It starts the moment we walk towards the scale.
Already, I find myself justifying the number: it’s the afternoon, I had a big lunch, I just drank some water, it’s probably going to be one or two pounds higher than it would’ve been this morning.
We reach the scale and I put down my purse on the chair beside it. I kick off my sandals and take off my chunky necklace. The nurse looks amused. “Did you want to take off your sweater, too?”
I smile and roll my eyes, shake my head like I find the whole thing just as funny as she does. “Lady, I’d stand here butt naked if it meant I’d see a number that didn’t make me cringe.”
I step on. Hold my breath. Wait for eternity while she adjusts the scales.
And then, the verdict. I’m up three pounds from last month’s appointment. I swallow. Manage a smile, grab my purse and keep walking. Just keep breathing, I think. Just keep breathing.
I guess now would be a good time to mention that I’m three months pregnant. It’s important, but it really doesn’t change anything. The above scenario has happened many times in my nonpregnant past.
Like most women, I struggle with body image.
I struggle with finding the balance between loving my body at any size, and wanting to look a certain way. I blame myself for wanting to diet, and blame myself for over indulging. The body positive activist in me is constantly fighting with the girl who just wants to fit it. Who just wants to be seen. Who just wants to be admired.
That doesn’t change when you’re pregnant. For me, it actually made things worse. For years, I buried my body issues, packaging them away in a file labeled “Deal with Later”.
And now, they’re rising to the surface, begging to be heard:
- Why do you feel bad about gaining weight, you’re pregnant! You’re supposed to gain weight!
- You have no self-control. Look at how much you’re eating. This isn’t good for the baby.
- Last I checked, you weren’t having the baby in your thighs. Maybe slow down on the cake?
- Why does it matter that you gain weight anyway? I thought you didn’t care about that stuff? Where’s all that inner beauty crap you’re constantly talking about? Did you ever really believe that?
- How are you ever going to model healthy eating for your baby when you can’t even do it yourself?
The funny thing is, I didn’t see this coming.
I thought pregnancy would be the one time in my life where I could eat whatever I wanted without guilt. The one time where I had a free pass. My moment of glory, so to speak. I thought I would find joy and pride at my growing figure. I thought it would feel like release, like I could finally set down this issue of weight and body image and just live my life.
But there’s no clear switch that happens once you get pregnant. And there’s something unsettling about going from a life of sucking in your stomach and wearing SPANX to having random strangers on the street reach out and touch your belly. It’s jarring.
Pregnancy is like an open invitation for the world to look and touch and marvel at your body.
And when you’ve struggled with body image for the last decade, that isn’t easy. Neither are constant weigh ins, conversations about how to lose weight post pregnancy, and unwanted advice about adequate nutrition for your baby.
My solution to dealing with body image issues was always blissful ignorance.
Don’t get on the scale. Exercise often. Try to eat reasonably well. Love yourself as best as you can. Don’t worry about your body, there are so many other things to worry about- so many other things to focus on.
But when you’re pregnant, your body is all you – and everyone else – focuses on.
I don’t have all the answers.
I wish there was a simple solution to this problem. But I do know that the one thing that grounds me is thinking about what I plan to tell my own child about their body one day:
- Please, please, please. Love yourself with everything you have.
- Love yourself so wide and so deep that it doesn’t even matter what anyone else has to say because you’ve already built your own fortress of love inside of you.
- Please love your body. Learn to marvel at it. To move it. To dance with it and breathe with it and go on roller coasters with it.
- Eat the cake, eat the cake, eat the cake.
- Wear clothes that make you feel amazing.
- Love yourself.
- Make your body a home you can relax in.
- Love yourself skinny and love yourself fat because neither one of them determine your happiness.
- Happiness and success are not dependent on your waist size.
- Know this. Believe this. Love yourself.
More than anything, I want my child to know peace within their own skin.
To feel acceptance in their bones. To know their worth. I want my child to laugh at the number on the scale.
Pregnancy is a season of preparation. It’s a space for becoming.
And maybe these issues of weight and body image are rising to the surface because it’s time for me to finally learn how to deal with them. To finally begin to ask myself the hard questions. To sit still while I discover the answers. And to remake myself in the waiting. To become the person my child needs me to be. The person I need myself to be.
At the end of the day, I don’t want to care if I’m someone who gains 50 pounds during my pregnancy.
I want to care that I’m someone who did not cringe at my own reflection. I want to care that I learned not to abandon myself. I want to care that I stayed inside that fortress of love. I want to care that I choose to be happy regardless.
The road to unconditional love for your body can be a windy one.
It’s full of ups and downs and large potholes. But maybe pregnancy will expedite the journey. Maybe with so much at stake, with weight gain inevitable, with my body performing a miracle every second of every day, I’ll finally learn to relax in my skin. To feel safe in my bones. To trust that my worth is not dictated by a number on the scale.
Maybe I will finally become.