My Pregnant Body

This was originally just going to be about pregnancy, but somehow it turned into a description of my entire body image history.  Oh well, so be it.  And it’s long- you were warned 🙂

I recently received this card from the mother of the flower girl at our wedding, and it pretty much sums up how I’ve felt about my body during pregnancy: I’ve never loved it more!  It hit me one day near the end of the first trimester while I was looking at my ever-so-slight baby bump in the mirror before stepping into the shower…

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My entire life (since puberty anyway), I’d struggled with the way I perceived myself and had to really work on accepting and loving my body the way it is.  I’d always been skinny, awkward, and gangly since I lost my cute baby fat around age 5, and the changes that brought my period when I was twelve really didn’t bring the womanly curves I’d hoped for.  I remember feeling dismay when I realized my breasts had stopped growing, disappointment when my thighs remained the same size as my calves throughout high school.  Most people won’t understand these feelings because the majority of women in our society struggle with the opposite problem- trying stave off unwanted weight gain and stay “skinny”.  But skinny isn’t always  fun when you don’t have a choice about just how skinny you are.  It also isn’t fun when you’re growing up in a subculture that values other types of bodies.  I tried several times to gain weight, but always ended up sacrificing health.

I guess somewhere along the way, slowly and sometimes deliberately, I learned to accept and even appreciate my body.  I think that getting through the difficult years of my teens and early twenties (when, let’s face it, a lot of our self worth is centered on whether or not we fit in and measure up to the standards of those around us, at least what we perceive them to be) made a big difference because there does come an age when people are able to look beyond the outward you and focus more on the inward you.  Or maybe it’s just that people are more likely to keep hurtful comments to themselves…  Either way, I had friends and boyfriends who honestly appreciated my body because of the way it was, and for someone like me who, like it or not, is really affected by the words that come out of other people’s mouths, that helped.

I also worked on particular aspects of myself that I’d had a hard time with.

  • My hair- curly.  Thankfully, this was one of the first things I figured out.  It’s curly, and was very very frizzy for many years, and I remember spending a lot of time every day straightening it for school.  Finally, I figured out some basic tenets of caring for curly hair: no brushing and mousse! (note: I now just use leave-in conditioner because it leaves my hair feeling more natural than mousse, but I still never never brush my hair unless I’m planning to wash it immediately afterward!)
  • My breasts- small, a big point of sorrow.  I spent many years trying to deal with my feelings about them.  One summer I really focused on changing my idea of them and one of the things I found was a wonderful website that celebrated breasts of all shapes and sizes.  Women sent in pictures, and there were pages and pages of big ones, small ones, flat ones, pointy ones, tubular ones… you name it, they were there.  Now perhaps this sampling wasn’t fairly representative of the population as a whole since women with strange breasts were more likely to participate, but I realized that I liked mine more than many of the others out there, and that made me feel better.  They may be small, but they’re shaped nicely, and I no longer wanted to trade them 🙂
  • My knees and elbows- pointy and knobby.  Now this, I just had to come to terms with because there’s really nothing you can do about it 🙂  Even now though I still cringe sometimes when I see my elbows in pictures.
  • The general skinniness of my body.  Sure, I can build muscle, but I wanted some extra padding, to be a little more rounded in the way that you can only be if you don’t have prominent bones and sharp angles sticking out everywhere.  I’ve put forth some very good efforts a few times to gain weight.  One year in college I just ate a whole lot, including late-night meals almost every night.  But I did it because I was lonely and bored that year, and a little depressed.  Another summer I tried to down X amount of calories per day, but I’d inevitably end up stuffing myself with yogurt, ice cream, cheese, fried foods, chocolate, and cottage cheese every night to meet my quota.  Very at odds with my ideas about healthful living.  In the end, I realized that when I was at my healthiest- eating when hungry and making choices based on nutrition not caloric value- my weight remained quite stable.  I finally concluded that, for better or worse, this is the way I’m meant to be.  And I was ok with that.

A few years later, already feeling pretty good about my body, I met my husband, who honestly loves my body the way it is and doesn’t want to change a thing about it!  I will never forget the day he told me that he thought I was “curvy for my body type”.  Having never been referred to as curvy before, I relish that compliment to this day.  So when I became pregnant, I was feeling more body confidence than I ever had before.

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That night while looking in the mirror at my little beginning bump, it suddenly hit me that I’d never loved my body more!  I had always wondered how it would feel to be pregnant, to see my normally unchanging body suddenly take on a new shape and form- one that I couldn’t control.  I wondered if I would panic a bit or feel even more awkward than I used to.  The answer is: absolutely not!  I love it!  I feel more beautiful than I ever have in my life!  I think the reason is because my body now has a higher purpose that transcends appearance.  That’s why everyone loves the pregnant belly- not because a big belly is so attractive, but because it represents something almost sacred- the beginning of a new life.

I feel more womanly than I ever have as well.  I feel like I’m sort of coming into my own, fulfilling my purpose for having these female parts in the first place.  I feel new calm and patience that I never had before.  My body is doing just what it was made to do.  At times past I almost couldn’t believe that it would be possible, but here is it, doing its job just like it should and I stand in awe, really, of what is happening inside me.  I stand in awe of the Creator of this amazing process, and feel honored to be used to create with Him.

Alright, specific bodily changes I’ve experienced so far:

Breasts– One of the first parts of me to change.  They began to get bigger before I even found out I was pregnant, and I went from an A cup to a C cup in a short amount of time.  This is, of course, super fun for me because I always wanted to be able to fit into certain clothes better and look a little more balanced and maybe *gasp* have some cleavage!  My husband is excited about this change, too, though at first he actually complained saying “but I liked the way they were before!”  Haha!  Men….  But he’s right- they were fine pre-pregnancy too.  🙂  In addition to general size, my areolas are darker now (well, visible for the first time actually), my nipples are more sensitive and prominent, I have a few of those blue veins showing through my skin, and I actually have leaked a few drops of colostrum already!  All in all, I’m extremely pleased because I feel my breasts are going to be ready to do their appointed job when the little one arrives.

Tummy– Bigger, obviously!  It’s now the focus of my body, which is kinda strange, and I feel very protective of it.  For awhile I was pretty self-conscious about the size of it (I didn’t want people to think it was too small), but I’m feeling pretty good about it now.  I have even posted a couple of pictures on Facebook finally.

Hips– Wider!  It’s weird because I didn’t notice this until my bikini bottoms suddenly left half my butt hanging out and were a little tight overall, and I realized- hey, my hips are wider!  I’m completely ok with this because I always wanted some hips.  Thanks, little one.

Skin– Wonderful!  After that first breakout very early in pregnancy (and it was one of the worst in many years), my skin has actually been better than it has been since I was a child!  This has to be one of my favorite effects of pregnancy.  I still get a blemish every once in awhile, but it never gets bad.  I guess it’s because I don’t have those ups and downs of my monthly cycle, which are what really did me in.  People say I have a glow and I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of feeling extremely happy and having nice skin.

Nether regions– Pretty much the same, but I definitely have more cervical mucus sometimes than before.  A few weeks ago I got curious about my cervix because I hadn’t checked it since trying to conceive.  Well, at first I almost panicked because I couldn’t find it!  Finally I found it- extremely high!  Before it was always always extremely low, but that’s definitely changed.  It also feels super soft and more open than I’ve ever felt it before.  Some googling assured me all was normal, but I don’t think I’ll try checking it anymore just so I don’t risk infection.  I also had a tiny tiny amount of rectal bleeding a few weeks ago from a painless internal hemorrhoid, but that cleared up just fine on it’s own within a day.

So there you have it.  That was a pretty open and vulnerable discussion for me, but I think birth requires a certain openness about our bodies, and I need the practice.  I’d be curious to hear from other women concerning how you feel about your bodies during pregnancy.  Does coming to terms with your body before pregnancy make a difference in how you feel during?

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. laughingpromises
    Aug 26, 2012 @ 06:37:06

    I love this post. I have been obsessed with looking at my new body in the mirror. Growing up, as you describe here, is so much about fitting in…but now that I’m pregnant, my body has a greater purpose, and it is so cool to see that purpose showing now. I am loving it.

    Reply

    • travelnole
      Aug 26, 2012 @ 11:00:23

      🙂 You said it! Actually, whenever I begin to worry about things going wrong, it makes me feel so much better to look at my nice round belly and marvel at how perfect it looks.

      Reply

  2. andi
    Aug 26, 2012 @ 11:18:23

    lol i remember the dinners of avocado, ice cream and cottage cheese. still makes me feel a little green to think of some of the stuff you would eat together. yey i’m so excited for you. also i know we’ve both always been a little low in the boob department and i’m definitely feeling a little jealous of yours now 😀

    Reply

    • travelnole
      Aug 26, 2012 @ 13:39:10

      lol, Well…. Hopefully you’ll get to enjoy some of the same differences during pregnancy too 😀

      And yeah, those meals were, to be honest, delicious, but so so bad for me!

      Reply

  3. Ashelle
    Aug 26, 2012 @ 11:23:15

    I love this post! Very open and straightforward, which I think is good for other pregnant women….and not. It makes me more excited for when I have a baby 🙂

    Reply

    • travelnole
      Aug 26, 2012 @ 13:36:02

      Yay, you commented! 😀 😀 Thanks, I’ve been thinking about writing this for awhile, but I didn’t know where it was going to go until I started.

      Reply

  4. Kendra
    Oct 26, 2012 @ 21:07:09

    This is exactly why I love being pregnant too. I totally feel my healthiest. I can really relate to you in this post, thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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