not respond bluntly like that, but you can hear it in their perhaps-well-intentioned-but-incredibly-dismissive “Oh, pregnancy is a blessing, just enjoy it!” Bottom line is that (in my personal experience as well as that of at least 50 of my readers who responded to my Instagram story last week) people seem to not want to hear much from you in regards to your time gestating, aside from how amazing it all is and how excited you are. But you’re still in there. And issues– even the ones you may have thought were far behind you, whether related to body image, depression, anxiety, or something else altogether– can easily rear their ugly heads while your hormones are raging, your body is changing, and your future feels so foreign and uncertain.
This post is not about providing an answer or proposing a solution to a body image problem you might be dealing with. I am still struggling myself. I guess I am writing this so that: A) other moms-to-be will know they aren’t alone, and that these emotions are THEIRS TO HAVE. Don’t let anyone shame you into silent sadness– there is nothing less healthy for you (and for baby) than that; B) in general, people reading this will know that everyone struggles with this stuff. What you see on social media is such a minuscule part of what is really going on, and oftentimes the more perfect the picture, the more insecurities are festering beneath it; C) to open up a dialogue and to declare this a safe space. I am here if anyone needs to talk, truly, and I want you to know that your feelings are valued and can always be heard.