Originally this was going to be included in my post “Pregnancy & Body Image: 7 Ways To Love Yourself,” only the post was quickly turning into a short novel. Clearly I had a lot of thoughts on the topic! Mostly because I know it's something we all work through in our own way while pregnant. Plus I didn't want to discredit or reject anyone's experience through the journey. I also want to share a positive story. Personally, I think too often we are only hit with the horror stories on the media or from websites that are doing it for clicks. So here is my personal journey with body image through the trimesters, for more part 1 of this “Pregnancy & Body Image” series where I share 7 ways to love yourself through it, click here.
First, a little disclaimer and why I almost didn't write this post…
I debated writing this post because I've actually really loved my body overall during pregnancy. Please don't hate me and click off this page before reading. Trust me, it was a major shock to me too. Hear me out though… I didn't have a lot of the common pregnancy symptoms, in fact I actually felt better physically during the majority of my pregnancy than I did pre-pregnancy. During pregnancy, I actually had more motivation to work out and fell into a much healthier routine overall. Prior to getting pregnant I was actually vegan for a few months. I continued with it until I reached the second trimester basically. I had fewer sugar cravings the first two trimesters than when I wasn't pregnant and no “pregnancy cravings” so to speak (although I would have a favorite food of the week at times).
I was actually afraid to write this post because I started to think, “who am I to talk about body image during pregnancy?” I worried I'd offend someone. Even as I write this, I know someone will be rolling their eyes at me or secretly resenting me after looking at my bumpdates on Instagram. Or that even as I write that sentence there is someone rolling their eyes and thinking, “ugh she's so full of herself to think people would compare themselves to her bump photos.” There really is no winning when you put your inner thoughts on the internet I guess.
I decided to push past all those fears and tackle this touchy topic for a few reasons:
Every pregnancy is different and deserves to be validated. Every person is different; and even more than that, each pregnancy someone has can vary greatly. I'm fully aware that this is my first pregnancy and I've been blessed with an easy one. We only hear about the “horror” stories or complaints commonly… which I think there's totally a place for that commentary on a personal level, but we are inundated with it on the media and internet so people can profit and get more views. On the flip side, I want to share a positive experience and what that actually looks like (because it still comes with struggles) to help you expand what's possible for you! I really thought there was no escaping certain pregnancy symptoms and was shocked when I didn't have them and learned others didn't too!
So with that said, I also believe that there's a place to talk about the good and we don't hear about that enough – or acknowledge that even with the “good”, things can still come up. If someone else with a different mindset or outlook on life had my exact pregnancy experience, they could actually view it as a horrible pregnancy honestly. It's not that my pregnancy was free of any worries, concerns, or struggles – and it's not that it was strewn with tons of them either. It was exactly the experience I was meant to have and I chalk it up to a beautiful one. One that was very healing and revealing about how far I've come in my body image journey.
One more note on why I'm pushing forward and sharing this…
I received SO many emails and messages after my fears about pregnancy post where so many people wanted to know if I ever got over those pregnancy fears, or how things were going compared to those fears… I realize it's my current role to share the good news: My fears were just that. Fears. Not my reality. If you're struggling with those fears too, embrace them, work through them, and then let them go. Use me as an expander to let yourself know that just because you're feeling a particular way in a moment, doesn't mean it will turn out like that. You can have fears, and your reality can turn out completely different. So I'm writing this post, to let you know that no matter where you are with your body image or pregnancy fears, it's okay. It's all an opportunity for growth. Take what you want from this, and leave the rest behind.
Before I knew I was pregnant, I noticed my stomach looked a little bloated. Initially I thought I wasn't getting enough fiber. I had a friend tell me to get a colonic to clear things out since my system had reset a lot with my eating habits, so one Saturday morning I found myself getting a colonic. I thought that'd get rid of the bloat, but the next morning I woke up with the same pudgy little pocket sitting on my lower belly. When I pushed it and it just didn't feel right.
E had said I was pregnant for a couple of weeks. I kept ignoring him but that morning, when the bloat didn't go down, I realized that he was probably right. Honestly, being pregnant was SO far off my radar. I never in a million years would've gotten a colonic if I actually thought I was pregnant. In fact, the day I got the colonic I purchased a package and planned on going back two more times! NOTE: It's not safe to get a colonic while pregnant. But that's how far out of the realm of possibility I thought pregnancy was.
Beyond my little taco pouch, the first trimester was weird to me – I both felt exhausted and ravenous at the same time – but was also fully aware that I was NOT eating for two (because the baby is a seed). I don't know if this has ever happened to anyone else either, but I would occasionally get the thought of “what if you have a miscarriage or can't carry the baby beyond your second trimester” when I went to go eat. Like I was fully aware this was NOT the time to go HAM on brownie sundaes because…
a) that's not the best for the baby and
b) if anything happened to the baby I'd just feel awful and gross and at least I could have control over not feeling gross; and not blaming myself for eating horribly (not that anyone should ever do that; it's just something I could see myself personally doing)
The first trimester I was really hungry, so I definitely noticed an uptick in my daily consumption. I had been vegetarian all year, and had been vegan for a month or two when I found out I was pregnant. I know every pregnancy is different, but the more I read and talked to other's who had vegan pregnancies, I really believed that I didn't experience nausea and vomiting during the first trimester thanks to being vegan.
Now if you're vegan or vegetarian you can totally still eat like crap. So let me say that my diet primarily consisted of whole, real foods. For a week straight I just ate potatoes that I prepared at home without oil or salt. I made them into fries, I mashed them, I didn't care how they were prepared, I just wanted potatoes.
Then there was my watermelon week where I would eat a giant watermelon every couple of days. It tasted like candy and was the best thing ever.
When I wasn't going through bizarre single food cravings, I generally found that I would prepare simple balanced meals.
I actually only gained 3 lbs by the end of my first trimester and constantly was googling if that was normal. I was SO nervous that I wasn't gaining “enough” and what I learned is that (you probably guessed it) every woman and pregnancy is different. There's no “right” or “wrong” there's just keeping the baby healthy and keeping you feeling as good as possible.
This was around 10 weeks. I just learned I was pregnant and was SO nervous about my lower belly that I covered it with my arm. I didn't want anyone to know I was pregnant yet and thought I was “so big” already LOL
The second trimester was another story. Truthfully it was my most challenging trimester because my body was changing a lot – but no one seemed to notice except me. Which led to a slew of insecurities which I shared in more detail in this post. I started gaining about 1 lb a week (which is totally normal) – but my belly didn't really “pop” until the very end. Until that point, it just looked like I was constantly constipated. It was during this trimester I began asking my husband every day, “Do I look fat or pregnant?” Knowing full well I just looked heavier. It was such a strange period because I noticed how round my stomach was becoming (for my body shape), but I definitely did not look pregnant.
Something about my body shape: I have a long torso. When I lay down my stomach normally concaves, and you can always see my hip bones. I'm that really annoying person who always has at least a 2 pack without even trying. Gaining this initial weight was an adjustment because I just looked “average” in that area. Even more than that, I wear very loose clothing. Most people can't really tell what my “figure” looks like on a day-to-day basis because I have really perfected the comfy athleisure look of a mom who hasn't quite given up, but seems v close to doing so.
Aside from the weight stuff, my skin was starting to dramatically change. I expected to break out a little more on my face; what I didn't expect was for my arms to be covered in tiny red dots. I thought I had a heat rash. After a couple of months I realized it wasn't a heat rash, but my blood vessels just rising to the top thanks to all the extra blood pumping in my body.
Final weeks of the second trimester
I really started to “pop” in the pregnant way. Seriously look at that last photo, then check out this post for my 28/29 week photo! There was no longer a doubt that I was pregnant, even in my super loose clothing. Yet, depending on how I was standing there were still plenty of moments I looked like I just had an odd body shape during the early weeks of the third trimester. Each day I woke up and my stomach felt like it grew a little more. I could always tell when a growth spurt was happening because all I wanted was carbs on carbs on carbs. My belly button started to stretch out, revealing super soft inner belly button skin. It also revealed so much lint/jam build up I could finally clean!
As I write this at 36 weeks my belly button hasn't “popped” out yet either and I don't think it will. Turns out, not everyone develops an outie in pregnancy! This is actually the trimester that I feel like I look the “best” since I look obviously pregnant. I no longer worry about being in that in between phase that left me feeling self-conscious. Instead I'm simply amazed at what my body is doing and feel so grateful to watch all the changes. I know I still have a few weeks left and those can always throw the largest curveballs, but I feel ready for whatever.