Pregnancy and Body Image

This is one of those posts that I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but have been too scared to actually go through with. It might cause controversy, but I also know that there will be other women who feel similarly to me and I’m hoping that it helps all of you in feeling less alone! What I’m talking about is the feeling of being uncomfortable in your body while pregnant. After talking to friends about it, I’ve found that almost every woman who has had a baby has felt this at some point but we rarely talk about it because we’re afraid of what other people will think.

When you get pregnant, everyone loves to comment on your body. Sometimes it’s about whether you’re carrying high or low (according to everyone, I’m carrying low), but mostly it’s about weight gain. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone tell me, “You’re all belly!” Normally if you walked up to a woman and said that, it would be a horrifying insult, but when you’re cookin’ a baby, it’s the greatest compliment of all. My problem? I never believe them. My first assumption is that they’re just saying that to be nice. I’ve gained 20 pounds since November, so the way I look at my body is a little off kilter these days.

Let’s back up though…

I’ve struggled with body image issues since I hit a super early puberty at age 10. In high school I developed a short lived eating disorder, but the long term effects of body dysmorphia have been far more damaging than that one year of obsessing over food. The issue is that I’ve never really felt comfortable in my own skin… except at my wedding when I was probably 10 pounds underweight. Then something happened last year. Maybe it was the fact that I’m in my 30’s and those insecurities from my teens and 20’s started melting away, but I was finally feeling good about the way I looked. I had been eating really well and working out regularly with my trainer as a part of my fertility plan, and it had the side effect of toning and tightening in a way that I loved.

And then I got pregnant…

And I thank God everyday that I did! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want this post to come across as me being ungrateful, because I will never be able to put into words just how lucky I feel to have come out of the darkness of miscarriages and infertility. However, it’s ok to feel excited by it and also frustrated by other aspects. During the first trimester, my body started changing. I softened up in the belly and pretty much all over because all I could stomach was bread and pasta, and working out was not an option due to the nausea.

In the second trimester, it started changing in a new way. I was growing outwards… and quickly. I’d look down and see my skin, my freckles, and my belly button. But it all looked different and distorted. But not quite pregnant. This is when I started feeling pretty bad about the way I looked. My clothes didn’t fit, and when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see what I was used to. While my friends and family kept telling me that I hardly looked pregnant, in my mind, I just kept thinking that I looked overweight or bloated.

I think it’s even worse for me because I take photos of myself every week for my job. So it’s not like I could ignore the way I was looking!

Now? Forget it. I feel like every single day I grow a little bit more. But despite that fact, I’ve learned to love this ever changing bump for the first time. Under my skin I can see my baby move, kick, glide, and even get the hiccups (which she does quite often). Whenever I start to feel like a giant whale or bad about the way I look, I repeat this mantra: My body is a cozy home for my baby. She is safe and warm and protected.

Super cheesy, I know. But it puts me back in a positive and loving headspace, something that is going to be important to me as I raise my daughter.

The best part about the way I look is my husband’s reaction. Whenever I get upset because I can’t find anything to wear or I can’t fit in a small space, he looks at me with the most genuine big eyes and tells me that I’m beautiful. And he means it too! If I start saying anything negative or say I feel fat, he’ll touch my belly and say he loves it. He sees my pregnant body the way I wish I could, so I try to look at it from his eyes.

Photos by Courtney Ann Photography.

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