I tried on my first pair of maternity jeans yesterday. They were boyfriend jeans that I ordered from J.Crew that just had a few big elastic panels along the sides instead of having the full-on maternity waistband. I was super excited at the thought of comfy, baggy-yet-somehow-also-slimming, stylish jeans that I could wear for the next few months. But I put them on, and something about the waistband just grabbed all the flesh around my hips and hoisted it up so that it sat prominently on top of the elastic panels. No amount of adjusting could hide the fact that my new love handles were now front and center, even eclipsing my sometimes-a-bump-sometimes-a-food-baby belly. So I took them off, crawled into bed in my underwear, and had a pity party for myself.
The intersection of body image and pregnancy has been weighing on my mind pretty heavily in the past few weeks as I’ve started to “show,” and I have even shed a few tears on the topic (although these days that’s not saying much; I cried at the beginning of Finding Nemo the other day even though I’ve seen it 1000x and never cried before… oh heeyyy hormones!). But the long and short of it is that, apart from a few minor readjustments and some redistribution of body fat and muscles in the past few years, I have had pretty much the exact same body since I was about sixteen. That is, until the past 5 or 6 weeks.
I had never really given much thought to how my body would change when I got pregnant. I guess I always assumed I would be a cute, fit pregnant lady because I considered myself to be something of a cute, fit, un-pregnant lady. I thought I would stay petite and get a petite little bump and everything would be all glow and thick hair and long nails.
Instead, from the side, I barely have a bump at all if I stand up straight–but from the front, I feel like I get wider every day. I have already gained about 15 pounds, 10 of that in just the past 8 weeks, despite continuing to exercise and eat relatively well (average weight gain is usually 5-10 lbs by this point, and it’s recommended that women who started at a normal BMI pre-pregnancy gain about 25-35 lbs total). Most of that weight gain has been in my thighs, which now rub together when I walk for the first time in my life, and my love handles. Everyone’s favorite body parts to accentuate.
Rationally I understand that at the end of the day, gaining weight during pregnancy is healthy and normal and concerns about aesthetics should be eclipsed by the fact that my body is performing amazing feats of magic and biology at any given moment. There is a second human in there that is the size of my iPhone and getting bigger every day, and it needs room and calories to grow. I also know that my body has started storing fat that will be turned into food for Squishy once he/she is born, and that is pretty amazing, too. I know all of this. But it doesn’t make it any easier to look in the mirror and not recognize my own body.
I tell myself that I am being shallow and that I should be grateful that I am in the middle of an easy, healthy pregnancy, and what more could I want? I also tell myself that this is only going to get worse before it gets better, and I should probably get used to feeling like my body doesn’t belong to me, because that isn’t going to change for a while.
But then I also have to tell myself that feeling this way is ok. When you have looked in the mirror and seen more or less the same thing for the past 10+ years, suddenly waking up to a different body every single morning is tough. Maybe it will get easier once my little belly becomes an honest-to-goodness bump, but that might just make it harder, too.
The people around me tell me I look great and I try hard to believe them. But whose body is this? The real answer is, it’s not just mine anymore. And that will continue to take some serious getting used to.