There is so much pressure out there to love your pregnant body. We see it everywhere, from advertising campaigns for maternity wear to the mum you barely know at baby group telling you how marvellous the pregnant form is. And don’t get me wrong, I think it’s wonderful that we are encouraged to celebrate the changes that are happening to our bodies as they grow beautiful healthy babies and prepare to give birth. But what about when you just don’t love your pregnant body? What if no matter how hard you try, you just can’t? What about the days when you feel huge and swollen and yet the world is still insisting that you celebrate? And on those days, funnily enough, having a perfect stranger tell you (directly or indirectly) that you must love your pregnant body -doesn’t help. I hated my body during pregnancy the first time around, and so this time I was more determined than ever to try to celebrate it. Frankly, that hasn’t gone to plan and I’m sitting here feeling as if I resemble a whale and mourning the time when my clothes actually fit me.
This is not a complaint, more of a public service announcement that actually, it’s okay not to love your pregnant body. It’s also okay to love your pregnant body on a part time basis. To have days when you embrace every curve and every change and then days when you resent it all. I know that I am so, so lucky to be pregnant and to be carrying a healthy baby boy. I wouldn’t change that for the world. I also do love my bump. I love feeling him kick and move and I love the constant reminder that he’s in there, growing big and strong. It’s the other bits that I don’t like. I hate that my legs and arms have got bigger, that my boobs have swollen out of control and that I have what I like to refer to as ‘pregnancy chin’. (Pregnancy chin noun – an increase of chins throughout pregnancy). All of these things are things that other people may not notice, but that glare back at me when I look in the mirror. I find it particularly hard in the summer when everyone else can swan around in dresses and shorts, the shops stock all of my favourite types of clothes and trends, and yet I can’t find anything that actually makes me feel happy and confident.
Last time I was pregnant I milked it. Having always been quite restrictive with my food and tried to live a healthy lifestyle, I saw pregnancy as an excuse to let go. To eat for two, or maybe three. The amount of cakes and croissants I consumed throughout those nine months actually sickens me to think about now. So in a way I feel like last time, I had it coming. I was eating way too much so of course I was going to put on weight. This time has been different. For starters I have a toddler to keep me busy and active, I walk miles and miles a day taking her to baby groups, picking stuff up from the supermarket and going to visit friends. My cravings have been for fruit and I’ve eaten really very little cake. Chocolate gives me heartburn so I haven’t been indulging there either. I’m also now aware of how hard it was for me to lose the baby weight last time which has spurred me on to not want to put on any more than necessary. People may say that I lost it quickly but the fact is that it took me over a year to get back to my pre pregnancy weight and even longer to feel like I actually liked my body (about two weeks before I got pregnant in fact!). I was one of these unfortunate women who found it hard to lose weight while breastfeeding, so I thought the less I can put on this time, the better! What I am trying to get across is that this time I’ve been better, healthier. I’ve made better choices but still I have put on almost exactly the same weight as I did the first time around. And I really resent that. I suppose it must just be the amount of fat my body feels it needs to store to grow this baby and to prepare for feeding him. I think that no matter what I do, this is simply the amount of weight my body needs to put on to be pregnant. I’m so grateful that my body copes with pregnancy well, that it knows what it needs to do in order to grow a healthy baby. But I wish that didn’t come hand in hand with the weight gain.
Last time when I was pregnant and I got big, everyone told me that I hadn’t. They told me that I was ‘all bump’ and that I would ‘snap back’. They were either lying to make me feel better or they love and care about me so much that they genuinely didn’t see it. But I felt it, I knew I had put on a lot of weight. I’d put on more than the recommended amount for the whole pregnancy by the time I was half way through the second trimester. I could feel my thighs rubbing uncomfortably together when I walked and I could see how big my arms and face looked in photographs. I didn’t ‘snap back’. And I can feel it again this time, I can see it again. But still everyone says ‘you’re carrying differently this time’, ‘you look so well’, ‘you’re all bump’. To an extent I believe them; although the scales say I am the same as last time, I do believe that I don’t look as big, that my clothes aren’t as uncomfortable. But I can feel it happening, and I still have seven weeks to go, during which time the baby is supposed to put on around half a pound a week.
I’m over it. I’m over my pregnant body and I don’t feel ashamed to say that. I love being pregnant and carrying a child. I love feeling him move and being able to bond with him while he’s in my tummy. But I resent my pregnant body. I hate feeling out of breath when I walk. I hate that my legs rub together and that I can’t take a face-on photo without looking like the moon. I want to go out and buy all these beautiful summer clothes and look and feel good in them. Maybe it’s shallow, but that’s just how I feel. I’m also struggling with the fact that it’s gong to take a long time for my boobs to deflate back down as last time when I was breastfeeding that didn’t really happen until I stopped at 16 months. It’s hard to come to terms with the fact that my body won’t be my own again for a very long time.
I am really trying to celebrate my bump and my body, on my own terms. I’ve been taking weekly bump photos and sharing them on Instagram. I’m also a brand ambassador for a maternity clothing brand and I regularly share photos of me wearing their clothes (which for the record are genuinely the only items that I feel comfortable wearing). Those photos take a hundred tries, an argument with Dan about how fat I am, and often end in tears. But when I upload the nice, pretty pictures for everyone to see, you can’t see that. My Instagram page looks like I find it easy to love my pregnant body, even though I don’t. I’ve been trying to be an ambassador for body confidence and positivity in pregnancy but I kind of feel like a fraud. It’s so much easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. The reason I’ve been forcing myself to take those photos and post the positive captions is that once I have that nice picture, from a good angle, I start to feel better about myself again. I like that I am going to have a beautiful record of my pregnancy even if I didn’t feel beautiful at the time. It’s not lying, it’s focusing on the good bits. When I think back to my last pregnancy and I have no photos to look back on, I remember that I spent nine months shying away from the camera because of how horrendous I felt about myself. I don’t want it to be the same this time. I want to look back at the pretty photos and remember that I do love pregnancy, I do love my bump, and this time, more than anything, I love sharing those memories with Darcie.
So believe me when I say that I am trying to love my pregnant body. But essentially, I’m over it, and I’m okay with that. Why should I love gaining weight? Why is it not seen as rude for a perfect stranger to not only comment on my size but also tell me that I should be happy about it? It’s my body, and how I feel about it is my business. There’s no right or wrong way to feel and no amount of body positive slogans are going to make me thrilled about my thighs rubbing together or my pregnancy chins. I think it’s wonderful to celebrate pregnancy, but you can do it on your own terms and that doesn’t mean forcing yourself to be happy about weight gain. I won’t be made to feel bad for the days when I resent my body, for the days when I just want to fit in my jeans and to be able to make it around soft play without getting stuck in a tunnel. I know I’m not the only pregnant woman to feel this way. So if that’s you, then the next time someone tells you that you should be loving your body, don’t let them make you feel bad if you just can’t bring yourself to. Not your body, not your opinion.
How about you? Did you find it easy to love your pregnant body? Or better yet – what’s the best remark a stranger has ever made to you about your bump?