Congratulations! With baited breath, you held the fateful plastic stick in your hand and saw the plus sign (or pink line or two lines) appear in the tiny viewing window. You smiled, you screamed, or you cried tears of joy.
Or maybe all three! You’re pregnant! Welcome to one of the most exciting journeys of your life!
But as your pregnancy progresses, and your body grows, and grows (and grows) many women start to struggle with their new shape. Perhaps you’ve already outgrown your pregnancy clothes. (We’ve been there.) Perhaps someone made some ill-advised comments about your size. (Just. Don’t.) Or perhaps you’re just struggling to recognize the new shape your body has taken. (We get it.)
As you grow with your baby, it is essential that you revisit the self-love your messages that we explored earlier in Your Baby’s First Home: Why Now is the Time to Start Loving your Body. The relationship you have with your body is a critical component of a happy and healthy pregnancy, and a happy and healthy pregnancy is what we all hope and pray for.
As a mother of four, an eating disorder survivor, a fitness instructor for the past 20 years, a volunteer at an eating disorders recovery facility, and the author of “The Self-Care Solution, A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being,” I am personally and professionally attune to the difficulties so many women face when it comes to loving and accepting their bodies.
But it is possible to love your body—and maybe you already do! (If so, congratulations again!)
But if you, like most women, feel a nagging dissatisfaction with your body, now would be a great time to deal with those feelings, as your body is changing and growing in incredible ways.
Assessing your level of body satisfaction is an important first step as you prepare for the changes that will occur in your body over the next nine months. Social pressures to be thin make it difficult for many women to accept their bodies to begin with, and in order for women to truly embrace their changing form throughout pregnancy, it takes extra large doses of self-love, as well as loving support from a partner or friend. If issues are not confronted, studies show that body image concerns may play a role in perinatal and postpartum depression.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The fact that a woman’s body changes during pregnancy is one of the essential realities of our nature as women. But that doesn’t always make it easy to accept when we don’t recognize the woman in the mirror, or we fret about how we will ever return the body we had before baby.
The following messages are essential reminders of how to make sure the lens in which you are viewing yourself is clear.
Repeat these mantras when you find yourself criticizing your shape, or obsessing over your weight gain—
1.My body is charged with a powerful mission—to house, feed, nurture, and protect my growing baby.
2. From a place of gratitude and self-respect, I will honor the changes in my body and treat my body with loving care.
3. My purpose is now twofold—I must take care of my body for my own health and well-being, and for the health and well-being of my growing baby (this message will be critical for you throughout your whole motherhood journey).—I will trust my body and feel grateful for its incredible ability to carry my child and feed my baby postpartum (if I so choose).
4. Pregnancy is a time for me to grow accustomed to “stretching” myself—my body, mind, and heart—none of which will ever be exactly the same as they were before entering the world of motherhood.
5. I will feel good about nourishing my body with nutrient-rich food and plenty of water, will exercise my body to keep my muscles and organs healthy and strong.
6. I deserve to rest. I will make sure I get enough sleep for my health and my baby’s health.
7. With a deep sense of self-respect and self-love, I will be in tune with my body’s signals so I can decipher its needs. I will find joy in “eating for two” and resting more often than usual but will not use pregnancy as an excuse to disrespect my body by being over indulgent or self-defeating, which will most likely trigger feelings of shame.
8. I won’t become overly obsessed with the numbers on the scale but will listen to my doctor and heed her/his advice about taking good care of my body during pregnancy.
9. I will ask for emotional support from my partner or good friends when I need it.
10. If I am battling disordered eating or compulsive exercising, I will seek help from a professional so I do not cause harm to myself or my baby.
The bottom line is that your body needs to make some very big changes during pregnancy, and you can’t predict exactly how those changes will occur in your body, and what they will look or feel like.
But however your pregnancy journey unfolds, please be kind to your body—not only in the way you treat it but in the way you feel about it.
Be kind to yourself and understand the importance of loving and caring for your body during pregnancy is a great stepping stone for loving and caring for your body and yourself throughout motherhood.