This post is in partnership with Hancock Regional Hospital as part of their empowering women and children site. All thoughts, experiences, and opinions are my own. Be sure to check out their site for additional resources and support.
If you read my post about pregnancy fears, you know I was terrified about my body image and pregnancy. Obviously priority #1 is a healthy baby. However, my mom gained something like 60-80 lbs with me and that simply did not sound like fun. She swears she lost it a few weeks after I was born and says, “it's like someone put a fat suit on me, then just unzipped me!” Still, as someone who has struggled with body image and disordered eating for over a decade (you can listen to that journey on the podcast here). I really wanted to use this time to stay healthy and build an even better relationship with my body. My fear really stemmed from the fact that I'd back slide into old negative self talk, the desire to control, and just making poor choices since everyone always talked about the wild ride of “pregnancy hormones.”
And the truth is, around week 16 I started asking the husband non-stop if I looked fat versus pregnant every few minutes. Because LBH, there's that period you look like you had a few too many desserts before you actually look pregnant. Plus, unlike many pregnant women I talk to, I didn't have strangers congratulating me about being pregnant (the first one that did was at 35 weeks). No one was particularly nice to me (something else a lot of pregnant women report), and I definitely didn't get any sort of “special treatment” with lines while flaunting my bump at theme parks or events. I'm not complaining about those things, just driving the point home that I really felt as if people thought if I looked overweight and didn't notice I was pregnant until these last few weeks.
I honestly have so many thoughts on pregnancy & body image. In fact, every time I sat down to edit this post, it just became longer and longer until it was over 4,000 words! Don't worry it's nowhere near that now! I did decide to break it into a two-part series though because I just had so many thoughts. So in this post, I'll scratch the surface about my own body image during pregnancy, but really focus on ways to love yourself through the journey, and I shared in way more detail what my personal journey was *really* like here.
Pregnancy & Body Image: 7 Ways To Love Yourself
Give yourself grace when documenting your pregnancy
As a Cancer sun in astrology, I'm normally all about sentimentality. I love to take photos, save clippings, and am basically a little hoarder when it comes to documenting important moments in my life. When pregnancy hit, I was a bit surprised to see my normal scrapbook loving self, throwing out the pregnancy test right away and completely disinterested in taking bump photos. In fact, if I didn't make it part of my job to post photos on Instagram and share content with you all on the blog, I don't even think I would've started taking “bump” photos when I did at 21 weeks. I honestly felt so strange standing there taking a picture of my stomach when I could “flex” and it'd disappear! Even in that 21 week photo, I'm arching my back and pushing my stomach out as far as it'll go to “show something.”
With that said, the further I've moved along in this pregnancy, now at 36 weeks, I'm SO happy I did start taking them. I love looking back and am shocked to see the changes from even a week or two ago. And those “non-existent” bump photos weirdly bring me a lot of joy to see how far things have progressed. It truly is a physical reminder of the miracle happening inside of me (not to get too cheesy).
If you don't want to take photos, don't force yourself too. If you feel like you “shouldn't” because you're not showing (ahem, this is exactly how I felt and that judgment almost robbed me of great memories to look back on), maybe take some anyway because you may regret not having them. And if you are all about documenting your bump each week, more power to you girlfriend! There is no wrong or right way to celebrate the changes in your body.
I literally took this photo an hour before the previous bump photo… which is why I decided to take my shirt off for it because otherwise it didn't look like I was pregnant even
Celebrate the miracle
Like really celebrate. I know that can be tough depending on your pregnancy journey but when I look back at the photos of how money body has changed my mind is constantly blown. I was talking to a friend who really drilled this into me when she said, “I'm growing a penis inside of me! How wild is that!?” Now all I can think when I look down at my stomach is, “there are four lungs inside of me right now! and two brains! THIS IS UNREAL!” I used to think pregnant women were growing tiny aliens and it freaked me out. Now I'm flabbergasted and do a little dance every day to celebrate how cool this is! I mean, as a kid I was amazing how chocolate chip cookies would rise in an oven… and now my body is doing that on a totally larger scale!
Stop comparing yourself
I would constantly worry that I both looked heavy instead of pregnant, but also like I wasn't “growing” enough. I would search pregnancy hashtags on Instagram and compare my bump to friends. Every time someone commented that I was “really small” for being pregnant, I both felt a sense of pride and panic that it could mean something was wrong. Here's the thing though: everybody and every body is different. Every pregnancy is different. You can't compare yourself to your friend or to your last pregnancy. Ground into the present moment and trust that your body is doing exactly what it's supposed to do for your highest good and the baby. Have faith that your body and the baby's body are working together in harmony and in optimal health (<— those are the things I'd ask for my angels and guides help with daily). There is a plan and purpose for everything you're experiencing on this journey.
Dress for your bump
I generally wear VERY loose clothing. Give me a “one size fits all” tank and some stretchy elephant pants and call it a day! I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant really until I was like 17 weeks or so. I remember when I was 12 weeks and I told a few people they were like, “so when are you telling your family? Because you're going to have a bump you can't hide…” but then the bump didn't really come in until 21+ weeks and even then, my family and people were still asking, “are you showing?” to which I would reply, “you're standing in front of me, you tell me!” It was all very confusing and in some ways left me feeling more insecure about my body than if I'd just dressed to flaunt my bump instead of wearing my normal loose clothing.
As I moved further in my pregnancy, I kept wearing the same clothes – again they're one size fits all so they are loose! I became more self-conscious because I kind of just looked like a disheveled mess. Overall this didn't bother me since I sit home all day basically. If I went into an office, I would've 100% purchased maternity clothing to show off the bump. If you're struggling with your changing body, I believe wearing clothes that flaunts your bump will totally help. I would panic that I looked like a disheveled mess while walking my dog because of my “beer belly” look. When I put on a maternity tank top – or even just a regular top with ruched sides like the one below – that hugged my belly – there was no doubt though. I could walk a little prouder because I'm obviously pregnant. When you dress for your bump, I whole heartedly believe it can lead to a major shift in how you carry yourself and feel.
Don't weigh yourself
Whether your pregnant or not, I really stand by this! I haven't owned a scale in like a decade and don't miss it at all! It forced me to get more in touch with my body and what it's trying to tell me instead of relying on a number.
You'll get weighed at all your prenatal appointments, so there's no need to stress about this. If there's something you need to be aware of or concerned about, your care provider will let you know. Otherwise, this is a waste of your energy. I truly believe where your focus goes, energy flows. So if you're focusing on the number on the scale, you'll put energy into obsessing and feeling misaligned which won't help with my next point…
Nourish yourself from the inside out
Working out and eating well are essential for both your health and the baby. I wrote an entire post on healthy eating tips while pregnant (+ what I eat in a day) and I shared my favorite pregnancy friendly workouts here. Don't workout for vanity sake. Instead choose a workout and foods that leave you feeling energized and happy. I noticed if I would eat too much sugar I would feel more tired and achy, so I'd adjust. If your body isn't being nourished, it'll give you signs in the form of lethargy, negative self talk, shorter tempers, mood swings, aches, and so on. Don't chalk those side effects up to “pregnancy symptoms,” instead focus on bringing awareness to your day-to-day and looking at what choices you can make to nourish yourself from the inside out and see how things begin to change for you.
Express gratitude and love
Your body is doing amazing things during pregnancy. Seriously, you are growing another human being inside of you! No matter what side of the coin you are on (feeling like you're too big or too little), I think it's normal to panic and wonder if everything is moving along okay. Instead of getting caught up in the worry of what you can't control or some strange beliefs you've picked up along the way. Focus back into expressing gratitude for all that your body is doing on a daily basis. Remember there is a woman out there that is dying to be in your position right now. Show your body love by taking care of your skin, nourishing from the inside out, and being gentle with how you're talking to yourself. I mean, you are becoming a mother, if you wouldn't say it to your kid, don't say it to yourself!
What tips would you add for loving your ever changing body during pregnancy?
If your postpartum now, check out this guide on Loving Your Post Baby Body from Hancock Regional Hospital.