I’ve spent a lot of time over the years writing about body image on this site. It’s been such a blessing to hear stories from so many other women who have struggled with body confidence and self-acceptance and are now loving and embracing their bodies and all that they can do. Although I’ve made huge strides over the years in loving and appreciating my own body, I have to admit that I was very, very worried about my body and the way it would change and transition while pregnant. Having finally found a happy place with eating and exercising, I felt more at peace in my own skin prior to getting pregnant this time around than I had ever felt before. And that led to a lot of fears and questions.
How would my body adjust to being pregnant? Would I swell up like a balloon? Would my body change in ways that I would never be able to recover from? Were the days of feeling fit and pretty over for good?
Of course, I didn’t feel like I could really express these fears and concerns because we had prayed so diligently for our little miracle baby. I was truly thrilled to be pregnant and didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea by me complaining or expressing concerns about my body. How silly to worry about my body image when God gave me this amazing, miraculous life growing inside me!
But the truth is, those fears are normal and valid. It doesn’t diminish the excitement of your pregnancy and baby and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad momma, either. There are a few things that I’ve learned about body image along this pregnancy journey that I wanted to share in case there are others out there who are pregnant, newly pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant sometime soon.
The photo above? That’s me right after finding out we were pregnant with Baby H. Someone should have slapped me for ever having a “fat day” because at 39 weeks pregnant, I would kill to look like that again! Which brings me to my first point…
1. Pregnancy will make you appreciate your pre-pregnancy body in ways you never thought possible.
I’ve looked back at the photos on my phone from my pre-pregnancy days and been ashamed at the thoughts that I remember having about my body at the time the photos were taken. I remember thinking that I looked chubby or out of shape, picking apart my thighs or stomach. But the truth is, pregnancy has given me an entirely new appreciation for my pre-pregnancy body. Was it perfect? Absolutely not! But my body was fit, healthy and I think I looked pretty darn good. So if you’re not currently pregnant, appreciate your pre-pregnancy body. It’s more beautiful than you can imagine!
2. There are great things about your pregnant body, too!
I’m sure everyone is quick to tell you about the horrible things that come with pregnancy, like the swollen feet, achy back and stretch marks, but the changes that your body undergoes are just plain miraculous. The more I read about pregnancy, the more amazed I was by my body’s ability to grown and change to accommodate a new little life.
3. Don’t listen to discouraging stories!
You know what drives me crazy? When people are quick to tell you that you’ll never “get your body back” after baby or that it’s all downhill from here on out. I’m not going into the post-pregnancy period thinking it’s going to be easy, but I’m also not setting myself up to fail by believing that I’ll never feel or look like myself again. I’m fully expecting my body to be changed after baby, but I’m also expecting that with a serious dose of hard work I’ll be able to feel like myself in due time.
If you’re looking for a serious dose of encouragement, read my friend Robin’s amazing story of body after baby. We need more of those amazing stories!
4. It’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, your body may surprise you!
Everyone experiences pregnancy differently. Just because your sister-in-law’s feet grew two sizes or your best friend had horrible stretch marks that never went away doesn’t mean anything for your own experience. Personally I was terrified of stretch marks and gaining 65 pounds, but my body blew me away with how it handled pregnancy. I’ve gained a reasonable amount of weight, my wedding rings are still on and I’m still wearing my favorite pairs of shoes. After two miscarriages I went into this pregnancy with a lot of fear and distrust of my body, but this experience has helped rebuild the trust I have in my body and renewed my appreciation.
5. Give yourself some grace, but not a free pass.
Hollywood totally glamorizes the crazy pregnancy cravings and eating entire pints of ice cream in one sitting while you’re growing a baby. While I certainly haven’t restricted my food intake while pregnant, I’ve also tried to be reasonable about the indulgences along the way. Knowing that my body only needed about 300 extra calories in the second trimester and 500 extra calories in the third trimester put my eating into perspective. I became more interested in making my calories count in the form of nutrient-dense foods rather than wasting my calories in the form of empty nutritional sources.
That said, there were plenty of times when I indulged in dessert or an extra slice of pizza and did so without any regret. There is no sense in beating yourself up along the way! There should be a few fun perks during pregnancy, right?!
6. Stay as active as possible for your mental sanity.
I had grand visions of running through my entire pregnancy and maintaining a fairly intense workout routine. However, I experienced horrible groin pain from about 17 weeks on, making exercise, especially running, difficult. I quickly adjusted my expectations for workouts while pregnant. Running was off the table but I found that pregnancy DVDs, long walks and hand and body weight exercises were enough to keep me feeling good physically and mentally. Plus, I have to imagine that staying active while pregnant will help when I’m trying to get back in shape after baby.
7. Invest in a pregnancy wardrobe.
This may be a debatable suggestion, but I would strongly suggest investing in some great pieces of clothing during your pregnancy. Doing so really helped me feel like myself even as my body was changing and helped me maintain a sense of personal style. Although pregnancy is “only 9 months” as many will tell you, that’s a long 9 months to wear clothing that doesn’t make you feel good about your body. There are plenty of reasonably-priced options for maternity wear. My favorites? Gap Maternity and ASOS Maternity!
Other mommas out there, what would you add to this list?