Miraculous: Pregnancy Leads One Woman to a Healthy Body Image
After dodging pregnancy for my entire adult life, I am pregnant. Glee is not the word I would use to describe my reaction to this news; stunned silence is more like it. When I saw that second glaring line show up on that little pink stick, everything stopped. The cell phone went unused, the blog went unwritten, and, unsure what else to do, I allowed myself to slip into many days of deep, satisfying sleep.
I did go off of birth control on purpose — I can’t say the pregnancy was exactly unplanned, but after 15 years of solid, unrelenting birth control pills, I assumed that it would take a while for an egg to drop. Not so much — my body was ready. My husband is thrilled and very proud of his “boys” for getting the job done so fast. I, on the other hand, am floating through nine months of every emotion you can imagine, from hormonally-induced peacefulness to bone-chilling dread.
I am a personal trainer, certified in Pre/Post Natal Fitness and Nutrition and Wellness Counseling. I am also a person who has faced debilitating body image issues and food addiction. I have worked with many women throughout their pregnancies, but the prospect of my own body enduring a pregnancy was beyond me. I was never the girl who dreamed about having babies; I was the girl who dreamed about seeing the Taj Mahal at daybreak.
In all of the years I spent deeply fearing pregnancy — fearing the implications on my body, how much weight I would gain, how I would never get my body back — it never occurred to me that pregnancy might finally teach me, once and for all, to not give a damn what people think about my body. In fact, I never considered that it would teach me anything about anything, except how to endure pain, suffering, and exhaustion.
But here I am, and there’s a baby boy on the way. After overcoming the initial shock, I am returning to the land of the living with a few lessons learned from this crazy thing called pregnancy. They are simple and unexpected, and I hope I can carry them with me for the rest of my life.
Food is for growth and nourishment.
I have always understood, in theory, that food is fuel and should be utilized and valued as such. But somehow, it always came back to being about boredom and control, self-medicating and quelling loneliness, a sugar rush and a nice satisfying serotonin bath. In pregnancy, there is a constant awareness of exactly what is needed at the moment, and there are immediate results if I feed my body the wrong or right thing. Food is fuel, powerful and necessary, and the body is going to use that fuel down to its most minuscule resource.
There is a time for rest, a time to give yourself a break.
I am a trainer. It is my job to push people to the limits, to help them break through their boundaries to reach a higher level of strength and endurance. But when the workout is done, in order to build muscle, recovery time is needed. Rest is a crucial part of the equation. In pregnancy, there is no option: A pregnant woman is called upon to rest, and there is no negotiating. Rest is imperative for health, pregnant or not. I have learned to take heed, to pay attention when rest is needed and to make time for it. I have learned to let go of the guilt of taking a few moments for rest and to enjoy it — the remainder of the day will be so much more productive.
If you listen hard enough, your body will tell you when the resting time is over.
After days or weeks of down time, you will begin to twitch and ache for movement. You will find yourself squirming in your office chair during the day, and tossing and turning in bed at night. If you ignore the call for motion, you will slowly grow lethargic. This is the moment you must get up and go for a walk, head to the gym, or call a friend to go out dancing. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to get going. Give your body what it needs, and it will ask for it again the following day. The first 12 weeks I was pregnant, I needed rest, plain and simple. Then my body started telling me to move, and I slowly, tentatively ventured back to the gym and back to the sidewalks.
I won’t call pregnancy beautiful. It still seems kind of bizarre and freaky to me, but I will call it miraculous. It is miraculous that the body knows how to create another human being when called upon, no matter how freaked out the mother is! And it is miraculous for me, a lifelong body-image cripple, to be free — finally — from trying to fit the mold. Instead, I find beauty in the urgency of hunger and the clarity of purpose, in the body doing its job: eating, breathing and moving.
I look forward to taking this knowledge with me, back to the world of the non-pregnant, because the human body is no less miraculous when it is not making a baby. It just took this massive, life-altering event for me to finally disregard what the haters in my own mind have to say. I’m focusing squarely and intently on the wondrous inner workings of my physical body, loving it exactly as it is and allowing it to do its thing.