Pregnancy brings up a lot of feelings and fears for many people. Fear of a body “out of control” that will never be the same, the symptoms, the impending pain, the weight gain, it goes on and on. Before I became pregnant I was worried about how I was going to be affected by pregnancy messages of weight gain because I inhabit a larger body. I thought about how it would feel to be shamed by doctors or to feel like I needed to change my food habits to be “good”. When I was preparing to become pregnant, a doctor I saw who was a stand in for my regular provider told me that I needed to “lose as much weight as I could before becoming pregnant”. I thought, well, that’s odd. I didn’t think I needed to lose weight to become pregnant.
I have forever heard women’s stories and fears about pregnancy and childbirth and I have learned that I can listen without having to take that fear upon myself. The miraculous part of loving my body and cultivating my self-love is the immunity I have built around myself against hate, judgement, and fear. I don’t take other people’s fears on as my own. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel those things, it just means that when I do they come from me and I can notice it and figure out what it means to me. I don’t feel the need to take other people’s stones and put them in my wheelbarrow. I can have safe distance and protection and still sort out my own feelings and emotions in my own time. Ultimately, for my pregnancy, it means that I can love myself while my body is changing and that I get to enjoy the changes.
When I became pregnant I started taking selfies in the bathroom mirror. I take them right as I get up in the morning with my hair askew and in my jam-jams, which for me are comfy cotton sleep dresses. When it was hotter in the summer I was just in my underwear. The selfies make me laugh and they make me smile. I have started to put these photos in a pregnancy book for myself and just for my eyes. I want to remember my pregnancy just like this. Just me, no cutesy pregnancy clothes or glamorous photography (although I may change my mind about that!) Just me in my bathroom with gratitude for this growing belly, the growing life inside of me and the feeling of wonder every time I look at myself.
One of the best parts of pregnancy for me?
I don’t mind the frequent bathroom breaks, I imagine my little one nestled safely in my belly and letting me know, "Mami, I need more room so I can grow big and greet you!" I don’t eat differently than I have previously - I deeply listen and love thinking of this little being inside ordering different things. I don’t shame myself for things that I crave and I enjoy my food as I always have. My seventeen plus years of practice listening to my body has helped me in my pregnancy. What I have practiced remembering over and over again is that I know exactly what to give myself.
I follow a lot of fat activists on Instagram, and have felt pulled to hashtag my photos with something along the lines of #plussizepregnancy, but I realized that isn’t how I define myself or my body. My body, while larger, is mine. It isn’t defined by its size or despite its size. I inhabit it because it is who I am, which has been formed by the experiences I've had living in it. This includes learning how to actively love it for the past seventeen years with the help of The Body Positive. I didn’t feel pressure to become a “plus size pregnant woman” when I became pregnant, I'm still just me. I didn’t have to adopt a certain pregnancy personality; design a nursery in order to be perfect or design my pregnancy wardrobe so that I could be perfect.
It is certainly enough for me, my partner and our baby. It has been wonderful to realize that I can still be true to myself and be pregnant at the same time. While my body is changing, my love for it gets to expand as well!
As I journey into my third trimester, I'm thinking a lot about the birth experience itself. What keeps me grounded and calm is the knowledge that I come from a lineage of women who gave birth before me. I look around to the mothers in my life and see that they have all survived it. I surrender to not knowing exactly how it will be and I am comforted that I trust my body to tell me what to do. It helps me to know that no matter what, I can handle this. Self-love has taught me to ask for what I need and my experiences in my life have helped me to face fear instead of run away. When I face what I fear or what I don’t know, I can look it in the eye and not be scared. It will come and I will survive and I will be blessed with a being to love and care for. It is amazing to me that my self-love is involved in all of this.
I wonder how many women’s pregnancies would be changed for the better if they had the opportunity to cultivate the self-love that I have had access to because of The Body Positive. How many experiences would be different if we all were able to slow down, face our fears, let our innate wisdom be our guide and not take on other people’s fears as our own? For women on the other side of pregnancy, what would it be like to forgive ourselves for self-hatred and the desire for a perfect pregnancy or a perfect child? The Body Positive has helped me so much on my journey, and it is my passion to share the tools that have been so instrumental in my own development with others. Let’s change the world for all of us and our future little ones. Let’s not let life be something that happens to us or in spite of us, but through and within us, grounded in fierce love.