I‘m grateful that by the time I got pregnant, I was deep into recovery and felt physically and emotionally better than ever. I saw those two little blue lines on the stick indicating pregnancy and all I felt was peace.
I can remember trying to convince myself in high school that I didn’t actually like kids. The thought of carrying a baby in my belly and gaining the weight that comes along with pregnancy was enough for me to just think, “yeah, no thanks”. It was a terrifying thought.
So, the fact that I felt peace and joy when I found out I was pregnant was nothing short of a miracle.
However… I also hadn’t gained any weight yet.
Second trimester comes along and a cute little baby belly appears. I don’t mind it. It’s fine. The baby is growing… this is good.
More than I bargained for
Then I start really gaining weight. I remember googling what the average amount of weight gain is for women during pregnancy. I thought, “Fine, I’ll let myself gain the minimum amount of weight recommended.”
Well, I surpassed that minimum. When the doctor told me how much I gained, an old familiar feeling creeped into my body and mind. “Hello, Shame. It’s been awhile.”
Thoughts swirled in my head…
How am I going to lose this? It’s because I’m eating so much. Other people don’t gain this much weight. Everyone around me probably notices how fat I’m getting.
Then I did something you should never, ever do. I went on Pinterest. The Devil’s app, I’m pretty sure. I started looking up how to stay healthy and fit during pregnancy.
Can I just tell you what I saw? The title “How to have a ‘belly only’ pregnancy” was on multiple pins. Multiple.
“Hummm, what does that mean?” So naturally, I clicked on it.
“Belly only” pregnancy
Essentially, a “belly only” pregnancy means nothing on your body changes besides your stomach – you know, because that’s where the human lives.
You can’t hide that part. But you can keep the rest of your body as is. No need to gain weight in those other places.
The worse part was that they convinced me.
Yeah, I want a “belly only” pregnancy! Sign me up!
In hindsight I realize that in order for me to achieve this, I would have needed to work out and diet during pregnancy (and I still probably wouldn’t actually achieve it because your body is supposed to gain weight during pregnancy).
But I totally fell into it.
I started working out more and tried to eat only healthy food (which was a joke because all I craved and wanted was donuts… I literally dreamed about them.).
As embarrassing and hard as it is to admit, I actually fell into some of my old disordered eating habits. Even though all I wanted was to take care of my baby, that voice in my head was telling me I needed to do what I could to avoid the weight gain. Looking back, I can’t believe this happened.
Back to reality
By the grace of God, I snapped out of it in a couple of weeks. The grasp those thoughts once had on me were not as strong as before, and I was able to think and pray my way back to a healthier mindset. Earlier in my eating disorder journey, this would not have been possible.
But I grew very angry with our culture.
I hated that other women were being fed this terrible message and were feeling shameful for gaining weight during pregnancy.
I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard women say, “I’m so nervous about the baby weight”.
There should be absolutely zero shame or fear in gaining weight while pregnant (on ANY part of your body). You are literally growing a human. It’s incredible.
There is enough pressure (metaphorically and literally) on a pregnant woman. You should not have to deal with the stupid and irrational expectations our culture puts on our bodies (you can probably sense my anger… I like to think of it as passion).
How did I snap out of it?
How did I stop a potential relapse?
I had to overcome some of those old automatic thoughts and accept that my body was unique and my pregnancy journey cannot be compared to anyone else’s.
I also learned to trust my body that it would do what it needed to take care of my baby. I reminded myself what a beautiful experience it was.
Side story for some humor: I was pregnant at the same time as Ciara (famous singer if you don’t know her) and she was being interviewed on TV. She was asked “what are your pregnancy cravings?” She answered, “lemon water”. Lemon water?! Okay Ciara, get off my TV. I was elbows deep in a bag of gas station donuts so naturally I threw one at her.
Always, everyone’s pregnancy journey is different, clearly.
I can honestly say I am so thankful for my pregnancy journey. First and foremost, yes, I got my incredible baby boy. But personally, it helped me to truly accept and love my body regardless of its size, regardless of how it looked.
If there is one piece of advice I could give to the world about accepting your body, it’s this:
Stop comparing and focusing on how your body looks. It’s not something to be started at or judged, that’s not what it was made for. Instead, focus on what your body can do. How it can serve others, how it can get you places, how it allows you to experience the things you love in life, how it makes you feel alive.
We live in a culture that will continuously spew lies at us about how we should look, and there will be times we fall for it. But the more aware you are of the lies, the easier it is to reject them and remember what’s true.