Pregnancy and Body Image: It's okay to say you feel fat.
I was afraid to say, “I feel fat” during pregnancy and in the end it made me feel isolated.
To all those pregnant women who are struggling with body image, I’d just like to say I hear you. Throughout my pregnancy, I posted a lot of photos which may lead one to think that I was completely confident maybe even TOO confident about my changing body. That couldn’t have been further from the truth. This photo was taken when I was 8.5 months pregnant. I remember walking around nearly naked on a crowded beach thinking,
“Wow. I feel so big. I really wanted these photos to be like the ones I see on Pinterest, all sexy and dreamy. The ones that make you just WANT a cute little bump of your own. Instead, I feel thick. I miss my waist. I don’t know how to move in this new body of mine. Do S-curves exist when you have a bump? Ugh, back rolls.”
All of these thoughts I remember vividly. What’s worse? When I first saw this photo I thought,
“Gorgeous photo. I look terrible.”
And instead, I posted an angle where I looked much less pregnant and about 10 lbs thinner. During pregnancy I was so afraid of talking about the huge struggle I had with my changing body because I felt judged and I felt guilty. People around me were so kind. They would say, “Oh my god, stop. You look amazing. You are tiny.” And I appreciated it, I did. But I wasn’t fishing for reinforcement, or validation; rather, I was yearning for a safe space to explore a deeper problem. Pregnancy was making me feel out of control, of my body and of my life. There was no turning back. I couldn’t just decide not to birth my child, or change my mind after I saw the results. There are no returns or exchanges if the experience wasn’t exactly what I had dreamed of. The permanence was terrifying. Yes, I have always wanted to be a mother. And yes, I understood there was a process to get there. But obsessing over the physical “after results” of growing, birthing, feeding and raising a child was the only thing I could emotionally handle obsessing over. The rest of it felt far too heavy to tackle alone. Questions I did choose to obsess over:
What would my breasts look like after expanding 3 cup sizes, nourishing a human for a year and then deflating once again. Was the cellulite on my thighs and the melasma on my face permanent? Would I have stretch marks or loose skin? Would I ever wear a crop top again? Would anyone ever desire me again? What would I look like… down there?
I felt so vain thinking about these things. It felt even more selfish to say any of it out loud when there were so many people that greatly desired to be in this position. Everyone tells you “don’t worry. It’s all worth it.” And it is. It really is. But, let’s be real, it’s also scary. I didn’t have a partner to tell me how beautiful I was every day. There was no one to lust after my new curves. And even if there was some one around to admire them, would it have changed things? Who knows.
So, I smiled and stayed silent. And reminded myself every day to be grateful for the experience. And at times, this made me feel isolated from my tribe of women. So, to my pregnant women, I say to you now: I wasn’t grateful every day. Some days I was impatient, frustrated and irrationally worried about the unknown. Honestly, if pregnancy ended at month 7, I would have been a very happy woman. And then there were 2.5 more months to go.
Well, it’s been 16 months since this photo was taken. Nearly 1.5 years later and I feel so foolish looking back at this. The woman in this photo is beautiful. That body is beautiful. The bump that I used to criticize for being “too low, too wide, too misshapen” was probably all of those things because my amazon-of-a-daughter was folding her beautifully longs limbs inside of it.
Time. Perspective. Patience. It has all helped heal those fears and insecurities. Motherhood has taught me to be kinder to myself and lower the crazy expectations that I have on my body. There are so many miraculous things it has accomplished, it’s outward appearance is only one very small piece of that. I’m learning to let go. I’m learning to be as gracious to my own reflection as I am to those of others. And I’m still learning.
But to those that feel guilty saying it, I understand that you don’t feel beautiful today. I understand that today you feel fat. And it’s okay to say it. It’s okay to feel it. It doesn’t make you ungrateful. It doesn’t mean you will resent your child. It doesn’t make you vain. It makes you human. I also understand that you are scared, that you are changing. Your life is changing, and it’s happening a burning pace. I understand that when you say, “I feel fat.” You may mean, “I feel out of control. I feel tired. I’m scared. This is new. Am I good at this? Can you be good at this? Will I be good at this?” Yes, my loves, you will be good at this. And no matter the outcome on the other side, you will always be beautiful... motherhood has a way of making you glow from within.