“Wow, you look so pregnant!”
“Thank you! Yeah, the bump is pretty hard to hide these days.”
My reaction just a few short months ago may have been very different, but I found myself accepting “you’re so pregnant” as a compliment after two very kind, well-meaning women said the exact same thing to me just this past Saturday at the beginning of 34 weeks.
I honestly never knew how I’d feel about gaining weight, growing a big ol’ bump, and seeing my body shape change until I started experiencing it almost 8 months ago. It’s crazy to me how pregnancy can draw upon so many emotions all at the same time. I’ve felt pride for growing a healthy baby, insecurity over whether I’ve gained the right amount of weight at the right time, panic at how I’ll ever be able to lose all the weight and feel like me again, and excited anticipation to meet the little person I’ve been sharing this body with over the last several months. It’s a crazy whirlwind, and I was encouraged to hear myself saying “thank you” last Saturday after working at changing my mindset around weight gain during the course of my pregnancy. The freedom I’ve found from insecurity around my body shape before I got pregnant has also played a huge role in my accepting my changing shape over the past 8 months!
As I reflected upon the journey of growing a tiny human and how it’s caused me to view myself and my appearance differently, I realized there’s 5 tools I’ve used to hold a healthy attitude towards weight gain during pregnancy.
Perspective is everything. The way you THINK changes the way you act and the choices you make. I’ve chosen to lean into the truth that God created my body for such a purpose as this, and it’s truly blown my mind just how perfectly he designed the entire process. From the placenta acting like the baby’s brain and drawing JUST the right nutrients from the mother’s body to the baby, to the meticulously planned process of allowing the mother 9 months to grow not only the baby’s organs and brain but her own emotional well-being and feeling of preparedness in becoming a mother, to the precisely timed maturity of each important function of the baby’s body every day of every month within a full-term pregnancy, it truly IS a miracle. When I stop to think about the incredible things happening inside of me, all worry about weight gain goes out the window, and I can’t help but praise God for his awe-inspiring design.
Having the right maternity clothing has also made a huge difference. I’ve found the styles I felt best in before pregnancy have made me feel just as good 99% of the time during pregnancy (in maternity sizes of course). The one exception was a very form-fitting black pencil skirt I wore for a photoshoot in early February at 17 weeks. With my pear shape, I never would have felt comfortable in a pencil skirt for a photoshoot before getting pregnant, but in a dark, de-emphasizing color and paired with an oversized cardigan, I ended up feeling really good (see the pictures below!). It’s definitely paid off to understand how to dress my shape before AND during pregnancy, and having maternity pieces I know are flattering has been a powerful tool in accepting my weight gain no matter what the scale says (stay tuned for another blog post on WHAT pieces I’ve felt best in and how I’ve created a capsule maternity wardrobe!).
3. Exercise and diet
It’s surprising to me how often I’ve heard “what are your cravings?? Now is the time to indulge! Don’t worry about it, you deserve it” instead of an emphasis on just how important it is to give your body the right food during this critical time of growing another human being. Many women are told to eat all the ice cream they want, but after learning what my body needs most during pregnancy, I’ve realized just how many problems the wrong diet can create. On top of that, eating all the sugar and carbs I crave will only lead to my feeling badly about the weight I’m gaining during pregnancy. I’ve come to understand JUST how powerful it is to continue exercising and consuming the right foods when pregnant to help combat the feelings of insecurity around weight. I can’t tell you how empowering it felt to consistently show up for body pump classes at my gym (right up until about 30 weeks) and know I was doing a challenging thing for my baby in order to stay healthy.
Along the same lines, I’ve noticed just how much of a difference it’s made when I’ve taken the time to get ready for the day vs. throw my hair in a sloppy bun with glasses on. When I’ve looked in the mirror at the sloppy bun meets glasses meets big ol’ bump, I’ve felt pretty dumpy. BUT on a day when I’ve taken time to do my hair and makeup, I look in the mirror and feel completely different. Over the course of my pregnancy, I’ve invested in quality makeup and skin care to combat the raging hormones (I was breaking out SO badly in the first trimester!), and I honestly believe the “glow” I’ve been complimented on has a lot to do with the extra blush I’ve been wearing. ;P
Mindset is closely related to perspective, but I wanted to bring up a few other ways I’ve worked on thinking about my pregnancy to combat the lies of feeling like a puffy, slow-moving, heavyset version of myself. I already mentioned how changing my focus from ME to the miracle growing inside of me has helped me see the process as a gift rather than an inconvenience. It’s also been helpful to see the weight gain as a sign everything is happening exactly as it’s supposed to and weight gain equals a healthy baby. With each pound gained, I’m that much closer to meeting my baby.
Pregnancy and motherhood is a high calling given to women by God, and if He didn’t value women the way He does, it wouldn’t be entrusted to us. Here’s a few truths I’ve used to combat the lies I can easily get sucked into thinking about weight gain during pregnancy:
Lie: You’ll never get your body back.
Truth: My pre-pregnancy body doesn’t fit the new woman I’ve become! I can’t expect to look the same after all the amazing things my body will accomplish with this pregnancy, labor, and the postpartum responsibilities I’m given. Focusing on getting my body back after the baby comes may steal the joy I can instead experience by soaking in the precious time with our newborn. I can choose to shift my focus to staying healthy and doing everything I can to use my body for the purposes in front of me.
Lie: Your beauty is dependent on how quickly you lose the baby weight.
Truth: My identity as a woman can quickly become centered around how I look, yet it has absolutely nothing to do with my success or value as a mother. Yes, stewarding my appearance and focusing on staying healthy has a direct impact on the way I’ll relate to my baby and myself, but I won’t allow a number on a scale to dictate my worth or value as I become a mother.
Lie: Your husband will never be attracted to you if you don’t get back to your pre-pregnancy size.
Truth: This one feels pretty vulnerable, friends! But here’s the truth. The most beautiful thing about me to my husband is the role I’m stepping into as mother, and I’ve already seen Nick treat me differently because of it. Yes, different can be uncomfortable and weird and new. Change can bring about sadness and a sense of loss. But without change and growth, I’ll never have the chance to experience the beauty of a brand new baby in my arms or the depth of love in my marriage because of the incredible role we’ve been given as parents. I don’t need lust and infatuation in my marriage; I need the kind of love that stands the test of time and remains strong enough to see our kids have babies of their own.
Pregnancy can feel vulnerable and scary, and I’m so thankful to have wise women in my life to remind me of the truth when I get caught up in the various messages our culture communicates about the experience of pregnancy and motherhood. If you’re curious what I’ve done to shift my mindset and perspective during pregnancy, I’ve gone through a Bible Study with a doula from our church and close friend who’s also pregnant as well as read countless articles and a few other books on the topics of pregnancy, labor, and motherhood. It helps that my church community is full of new mothers, and I feel so supported as I step into this new season as a mother. Here’s a few pictures from the baby shower a couple of my closest friends planned for me at the end of April!
If you’re currently walking through pregnancy or resonate with anything I’ve shared above, will you share in the comments below? I’d love to hear from you and learn how you’ve maintained a healthy attitude towards weight gain during pregnancy and motherhood!