One of the fears women have about having children is that pregnancy will ruin their body. We fear weight gain, being overcome by cravings, and never having the same curves in the same places again. Of course, many mothers don’t help us when they speak about their own negative experiences, mourning the loss of their pre-baby bodies. We sit there wide-eyed and terrified.
Getting pregnant for the first time is navigating into uncharted territories. Sometimes our only guidance is our friends’ stories, social media and google. There is so much surrender and unpredictability involved in pregnancy. We have no clue how we will feel, what weird pains and nuances we will go through. We don’t know whether we will be crazy and hormonal or if we’ll crave fruit or ice cream. We don’t know how our bodies will respond to the growing miracle within us.
We hear comments about pregnant women like, “Oh she’s so tiny, you can’t even tell she’s pregnant unless she turns to the side.”
“Aww she looks like she has a little basketball.”
“Are you having twins?”
“Wow you look like you’re about to pop!” (When they still have two months to go.)
We see hot, fitness girls posting their post pregnancy bods looking svelte and perfect a month after delivery. We also see girls struggle for a while to lose weight, if ever. The first woman is praised. The latter garners comments like, “Oh well, everyone is different” with a big, sympathetic smile.
These comments can get in our head and create an unspoken pressure. I am inspired by the women who maintain fit bodies and manage to “bounce back” right after. We should never blame our insecurities on someone else’s success. But as someone who has been a performer my entire life, from dance to musical theatre to modeling, I have always been very body-aware. Much of my income as a model depends on having a certain body size that is toned. The idea that pregnancy could potentially wipe away my income is scary. Also, as a performer I am driven by the praise the fit girl gets who bounces back immediately post-partum. I don’t want to be lumped in the, “Oh, every body handles pregnancy different” zone. I don’t think anyone does.
So when I got pregnant and my love for daily salads and smoothies were quickly replaced by bagels and cream cheese, I knew I might need to let go of my ideal to stay fit.
Here are two ways to deal with body changes through pregnancy:
Pray for peace with your body.
My whole life, I have been body conscious. I even remember being ten years old on swim team walking around with my stomach sucked in. When I went off to college, I was absolutely positive I wouldn’t gain the freshman 15. And I didn’t! I gained the freshman 30. I didn’t realize how much weight I’d gained and even told myself that the dorm dryer must be shrinking my clothes. It wasn’t until I went home for break that I saw the truth in my family’s faces.
Genetically, when I gain weight, it isn’t in nice, smooth fat. It is ripply fat. I could be 100 pounds and if I gain any weight, it will be in ripples or cellulite. And it doesn’t discriminate on what part of my body to show up either. Arms, stomach and legs. So that’s fun. NOT. When I gained all that weight in college, I was absolutely miserable. I felt trapped in my body and uncomfortable. All I could wear were sweat pants that used to be too big for me. I made a vow to myself after I lost the weight: I would never gain it back.
So you can imagine ten years later, how toying with the idea of pregnancy might seem daunting. But I’m telling you, prayer is the key to everything and no prayer is too small or frivolous to God. I literally prayed that God would release me of body consciousness. In addition to prayer, the more you grow in your identity and security as a daughter of the King, the more things like enslavement to calorie counting will fall away.
I noticed in the months before I got pregnant that I wasn’t obsessing over gaining a few pounds or cellulite appearing in new places. In the past, I would have cleaned up my diet and started working out excessively. But something was different. I was at peace with my body and who I was as a person.
Peace with our body starts with being at peace with ourselves.
I encourage you to press into a deeper relationship with God. Ask Him to take you on a journey of security and confidence in the way He made you. Pray and ask Him specifically to break you of the chains you have to your body image, too.
The more secure you are in your unfading self, the more insecurities about your outward self will fade away.
Surrender to what your body needs to do.
If you want a lesson in surrender, get pregnant. In the second trimester, after morning sickness had passed, I was exercising daily. I was back to eating clean and doing full on workouts at the gym. I would step on the scale and watch the number go up. Now obviously, I’m going to gain weight. I’m not demented. But at this point, I still wasn’t showing and not even the baby weighed as much as I was gaining.
I remember feeling helpless. In pregnancy, you can do all the right things. You can workout, eat healthy, control your portions, be your best you…and the pounds will creep on in whatever amount they need to for baby’s health. But it’s a strange feeling to have little control over your body, when that’s one thing you’ve always been able to steer before.
One day, I stepped on the scale and saw the number up again. I sighed, shrugged my shoulders and in that moment accepted that in some sense I was helpless. All I could do was my best, but the results were up to my body and God.
If I had gotten pregnant even five years ago, I don’t know how I would’ve handled such changes. I didn’t have peace with my body yet. I wouldn’t have known how to surrender to results that contradicted my efforts.
I want to encourage you that you can enjoy pregnancy in the midst of weight gain and new cellulite. You can enjoy it because of the freedom prayer will give you. You can even wait to get pregnant until you notice that shift in you. Actually, you don’t even have to get or be pregnant to enjoy this freedom. Every woman should have it!
Let’s be controlled by our unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit rather than being controlled by a physical ideal that distracts us from our purpose and joy.