With that out of the way, I want to write a little bit about how pregnancy changes your attitude on body image (and how it stays the same). Just when I thought I was in a good place about my body image, my husband and I decided we were ready to have a baby, and that changes your whole mind set. In good ways and bad, I have changed some of my thoughts and perceptions regarding body image. On one hand, this I feel myself starting to embrace my growing body and on the other, I feel myself worrying about how I will cope with the aftermath.
I am 5.5 months along now and have yet to develop stretch marks, but this is my biggest fear. When I was going through puberty, stretch marks were the one thing I hated most about my body. Over time, the bright red and purple marks began to blend in to my super white skin and I got over it (for the most part). From what I have read, there is nothing I can do to change the outcome of getting stretch marks. In other words, if you are genetically predisposed to them, you will get them. My mother had them, I've had them, so chances are I will get more of them during my pregnancy. I still find myself doing things to prevent them though; drinking water, buttering up my belly with lotion, etc. I think what is most scarey for me is the journey ahead, the unknown, the not knowing how I will handle them or where I will get them. What I do know is that most women get them when they are pregnant and I'm going to have to learn to love them and be proud of them, regardless of what they look like. I'm very excited by recent photographers and writers who have spent much time dedicated to changing the way we think about them. These people showcase them and make them beautiful. I can only hope that I will feel that way when my time comes.
I also have to talk to you about skin...my horrible, horrible acne ridden skin. Almost overnight I went from having great skin to having the face of a 13 year old pimple ridden little boy! You can thank hormones for a lot of the changes your body goes through when pregnant and my hormones definitely caused my skin to be the absolute worst. I tried everything...coconut oil, different cleansers, anything that was pregnancy "safe" and that I could get my hands on. I did not realize how much I have benefited from having nice skin most of my life, until I was faced with acne issues. I swear I felt like people were looking at me differently (might be mostly because my acne developed out of nowhere) and my self esteem went down the toilet. Society places so much focus on clear and beautiful skin and I noticed the media's brainwashing so much more when I was struggling with my own skin issues. Society promises instant fixes and cures for acne ridden skin but the truth is that there are very few items that are sold over the counter that can actually help. Unfortunately I had to wait two months to get in to see a dermatologist and when I finally did get in most of my acne had already cleared up. The doc prescribed me with some topical medication but told me there was not much he could offer me that was safe to use while pregnant. Luckily for me, after three nasty months, my skin started to clear up on its own. I still have a lot of scarring but after what I went through with my face, I'll take it!
My next thoughts are on the topic of weight gain and how many pregnant women struggle with the balance of being happy with this. Weight gain on one hand is important for the health of the growing baby but on the other hand it's feared and portrayed so negatively by society. It's a very confusing mind set to be in. I stopped weighing myself a long time ago, in fact the only time I get weighed is during my yearly check ups. This proved to be amazing for my mental health and self esteem and I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with issues around weight. It's important to go by the way you feel and not the number on the scale. When I got pregnant, I thought I would continue on with this mind set and for the most part I have, but I have to tell you how weird I felt when I learned of my weight at my first prenatal check up. At first I thought I was not letting it get to me, but the number actually did more than I thought. I started telling myself it was because I was fully clothed or because I had a bagel that morning. I started to convince myself that it was wrong to be the weight I was, even though my doctor told me I was gaining a healthy amount at the appropriate time. It took me awhile to get out of my head and think about how good it was for my unborn baby. I can tell you that the nausea and morning sickness made me feel a lot worse about the weight (I actually felt heavy and bloated all the time) but now that I'm past that I feel a lot healthier and comfortable in my growing body (so far...).
For me, the worst discovery of being a pregnant woman is the way society feels they have the right to comment and discuss your body. It's just as inappropriate as it is to discuss the bodies of females who are not pregnant! I did not start to "pop" until a few weeks ago and when I had announced I got a lot of comments about how I did not look pregnant and that I was too small. These comments made me worry that I was not developing properly. After speaking with my doctor about this, she told me that for some reason society feels they can comment, touch and discuss your body when you are a pregnant female, they feel they have the right. And you know what? They do not. They do not have the right to put silly ideas in your head about what you should or shouldn't look like. Everyone develops differently in their pregnancies and everyone is different. I know it's our social nature to be curious about what others look like when they are pregnant, but I have had so many people I rarely talk to ask about my "bump" and are wondering if I have one, how big am I, etc. What happened to people just being excited and happy for you? I guess this stems from the media's fixation on baby bumps (which I've written a few articles about already). We're taught to be voyeurs of pregnant women and it's kind of weird.
I think it is important to talk about the fears of pregnancy body changes and why they exist (remember that companies want to sell those diet pills, face cleansers, tummy sucker inners, and all that!). Pregnancy body image issues are different from regular body image issues but they are perpetuated in the exact same way by society. The formula is as follows: 1) Create a problem (your body is the problem), 2) Create a solution (buy these products), 3) Create another problem (you are not normal if you cannot fix your body problems) 4) Create another solution (try this product instead, or this one, or this one...). Remember that the way people feel about body changes, which are completely Average by the way, is created by companies that want to sell you products so that they make money. There is no other explanation.
Anyways, I don't want to make this too long as I could really go on for days about body image and pregnancy. I will leave you on this note...being pregnant is natural, beautiful, Average...and so much more. For my pregnant ladies and ladies thinking about pregnancy, remember that you will face hurdles both physical and mental, but you are beautiful and amazing. It's incredible that we can create and grow humans...so try and remember what is important and what is not when you are feeling concerned about your changing body during pregnancy.
I will continue to keep you posted on my journey towards loving my Average self during pregnancy!