I, like most people I know, am not immune to feelings of insecurity. I remember wondering if people thought that I looked bloated in that photo from the beach. Looking at the photo now, I looked totally fine, but I was hyper-aware of my belly, because I’d already found out that I was pregnant about a week before.
I’ve definitely been disappointed at numbers I’ve seen flashing back me when I’ve stepped on the scale. I have also been conscious of “excess” amounts of flesh that have “hung over” my favourite jeans. Basically, it has taken a long time to get comfortable in my own skin, and I certainly don’t feel like I’ve mastered it yet. I still suck in my belly when I wear crop tops, and save for one summer when I was running–a lot–and kind of feeling myself, I still haven’t worn a two-piece bathing suit in years. And just as I thought I was getting a handle on all of that, I got pregnant.
Pregnancy has definitely shaken up my self-image and my self-esteem. Suddenly, I am at the mercy of an ever-growing belly (among other body parts), and my focus has shifted from my health and appearance exclusively, to my health and appearance in relation to my baby’s health.
For example, I gave up running a little earlier than I would have liked–not because I couldn’t physically do it, but because I experienced a bit of a scare (which in hindsight was nothing), and it alarmed me enough to consider slowing down. I stopped actively weighing myself a long time before I ever became pregnant as a form a self-care, and I have been trying not to focus TOO hard on the how much I weigh, during my bi-weekly weigh-in at the doctor’s office. I also feel guilty for eating poorly, but now, it’s because I’m afraid that the Big Mac I just ate is compromising the health of my baby, even though at the time, I could not imagine accepting any other food than the Big Mac I was so craving.
Pregnancy is also a mind-fuck because any comment is enough to mess with you. “You’re so tiny!” and “You don’t even look X-months pregnant!” makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong. Are you eating too little? Is the baby not growing well? Do you just look out of shape, since you don’t look pregnant? On the other hand, comments like, “You are huge!” and “You look big for X-months pregnant.” just kind of make you feel a little unattractive, even though you know that the reason for your appearance is that you are GROWING AN ACTUAL SECOND PERSON INSIDE YOUR BODY.
Now, more than ever, though, I have noticed that I have been actively trying to be kind to myself. I try not to get annoyed with how “out of shape” I am when just talking too much leaves me out of breath. When one by one, my pants no longer closed, I laughed and even kind of enjoyed watching it happen. I’ve even been more willing to ask for help, especially when doing physical tasks that I otherwise would have been more than capable of doing before.
It’s kind of crazy that I had to get pregnant to become more accommodating and forgiving of myself when I don’t look or perform exactly the way I would like to or have done in the past. Where was all this understanding before???? Don’t get me wrong, though, I have cried. I have not wanted to see the number flashing on the scale below me. I have been stressed. I have not wanted to look at myself in the mirror. I have felt the term “sexy” is so far beyond my reach, especially because it wasn’t ever a word I associated with myself before–much less now that I can barely even see or reach my own feet.
This is why the idea of “bouncing back” post-pregnancy and continuing to be kind when I am faced with the inevitable challenges of motherhood is something that freaks me out more, the closer I get to my due date. Can I do it? Can I continue to be more chill when I’m Xlbs heavier, sans growing fetus? Will I still be able to have a laugh if my jeans don’t fit like they used to? There’s a small part of me that hopes I’ll just be so busy with the baby to think about all of this, but I also know myself, and chances are, I will absolutely have this on my mind. Perhaps writing all of this out will remind me to relax a little when that time eventually comes.
Obviously, I don’t have the answers. I am working through a new set of insecurities and fears, while simultaneously trying to get over old ones. I just hope that if you’re anything like me, and you’re reading this right now–whether you’re expecting or not–that you take this as a reminder that we’re all going through shit, and we all feel like shit from time to time. Not only is that okay, but it’s NORMAL. If you can, try and be gentler with yourself, ’cause you’re doing the best you can. I’ll try to remind myself to do the same.