As women we spend days, weeks, months and years of our lives fretting over our bodies, our weight, and our overall body image. From trips to the gym, hair salon, clothes shopping etc we dedicate vast amounts of time to looking and feeling good and then suddenly preganancy happens and everything we know changes!
But does it have to?
And how do we adjust our own perceptions of body image to fit our new pregnancy bodies?
Luckily today we have so much more maternity wear available than past generations that looking and feeling good during pregnancy is easy. However for many the real issues are underneath the clothes. The expanding tummy. The bigger boobs. Stretch marks or fear of stretch marks. Weight gain. Losing the weight after the baby is born….All of these are common concerns during pregnancy and not all of us find these changes easy to deal with.
My personal experience with my first pregnancy was a mixed one. At 36 years old I was ready and eager for a baby and embraced most changes with delight. I tracked my burgeoning belly with the growth of my baby inside and saw it as part of the wonder of having a baby. And lets face it…who doesn’t enjoy bigger boobs at least for a short period! But in the back of my mind there was always a slight concern at not gaining too much weight as at 36 my body would potentially not snap back into shape like that of a younger, sportier version of me. Eating for two was therefore out of the question and I followed the current advice on maintaining my food portions and drinking lots of water to ensure the baby was well nourished without exaggerating and gaining too much weight. When Olivia was born I had gained a total of 8kgs and by doing yoga and power walking throughout my pregnancy, together with my husband, I felt in as good a shape as possible. By exercising with my husband it gave us precious time together and helped alleviate any worries I had about my general health and fitness. He loved my pregnancy body and at the same time supported me to maintain a gentle exercise routine.
A younger more glamorous me, the first signs of my pregnancy bump and my tummy at 8 months
For me, the period post birth was probably harder to deal with mentally as I no longer had the excuse of being pregnant but I felt like I was carrying excess weight and couldn’t dress myself with any sense of satisfaction. Add in the effect of nursing and the fact that I was constantly hungry as a result and for a while I felt, dare I say it, a little miserable! This is not to downplay the joy I experienced at having Olivia as I relished my role as mum and all the while I was home and comfortable life was good. But, take for example, an evening out just 2 months after the birth for a photographic exhibition that my husband was hosting for a group of important clients and I went into complete wardrobe meltdown. Nothing fit! I felt frumpy! My hair hadn’t been styled in months and now hang in lank curls around me! Aarrrrgh!!! This was a mummy melt-down brought on, not by the strains of motherhood, but by the stress of maintaining a positive body image in public. In a bid to make a good impression I completely lost all confidence in how I looked. The trouble is that all of this was happening on the inside, mentally, and so was harder for others to see and help with.
2 years on and 5 months into my second pregnancy I feel much better about my overall body image. Am I back in skinny jeans and doing all the things I used to. Not quite. But then I’m not sure I ever really fit in skinny jeans!! The reality is that all the things I worried about and thought might happen the first time did (I gained a little extra weight and have never quite lost it all) but I’m fit and healthy and am enjoying time with my family. Do I have the time and energy to exercise as much as I did before? No. I don’t go to the gym and am not likely to be running any marathons anytime soon. But I do make time for my yoga and power walks and we do a lot of active things as a family from skiing to mountain treks so on balance I feel healthy. Do I still feel less glamorous than before. Sometimes but in reality the thought of putting on heels also horrifies me when my ballet flats are so comfortable! Is my hair perfectly manicured and my nails presentable? No but my daughter is constantly getting into mischief and I spend time laughing and playing with her and therefore time spent with my hair straighteners comes in second. My perception of my body image has evolved without me really noticing and now I’m comfortable enough in my own skin not to worry so much. I love a good night out and the chance to get glammed up but I also intend to enjoy this second pregnancy as much as the first and I’m following the same routine when it comes to my diet and my exercise plan; everything in moderation.
Climbing solo pre-pregnancy, power walks with Olivia, Treking together as a family