Pregnancy and Body Image: How to keep it together when you feel like a flatulent, humpback whale.

Image of pregnant woman in article about birth plans

Pregnancy and body image are a strange pairing.

You’re all belly!” – rando

Oh man, you’re getting BIG!– friend at a bbq

You literally don’t look any different.– my sister in law

“I don’t think you look small …. at all.”  – my mom

“I think you’re going to have a big baby.” – my grandma

“You’re really small for six months.” – plumber

For most of us ladies here in the Western world, we sadly spend a lot of our time on Earth trying to lose weight. The epidemic is real, though affliction levels vary.

I’ve gone through my fair share of ups and downs on that journey. Times when my quest to lose weight took over my mental well-being. And times when I felt great in my own skin. Often for a full five minutes, until I saw a billboard or something.

So this new era of body image, pregnancy, has been an interesting one. And I think that’s true for a lot of women. All of the sudden, we’re supposed to just gain weight for 10 months without being upset about it.

It’s also fun to mix in the fact that everyone in society, from grandma to the guy delivering the goddamn washing machine, feels emboldened to comment on our bodies.

Now that I’m eight months pregnant, and have a better idea of how this whole blowing up thing is going to go, I felt it time for a bit of reflection.

It started early on.

Laying in bed, feeling hungover and even though I hadn’t drank in weeks, I was on the phone with my brother: “Did you hear Serena Williams won the Australian Open two months pregnant?” I said.

“I did hear that, yes.”

“All I’ve accomplished is eating a ton of bagels.”

“Well if you’re gonna compare your pregnancy to Serena Williams, you’re probably going to be disappointed…. You’re not planning on posing nude anywhere, are you?”

When I first got pregnant, I gained five pounds overnight.

I went from eating an 80 percent paleo diet to eating bagels, PB&J and pizza daily. I couldn’t eat vegetables, greens, chicken or anything that I felt I should be eating. But I was definitely hungry.

My mom gained 75 pounds in her first pregnancy, a number that haunts me to this day.

In my second trimester, when I was expecting to feel better, I did not.

In fact, I didn’t feel okay again until a full 20 weeks. By then, the online weight trackers told me I was ahead of pace by at least five pounds. (P.S.- Who are these magical fairy women who gain three pounds the first trimester?)

The saddest part, was that I didn’t even look pregnant yet.

I thought I’d have a cute little bump and the weight gain wouldn’t bother me because, obviously, I was pregnant.

But I didn’t look cute and pregnant. I just looked like I’d gained 10 pounds. In fact, I realize now that I didn’t start looking pregnant until about 5½ – 6 months. This was even irksome because I floundered between regular and maternity clothes for a stubborn and awkward amount of time.

Not to mention the whole boob thing. My boobs went from a 32E to a 34G in one month. No joke. Boobs that big are hard to dress and make you look heavier. I’d had a breast reduction in college, which was the greatest thing ever, and it bothered me to see if reversed overnight. 

Now that I’m 33 weeks pregnant …. I’ve gained 30 pounds and it feels healthy and normal. I’m okay with it.

At this point, I really don’t give a shit about my weight or how my body looks. All I care about is a healthy baby coming out of me at some point, preferably on its due date. I’m extremely over being pregnant. 

That’s been my journey thus far.

I’m not posting nude belly pics on Instagram or anything but, I’m mostly unbothered by the weight gain at this point. I feel good in my own skin. I feel lucky to (knock on wood) have had a relatively easy pregnancy thus far. I have few complaints.

Looking back as my due date approaches, I’ve decided there are three main challenges we face while pregnant and trying to maintain a healthy body image:

  1. Navigating the personal experience of rapid and profound changes in our own body.
  2. Gracefully fielding comments from everyone around us.
  3. And comparing ourselves to others.

And now, I’d like to offer my (100% unsolicited) thoughts and advice:

However you’re feeling is fine.

The last thing you need to do is add a layer of guilt, upon a layer of poor body image, upon a layer of new fat around your midsection.

Sure, some women feel like magical goddesses while carrying life inside them. I picture most of these women residing in Northern California. Their skin and hair glows. They wear lingerie. They still have lots of sex. They have nude photos taken. And how wonderful for them. I’m sure that’s a lovely experience.

But a lot of us don’t feel that way.

A lot of us feel fat, tired and hungover. A lot of us miss wine and sushi. A lot of us prefer sweatpants to lingerie and spend the entirety of our friend’s’ wedding trying desperately not to fart… (or so I’ve heard).

Some of us oscillate between these two worlds, falling somewhere in the middle. The point is that we all have different experiences.  If you feel more along the lines of a humpback whale than a goddess of fertility, you’re not alone, and you shouldn’t feel guilty.

Remember, people love saying stupid shit to pregnant women.

My OB told me this immediately after telling me to lay off the carbs, but he was right. It’s just a fact of life. Like gravity and taxes.

Many people have told me that I look “too small” for how far along I am. As if that’s a compliment. It’s not. It makes me worry that there’s something wrong with my baby. I had one mental breakdown about it over WhatsApp to my friends and they reiterated what the doctor said: stop listening to the stupid shit people say.

Literally, people don’t know anything. And when they say things like that to pregnant women, they’re being idiots. How the hell would my plumber know what the appropriate size of a six month pregnant belly is? He doesn’t. My plumber doesn’t know shit.  

And the rest of the stuff you hear from other people is basically them not knowing what else to say. They probably don’t mean to insult you, so don’t take it personally. After being pregnant myself, I now realize the best thing to say to a pregnant woman is either “You look great!” or absolutely nothing at all.

Remember, the Internet is not real.

Well, you know what I mean. Social media is not real life.

The highlight reel of that blonde blogger’s pregnancy should not be compared to your flatulent Tuesday night on the couch. Your nursery doesn’t have to be perfect, or decorated by paid sponsors. Most maternity clothes suck. And you’re allowed to be uncomfortable and wish for your body back.

Bridget and I talk about this a lot. And it’s not just in the prenatal world. It’s everywhere.

We see a lot of bullshit. Perfectly curated Instagram feeds. Insincere body image champions making you feel guilty for not loving your stretch marks. Unattainable levels of perfection in lifestyle and nutrition and culinary achievements.

We’re pretty sick of it. It’s just not real life. Nobody posts pictures of their dirty laundry or their acne, it doesn’t mean they don’t have it.

If you’re pregnant, all of this can make you feel even worse about how you look or how you feel about how you look. But you, my friend, are doing just fine.

The bottom line here is that pregnancy is a weird time not only for our bodies but for our body image as well. Just go with it. Lay off the expectations. You might have some conflicting feelings, and people are probably going to say some things that make you uncomfortable, but whatever you’re going through and however you feel is okay.

You are okay.

It’s your body and your pregnancy and can feel about it however you damn well please.

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Author Dana

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