I recently posted a few pictures on Instagram from our babymoon in Thailand. A few people kindly commented on how confident I looked. At first I thought they were just being nice, but looking back at the photos, I can see what they mean.
It’s true that I’m not self-conscious about my body or about how I look pregnant. It’s not that I look at my swollen belly and my stretch marks and think, “I’ve earned these tiger stripes,” or whatever it is the mommy bloggers like to say. I know I look huge. I am huge. But it’s also abundantly clear why I’m huge. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
My confidence is that of a person who has zero effs left to give. And I realized that that is a far cry from who I was nine months ago.
Back in January, I wrote this post about how very much I was struggling with my body. I had reached an all-time low, exhausted by self-loathing and feeling powerless to make any lasting change.
I spilled my guts about my desperation, and six weeks later I found out I was pregnant. Hilarious, God. Truly.
As you probably know, my initial reaction to the news was not positive. I admit, one of my first panicked thoughts was, “I can’t be pregnant now. I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life. I am going to be HUUUUGGGE.” I understand that extra weight and a changing body are a small price to pay for creating a whole new life, but at the time it felt like one more way my life was being taken from me.
Now here I am 8 months pregnant and it turns out that losing control has been one of the best things that’s ever happened for my relationship with my body. I have felt freedom from self-criticism and self-hatred for the first time since I was ten years old and became aware of my body as female and of all the expectations that go along with that.
Some pregnant women are filled with love and appreciation for what their bodies are capable of as they move through the stages of pregnancy. And yes, it is miraculous. But for the most part, I have not felt this way. Most of the time I feel this odd combination of being intensely aware of everything going on in my body while also feeling like a stranger in it. I feel every ache and pain and jab and stab acutely, and at the same time I have the sense that I am floating around inside of this vessel I do not recognize, just waiting to get my life back. While this distance from my body has been isolating in some ways, it’s been healing in others.
Let me be clear. I have not particularly enjoyed pregnancy. I do not feel beautiful, sexy, or powerful the way some women seem to feel during pregnancy. I don’t particularly likethe way I look pregnant and I definitely don’t like the way I feel. But I’m also not disgusted by my body the way I was pre-pregnancy. I just honestly don’t care.
For the first time in my life, what is happening to my body is really and truly beyond my control. I could eat organic kale for every meal and workout twice a day and I would still going to have this giant belly. Since there is nothing I can do to change what my body looks like right now, I have no brain space or energy to waste worrying about it.
My expectations of my pregnant body are so vastly different from what my expectations of my body have always been. As an adolescent growing up with the mixture of societal pressures and the targeted messages of purity culture, I was constantly aware of the wrongnessof my body. There was the shame of not being attractive enough, along with the shame of being inappropriately attractive. I felt the expectation to simultaneously figure out how to be thin, toned, feminine perfection, and to dress in way that protected helpless men from that thin, toned, feminine perfection.
As I got older, I stripped off some of the burdens of purity culture, but struggled as my weight fluctuated and my self-worth rose and fell with the expansion or shrinking of my thighs.
Now for the first time, my attractiveness is utterly irrelevant. I take up more space than ever before. People are hyper-aware of me and my body. And at the same time, I have never felt more invisible. I feel no expectation, from myself or from anyone else, to be attractive. My body is no longer an aesthetic object, it is pure function. I am an incubator. That’s all.
Of course, I don’t want to feel this way forever. I don’t want “mother” to become my identity. I don’t want to disappear. I want to walk down the street and have someone think (but maybe not say) “Daaaaayummmmn, girl!” But there are also things I hope I take with me from this time.
I hope my base level expectations of my body have permanently changed. Instead of valuing myself based on arbitrary measures of attractiveness, I hope my foremost expectation of my body is for it to be healthy and strong so that I can do everything I need to do. No more. No less.
I want to feel attractive again someday, but I hope that feeling is based on confidence and acceptance, not meeting an external expectation. I think it can be incredibly attractive for someone to say, “My body is just my body. I look how I look.” If I can accept without difficulty the fact that I have blue eyes and small hands, could I also accept whatever shape my body ends up being when this ride is over?
I don’t know what to expect or how things will change post-partum, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated. Whatever the next part of the journey looks like, I kind of hope that I’ll continue to be fresh out of effs to give.
may you have a great arrival, amen
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enjoy your break, life is going to get real busy, amen
Love reading your reflections. Now when I look back so much of this transformation for me was my initial phase of becoming a mother!
I’m glad you have had this season of acceptance. It’s so sad how our society constantly gives us so many “shoulds” and how we get caught up in so many of those. The church culture of “shoulds” is toxic in many ways, but so is our society’s. May God continue to heal those threads of self-loathing within you as you enter this new stage of life. One of the great things about motherhood is that it teaches us how to be self-forgetful and less focussed on ourselves. It also gives us a greater understanding of the love of God towards HIs children. Good things coming for you (along with delicious baby snuggles…)!
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You go, girl! This post was so inspiring to read and you look great in the photos: confident and powerful. All the best with the rest of your pregnancy and beyond. 🙂
I definitely relate! It’s such a weird dissonance to go from worrying about every little bulge and dimple on our bodies to…gaining weight on purpose. I’ve been enjoying eating carbs without obsessing over what it will do aesthetically to my body (now I mainly obsess over “the effects of carbs-only diet on growing fetus” hehe). I’ve also gotten a few stretch marks and my cellulite levels have increased x10, but I’m oddly laid-back about it. It will be interesting to see how our brains adjust after birth, when our body is (kind of) ours again.
Girl, you look awesome AND confident!! I’m actually working on a post right now about body image since I’ve been pregnant and I’m trying to get to the stage of just acceptance: I’m pregnant, I’m going to have a big belly, and that’s okay. This was really unexpected for me so I had this idea that I was going to look about the same for the next several years, and all of a sudden I’m at my highest weight! But the idea that I don’t have to be attractive is really helping me. Like, I don’t have to look a certain way! I can just exist.
You look gorgeous and confident, and we know confidence is gorgeous and sexy. I always wanted blue eyes when I was younger, but got brown. When I decided they were the color of maple syrup, I liked them better :). You got this girl, a whole new world awaits you.