Learning How To Love Your Body Through Pregnancy.
A photograph of me from a couple of years ago popped up on Facebook memories today, and I looked at it and thought, what a gorgeous human being.
And it was not about ego or arrogance. The thought came from a place of pure unadulterated love, as if I was seeing myself as my own child.
At the time, when the photograph was taken and posted, I remember scrutinizing it.
My arms looked too fat. My hair was scraped up into a bun when I should have washed it and worn it down. And my dress was too old.
I had lambasted every angle, every bit of me.
I have spent my whole life working out and eating well (most of the time), only to spend the majority of my thinking-time worrying that it is not enough.
I am not light enough on the scale. My stomach is not flat enough. My face is too round, my eyes too small. I should be and could be doing more.
One day, I have always thought, one day, all this work will pay off.
So when I fell pregnant, it was a natural reaction for my brain to wonder how putting on weight during this otherwise beautiful time was going to affect me.
The “one day” I had been striving for was now an obvious pipe dream. And I mean it when I say that I really felt that.
I do not have my mother´s natural petiteness nor my father’s natural ability to drop weight the moment he looks at a salad or his running shoes. This is it, I thought. The day of reckoning.
My reasoning was that if I had spent my whole twenties chasing a number on the scale and not reaching it, despite my best efforts during and after pregnancy, all hope was lost.
The first two months of my pregnancy only added to this hopelessness.
I was so nauseous that I spent the first three weeks just trying to eat anything that would make me feel okay.
I’m a person who has a glass of wheat-grass every morning and can’t recall what white bread tastes like.
So it was a low point to find yourself at a stage in your life where you want to be giving your body and baby the healthiest and cleanest foods possible, only to struggle to get anything down except chocolate chip cookies and salt and vinegar crisps.
I put on 4.4 pounds in that first month and, combined with the daily fatigue and sickness, I felt like a lost cause.
A walk around the block felt like a monumental effort, let alone the miles i was used to racking up in my running shoes.
Not only was I doing everything wrong for my baby in terms of my diet and lack of exercise, but I was 100% going to end up the type of person who puts on 100 pounds during pregnancy and stays that way indefinitely.
But then something miraculous happened.
As the nausea started to wear off, I began – probably for the first time in my life – to listen to what my body needed.
Fruit. Butternut. Sweet potato. Chicken. Natural, whole foods that made me feel satiated and clean.
More so, I began to stop eating when I was full (thank you heartburn). I let go of the need to finish my whole meal just because it was there. Or eat even when I wasn’t hungry, to distract myself or simply because I was bored.
When all restrictions had been taken away, I finally learnt the art of mindful eating.
And then I started to see something else.
How capable and strong and beautiful my body was. And how gorgeous it was!
How it had taken me through numerous running races, ultra-marathons, walks with my dogs, adventures, holidays, times with friends.
How my leg muscles felt so powerful when I walked.
And how my arms allowed me to type the stories my heart pours out.
How my smile can make another person feel at home.
I may not have my mom´s petite frame or my dad´s ability to lose weight just looking at his running shoes. But I am so healthy and so taken care of and because of that. So able to grow a beautiful human being in my belly.
And what a blessing that is.
It has been hard to explain this celebratory journey because it has not been about about self-acceptance. Simply accepting my flaws and realizing that I am never going to change them. Instead, it has been about taking the dark-tinted glasses off and finally seeing myself truly for who I am.
For understanding just how lucky I am to be so healthy and so able. For falling in love with my unique body and my round face and my small, crinkly eyes. It has been a journey of love and compassion and understanding. It has been taking delight in the fact that I love celery juice in the morning and chocolate at night.
And it has been a learning to trust that my body knows what it is doing.
That it will crave the good, healthy foods. That it will feel full when it is done. That I don’t have to keep shoving healthy food down my throat, or over-thinking what the next meal should be.
My body will tell me and my body will thrive.
This is a lesson I want to have learned – and am so glad I did – by the time my child is born. So I do not waste any more precious moments scrutinizing all the ways I am less than. A harmful habit that goes far deeper than one’s appearance.
And instead, I can meet myself where I am and save room for thoughts about this gorgeous creature who will come into the world through me and join my family.
Is there a better thought than that?