I always dreamed of being one of those super fit pregnant women who didn’t look pregnant anywhere other than in their belly. You know, the kind whose bodies look exactly the same other than their growing bumps, the kind who can still wear their pre-pregnancy jeans through every trimester as long as they have a rubber band holding the zipper together, and the kind who look like all of the maternity models with their skinny legs and slender faces?
But, the fact of the matter is, I’m not one of those women. Instead, I’m one of those ballooning pregnant women. You know what I’m talking about. I’m the kind who seems to gain weight at record speed, gets all puffy everywhere, and who rocks maternity jeans just weeks into pregnancy.
And that used to bother me. It used to eat away at me and make me feel ashamed and embarrassed. But, not anymore. And I’ll tell you why…
During my first pregnancy, while most of my pregnant friends were losing weight in the first trimester, I was gaining with a vengeance. By 20 weeks, I had already gained as many pounds as all the books recommended gaining in an entire pregnancy. By the end, my face was swollen, my thighs had thickened, and I looked like a walking hot air balloon. I knew this for a fact based on how frequently I heard comments from both friends and strangers alike. I felt awful.
However, I never would have admitted it, let alone declared it out loud for the world to hear. I was in a state of denial. I thought that maybe if I just never talked about it and avoided having my picture taken at all cost, then maybe people might just forget that I had become almost unrecognizable near the end of my pregnancy. I thought that maybe I could pretend I wasn’t totally and completely uncomfortable in my own body, and terrified that I might never be “me” again.
You see, with my first pregnancy, I worked a full-time job where I sat at a desk all day. The conditions were not ideal for staying active. I even took almost the entire second trimester off from exercising all together because a friend had told me that my heart rate would be too high if I kept running, and I ran with that excuse (figuratively, not literally) until my doctor squashed that theory and told me to get moving again.
I felt like a bad mom before my baby even arrived, all because of the way my body looked, and I was determined to make a comeback once baby entered the picture.
Cue baby’s arrival. By the time I left the hospital, I had already lost quite a few pounds. And between breastfeeding and some slight changes in my daily routine (that you can read more about here) I was able to eventually get back to my pre-pregnancy weight. No, I wasn’t the same as I used to be. My body had changed, but I had reached a goal, changed my habits, and I felt better.
And just as soon as I started to feel comfortable in my own skin again, it happened. I got another positive pregnancy test. I was excited to have another baby, but along with the excitement, the insecurities came rushing back. I promised myself that, this time, I would be more like my “perfect” bloat-free pregnant friends. This time around, I would make sure my maternity clothes weren’t quite as snug, and that exercise wasn’t such a stranger. Plus, I had made a drastic career change. I had gone from cubical-dweller to full-time toddler-chaser, and that was bound to make a difference, right? RIGHT!?
Wrong. I am halfway through pregnancy #2, and I’ve already gained 25 pounds. I’ve made healthier choices, I work out every day, and I don’t stop moving from the time my daughter wakes up at 6 am until she goes to bed at night. And yet, my body looks the same as it did last time. The scale continues to flash numbers I hoped I’d never see, and my maternity clothes seem to squeeze tighter by the day.
At first, this baffled me. How could I possibly look the same?
But after agonizing and questioning what I could be doing wrong this time around, I finally realized something.
Maybe I’m not doing anything wrong at all. Maybe my body knows better than I do. And maybe, just maybe, it’s not all about me.
It took me two pregnancies to see past my own superficial expectations to the beautiful reality looking back at me in the mirror. I finally realized that my body is strong, powerful, and has done some pretty amazing things. I’ve finally looked past the “ideal” pregnant women on my social media feeds long enough to realize that maybe there isn’t just one type of “perfect” pregnancy. After all, whose to say what the perfect pregnant woman looks like anyway? The reality is, every one of us is created differently. We all have different builds, different needs, and we can’t keep comparing ourselves to one another. We can’t expect our pregnancy to play out like anyone else’s. Instead we need to start trusting our bodies to do their thing.
The way I see it, as long as we are making good choices and smart enough to realize how blessed we are to be mamas, then those other things shouldn’t matter. After all, there are women out there who want to have children and can’t, who have struggled for years to conceive and dream of experiencing the stretch marks, the extra pounds, the morning sickness, and everything else that comes with the gig. Why? Because those are signs of something amazing happening. Those are signs that your body is miraculously growing, carrying, protecting, and nurturing a new human life, with almost no conscious effort at all.
So this time around, I’m done worrying so much about how I look. I’m shaking off the comments about my size. I’m embracing these extra curves and enjoying the elastic waistbands. Because I can either dwell on the changes in my body and comparing myself to others, or I can be thankful for a strong, capable body that is blessing me with a title some women can only dream of – mom.