Body Acceptance During Pregnancy & Beyond
by Chelsea Becker, Editorial contributor
As of this week, I’m officially 29 weeks pregnant and embarking on the last leg of my first-time journey. If I’m being completely honest, pregnancy has been a lot heavier than anticipated - with feelings of guilt, shame, and extreme gratitude all mixed in.
While I watch loved ones around me struggle to get or stay pregnant, that part has been simple for me - which is where most of my guilt comes from. Guilt comes in every time I complain or have an internal thought about not loving this experience, as I truly feel beyond lucky to be where I am. On the other hand, I’m dealing with a sense of body shame that I’ve never felt as intensely before. Even writing this piece pings me with guilt, as I know that building this life within me is sacred and special, but as all other mothers on this site have done, I wanted to share my story in a truthful way.
Heading into pregnancy, I was the healthiest and most confident I’d been in my life. Not only physically, with exercise and clean eating a regular, enjoyable routine for me, but I also felt balanced mentally and spiritually. I felt the most ‘me’ I’d felt in my 31 years of life. I was healthy, happy, and my body and mind were thriving!
Then I saw the positive sign on the test, and so much of that changed.
Dealing with intense nausea and fatigue, as most first trimesters do, my workout routine went out the window. Bagels and every carb possible replaced vegetables and nourishing foods - and I was eating anything I could to avoid the toilet - usually unsuccessfully. I started feeling stressed about my lack of working hours, which only added to the negative spiral I felt happening in my head, and I was glued to the couch (not by choice).
As my pregnancy has progressed, my symptoms have changed, but one thing remains consistent: I’ve struggled hard looking in the mirror.
I'm comparing myself to every pregnant woman I see in real or digital life (ahem, Meghan Markle). I’m eating ice cream when the craving calls and then feeling guilty the next day for the indulgence - one not good for me or my baby, I tell myself. My boobs that I’ve already had a surgical reduction on are back to pre-surgery size and then some - bringing back the insecurity that I felt all those years with a large chest. I’m constantly and stressfully slathering them with oil to avoid any more stretch marks. My arms and thighs feel fuller than normal, and I’ve noticed new dimples just about everywhere. My face is puffy and my collarbone seems buried no matter how much water I drink.
Then there’s my tummy. The one place of my body that I cling to in times of body shame or feeling so unlike myself physically and mentally. It’s where I’ve learned to shift my focus when those negative voices creep in my head or I catch myself in the mirror with a much wider view.
My center, holding that heartbeat and future son of mine, is what I try to ground myself with. While the shame still lingers, I’m trying to accept what is and remember that this is temporary. In a time where it feels like it’ll last forever, I put my hands around my tummy and replace the bad with good, thanking my body for creating and holding my child. Thanking my son for his constant hellos through his kicks. Thanking a power bigger than me for this life. Reminding myself that I’m still beautiful, just as my husband does daily, even when I feel anything but.
Something else that’s been soothing is acceptance. It’s a mindset shift I try to do before I get out of bed, and I do it through a little mantra that goes like this, “You’re growing a human and this is temporary. You are lucky and you are beautiful.” It sounds cheesy typing it out, but it feels good saying it to myself each day.
I won’t lie and say that it always works, but some days it does. Mixed in with walks, yoga, healthy fats, deep breaths (among tears at time), and these self-care practices, connecting to that little beat in my stomach helps to fade the shame I feel in my growth, and the guilt surrounding having shame at all.
I know there’s an uphill battle as I progress into the final stretch and deal with my body postpartum. I’m hoping I can remain patient and accepting, but I’d love to hear anything that helped you during any times of body shame during and after pregnancy. Thank you for letting me share this without judgement, as it’s my favorite part of this community!
Featured Image by Marissa Zackowitz
Chelsea Becker is a San Francisco based writer, creator of becker editorial, and on the editorial team at MU. She’s expecting her first child this spring. For her thoughts on loving yourself during your first trimester click here, and a clean skincare routine here.