We were married for 7 years before I got pregnant. I knew I would have some things to work through from my childhood, but I didn’t anticipate the body image battles that would accompany pregnancy.
I was at the best shape of my life just before I got pregnant for the first time. The lowest weight I’ve ever been as an adult, the best eating habits, the most physically active, and by all accounts I “looked great.”
Then I got pregnant.
I was not afraid of gaining weight. I knew I needed to gain weight so my baby could grow and be healthy. I was afraid of two things:
- Not being a “cute” pregnant lady
- Not losing the baby weight afterward
I didn’t really think about the different types of pregnant bodies until I got pregnant. Then I realized that body image expectations didn’t just go on vacation for 9 months while women grew babies. Our culture has this pregnant ideal. “Cute” or “Skinny pregnant.” It’s where the mom to be is nothing but belly.
That’s the ideal. Not gaining weight anywhere else other than the belly region. You should not look pregnant from behind, only from the side and the front. Your boobs can get bigger, but not too much. Not, like, crazy big. And your rear end and thighs definitely cannot gain any heft. This is “cute.” Everything else is embarrassing or just plain gross.
You hear it in the comments people make.
“Oh! Look how cute you are! You are all belly.”
“Goodness, I can barely even tell you are pregnant!”
“Look at that tiny little basketball belly you have there!”
All compliments reserved for the “skinny” pregnant, while so many others walk around feeling like whales.
But compliments can turn to cautionary comments pretty quickly. My petite friends grew tired of the shocked reactions they received when people realized how far along they were because they were “just so small.” My long, limbed sisters were weary of the encouragement to eat more “for the baby.”
It seems everyone has an opinion on what a pregnant lady should look like. According to the world at large, nearly every single one of us is either alarmingly large or dangerously thin. Sheesh.
I managed to remain somewhere in the middle, but still not ideal enough to be called “cute.”
I was able to continue a modified version of my rigorous workout regime until I was 39 weeks pregnant. I ate 5 small, healthy meals per day, except for the “treat” meals I allowed myself once per week or so. I ate whatever I could keep down for weeks 6-13, but after that, I was immediately back on track.
I gained a respectable 35 pounds when all was said and done, and had a healthy 7 lb. 3 oz. baby boy to show for it.
I had every reason to be pleased, even grateful, but I wasn’t. My hips had filled out, along with my thighs and rear end. My chest inflated 5 cup sizes, friends. Yes. FIVE.
Even though I was working out, doing cardio and weight training 6 days per week, and only gaining a moderate amount of weight, I had no control over where that weight landed, what shape it took, or how I carried it.
I was never “skinny” pregnant.
And as soon as my son arrived, I worried that my second fear would become a reality. I needed to drop the baby weight, and fast.
CHALLENGE: How did you feel about your pregnant body? Were you embarrassed or disappointed? Were you jealous of how other pregnant women looked? How did pregnancy impact your body image?