When I first found out I was pregnant, one of my first thoughts was how exciting will it be to feel life growing inside of me. I knew my stomach would grow over the next nine months and if I was lucky my boobs might follow suit. I was prepared with creams and lotions to help with the changes my body would undergo. Not to mention, I had a positive outlook on my potential baby bod and had a supportive husband to go with it.
I was so anxious to grow my baby bump that I would spend an estimated total of 20 minutes in the mirror between getting ready for work and changing into my PJs at night. When Jonathan (my husband) would rub my belly or talk to it, it just made the whole experience more appealing. What woman doesn’t love when her man adores her ever-changing body? I won’t sugar coat it though. There were definitely times that I couldn’t stand myself. This usually took place right after a defeated wrestling match with my favorite pair of jeans or a tearful goodbye to the top that used to fit.
Aside from the belly growth, there are changes that many are familiar with and others that no one really talks about. The familiar changes were, of course, stretch marks on my hips. They also modified my thighs and the back of my legs. Yes, the back of my legs, not just the calves but the crease behind my knees! My boobs were next. Probably around 4 months I noticed their fullness and quickly focused on the upside of that change. But it started to get old when my boobs weren’t the only things swelling and my humongous feet started to blow up too. I knew that could all happen but I wasn’t ready for the emotional part.
We always think about how beautiful a pregnant woman looks when we see her passing by. Her hair blowing in the wind, in a cute maxi dress. But we forget about the internal stuff. How long did it take her to make up her mind on what to wear? How many outfit changes happened? Did she cry in between them? How many times did her spouse have to convince her that she is the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyes on? Did she really consider not going out because she felt so negatively about her body image? I can tell you that I’ve learned all of the answers from personal experience. It took a lot of realizations to come to terms with the other aspects of my new body, and so that brings us to the question. How do you deal with body image during and after pregnancy?
People will tell you that you’re glowing. But you will put on a smile and think in the back of your mind how full of it they must be. Other days you might thank them for noticing. You will have your ups and your downs. One moment you’ll feel like Beyoncé in all of her glory. Then have moments where you’re reciting the same dialogue from White Chicks where that one girl has a complete meltdown in the fitting room. “Oh, who could have said that?! Oh, that’s right! It’s back fat Betty!!!” My five tips for preventing this type of meltdown are as follows:
Do not speak negatively about yourself
The changes you see every day are worse from your perspective. The only way to even start to change that is to abstain from saying anything negative about yourself in the first place. I decided to do this at one of my low points with my body image during pregnancy. For a whole week, I refrained from saying anything bad about myself and it honestly worked. I blew caution to the wind and didn’t feel as poorly as I had the week before and it made the rest of my pregnancy an even more positive experience.
Take comments with a grain of salt.
As a working preggo lady, I found myself subject to TONS of comments whether I wanted them or not. Customers would tell me how big I was from the last time. Which wasn’t as bad as others who would ask how far along I was and then proceed to tell me how big I was for that far along. After several of these comments, I have learned to take it all in stride. Some people don’t realize that what they say may sound more negative than positive. You have to remember that your hormones may also make you take those comments in a different tone.
Record your change and look back on it from time to time.
I took lots of pictures because I wanted to be able to compare the changes from weeks before. Not only did this help with creating memories but it made me look forward to changing. You will be happy you have those pictures to look back on to remind you just how awesome your body is.
Don’t restrict too much or over-do it.
You should always try to be as healthy as you can because what you do does affect your baby but don’t over-do it. If you worked out before getting pregnant and your doctor clears you to continue, then do so. If your doctor recommends certain things to promote a healthy pregnancy, you should take it into consideration. Don’t take on some crazy unobtainable workout regimen. Find out what is best for your baby and your body that is safe and enjoyable. You also shouldn’t restrict yourself from the things you want to eat unless it could cause you or the baby harm. Do your research and always consult your care provider if you have questions. There are so many of us that take it to one extreme or the other. Just remember it is okay to indulge in cravings and to skip workouts but don’t create any unhealthy habits that you’ll regret later on. Trust me I had my fair share of whipped cream straight from the can and I don’t regret one thing; moderation is key.
Give yourself some TLC.
When I say TLC I don’t mean tender love and care, which you should also give yourself. I’m talking about time, love, and courage. Take time to make yourself feel good even if it means going out and having a spa day or taking a nice bubble bath. Love yourself for all that you are and remind yourself that your baby will love you in ways unimaginable. Reinforce your courage by focusing on the end goal and educating yourself. The more you know the less scary things will feel when they are happening. This goes for your pregnancy and postpartum journey.
Once you have your baby, your body will feel foreign but it isn’t the end of the world. Get to know your new body, the body of a true warrior who just delivered life itself. Your tummy may feel like jelly and your skin might sag. If you breastfeed your boobs will change in the matter of a few hours. And when you stop, they might feel like they’ll never bounce back but they will. Nothing will ever be the same because you cannot reverse what your body went through but trust me it will get better. There are days I look in the mirror and I have to remind myself that I just carried a human inside me for 40 weeks! I have to remind myself that everything has a cause and effect and that my momma body is nothing to be ashamed of.
You have to remember that the changes, the clothes that don’t fit, and the negative thoughts will all lead to one of the best gifts you’ll ever receive. If you have supportive family and friends remember to let them support you and reinforce good thoughts. When your significant other touches your stomach for the first time postpartum, they do it with love and they aren’t judging you. Keep in mind that some old clothes may not fit again right away but after time they might and if they never do that just means you get to go shopping! Be kind to yourself momma and remember just how beautiful you are inside and out as a woman and as a new mom.