I generally don’t feel too uncomfortable writing most of my posts even when they’re a bit more personal but this topic is, well…uncomfortable for me to write about. And very embarrassing, honestly. But at the same time, I think it’s pretty dumb that there is an expectation (internally or externally) to not have any struggles with seeing your body change during pregnancy, and to consequently feel immediate guilt if you do struggle at all. I want to be honest that while I’m ecstatic about my pregnancy and about my little guy growing and kicking away in my belly, body confidence is one area of my pregnancy so far that has turned out to actually be a challenge for me, and I really didn’t anticipate it. Not only have I always considered myself a fairly confident person, but I didn’t expect that I’d go through something so life changing and incredible (because it has been really so incredible) and catch myself many days looking in the mirror and hearing this evil little voice bashing my appearance while I’m pregnant—there’s a human in there, for God’s sake! I remember being at the beach when we snapped these pics and just feeling really uncomfortable in my own skin at the time, and just not feeling like myself (maybe also eating fish n chips right before taking pics wasn’t the wisest idea as I felt internally just super full and bloated too, but pregnancy + hunger is a bad combo…and at any rate it shouldn’t matter!). I think that while it’s sad/embarrassing that I felt that way and still do sometimes, I kind of also get it and am learning to be compassionate to myself about it…when else is my body going to change so much so quickly? I wanted to be a bit honest today about where I’m at and what I’ve learned in this area specifically because if sharing my pregnancy journey so far has taught me anything, it’s that a lot of other people generally go through very similar things (and honestly, body confidence can be affected at any point of life, from an injury, life event, etc) and if there’s one thing I can do in my little corner of the internet, it’s to share some of these stories pretty transparently in the event it also connects with anyone (even if it’s embarrassing AF sometimes).
First of all, I want to start this off positively—I’ve been really, really lucky with my pregnancy so far. Yes I have the random hiccup whether that’s getting totally taken down with a few days of weird symptoms like last week (I was so weak and exhausted, not to mention nauseous—literally just hit me one morning and didn’t let up for a few days, then disappeared entirely), aches and pains I have to work around, etc, but all in all I’ve been moving lots, taking good care of myself physically and my body has been responding really well to most everything, so I’m super grateful for that. I feel my little guy kicking all the time which is the most incredible feeling and was super lucky that because of my placenta positioning or maybe some other factors I got to start feeling that really early on (around 16 weeks) which I know is kind of rare for a first-timer! So across the board feel super, super lucky for how it’s all gone so far. I’d honestly say that at this stage of my pregnancy, I’m having an amazing time growing my little buddy and feeling great.
But, well…I am just about 21 weeks pregnant, so my body doesn’t look the same anymore. And while it’s changing (to me at least) quite considerably, it still doesn’t always very obviously look pregnant, particularly earlier in the day or if I get blessed with a no-bloat day. So by and large, I just feel like I look a lot wider/thicker (without the perk of always looking outwardly pregnant), and also feel like I’m getting softer and losing a lot of strength already which I didn’t anticipate. Old pre-pregnant me thought I’d kind of just stay strong everywhere and my belly would grow and then I’d push out the baby and just tighten the belly back up after. Oh, what a sweet, ignorant, stupid fool I was! I’m still working out and staying active but your body’s range starts to get limited, and with COVID I can’t get into the gym to weight train which was my go-to pre-pregnancy (and right before getting pregnant, I was lifting the heaviest I ever have been so kinda sad saying buh-bye to that progress and starting from square one post-pregnancy but not the biggest deal). In addition, I literally can not stop eating or things get scary (temper tantrums is just one of the side effects of a hangry me, in addition to faintness, bad hunger pangs, etc)—he’s a very hungry dude evidently as I just found out he’s weighing in pretty heavy at my anatomy scan yesterday! For someone who’s generally I’d say pretty careful about what they eat (I totally indulge, but I’m usually pretty regimented in my day-to-day about what I eat and follow a general plan), the volume and frequency of consumption is intense, though I am eating really well as far as nutrients so do feel good about that.
But anyway, it’s been a weird mix of emotions. On one hand, there’s so much pride about what my body is doing. Literally through its own innate intelligence, I’m housing and growing a human. That messes with my mind in the most beautiful, amazing way. I still don’t really seem to fully grasp what it’s doing and how amazing and unbelievable it is that I have this person who’s going to be a little being with his own personality, dreams and thoughts just growing away in me right now. But for someone who’s always relished adventure and balks at too much structure, ironically I don’t do very well with big changes, or at least find they bring up a lot for me. I’ve never really been through the emotional wringer as much as I have through this pregnancy, whether it was a tough first trimester emotionally feeling isolated and scared as the COVID pandemic first reared its ugly head in a significant way around my 8 week mark to uncovering past experiences, thought patterns or relationship issues I thought I had long healed or done away with also rearing their ugly heads. But it all makes you stronger, right? And I feel like I’m learning so much that I’m grateful to a lot of these very uncomfortable experiences and emotions because I’m already seeing growth there.
Physically though, as I’ve started seeing my body finally really change (beyond just looking a bit bloated—like seeing this little mass building in my low belly, my ribs disappearing, my waist expanding across the board [definitely not going to be one of those women who only show from the side, it’s widened a lot from the front too], etc), I’ve just realized how much the “body confidence” I thought I really had was actually really wrapped up in looking a very particular way. When I told my amazing counsellor (I’ve recommended her before but it’s Kate Borsato, she has helped me so much!) how shocked I was by all these feelings because I always thought I really embraced my body, she reminded me it’s possible I really only embraced my body a certain way. I always thought I was really solid in my thoughts and practices about body image. I don’t weigh myself, I take good care of myself, and I thought I really accepted my body (and at the time, thought that acceptance would be of the unconditional variety). But to be honest, my body has really been pretty much the same with just some minor fluctuations for a very long time…being consistently a very active person for a long time means that other than just getting older or the odd injury (which unfortunately cropped up for me a few times over the last 3 years or so), there have been very few changes or disruptions as far as my general figure, my activity level, etc. I definitely am not as small as I was 10 years ago at 23, but most of my clothes are the same ones I’ve had for years and my shape has been the same (small waist, big boobs, bubble butt and strong, pretty muscly [and to my chagrin, short] legs). So here I was thinking I had this total acceptance of myself and my body, but really it’s just that I never challenged myself to accept myself appearance-wise no matter how I look, or was really presented with an opportunity to do so.
What Kate’s been having me focus on is the function of my body right now—the amazing thing it’s doing and the life it’s giving. Also, while this might sound woo-woo to some, we’re really trying to cultivate a stronger “wise voice”—a voice which directly responds to the fearful or critical voice I’ve been hearing at times. So when I hear that latter voice worrying about my body being “ruined forever” or just catching a glimpse of myself in a window reflection out for a walk and hearing a mean-spirited comment pop up without even having a chance to process it, the first thing I do is I take the time to recognize that I’m not a horrible mum-to-be or to feel terrible for that voice even existing—it’s a knee-jerk, conditioned response that I thought I was resistant to but clearly from past experiences, societal pressures, etc, it’s ingrained and embedded in my brain still. So I just try to accept and release any guilt from the get-go because that’s another emotion that’s come up a lot for me during all of this and it’s totally unhelpful and unproductive. I then try to access that wise voice—I remind myself that my body will very likely be quite different, but that that’s not a negative…I remind myself that I’m strong and I’ve always been committed to my health, that I will bounce forward to a new, wiser, stronger body and that any of my fitness dreams, health goals, etc are still 100% attainable, whether that’s finally competing in a triathlon (my original goal for this year but have to hold on that now until 2021), a new PBT for a 10K, windsurfing beyond just the intro classes I took, doing the perfect deadlift, etc. All of that is still within my reach and I’m lucky that as my body is right now, I can expect to still do all of that in the future.
I also look to the very real role models in my life, whether that’s friends or my own mama or mother-in-law (or even bloggers or online blogger friends!) who have gone through pregnancy and are fit, healthy, vibrant women. Thinking of mother figures, my mum crushes runs, open water swims, weight training, etc. She doesn’t look remotely her age, and not only does she look gorgeous as always, but she’s strong and fit and resilient. My mother-in-law is an insane runner, crazy active and looks so incredible and beautiful as well. Any friends who’ve had babies look gorgeous and amazing and only give me hope that I’ll get back to a great place post-pregnancy. But I also keep remembering, it’s not just that these women look great…it’s that they’re feeling great. And I’m just trying to keep that focus there throughout my pregnancy, feeling grateful that I’m still moving lots and haven’t had to reduce my activity levels that much, that I can still go paddling and do my strength training and get in tons of steps and go for big bike rides. And looking to the future, I just want to keep that focus on feeling great & strong & vibrant after baby is out because ultimately, what has always been most important to me at the end of the day is to feel capable, strong and unafraid to try new things. Something I’m looking forward to as well is that this baby seems like a real mover so I’m unbelievably excited to run and jump and play and swim with him when the time comes, and he’ll very likely keep me on my toes…if he’s anything like he is outside of the womb as he is in utero, he’s taken after both of us (and especially me) in the high-energy department. He is kicking me and spinning around like crazy lately!
Anyway, long and text-heavy post but did want to get that all out there. I feel like I’ve really worked on that compassionate, wise voice more and she’s who I’m hearing the most from these days, and as I continue to change and grow, I want to continue to just focus on this truly magical, life-giving function I have the luck to experience. It is a blessing, and honestly this growth physically and emotionally has all been a blessing too, even if it hasn’t always been easy or comfortable. It’s already taught me so much. If you’re feeling similarly overwhelmed with the change happening to you physically, my best piece of advice would be to work on responding to that voice (Kate told me to literally split a page in half, one half for the fearful voice, one half for the wise voice). We have these different sides and voices in all of us and it’s just about strengthening and focusing on the positive one. And of course, I’d really suggest seeing someone, which is something I’d suggest for any big life transition but pregnancy and becoming a first-time mum is such a transformative experience, and seeing someone has helped me so much personally so can’t recommend it enough.
On a somewhat unrelated but very exciting note, I’m giving away 2 of Knix’s incredible swimsuits away this evening on my IG! I am legitimately obsessed with this one that I’m wearing here (it’s their Eleuthera top and Ipanema bottom) and also have the Clearwater One-Piece which I’ll be sharing soon too. They are so comfortable and supportive which is obviously really key for me right now! Can not recommend enough, particularly from a brand that’s not only Canadian, but inclusive, ethical and committed to the highest quality.