“I’m not fat, I’m pregnant!” I cringe as the joke leaves my mouth yet another time. I keep telling myself I am not going to say that out loud anymore. I am well aware of how hurtful and dangerous it is. Yet I feel powerless to the body shaming that is seeping into my pregnancy, just as I feel powerless to the changes occurring within my body.
I did not think I would be triggered as much as I have, but as the zippers stop closing and the scale numbers climb, I find myself panicked. Feeling as though I’m slipping down into a chasm I won’t be able to climb out of.
Am I more afraid of the weight gain or the obsession with getting thin that overtook my life for so many years?
One day I’m craving a bigger bump, looking up hashtags of the week I am on, and wondering when I will “pop/” The next I am missing my hip bones and praying to the pregnancy gods that I will be able to breastfeed for calorie burning purposes. All at the same time, my heart keeps screaming “you are growing a human being inside of you! You are creating a life” and I try with all my might to hang onto that incredible truth.
We know that our bodies change in pregnancy, but mamas our minds need to too.
Every single thing that happens to and within us during the miracle of carrying a child has a purpose—to create a human being. Perhaps if we could remind ourselves of that more often, our symptoms would not seem as disconcerting.
A lot of weird things happen to our bodies in the process of making a life. Things that seemingly have no rhyme or reason, like my first-trimester alopecia (so much for long luscious locks in pregnancy!) or gingivitis (remind me how bloody gums help my baby?). And we don’t need to like them. No benefit will ever outweigh the throbbing pain of a migraine.
What we can do however is help mitigate our suffering, by starting to understand and appreciate these untoward symptoms in a different way. To appreciate the ‘why.’ You see every time we curse our body for something, we are doubly suffering. I especially do this with my physical appearance as it changes during and after pregnancy.
It does not help that the media celebrates women who are rail-thin with just a bump or lose their baby weight upon delivery. This “skinny is better” culture leads us to obsess about how our body changes during pregnancy and about how to get our bodies back after they give birth. But our body will never be the same and frankly, nor should it be. We have performed a miracle. We have created life. That is worth much more than a 6-pack.
Yet, here I am scrolling #bodyafterbaby on social media and celebrity crushing all the actresses and models who starved and sweat their way back into their size 2. Celebrating Beyonce in her documentary ‘Homecoming’ for getting her body back in 4 months, ignoring that she herself noted it was an unhealthy regimen and one she would not do again. But hey, whatever works, right?
Well, I propose a new order.
One where we celebrate one another’s pre, during, and post-pregnant bodies exactly as they are at this moment!
One where we embrace our changing bodies by remembering the ‘why.’
One where we can look in the mirror and say, “You are beautiful and I am so grateful,” recognizing the privilege it is to grow a human being.
Some of us will gain 17lbs, some of us will gain 70lbs. Some of us will lose our baby weight right away, some of us never will. It does not determine who we are as human beings. In fact, the better we can learn to love and accept ourselves, the better mamas we will be.