Congratulations on making the life-changing decision to become a mother!
You are about to embark on your journey toward conception, which may be smooth and predictable or challenging and baffling. Most likely it will be something in between.
But no matter how your path toward conception unfolds, one of the most important things for you to focus on right now (other than the making of your baby) is nurturing and strengthening the relationship you have with yourself and your body.
As a mother of four, an eating disorder survivor turned thriver and the author of The Self-Care Solution, I am intimately familiar with the battleground on which so many women live when it comes to their relationship with their body. This complicated relationship is formed over a lifetime, involving factors such as:
- Messages from the media and other societal influences/influencers
- Messages you receive during your formative and teen years from parents, other trusted adults and peers
- The development of your self-esteem, self-acceptance and self-love, which the above-mentioned factors can affect
Unfortunately, research confirms that most women are not feeling the love for their bodies. Eighty percent of women don't like how they look and 50 to 70% of normal-weight women want to be thinner. Many women harbor deep shame about their bodies, which can prompt food- and exercise-related compulsions and addictions.
But what does all this body dissatisfaction talk have to do with you having a baby? Well, a lot.
Assess your level of body satisfaction honestly and without shame.
Hopefully you are in the small percentage of women who love and accept your body, and are excited to embrace the many changes that will occur as your body prepares to conceive, carry, give birth to and possibly breastfeed your baby. But if you are like most women, your relationship with your body is much more complicated. Wherever you fall on the body satisfaction continuum, your feelings about your body are important to your physical and mental health throughout conception and pregnancy. Regardless of whether you're pregnant, research shows that body image plays a major role in a woman's level of happiness and overall life satisfaction. Research also shows that body image issues can lead to or be the result of depression, anxiety, eating disorders and relationship issues.
Needless to say, body image concerns cannot be ignored.
When you embark on your journey to becoming a mother, you will be best served to start from a place of strength and self-worth so that you can maintain that confidence throughout the trials and tribulations you will inevitably face.
Issues with self-esteem and body image will not disappear on your path to and throughout motherhood.
In fact, the high demands of motherhood today can exacerbate them.
If you feel that you and your body are not on the best of terms, the first step is to address this issue honestly and without shame. The following questions will help you assess your level of body satisfaction and bring awareness to the powerful connections between your mind, body and emotions:
- How do you feel when you think about your body, or more specifically, when you look at in the mirror?
- What do you say to yourself about your body? How often do you have these body-related conversations in your head?
- Do you habitually look for “defects" in your body and criticize yourself for them?
- Or do you look at yourself with love, acceptance and gratitude? (“Okay, body, you are looking pretty good today. I'm grateful that you are healthy and that you allow me to feel good! I'm grateful that you are able to do most of what I ask you to do. I am going to be good to you because you are good to me. We're in this together!")
- How often do you check yourself in the mirror?
- How often do you weigh yourself?
- What happens to your mood when you see the number on the scale?
- Are you able to refrain from weighing yourself for a day? A week? A month? What feelings come up when you think about or try to let go of this habit?
- How would you describe your relationship with food? With exercise?
Create a strong, healthy, love-infused first home for your child.
As a mother-to-be who wishes to share her happiness with her child, it's essential for you to address any body image concerns you might have.
Upon conception, your body becomes your child's first home—the foundation where your baby develops and from which he or she moves to the outside world. Make sure to infuse this home with love, kindness and respect.
The mantras below will help you strengthen your mind-body relationship in order to create a nurturing first “home" for the child you will conceive.
- I will become more in tune to how my mind and body are connected (when I am sad, bored, lonely, or worried I want to eat French fries).
- I will listen to and respect my body's signals (eat when I am hungry, stop when I am full).
- I will be conscious of my self-talk, and catch myself when I am overly critical or harsh in how I view or talk to myself about my body.
- I will talk to my partner and friends about my body image concerns or seek professional help if I need to dig deeper into self-esteem issues.
- I will fill my body with nutrient-rich foods and plenty of water, and get adequate rest so I create a body that is healthy and strong for conception.
- I will exercise my body in order to keep my organs, muscles and bones healthy, and to release endorphins to help me manage stress and feel more energetic and joyful.
- I will trust myself and my body as I prepare to undergo major physical, hormonal and emotional changes upon conception.
- I will find gratitude for my body, for all that is does for me and for its ability to conceive a child.
- If you are struggling with conception, please add this mantra: I will not shame myself or degrade my body for not doing what I am asking it to do right now. I will be patient and loving with my body, and continue to believe in its ability to conceive a child.
- I will love, care for and accept myself and my body every day.
Wishing you healthy doses of self-love and happiness as you begin your path to conception! And next time you look in the mirror and start to say something unkind to yourself about your body, please replace that message with this one:
It is nothing short of amazing that my body is capable of growing another human being. I will embrace my beautiful body! It is about to do something truly miraculous!