Last week, a group of my girlfriends and I got together for our book club. Before we dug into the actual book (and the plethora of treats), we sat around a bit catching up on our lives.
Since my life is basically just baby these days, we talked about that when we got around to me. My friend Kristina asked if pregnancy had been what I expected it to be or if anything surprised me.
I didn’t have a very good answer at the time because I hadn’t really thought about it, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
I always thought (hoped?) that I would enjoy being pregnant. I don’t know why. I mean, a lot of people don’t. And it certainly comes with a host of discomforts. But for whatever reason, I looked forward to the chance to carry a baby and I felt optimistic about the process.
And, for the most part, I have really enjoyed it. Yes, it helps that I am incredibly fortunate that getting and staying pregnant went smoothly for me. Yes, it helps that I managed to dodge difficult morning sickness and a host of other unpleasantness a lot of women go through. I’m not sure why it worked out like this for me, but whatever the reason, I’m grateful.
But there was one aspect of pregnancy that I always assumed I would have a big problem with: gaining weight.
I mean, it’s kind of a head trip. As a woman, you’re constantly bombarded with confusing messages about your body and what it should be, and, as a rule, those messages tell you that you need to be smaller and weigh less. Like a lot of women my age (like a lot of women any age?), I spent a large portion of my life trying to weigh less or trying to maintain my lowest weight.
And now you’re telling me I need to undo all that hard work and deliberately try to gain weight? Are you crazy?!
Part of me was deliciously enticed by the possibility (guilt-free weight gain!). Another part of me was totally terrified.
Because, you guys? I’ve gained weight before. Significant amounts of weight. (Though, of course, that’s subjective.) And the resulting shame spiral took me to dark, spiny mental places that I worked for years to get out of. It destroyed my relationship with my body and just generally screwed me up for a while. I clawed my way out of that place. And I work actively and aggressively to keep myself from going back there.
So… I was scared.
Because I didn’t want to feel negative feelings about anything associated with creating my baby. I wanted the process to be filled with love and joy as much as possible. Maybe that sounds naive, but it was how I had always pictured and hoped the experience would be.
And then I got pregnant. And, yes, obviously, started to gain weight. And you know what?
It hasn’t bothered me even the teeniest, tiniest bit.
It probably helps that I NEVER weigh myself except at my doctor appointments. Not in pre-pregnancy life and certainly not now. Like always, I let the way my clothes fit and the way I feel determine whether I’m happy with my size, instead of attaching too much meaning to a silly, downright objective number.
I’m not delusional—I know that I’ve gained weight over the last seven months. It’s just that I couldn’t care less. Yes, I know it’s weight for the baby (even though the little miss is only 2-ish pounds, the rest is all fluid and uterus and that whole extra organ your body grows to feed your baby, the placenta), so maybe that contributes to my not freaking out about it.
But beyond not caring about the extra pounds, I feel so much more loving toward my body than I ever thought I would. It’s like I’ve found an old friend after years of (at times) abusive silence.
I’m so proud of my body for not only growing a human full-time, but also for sticking it out through the still-challenging workouts that I put it through to maintain my mental balance. I cherish the increasingly convex curve of my stomach way more than I ever did its flatter counterpart because this tummy lovingly cradles my baby all day and night.
I want to high-five my swiftly changing reflection so I can congratulate my body on being a total rock star and miraculously knowing exactly what to do to create and nurture another person.
The most surprising thing about this process, for me, is how much awe it has filled me with. For women and their amazing bodies. For the God who created them in his incredible wisdom.
I’m proud of the mental journey I’ve made + my newfound ability to see myself as I really am for possibly the first time in my life: wonderfully made.
Justine Lorelle LoMonaco is a writer, digital media specialist and mother.